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Washington update for March 6th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Monday, March 6th 2017

Spring is coming to your Nation’s Capital soon. And so are TREA’s National President John Adams and TREA Board of Directors’ Legislative Committee Chairman Aaron Reed. On March 22nd President Adams will testify before a Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs on TREA’s veterans’ legislative goals. If you are interested in attending please call or e-mail our Washington Office so we can help.

Repeal/Replace Obamacare and TRICARE. What does it do?

 

New Veterans’ Legislation

 

Hiring Freeze is Affecting Commissaries

 

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Repeal/Replace Obamacare and TRICARE. What does it do?

The Republican House Leadership has just rolled out their ideas on how to repeal and replace Obamacare. Of course this is just the opening bid… and we see that many members on each side of the aisle intend to fight it. But while that is going on you should know how these proposals could affect TRICARE. The quickest answer is that they won’t. (though that is very simplistic.) The House leadership version has just been rolled out and consists of 2 staggeringly long bills.

You should remember that TRICARE is a health care earned benefit. It is NOT an insurance policy or an insurance company and we must never forget that. We must continue to fight to keep that distinction clear in the minds of the members of Congress. The 2 programs were created separately and exist in 2 separate chapters of the Federal Code. Changes of one program should not affect the other program. TREA and the great majority of other VSOs and MSOs successfully fought to keep TRICARE separate and independent from Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) when it was first passed.

But there were items in the ACA that TRICARE beneficiaries liked and wanted. So after much lobbying the 2015 NDAA authorized Young Adults (until they reach 26) to be allowed to remain on their parents TRICARE It also provided breastfeeding benefits without any co-pays or other costs to TRICARE beneficiaries (like sections of the ACA). Again this was done in the NDAA not the ACA.

The real area of concern for TRICARE beneficiaries is the NDAA 2015 also instructed TRICARE to follow the ACA. What does that mean if it is repealed and replaced? Not quite clear. But so far so good.  TREA will watch it very closely and if any threats or troubles arise we will fight them and inform you about them immediately.

 

 

New Veterans’ Legislation

This legislation was just introduced in the last week, TREA: The Enlisted Association does not have a formal position, yes or no, on much of it yet; this list is provided for your information only.

S.493:   A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

S.521:   A bill to make the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass available at a discount to veterans.

Sponsor: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Bill Title: Recreational Lands Pass available at a discount to veterans.

Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

 

S.514:   A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide access to magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy to veterans.

Sponsor: Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)

Bill Title: A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide access to magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy to veterans.

Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.1359:   To provide for the reconsideration of claims for disability compensation for veterans who were the subjects of experiments by the Department of Defense during World War II that were conducted to assess the effects of mustard gas or lewisite on people, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN-02)

Bill Title: reconsideration of claims for disability compensation for veterans who were the subjects of experiments by the Department

H.R.1331:   To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide educational and vocational counseling for veterans on campuses of institutions of higher learning, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN-03)

Bill Title: Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide educational and vocational counseling for veterans on campuses

Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.1329: To increase, effective as of December 1, 2017, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, to improve the processing of claims by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL-12)

Bill Title: December 1, 2017, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve appeals for Veterans Claims, to improve the processing of claims by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and

Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

H.R.1328:   To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL-12)

Bill Title: year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

Referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

 

Hiring Freeze is Affecting Commissaries

 

Reports are starting to surface that the federal hiring freeze ordered by President Trump is causing long lines at military commissaries and could eventually force commissaries to implement shorter hours or even to close.  In fact, that’s already happened at some installations.

According to the Military Times, “Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said they have been forced to reduce hours at some operations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; and Fort Bliss, Texas.

“Some Marine Corps Community Services programs at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, including several marts, have had to reduce hours or close, officials there announced Feb. 24.”

 The Times also says military child care is being affected.

“Officials at Lejeune and Fort Knox, Kentucky, have shuttered hourly services, among other reductions. Officials at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, have ended their part-time programs, and Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, is planning to reduce hours starting later this month if hires are not made.

“While child care hires are exempted from the freeze, base officials are still required to get clearance to fill the positions and the hiring process can be lengthy due to required background checks.”

Because of this situation, an open letter to President Trump was sent last week by the American Logistics Association which said in part of the commissary system:

 “Here, Mr. President, is a program that you can point to as one that needs to be replicated in Government and not decimated at the altar of hasty and radical cost cutting and experimentation. It's a fragile ecology built up over the years and carefully constituted to give the troops, their families, and America the best bang for the buck.

 Supporting strong National Defense. The Sun never sets on the vast network of commissaries, Veterans Canteens, and Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard exchanges that operate 24/7 worldwide from Guantanamo to the Korea Demilitarized Zone to Afghanistan and Iraq. In support of our Armed Forces and their families at both their home bases and in far-flung and forward deployed areas. With operations aboard ships, providing school lunches overseas, providing plants to generate bread and water, forward distribution centers, tactical field exchanges and so much more that is vital to the support, readiness, and direct operational support of our military members. The program adapts to military force structure and basing changes, expanding and contracting to meet the needs of an ever-evolving military. And, it keeps good people in the Service because when the family is happy, everyone is happy.

 

Enhancing quality of life for service men and women. The system provides all of those name-brand, recognizable products and services that Americans have come to love. This includes everything from name-brand fast food to the best brands that they have come to love — thousands of brands that represent a little touch of America wherever our dedicated military serves — and at savings to them from 20 to 50 percent. Greatly stretching the household income of millions of military and Veteran families.

 

Supporting Veterans. Not only do Veterans benefit from using these programs, the system employs thousands of Veterans and is the top employer of wounded warriors and disabled Veterans.

 

 Employing family members. Over 50 percent of employees in these operations have a military affiliation, with almost one-third being military family members. That's money that's cranked right back into the military community and into military households.

 

It's a benefit that is used the most by those who need it the most. Junior enlisted, junior officers with families, retirees, and Veterans and surviving spouses on fixed incomes are the primary users of these programs. It directly provides non-pay compensation for service men and women that we can never pay enough for their sacrifice and service.  

 

Providing for accountability and transparency in Government. You want accountability — you got accountability with these programs that consistently have a clean audit year in and year out ... something that few DoD programs can claim.

Supporting American industry and promoting American products, and tipping the balance of trade in favor of America. Every day, across the globe, Americans are consuming products made in America through a sophisticated and complex distribution network that makes sure America's industry is supported.

Bringing together the best attributes of the private sector and public sector to create a working partnership. This system provides the optimal mix of out-sourcing and in-sourcing Government functions, allowing the troops to benefit from all of the advantages of both Federal and business status.

Supporting a multitude of benevolent programs for our Military and Veterans. From the USO to Fisher House, NFL ProCamps for military kids, and Blue Star families, the system and the American industry that supports it contribute and underwrite the costs of operating these vital programs.

 Providing a system that self-generates funding and gives back more to the Nation and the American people than it consumes. Over the past 20 years, this system has donated over $15 billion in facilities to the Federal inventory and over $10 billion to support needed military community and family support programs. This, along with military patron savings and direct and indirect contributions to military readiness and Federal assets, make it a program that your Administration can be proud of.

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