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Washington Update for March 13, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Monday, March 13th 2017


The talk in town has all been about Obamacare until a Nor’easter was predicted for this week.  Hope we dig out by next week


VA Secretary Supports Expanding Caregivers to All Generations


TREA Leads Reserve Component Congressional Event


Several VA bills are marked up and sent on to be voted on by the full House


Trump Administration asks Congress to raise National Debt Limit



VA Secretary Supports Expanding Caregivers to All Generations


In testimony to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last week the Secretary of the Department of Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin, said he supports caregiver benefits to families of veterans of all eras.

Currently many benefits of the program are available only to families of post-9/11 veterans.

The VA has begun a review of the costs and procedures for expanding the program and will bring a plan to Congress in the next few months.

Currently, VA caregiver programs provide a monthly stipend, travel expenses, access to health insurance, mental health services, training and respite care for designated caregivers of injured or infirm veterans. 

When the Caregivers program was initially authorized by Congress, they were largely limited to Post-9/11 veterans and their families. It has been estimated that only about one-fifth of the 5.5 million family members providing home care for veterans are covered.

Last year legislation to expand the caregiver programs stalled because of cost estimates of roughly $10 billion over the next five years. Shulkin estimated that the program would cost closer to $4 billion, but also said that doesn’t take into account other savings the expanded benefit could have. 

“I believe that's not an accurate reflection on the true cost because I believe we are going to save money by not institutionalizing people,” he said. 


TREA: The Enlisted Association fully supports expanding the Caregivers program to veterans of all generations and has been lobbying for the program’s expansion for several years.



TREA Leads Reserve Component Congressional Event

Last week TREA’s Legislative Director, Larry Madison, led an event on Capitol Hill for the top leaders of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Reserve components.  It was co-hosted by Congressmen Steven Palazzo (R- Miss.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.).

The event was sponsored by members of the Guard-Reserve Committee of The Military Coalition (TMC).  Madison, who co-chairs the Guard-Reserve Committee along with John McElligott of the Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, was responsible for working with the Palazzo and Walz offices in putting the entire event together.

It was attended by over 150 people, including the Chiefs of the Army and Air National Guard, the Army and Air Force Reserve, the Naval Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, and the Coast Guard Reserve, along with members of the Guard-Reserve Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The purpose of the breakfast was to bring together the Chiefs of the Reserve Components of the U.S. Armed Forces with the members of the U.S House of Representatives who make decisions regarding legislation for manpower, equipment, and personnel in the Reserve Components.

Each of the Reserve Chiefs spoke about the needs of their respective components, especially in light of the fact that the Reserve Components have gone from being largely a standby-force to one that is in integral part of the today’s military force.  Members of the various Reserve Components are today deployed and active in missions all over the world.  Obviously, because they are only part-time military personnel, they have unique needs with regard to their families and their civilian employers. 

Congressmen Palazzo and Walz used the occasion to announce that they have introduced a new bill, H.R. 1384, to correct the unfairness in current law that failed to extend eligibility to National Guard and Reserve Component troops for health care, education, leave, pay, and retirement benefits when they are activated for pre-planned military missions in support of combatant commands.

H.R. 1384 will correct this inconsistency by granting Guard and Reserve members access to these benefits, such as earning tuition funds through the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pursue higher education, and the provision of family health care services prior to and after mobilization.

“Our Guard and Reserve troops have been fighting alongside our active duty component for over 15 years,” said Rep. Palazzo.“In fact, many of the best performing units in the military come from the Reserve and Guard, yet the DoD has created a scenario where our soldiers are receiving less than equal treatment.  Giving our troops equal benefits for equal service is simply a no-brainer.  We should ensure that all of those who are putting their lives on the line for our country are given the benefits they have so bravely and selflessly earned.”

“This commonsense legislation is about recognizing the sacrifice of all our men and women who volunteer freely to serve this nation,” added Rep.Walz, a TREA life member. “Ensuring fairness in health care, education and pension benefits to National Guard and Reserve Component troops who answer the call to serve right alongside their Active Component counterparts is the right thing to do. I thank Reps. Palazzo, Shea-Porter and Franks, our VSO partners, and most importantly, our veterans for fighting to bring these brave Americans and their families the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will no longer be denied benefits they deserve.”



Several VA bills are marked up and sent on to be voted on by the full House

Last Wednesday the full House VA Committee marked up several bills; passed them out of Committee and sent them on to the full House of Representatives for its consideration. TREA’s Washington Executive Director attended the unusually long markup session. All the bills considered, H.R. 369, H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259, H.R. 1367 and H.R. 1379.

H.R. 369 would eliminate the sunset provision of the Veterans Choice Program and therefore the VA could continue to use what was left of the originally appropriated $1 billion for contracted healthcare for veterans in the community. H.R. 1181 changes the federal law to require that a veteran receiving mental health treatment from the VA will not be disqualified from processing a firearm unless a Judge from the proper jurisdiction and authority rules the veteran” is a danger to himself or herself or others.” H.R. 1259 would create and expedited process for the VA to fire, demote, or suspend incompetent employees. While H.R. 1367 would direct the VA to expand its efforts to” recruit, hire, train promote” and thus retain good employees.  And H.R. 1367 would make recipients of the Purple Heart qualified to receive educational benefits through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

All the bills passed through Committee (the only fight was over H.R. 1259 which several Committee members argued took away employees protections and due process rights.)

H.R. 1181, H.R. 1259 and H.R.1367 are all going to be voted on by the full House of Representatives this week.


Trump Administration asks Congress to raise National Debt Limit

Last week the Trump Administration formally asked Congress to raise the federal debt limit. (it has been suspended since November 2015. The suspension will end on Wednesday of this week.

In a letter Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged lawmakers to “raise the debt limit at the first opportunity so that we can proceed with our joint priorities.” The debt ceiling was suspended through March 15 as part of a budget law (PL 114-74) signed in November 2015.

If the debt ceiling is not raised or suspended again this week and it is very unlikely that it will be Treasury Sec. Mnuchin said that the Treasury would begin taking extraordinary measures( ex: like suspending the sale of state and local government series securities,) to make sure that there will not be a default. This question must be solved before a budget can be passed.

If the debt limit is not eventually raised we may be looking at another government shutdown

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