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Washington Update for week of April 10th, 2017

TREA Washington Update for Wednesday, April 12th 2017

HAPPY EASTER and HAPPY PASSOVER to YOU ALL

Spring has finally come to your Nation’s Capital. And it feels like summer will be here any day. We hope you all have wonderful Easters and Passovers. And for those of you who have Spring Break enjoy yourselves. Congress has a 2 week break (please see article below.) So this is a good time to try and catch your member of the House and or your Senators if you wish to tell them your concerns.

 

Congress Leaves Town – With Much to Accomplish When They Return

 

Is the Water From Wurtsmith AFB Making People Sick?

 

TRICARE Young Adult and TRICARE for Life (TFL)

 

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Congress Leaves Town – With Much to Accomplish When They Return

Congress is now on its two-week Easter recess after what some have described as a “flurry of inactivity” since January – or to borrow a line from Shakespeare, Congress has so far been “all sound and fury signifying nothing.”

However, when they come back to work the week of April 24 they will have to work fast and furiously to avoid a government shutdown.  They have to reach some kind of agreement by the end of the day on Friday, April 28 regarding funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, or else pass another temporary funding bill to give themselves more time to reach a funding agreement for the rest of the year.  If they don’t the federal government will shut down.

The Republican leaders of Congress have been trying to come up with a strategy to pass the $1 trillion spending bill that’s needed but so far they haven’t been able to do so.  As with all things in Congress, politics complicates the process.  There are defense hawks who want to spend more money on defense, although it looks like they will boost defense spending in a separate bill.  There are deficit hawks who want to cut federal spending in order to reduce the deficit.  Then there are the rules in the Senate that give much more power to individual Senators and make getting legislation through the Senate more complicated. 

There are differences between the Republicans in the majority in the House, and there are differences between the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate.  In addition, the Democratic minorities in the House and Senate have complained that they have been left out of the discussions regarding the funding legislation.  Because of that and because the President has preferred to attack the Democrats instead of trying to work with them they have very little inclination to try and help passage of legislation in the Senate.  In addition, the way the Republican majority in the Senate changed the rules regarding the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has poisoned the atmosphere in the Senate even more than it already was.

 Nonetheless, legislation to keep the government open will pass sooner or later.  But after that, there is still an amazing amount of work for Congress to do.  They have to pass spending bills for FY 2018 for the entire federal government and they will probably have to pass supplemental spending bills for the DoD.  They also have to raise the debt ceiling or the federal government will default on paying its bills.

In the House, they are trying to come up with another health care bill to replace Obamacare after their first attempt collapsed a couple of weeks ago.  They also want to pass an overhaul of the tax code, as well as pass funding for building the wall on the southern border.

On top of all of this, the Senate still has a major job to do to confirm all of President Trump’s appointments to unfilled jobs in the federal government and the U.S federal court system.  Trump’s nominees to be Secretary of Agriculture and Labor still have not been confirmed.  In addition, there are over 3,000 positions that require Senate confirmation and of those, about 500 are considered to be essential.  However, less than 100 people have been nominated by Trump to fill those positions, and less than 25 of those who have been nominated are somewhere in the Senate’s confirmation process.  These do not even include military officer commissions and promotions or appointments of individuals to fill U.S. Attorney vacancies.

One observer has said that in order to fill all of these positions the Senate would have to become a full-time confirmation body.  Certainly, dealing with these takes up time that would otherwise be spent on legislating.

As always, TREA is monitoring these events very closely and we will alert you when issues of concern to military people come up.  If another health care bill does come forth we will make sure there are no provision(s) that would hurt military personnel or veterans like was in the last bill.  In addition, we will be watching the defense spending bills that move through Congress, as well as pending Veterans’ legislation.

 

Is the Water From Wurtsmith AFB Making People Sick?

TREA: The Enlisted Association was contacted last week by representatives from the Veteran & Civilian Clean Water Alliance, which was started by individuals who believe that they have become sick due to toxins that have seeped into the water supply surrounding Wurtsmith Air Force Base, which was closed by the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) in 1993.

Most of the base and some adjacent ground is known to be polluted with jet fuel, cancer-causing chlorinated solvents and toxic fire retardants.

In February of 2016 Michigan officials warned about consuming well water near Wurtsmith. This is only the latest in a long line of events that have poisoned the water around Wurtsmith, starting with the state of Michigan suing the Air Force when TCE was found in the base’s drinking water in the late 1970s. TCE is the toxic chemical that was found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and is responsible for sickening thousands of Marines and their families from 1957-1987.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs was forced by an act of Congress to start presumptively treating anybody who lived at Camp Lejeune as if their illness, from a list of pre-approved illnesses, was due to their time there.

People who lived and worked at Wurtsmith want the same presumption.

Toxic fluorocarbons, specifically perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), also called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), are a large class of compounds being studied as "emerging contaminants," which have been widely used to make consumer products more resistant to stains, fire and water. They were discovered in the water surrounding Wurtsmith in 2010 are now showing up in concentrations above federal guidelines. Investigators say plumes may have been leaching through the groundwater for years.

In Oscoda, the plumes came from a PFC-laden fire suppression tool called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which the military and airports around the world have used since the 1970s to quash jet fuel fires.

The Veteran & Civilian Clean Water Alliance Facebook group is for all people, veterans and military, who believe that they have been exposed to toxic chemicals coming from current of former military installations.

For more information, go to:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/04/16/wurtsmith-air-base-pollution-health/83040138/

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/06/wurtsmith_veterans_health.html

 

TRICARE Young Adult and TRICARE for Life (TFL)

TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) is an enrollment premium based insurance plan for Young Adults through a TRICARE eligible uniformed services sponsor. The TYA beneficiary must be under 26; have aged out of TRICARE at 21 or 23 years of age while a full-time college student; are not married; are not a member of the U.S. uniformed services; are not eligible for other TRICARE coverage; and DO NOT QUALIFY FOR AN EMPLOYER SPONSORED Health plan. 

This year the monthly premiums are $319 for TYA Prime and $216 for TYA Standard.

But everyone should know that if the sponsor is on TRICARE for Life he or she cannot sponsor a young adult for TRICARE Young Adult. TFL is not healthcare insurance but an earned benefit. If any of you have  had a problem with this please e-mail TREA.

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