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From Chuck Weber, your Veteran Service Officer...
Notes of Interest

Final NDAA has No TRICARE Fee Increase

The House has approved (354-94) the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R. 5515) and the Senate is expected to approve it in the near future. The final bill eliminates a huge TRICARE fee increase that was in the Senate–passed version of the bill. Section 701 of the Senate bill would have doubled TRICARE annual fees for retirees under age 65. 


The bill also provides a cap on rent increases for the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) and prohibits AFRH from removing a resident solely because they cannot afford to pay the increases in rent. AFRH residents were scheduled to see huge increases in their rent payments.  The Association wants to thank members who used the FRA Action Center to encourage their Representatives to oppose this onerous provision. 


Other provisions in the final bill include:

  • Increasing active duty pay (2.6 percent) that keeps pace with civilian pay increases;
  • Repealing a scheduled one percent cut in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for active duty; 
  • Increasing end strength for all branches of the armed services;
  • Requiring the Secretary of the Army to take steps to extend the life of Arlington National Cemetery; 
  • Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP); 
  • Expanding availability of Military One Source for retired and discharged members of the Armed Forces;
  • Allowing Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, former POW, and service-connected disability veterans, and caregiver for disabled veteran to use commissaries and MWR facilities; 
  • Permitting veterans, who have a 100 percent service connected disability, to utilize a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard.
  • Mandating maximum life insurance coverage for service members deployed in a combat zone; and
  • Eliminating a proposed Medicare Advantage voluntary pilot program for TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) beneficiaries.

Once the Senate approves the bill it will go to the President to be signed into law. This final bill provides an overall increase in topline funding to support our troops and readiness recovery. 


SVAC Will Hold Hearing on Agent Orange Bill

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 to take testimony on several bills including the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act" (H.R. 299).  National Executive Director, Tom Snee will testify on the Agent Orange reform bill, urging the Senate to pass the bill without amendment so that it will go directly to the President to be signed into law.  


The bill would clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam, during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.


The legislation was amended to extend the presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served on or near the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971. As amended, the legislation will now also extend health care, vocational training & rehabilitation and monetary allowance to a child who was born with spina bifida—if at least one of the child's parents served in Thailand between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 197—and the VA determines that at least one of the parents had been exposed to a herbicide agent during that period. Further, the bill includes improvements to VA's home loan program.


FRA believes Congress should recognize these veterans were exposed to Agent Orange herbicide and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure. 


Members are strongly urged to use the Action Center to ask their Senators to support this legislation. 


Wilkie Confirmed as VA Secretary 

The Senate confirmed Robert Wilkie as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (86-9). He replaces David Shulkin, who was fired in March. Wilkie, a former Pentagon official, faces a host of difficult issues, including filling senior vacancies, managing a $10 billion digital health record contract and coordinating care for the 9 million veterans served by the nation's largest health care system. In March 2018, Trump announced Robert Wilkie would serve as the acting secretary, before nominating him to serve as VA Secretary. Previously Wilkie served at the Department of Defense as Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. FRA looks forward to working with the new VA Secretary on issues of mutual concern. 


Source: FRA Newsbytes July 27, 2018


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