Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ROA and TMC Meet with Sec. McCarthy to Discuss 2010 Goals

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

ROA’s legislative team, along with other members of The Military Coalition (TMC) Guard and Reserve Committee, recently met with The Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and past-ROA Executive Director, to discuss legislative goals for 2010.

Sec. McCarthy, who was appointed by President Obama and confirmed in June 2009, expressed his own objectives and several DoD priorities for the upcoming year. He discussed at length the Reserve Components’ transformation from a strategic reserve to an operational force in the post-9/11 years, and how the Reserve Components will continue in that role for the foreseeable future. He made clear the need for funding, compensation, recruitment, and retention policies to be kept in line with the increased demands on Reserve and Guard personnel.

With regard to Reservists being used in the operational force, Sec. McCarthy stated that many of the troops he has spoken with in the field want to stay on rotational availability after current contingencies subside. This action, though, has training, facility and equipment implications.

Sec. McCarthy also emphasized the importance of increasing enrollment in TRICARE Reserve Select (which has only 7-8 percent of those eligible enrolled) and increasing family support and the effectiveness of the Yellow Ribbon Program for returning servicemembers.

With the Employer Support for Guard and Reserve under Sec. McCarthy’s arm of responsibility, he posed the question of how its function can expand and create employment relationships much like the Army Reserve’s partnership initiatives.

Representatives of The Military Coalition were given the opportunity to advise Sec. McCarthy on several legislative priorities for 2010. ROA Legislative Director CAPT Marshall Hanson spoke about Commission on National Guard and Reserve recommendations, including the necessity for state and federal coordination with regard to the utilization of Reservists for domestic disaster relief efforts.

Among the other priorities discussed were revamping the reserve retirement system in recognition of increased service and sacrifice of Reserve Component members, ensuring Federal Reserve veterans have access to Yellow Ribbon services and support that are available to National Guard veterans, providing a continuum of health care insurance options, enhancing educational benefits, and strengthening SCRA and USERRA protections.

Sec. McCarthy responded to the early retirement conversation in posing the question of how such a program’s focus could be changed from that of rewarding tours of duty to one which is better utilized as a retention tool tied to length of service. An example given included subtracting one year from age 60 retirement for each year over 20 served.

TMC and Sec. McCarthy plan to meet in the coming months to evaluate the progress being made on TMC and ROA legislative objectives.

Monday, January 25, 2010

ROA testifies before House Veterans Affairs Committee

ROA testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee at a roundtable that included 40 veterans and military service organizations. The ROA was the only association to speak on Uniform Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

With a limit of two minutes to present, ROA legislative Director Marshall Hanson talked about the ongoing need to improve USERRA and SCRA, as demonstrated by the number of calls received at the ROA Servicemembers Law Center highlighting enforcement problems. ROA offered to meet with the committee with a number of solutions to improve USERRA and SCRA in US Code Title 38 and Title 18 respectively.

In addition, ROA addressed the need for Veteran Status for National Guard and Reserve retirees who complete twenty years of service without being activated, and needed improvements to Veterans Education, both the MGIB for Selected Reservists, and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Details of ROA suggestions on improving US Code are given in the submitted statement.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CNGR Recommendation Authorized by President Obama

President Obama signed an Executive Order Jan. 11 establishing the Council of Governors, following Recommendation 6 in the March 1, 2007 Commission on the National Guard and Reserves (CNGR) report.

The Executive Order establishes a Council of Governors which will improve coordination between the state governments and the federal government on matters involving the National Guard, homeland defense, civil support, and other matters of mutual interest.

To learn more, please refer to the White House press release.

Legislative Accomplishments from 2009

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

Over the past year, ROA's legislative team has actively pursued the established legislative agenda, which is member-driven and acted on by the staff and grass roots initiatives.

Despite the fact that Congress has been largely preoccupied with economic stimulus and health care, ROA managed to accomplish several changes to law and introduce several new bills:

Changes to Law
  • Gray Area access to TRICARE Reserve Select.
  • Provide differential pay for deployed federal employees for CYs 2009/2010.
  • Fund medical and restorative dental care prior to mobilization.
  • Changes to transitional dental care following mobilization.
  • Provide employment protection and provide family leave for spouses and family care-givers of mobilized Guard and Reserve for a period of time prior to or following the deployment of the military member.
  • Permit mobilized retirees to earn additional retirement points with less than two years of activated service (Passed for GOs only, will try to expand to all ranks).Ensure that every military absentee ballot is counted.
Bills Introduced
  • Reimburse a Reserve Component member for expenses incurred in connection with round-trip travel in excess of 100 miles to an inactive training location, including mileage traveled and lodging and subsistence.
  • Eliminate the 1/30th rule for Aviation Career Incentive Pay, Career Enlisted Flyers Incentive Pay, Diving Special Duty Pay, and Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay.
  • Include US Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps members in new GI Bill.
  • Provide tax credits to offset costs for temporary replacements of deployed Reserve Component employees.
  • Support tax credits to employers who hire service members who have served in the Global War on Terrorism.
  • Evaluate the Post Deployment Medical Evaluation process.
  • Permit any member who has served under honorable conditions and has received a DD-214 to qualify for veteran status.
  • Permit Guard and Reserve members with 20 years of good service to qualify for veteran status.
The ROA staff looks forward to continued success in 2010 in advocating for the 1.5 million men and women now serving in America's Reserve components.

View ROA's 2010 legislative agenda

View the press release

HASC elects new ROA-friendly subcommittee chairs

CAPT Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

The House Armed Services Committee announced new subcommittee chairs in a press release today with whom ROA has worked with in the past.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) as Chairman of the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.

ROA has worked with Rep. Smith’s office in the past on a number of issues including C-40 and Air Tanker, and ROA's Department of California has had Loretta Smith as a speaker at their Department Convention.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) released the following statement:

“I am pleased to announce that House Armed Services Committee Democrats have elected Congressman Adam Smith to chair the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to chair the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. I am confident that Congressman Smith and Congresswoman Sanchez will continue to serve our committee and our country well as they take on these new leadership responsibilities. I look forward to working with them in their new roles as the House Armed Services Committee begins work on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011.

“I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Neil Abercrombie for serving Hawaii and our country for more than 19 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the House Armed Services Committee, Neil’s hallmark has been making sure our troops have the equipment they need to protect our country and stay safe. His leadership helped prompt the Pentagon to speed up the delivery of life-saving body armor and MRAP vehicles to our forces on the frontlines. I have been honored to serve with Neil, and I will greatly miss his wise counsel, his good humor, and his loyal friendship. I know Congressman Abercrombie will continue to be a forceful and effective advocate on behalf of Hawaii’s needs and interests.”

Subcommittee chairmen were selected by the Caucus of the Committee pursuant to the Rules of the House Armed Services Committee and the Democratic Caucus. The full slate of subcommittee chairmen for the Committee will be submitted to the House Democratic Leadership for their consideration, and the new subcommittee chairmen will assume their posts immediately, pending no vote of disapproval by the House Democratic Caucus.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stop Reduction in TRICARE Physician’s Fees

ROA has also been tracking a possible 21.2 percent cut in fees paid to Medicare physicians. TRICARE physicians’ fees are based on the same Medicare fee schedule. This will affect Active Duty families, Serving Reservists, retirees and their families.

Most of Medicare’s payment rates are simply adjusted each year for inflation—but not those for physicians’ services. Those rates are governed by a complex formula—the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) mechanism—that, unless overridden by legislation, will reduce fees by about 4 percent or 5 percent annually for at least the next several years. This accumulates each year if Congress postpones the reduction and this has added up to the current 21.2 percent.

The House passed H.R.3961 to prevent this reduction. The bill was sent to the Senate on November 20th, but wasn’t considered because of the debate on National Health Care Reform.

Good News: Attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill was a rider that delayed the reduction from January 1 until February 28, 2010. This will give ROA members time to contact their Senators to consider H.R.3961. To send an electronic letter to your Senators, click the Alert #3 link below or call through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (888) 762-8760.

Alert #2: To ask the Senate to stop the 21.2 percent cut in TRICARE physician fees.

Ensure TRICARE exemption from National Health Care Bill

ROA recommends writing to your elected officials to include language during the conference to add a TRICARE and Veteran health care exemption, by protecting the health care authorities in Title 10 and Title 38.

Section 311 of the House Bill H.R.3962 says Retention of DoD and Va Authority - Nothing in this subtitle shall be construed as affecting any authority under title 38, United States Code (veterans health), or chapter 55 of title 10, United States Code (military/TRICARE health). The subtitle only refers to the exchange program (public option). While ROA has been reassured that the intent is that National Health Care Reform will have no impact on military or veterans health care, ROA leadership is not 100 percent confident without a change to language being included in the final bill.

While ROA has already written House and Senate leadership asking for a change, replacing the word “subtitle” with the word “act” to broaden the exemption; ROA members can help by contacting their elected officials and having them contact House and Senate leadership to have this language included during the conference meeting. Or call through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (888) 762-8760 to contact leadership offices directly.

Alert #1: Contact House members to include a military and veteran health care exemption in National Health Care Reform.

Alert #2: Contact Senate members to include a military and veteran health care exemption in National Health Care Reform.