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Legislative Matters

By Tom Doresy

Stars and Stripes

Update 9/1/2018

Comrades,

The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act has been signed into law by President Trump. Surprise last minute additions to the Bill were opening the Caregiver Act to all eras of veterans and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Act. The VFW has been promoting these issues for years.

It is my pleasure to serve you as your Legislative Chairman and on the National Legislative Committee. Service over Self.


Update 6/1/2018

Comrades,

Now that the 2018 NDAA has been completed and implemented, the Senate has begun acting on the 2019 NDAA. Some of the key points are:

• Full active duty pay increase of 2.6%.

• Expand concurrent receipt.

• Continuous funding of Commissaries.

• Increase the blended retirement system contribution from 4% to 5%.

• Eliminate the SBP/DIC offset.

The VA Mission Act has passed both the House and Senate and sent to the President. Key points are:

* Expanding the VA Caregiver program to include all disabled veterans. Previous program was limited to seriously injured veterans on and after September 11, 2001.

* Funding for the VA Choice program.

* Auditing VA infrastructure.

* Consolidating seven community programs into one to increase access.

It is my pleasure to serve you as your Legislative Chairman and on the National Legislative Committee. Service over Self.


Update 3/16/2018

The VFW Legistative Priorities document can be downloaded here


Update 2/2/2018

vfw_goals_2018


Update 1/1/2018

Comrades,

The House and Senate passed the final version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The Bill authorizes nearly $700 billion, which is $26 billion more than the Administration’s request and $80 billion more than the sequestration spending cap.

The final Bill includes:

*Keeps a grandfather clause to shield current retirees younger than 65 from an additional TRICARE fee increase.

*Imposes a pharmacy co-pay for retirees younger than 65.

*Eliminates the expiration date of May 2018 for the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance for military widows, and increasing the SSIA based on the annual COLA.

*Increasing pay for the troops by 2.4%, the largest pay increase in 8 years.

*Eliminating a scheduled 1% cut in Basic Allowance for Housing, and stopped the Senate provision to cut the dependent children for dual-military couples.

*Boosting military end strength by 20 thousand service members.

*Mandate all Reserve Component members that are mobilized to receive premobilization and transitional health care.

*Providing additional measures to protect victims of sexual assault including prosecution of perpetrators of non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

*Allowing reimbursement up to $500 for a spouse’s expenses related to obtaining occupational license or certification in another state.

*Directing the Correction of Military Records Boards to consider additional medical evidence relating to PTSD or traumatic brain injury when reviewing a discharge.

President Trump has already signed the Bill inti law and is funded by Continuing Resolutions.

It is my pleasure to serve you as your Legislative Chairman and on the National Legislative Committee. Service over Self.


Update 10/1/2017

Comrades,

Several successes since my last article. First, The Congress passed the “Forever G.I. Bill” and the President has signed into law. Second, the Congress and President have okayed further temporary funding of the “VA Choice Program”.

In California, several of legislative efforts have made it through the process. AB 1618 was enrolled and allows VSO’s to compete for CalVet funded programs to assist veterans. AB 1362 would have allowed veteran bonds to appear on the next primary ballot and was nixed in the Assembly. However, the Senate picked up the issue as SB 3 and enrolled it also. Governor Brown has already signed this. SB 694 to direct all Community Colleges to provide a Veteran Resource Center has been put off until January 2018.

I attended the VFW Fall Legislative Rally in D.C. September 11-14. Our first issue in the door was sequestration, and it will until Congress removes sequestration for the 2011 Control Budget Act. We spoke against the TRICARE increases and asked the House members to stand firm against the Senate during the NDAA conciliation. Concerning the VA, we are urging the fixing of the VA and against the proposed privatization. Toxic exposure and Blue Water Navy were lumped together for presumptive claims. Our VA Caregiver Act would provide caregivers for all catastrophic wounded veterans for all generations. The DoD tried to get creative with their Veteran Preference during a reduction in force. That could have allowed a civilian with six months on the job to be kept and a veteran with ten years service to be furloughed. With Concurrent Receipt we are asking for fairness in both the retiree pension/VA disability and the SBP/DIC payments.

It is my pleasure to serve you as your Legislative Chairman and on the National Legislative Committee. Service over Self.

September was Suicide Prevention Month.

Know the symptoms:

1 Not feeling like yourself.

2 Feeling Agitated?

3. Are you withdrawing fro family and others?

4. Are you caring for yourself? Both diet and hygiene.

5. Feeling hopeless?

In San Diego you can dial 211 and get help.


Update 9/1/2017

Comrades,

The President has signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 which now provides three options for veterans to appeal disability rating decisions made by the VA, as well as allows veterans already in the appeals process to opt into the new system. The three options available to veterans dissatisfied with their initial claims rating decisions are to seek a higher-level review by a regional office on the same evidence presented to the original claims processors; to file a supplemental claim with a regional office that would include the opportunity to submit additional evidence; or to opt for an expedited consideration of their appeal directly to the Board of Veterans Appeals. The intent is to speed the whole process.

Express Script Inc (ESI) has announced that effective September 1, 2017, ESI will need annual consent from patients who want to receive automatic refills of maintenance medications through the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program. When the last refill of a medication enrolled in the Automatic Refill program ships, ESI will reach out to the beneficiary by telephone or e-mail for further consent.

H.R. 2452, the Deborah Sampson Act has been introduced to address gender disparities and to improve and expand programs and services for women veterans provided at the VA. If enacted this bill would establish a pilot program for peer-to-peer counseling and make permanent group counseling retreats for women veterans recently separated from military service. It would increase training for providers delivering gender-specific care, expand days of care for newborns from seven to fourteen, authorize medically-necessary transportation for newborns, address privacy and security issues for women in VA health care facilities and correct infrastructure to improve the environment of care for women.

I will be in D.C September 11-14 conveying the VFWs issues to our Congressmen and Senators.