Good afternoon Shipmates,
Our legislative office has been hard at work scrutinizing both the House and Senate markups of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and analyzing the bills to ensure that we are paying close attention to Navy procurement, personnel issues, and any other concerns of interest to Sailors. Attached, you will find AUSN's 18-page analysis of the NDAA, with a side-by-side comparison of budget numbers authorized by the House and Senate.
The FY18 NDAA takes important steps to securing the Navy's ultimate goal of creating a 355-ship fleet. Both Armed Services Committees believe that long-term contracts with the shipbuilding industry are essential to reducing costs and delivering the ships the Navy needs. The Senate Armed Services Committee's NDAA allocates $25 billion to fund 13 ships, which is five more ships than the Trump Administration's request.
Overall, Navy procurement in almost every category is seeing an increase from the President's budget request, which is an important step in increasing Navy readiness.
The House Armed Services Committee is seeking a 2.4% pay raise for troops, whereas the Senate Armed Services Committee is only seeking a 2.1% pay increase. This is the only major personnel issue that will need to be resolved before the NDAA is passed in early Fall. Both the House and Senate want to see a 4,000 increase in active duty Navy personnel and an additional 1,000 for the Navy Reserve by FY18.
Please contact me if you have any questions; I look forward to hearing from you on issues that are of interest to you and our Sailors. To view the document click this link: NDAA analysis.pdf.
Until next week shipmates, "Kick the Tires and Light the Fires, and remember to always keep your head on a swivel!"
Michael J. Little, ABH2(AW/SW), USN (IRR)
Director of Legislative Affairs and Government Relations
AUSN, in conjunction with The Military Coalition (TMC), met with the military advisory leadership of the Clinton and Trump campaigns to discuss how America’s current members of the military and veterans will be considered in their respective administrations.
Updated Bills of Interest as of 30 September 2016.
On September 28th, 2016, Congressman Cook sponsored H.R. 6234 to amend title 18, of the United States Code. This bill would deliver penalties for the sale of any Purple Hearts that have been awarded to a member of the Armed Forces.
Today, a concurrent resolution concerning the Blue Water Navy situation was introduced in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The resolution expresses the sense of the Congress that the original Agent Orange Act of 1991 included the bays, harbors and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam. It further calls upon the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reverse his irrational and discriminatory policy that bars 90,000 sea service veterans from benefits for disabilities caused by Agent Orange. This policy enacted in 2002 has come under heavy criticism from lawmakers, veteran’s organizations and scientists who have studied the problem. AUSN has been working with Military Veteran’s Advocacy, the original author of this legislation, to see this resolution be enacted into law.
On September 22, 2016 Republican Senators, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, released a proposed 10-week controlled resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 9, 2016. Senator McConnell called the resolution a “fair proposal”; however Senate Democrats are not certain that this resolution meets their demands. McConnell said he would give Democrats four days before any vote will be taken on the proposed resolution, pushing the votes even closer to the September 30th deadline.
On September 20, 2016 DeVry University, one of the largest for-profit colleges in the country, announced that it would be changing its policy towards the total amount of revenue it can receive from federal loans and grants. AUSN views this as a major victory in the fight against the 90/10 loophole that many for-profit colleges use to prey on our nation’s Military and Veterans.
On September 15, 2016 Senator John McCain (R-AZ) officially extended his support and became the 45th cosponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (S. 681). With the support of Senator McCain, S. 681 has gained a remarkably strong ally in its fight to restore presumptive coverage for Navy personnel who served in the territorial waters of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange. Blue Water Navy Veterans have been fighting an uphill battle for years to receive the benefits they had stripped from away from them, and the support of Senator McCain has the potential to help finally see the bill passed.
In addition to being a well-respected member of the United States Senate, Senator McCain’s endorsement of S. 681 is made all the more important by his status as a decorated Veteran of the Vietnam War. As a Veteran who spent almost 25 years in the Navy, of which 5 years were spent as a Prisoner of War, he understands the importance of this bill and the many hardships faced by his shipmates who are the Blue Water Navy Veterans. With each day that goes by without the bill being passed, Blue Water Navy Veterans are unjustly refused the benefits they require in order to help them combat the deadly side effects of Agent Orange.
When asked about Senator McCain cosponsoring S. 681, AUSN’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Michael Little stated “with the support of a decorated Navy hero like John McCain, AUSN is reassured that Blue Water Navy is on the right track to pass and fully restore the medical benefits of these sailors.” Mr. Little continued, “Senator McCain has once again proven his devotion to our nation’s Veterans; we are humbled to have him as a prestigious member of our organization; he continues to go to bat for our Shipmates every day."
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act has sufficient support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, with 334 cosponsors in the House and 45 in the Senate. The support of Senator McCain, the most decorated Vietnam Veteran in congress, together with the existing support, is a clear sign that this bill is ready to be put to a vote without further delay. AUSN is pleading to the members of congress to encourage the committee leaders to send the bill to the floor for a vote. These Veterans are dying at an alarming rate and a price tag should not stand between them and the benefits they are owed.
AUSN will continue to work diligently towards the success of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, and while the bill is gaining support and momentum, this is not the time to grow idle. As a non-profit AUSN relies on donations to continue its mission of promoting Military and Veteran issues to Congress. If you wish to help support AUSN, visithttps://ausn.org/donate/ and help keep us in the fight.
For more information on this Legislative Alert, contact our Director of Legislative Affairs and Government Relations, Michael J. Little, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daily Updates from the Legislation Department can be found at:
Congressional Hearing Reviews
On Sunday, September 18th 2016, NBC’s David Martin ran a piece on 60 Minutes titled The New Cold War, taking a look at US Strategic Command (stratcom), exploring what measures military forces take to ensure only the Commander-in-Chief can authorize a nuclear attack.
On 25 May 2016, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a roundtable discussion to address the issues facing our veterans.
The House Democratic leader hosted a roundtable with veteran service organizations and advocacy groups as a part of her ongoing efforts to discuss and address the critical issues facing our nation’s service members and their families, as well as veterans. More than a dozen Democratic Members attended the roundtable, including Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member, Corrine Brown (D-FL), and Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA). The Members raised serious concerns surrounding proposed reforms to the structure and benefit packages of the VA.
Of the veteran advocacy and service organizations in attendance, the common theme convened around VA reform and the need for an extensive grass roots data analysis to back-up said reform. It was the consensus of the group that, in order for the VA to have meaningful and effective reform, an agreement must be reached on the specific needs of the VA. This can be achieved by gathering meaningful data from the individual receivers of VA healthcare services, in other words from the veterans themselves.
The groups in attendance were called upon by Congressman Walz to create a cost effective, sustainable and consistent plan to reform the VA. As Congressman Walz stated there is “no ready-made plan” to reform the VA. Walz discussed the responsibility owed to our veterans to address VA reform and veterans’ issues. There was also a call for veteran healthcare to be handled in a bipartisan manner, for the matter of healthcare to veterans is not a political issue, but a duty to our veterans.
Among the groups in attendance, common areas of contention were veteran-centered high quality healthcare, advocacy for those unable to self-advocate, and reform in the administrative structure of the VA and the DoD healthcare services.
Michael Little, of AUSN, was in attendance and discussed serious concerns facing our nation’s sailors. Currently, in VA nurse manuals, it directs that personnel not use anesthetic in the Emergency Room, which can be life-threatening for the veterans. Additionally, Little brought up the issue of Mefloquine, a drug used to prevent malaria. However, the toxicity of the drug often mimics PTSD, causing PTSD veterans to be misdiagnosed. Little brought to the attention of Leader Pelosi and Congressman Walz the need to fund benefit packages for the Blue Water Navy Veterans and the importance of developing benefit packages for our Coast Guard brothers and sisters, who do not even have the luxury of electronic medical records.
Also addressed was the lack of transparency between Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and the Appropriations Committee. Panelists in attendance addressed how in the past VSOs had the ability to testify in front of the Appropriations Committee and were able to have an open discussion about VA funding. However, since 2010, this has not been made available to VSOs, allowing the Appropriations Committee to unilaterally make decisions on VA funding behind closed doors.
At the close of the discussion the majority seemed to be of the mindset that the VA was by no means broken beyond repair and, through the proper data and value driven analysis collection, those in attendance could develop a successful and sustainable VA reform plan.
AUSN has attended Leader Pelosi’s veterans’ affairs roundtable in the past and will continue to track the issues discussed today.