FRA NewsBytes - 02-07-14

URGENT!! Senate COLA Cut Repeal Vote on Monday

The focus on the COLA cut repeal has shifted to Senator Mark Pryor’s (Ark.) legislation (S. 1963) that repeals Section 403 of the recently enacted Bipartisan Budget Act. Section 403 reduced by one percent the annual COLA for military retirees under the age of 62, scheduled to take effect December 1, 2015. Pryor’s legislation is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate on Monday, February 10. The first vote on the bill is a vote to end the debate (cloture) that requires 60 votes. If the cloture vote on the bill is successful, there will be a vote to pass the bill and send it onto the House for further consideration. Shipmates are strongly urged to use the Action Center immediately to ask their Senators to vote for cloture and passage of the bill:


House Passes In-state Tuition for Veterans

The House of Representatives this week passed (390-0) the FRA-supported “G.I. Bill Tuition Fairness Act” (H.R. 357), a bipartisan bill sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) and cosponsored by HVAC Ranking Member Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine). The bill would enable G.I. Bill recipients to receive in-state tuition rates at any public college or university in the country, not just those in a veteran’s state of residence. The bill also contains a number of other provisions designed to enhance veterans’ benefits and bring more accountability and efficiency to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including:

  • A five year ban on performance bonuses for VA Senior Executive Service employees;
  • An extension of Veterans Retraining and Assistance Program job training benefits through May 31, 2014—the program is currently set to expire March 31, 2014;
  • Stronger infectious disease reporting requirements for VA hospitals;
  • A requirement for VA health officials to obtain the consent of patients before electronically monitoring them in private patient areas; and
  • More comprehensive reporting requirements for VA employees traveling abroad.

Immediately after the House passed the bill, Chairman Miller said that “The men and women who served this nation did not just defend the citizens of their home states, but the citizens of all 50 states. This bill will ensure our veterans’ educational benefits reflect that important principle. And because H.R. 357 saves the government money, it’s a win for taxpayers as well as veterans.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. FRA members are urged to use the Action Center to ask their Senators to support this important legislation:


FRA Recognizes Outstanding USN, USMC Performers

FRA continued its long-standing tradition of recognizing superior performance by honoring Navy and Marine Corps personnel who are standouts in their respective fields. The Association has been a supporter of these recognition programs since their inception and is proud to continue the tradition of acknowledging excellence.

FRA’s National President (NP) Virgil Courneya, National Executive Director Tom Snee, and members of FRA’s headquarters staff participated in several events honoring the Navy’s 2013 Recruiters of the Year last week, including attending a special ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial, hosting a luncheon on Capitol Hill, and coordinating a tour of the Capitol. Congratulations to the following outstanding recruiters:

Enlisted Recruiter of the Year, Active - HT1(SW/AW) Dustin Grover - NRD Portland

Enlisted Recruiter of the Year, Reserve - HT1(SS) Caleb Minson - NRD New England

Officer Recruiter of the Year, Active - QM2(SW) Robert Baetz - NRD Raleigh

Officer Recruiter of the Year, Reserve - LT Kathryn Gelenter - NRD Minneapolis

Nuclear Field Coordinator of the Year - EM1(SW/AW) Thomas Bosarge - NRD Houston

Station Leading Petty Officer of the Year - NC1(AW) Ryan Schlotfeld - NRD Minneapolis

Classifier of the Year - PS1(SW/AW) Stephanie Perry - NRD Los Angeles

Division Leading Chief Petty Officer of the Year - NCC (SW/AW) Kevin Kikawa - NRD Portland

Diversity Enlisted Recruiter of the Year - EA2(SCW) Larzon Ong - NRD San Francisco

Diversity Officer Recruiter of the Year - NCC John Marullo - NRD San Francisco

Medical Officer Recruiter of the Year - HMC(FMF/SW/AW) Joseph Rawson - NRD Philadelphia

Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Recruiter of the Year - MMC (SW) Sergio Palacios - NRD Philadelphia

Navy Special Warfare/Navy Special Operations Recruiter of the Year - CE2 (SCW) Mark Durand - NRD New England

Support Person of the Year - NC1(SW) Archie Anz - NRD San Diego

FRA also participated in the Commandant of the Marine Corps 2013 Combined Awards Ceremony, held this week at Quantico Marine Base, Va., and hosted a reception following the ceremony. Commandant James Amos, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett and FRA NP Courneya recognized the following 14 outstanding recruiters, instructors, athletes, career planners and Marine Security Guards:

Recruiter of the Year: *Sgt Iasia J. Brown (12th Marine Corps District) and SSgt Richard A. Castro (1st Marine Corps District)

Prior Service Recruiter: *SSgt Victor Perez (8th Marine Corps District) and GySgt Fitzpatrick A. Givans (4th Marine Corps District)

Drill Instructor of the Year: *GySgt Michael H. Wampler, (Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif.) and GySgt Christian R. Appleman (Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.)

Marine Combat Instructor: *GySgt Aubrey T. Wrenn (Camp Lejeune, N.C.) and SSgt Christopher L. Carney (Camp Pendleton, Calif.)

Marine Security Guard: *SSgt Stanley D. McCaskey Jr. (American Embassy, Tunis, Tunisia) and Sgt Lindsay D. Gunter (American Embassy, Chengdu, China)

Career Planner: *GySgt Wesley E. Helms (MACG-28 2D MAW) and Sgt Jarod C. Mason (2/8 2D MARDIV)

Athlete of the Year: *Capt Christine M. Taranto (MWSS 272) and *SSgt David S. Arendt Jr. (H&S Bn, Camp Lejeune, N.C.)

* denotes winner in each category

FRA congratulates and thanks all these service members for their honor, courage and commitment!


Free Income Tax Preparation for Active Duty Personnel and Some Veterans

Qualified veterans and active-duty military can also get free federal and state tax preparation and filing assistance, both online and in person, by This is the only free online tax preparation and filing service available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that allows users to file both a federal and state return, no matter where they live. To use this service, qualifying families must earn $58,000 or less. MyFreeTaxes.comis sponsored by Walmart, Goodwill, the National Disability Institute and the United Way.

For those of you who prefer to do your own taxes, there are several options to e-file your taxes free of charge online:

  • IRS Free Fileis available to taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $58,000 or less in 2014.
  • TurboTax Freedom Editionis only available to those eligible for IRS Free File.
  • TurboTax Military Edition: TurboTax created a software program specifically for military members. There is currently a free version for junior enlisted, and a discount for senior enlisted and officers. Read our full review for more information, or visit the TurboTax Military Edition site.
  • MilitaryOneSource.miloffers a free version of H&R Block At Home®. You must click the link directly from the MilitaryOneSource home page and be logged into your account. This version features one federal return and up to three state returns (good for military members who change state residency during a tax year).
  • Taxslayer.comoffers free state and federal e-filing for military personnel

FRA does not endorse any of these programs, but hopes that one or more of these programs can be of assistance to Shipmates and their families in filing their 2013 income tax returns.


Navy has First Female Four-star Admiral

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral Michelle Howard is the first female four-star admiral in the 238-year-history of the U.S. Navy, and the first African-American female to achieve four-star rank in the history of the military. She was nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate in December. Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley (AS 31) and USS Lexington (AVT 16). While serving on board Lexington, she received the Secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for BALTOPS, under 6th Fleet. Her shore assignments include: J-3, Global Operations, Readiness and Executive Assistant to the Joint Staff director of Operations; Deputy Director N3 on the OPNAV staff; Deputy Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV staff; Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy; Chief of Staff to the director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff, and Deputy Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Vice Admiral Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.