FRA NewsBytes - 4-11-2014

In this issue:
FRA Storms Capitol Hill
FRA Honors South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson
Subcommittee Approves VA and Military Construction Spending for FY 2015

FRA Storms Capitol Hill
Members of FRA's National Board of Directors (NBOD) and other Association leaders brought the enlisted perspective to Capitol Hill this week as they visited their respective elected officials in Washington, D.C. These shipmates shared the Association’s position on priority legislative issues with their senators and representatives, asking them to oppose the Administration’s call for drastically higher TRICARE Prime fees and co-pays and new enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) beneficiaries. They urged Congress not to cut funding for military stateside commissaries and to exclude Defense from sequestration. FRA leaders also asked that Congress make adequate physician reimbursements (“doc fix”) for Medicare/TRICARE patients permanent. Additionally, FRA leaders asked lawmakers to take action to reduce the disability claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), extend disability benefits to “Blue Water” Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide while serving off the coast of Vietnam, and allow the VA to have full two-year advance funding to avoid the delay of services to wounded warriors during government shutdowns.

FRA wants to thank the nearly 2,500 Shipmates that sent advocacy messages to Capitol Hill in conjunction with NBOD storming the Hill.


FRA Honors South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson
FRA Board members, shipmates and auxiliary members attended the Association’s Pinnacle Award reception yesterday, where Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), Chairman, House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, received FRA’s highest honor. FRA annually presents its Pinnacle Award to a member of Congress who has championed legislative initiatives that impact shipmates. Congressman Wilson was selected to receive this award for his steadfast support for current and former members of the U.S. armed forces. As chairman of the House Armed Services’ Military Personnel Subcommittee, he is on the front lines of protecting and improving benefits for service members, their families and survivors. He is deeply committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the training, equipment and support they need to successfully complete their missions and provide for their families.

Congressman Wilson is a strong ally in FRA’s efforts, and has introduced legislation to eliminate the reduction in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for surviving spouses who also receive Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities. This offset, often called the “widow’s tax,” unfairly impacts thousands of survivors.

As a 30-year veteran of the Army National Guard, Representative Wilson is particularly sensitive to the needs of reservists and guardsmen. He introduced legislation to provide healthcare benefits for Reserve Component retirees who experience a gap in healthcare coverage before they are eligible for coverage at age 60.

Representative Wilson has championed many initiatives that align with FRA’s legislative objectives, including efforts to exempt the Department of Defense and VA Healthcare programs from the onerous impact of sequestration budget cuts.

Wilson adamantly opposes new and increased fees for TRICARE beneficiaries. He also supports legislation that would allow veterans to pay in-state tuition at institutions of higher learning, even if they are not residents of that state.


Subcommittee Approves VA and Military Construction Spending for FY 2015
The House Appropriations Committee, Military Construction and VA Subcommittee (MilCon/VA) recently voted to cut spending on military construction while boosting funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by 6.5 percent. The still un-numbered bill provides $6.6 billion for military construction, a cut of $3.3 billion compared to 2014 spending levels. The spending bill includes $158.2 billion in total funding for the VA, representing an increase of $10.3 billion compared to 2014.

The markup officially begins the 2015 appropriations process, in which the House and Senate have already agreed to a total spending level from the budget deal reached last December. The House Appropriations Committee hopes to complete all 12 spending bills by the start of the fiscal year, October 1, 2014, for the first time since the 1990s.

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