FRA NewsBytes - 02-28-14

In this issue:
Senate Stops Veterans Omnibus Bill
SecDef Previews Defense FY 2015 Budget Request
FRA Supports Two Year Funding for VA
Administration Drops Chained CPI

 

Senate Stops Veterans Omnibus Bill

The Senate this week voted to block the FRA-supported “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act” (S. 1982). The vote (56–41) required a three-fifths majority (60 votes) to allow the bill to move to final passage stage. The major objection to the bill was the cost: $21 billion over 10 years. The bill would have repealed the one-percent COLA cut for future military retirees who joined military service after January 1, 2014 and provided numerous veterans improvements. Members can refer to last week’s Newsbytes (2-21-14) for full description of the bill’s provisions.

 

SecDef Previews Defense FY 2015 Budget Request

Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Chuck Hagel unveiled details of his agency’s FY 2015 budget request at a press conference this week. SecDef stated that this is the first budget to reflect the end of American involvement in Afghanistan, and will significantly reduce end strength for all branches of the military including the National Guard and Reserve units. These end strength levels will result in the smallest military since before World War II, and Hagel warned that future sequestration budget cuts mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act will create a “hollow force.”

He also stated that budget will slow the growth of military pay increases, stimulate unspecified TRICARE annual fee increases and co-pay increases for active-duty families and retirees, reduce Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) payments from 100 percent to 95 percent, and slash Commissary subsidies by more than two-thirds over three years. The budget request did not propose any reductions in retirement benefits. Hagel explained that he will await the final report from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is due February 2015, before proposing any changes to military retirement benefits. In response to the SecDef budget announcement, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Rep. Howard “Buck” Mckeon (Calif.) expressed disapproval by stating that “we are trying to solve our financial problems on the back of our military.”

FRA shares the SecDef’s concerns about a “hollow force” military and supports adequate end strengths for our military’s operational commitments. The Association opposes new TRICARE fee increases, cuts to commissary benefits and BAH. FRA also will fight for active-duty pay increases that at least keep pace with comparable civilian pay increases.

 

FRA Supports Two Year Funding for VA

FRA staff (DLP John Davis) attended a press conference on Capitol Hill this week urging the House and Senate to pass legislation to require Congress to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget a year ahead of schedule by providing two-fiscal year budget authority. The “Putting Veterans Funding First Act” (H.R. 813/S. 932) ensures that all VA services will have timely, predictable funding in an era when continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns are all too frequent. Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC), is sponsoring the House bill (H.R. 813) that has been approved by the committee and is awaiting action on the House floor. The Senate companion bill (S. 932), sponsored by Senator Mark Begich (Alaska), is awaiting action in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Rep. Michael Michaud (Maine), Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) and Senator John Boozman (Ark.) urged veterans at the press conference to encourage their legislators to support this legislation. Shipmates can do this by using the FRA Action Center at action.fra.org/action-center.

Administration Drops Chained CPI

FRA is thankful that the Administration has abandoned its call for implementing the Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) in lieu the current CPI. The Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used to determine annual COLAs for various benefit programs. The President’s 2014 budget request had included implementing the chained CPI in lieu of the current CPI, but was not implemented by Congress, and recent press reports indicate that the chained CPI will be dropped by the Administration when it releases details of its 2015 budget request next week.

The Association is committed to ensuring equitable COLAs for military retirees’ retainer pay, veterans disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and was recently listed as a supporting organization on a letter signed by 118 U.S. representatives that calls on President Obama to avoid using the Chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for military retiree compensation, Social Security benefits and other federal programs. Switching to this measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI,” would reduce payments and have a negative financial impact on seniors, military retirees, veterans, survivors, and people with disabilities. FRA is committed to fight efforts to reduce military retired or retainer pay and ensure equitable cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for all military retirees commensurate with their service and sacrifices.

__________________________
NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail newsbytes@fra.orgwith "Subscribe" in the subject line and your name and address in the body. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number as well. To unsubscribe, please respond to this email with "unsubscribe" in the message line.

If you would like to hear a recorded version of NewsBytes, dial 1-800-FRA-1924 (ext. 112).

Follow FRA on Twitter (https://twitter.com/FRAHQ) and "like" FRA on Facebook (use the shortcut ofwww.fra.org/fb).

FRA is celebrating its 90th anniversary and is the oldest and largest association representing the interests of current and former Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel. If you are not a member and are eligible, please join FRA atwww.fra.org. The larger the membership base, the louder your voice is heard on Capitol Hill!