Weekly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve Association

November 10 2017

In this issue:

Final Version of FY2018 NDAA Released

Ask VA Secretary to Help Blue Water Vietnam Veterans

FRA Supports Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans

Online Exchange Shopping Starts November 11

Veterans' Day/FRA 93rd Birthday/Marine Corps' 242nd Birthday



Final Version of FY2018 NDAA Released

Senate and House negotiators agreed on a $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.2810) for FY2018. Although the actual text of the final bill was not available at the time Newsbytes went to press, the FRA was informed the final bill includes:


• Keeping a grandfather clause to shield current retirees younger than 65 from an additional TRICARE fee increase (Senate NDAA repealed grandfather clause)

• Imposing a pharmacy co-pay for retirees younger than 65 to pay for eliminating the expiration date (May 2018) for the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for military widows

• Increasing pay (larger than requested) for troops by 2.4 percent

• Boosting military end strength by more than 20,000 service members (4,000 Navy & 1,000 Marines)

• Mandating all Reserve Component members who are mobilized will 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 an occupational license or certification in another state


The bill now goes before both chambers for a final vote. The final votes are expected before the Thanksgiving Day recess. If passed by both chambers, the bill will be sent to the President to sign it into law or veto. The compromise bill does surpass the (sequestration) budget cap of $549 billion for defense spending and will require additional congressional action to be enacted.  Members are encouraged to go to the FRA Action Center and ask their legislators to exclude Defense spending from sequestration. 


Ask VA Secretary to Help Blue Water Vietnam Veterans

In the wake of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) failure to vote on the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act" (H.R.299 & S.422 respectively) FRA and several other like-minded Veteran Service Organizations have dispatched a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Shulkin, urging him to implement a regulation to provide Vietnam veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam to have the same presumption the "Brown Water" and "Boots on the Ground" Vietnam veterans have when filing for VA disability claims. 


FRA supports the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act" (H.R.299 & S.422) that would clarify service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the VA for ailments associated with exposure to Agent Orange. Studies demonstrate that the desalinization process used on Australian and U.S. Navy ships off the coast of Vietnam magnified the exposure of the Agent Orange in the water.


The VA Secretary could help these veterans by implementing a regulation. FRA has met with the secretary and have been informed that he is reviewing the policy. Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask the secretary to implement a regulation giving these veterans a presumption for filing disability claims with the VA for ailments associated with exposure to Agent Orange.


FRA Supports Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans

This week the House Ways and Means Committee marked up and voted on a major tax reform bill.  House leadership has indicated that amendments will be debated in committee but no amendments will be allowed from the House floor. 


FRA has signed onto a letter from The Military Coalition (TMC), sent to key legislators of said Committee, requesting to extend the Hire Heroes Act tax credits and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for five years. The Hire Heroes Act, signed into law in 2011, strengthened the WOTC by increasing financial incentives for employers who hire veterans, including disabled veterans. Department of Labor data indicates these incentives helped improve employment opportunities for veterans.


However, the constant cycle of expiration and retroactive renewals of these tax credits causes uncertainty among employers. Extending these tax provisions to five years will provide employers certainty about the tax credits. It will also create more employment opportunities for veterans.  


Military Exchange Online Shopping for Veterans Starts November 11

As first reported in the June 9, 2017 Newsbytes, the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit will become available on military exchange websites starting November 11, 2017. The exchanges are stocking up in anticipation of a huge increase in customers. More than 235,000 veterans have already been verified for the benefit, however, as many as 18 million more individuals may be eligible.


Veterans' Day/FRA 93rd Birthday/Marine Corps' 242nd Birthday 

This Saturday will mark the 99th anniversary of the armistice ending the First World War 99 years ago, on November 11, 1918-and today recognized as Veterans Day. It is a long-standing tradition for many FRA shipmates to participate in Veterans' Day ceremonies all across the country. Additionally, on November 11, 1924 FRA was founded, marking FRA's 93rd anniversary. NP William Starkey will attend a breakfast hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before participating in the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the special wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. 


On November 10, 1775, the United States Marine Corps was founded. FRA Headquarters (HQ) wishes a Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps! Recently DLP John Davis and ADVP Brian Condon attended Mack's Marines luncheon at the Commandant of the Marine Corps residency in observance of the 242nd anniversary of the Marine Corps. Last Saturday, DLP Davis attended the Commandants Marine Corps Ball. 


FRA thanks members for their service in defending our Nation, and also for their continued membership. Please note FRA HQ will be closed Friday, November 10 in observance of Veterans Day.




NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail us  and include your name and contact information in the body of e-mail. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number as well.

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