April 21 2017

In this issue:
Pass FY 2017 Defense Budget Now!
Future of Arlington Cemetery
House Subcommittee Reviews VA Retention Problems
Interim Report on Federal Government’s Veteran’s Employment Initiative


Pass FY 2017 Defense Budget Now!

Most of the federal government is currently being funded by a Continuing Resolution (CR), which was signed by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2016. The CR expires April 28, just four days after members of Congress return from their recess. Under a CR, funding remains at the previous year’s (FY 2016) levels. Nearly half way through FY 2017 and we are still at FY 2016 spending levels. When Congress returns it should pass a permanent FY 2017 Defense budget. The FY 2018 budget request that begins on October 1, 2017 will be submitted by the Trump Administration sometime in May.

Members are invited to use the FRA Action Center on our website and ask your legislators to pass an adequately funded Defense budget for FY 2017.

Future of Arlington Cemetery
According to estimates from the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery, the cemetery will run out of burial space by 2050. The Advisory Committee, established October 2010, is tasked with providing independent advice for extending the availability of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The Advisory Committee has been considering altering or restricting the eligibility criteria for burial at ANC, in order to extend accessibility to the cemetery for future generations.

FRA surveyed members on their thoughts and concerns regarding burial eligibility at ANC. A very large majority (92 percent) believes that ANC should pursue all possible options for acquiring additional land before making any restrictions on the current eligibility. More than 67 percent want to reserve a set amount of space for Medal of Honor recipients and/or active-duty deaths. More than 61 percent of respondents disagree with the statement: “The need to keep ANC operational for 100 years or more by significantly restricting eligibility is a more important consideration than requiring older veterans and military retirees, currently planning on burial at Arlington, to change their plans.”

ANC is managed by the Department of the Army and does not fall under any of the rules and regulations of veteran’s cemeteries administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  ANC is a living monument to those who have served, and should remain an active place for reflections as a testament to future generations as how we remember and honor those who served.  FRA understands this is an important issue for Shipmates and will continue to report on developments as they occur. 

House Subcommittee Reviews VA Retention Problems
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health recently held a hearing to address how best to recruit and retain a highly-qualified clinical workforce to treat veterans who have complicated health care needs. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system employs 317,000 people at nearly 1200 locations throughout the country. While care in many locations is high quality and timely, overall it is inconsistent. 

During the hearing, it was revealed staffing shortages are prominent throughout the system, particularly in five critical clinical occupational areas: physicians, registered nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, and physical therapists. A recent Government Accounting Office report predicted the staffing shortage in these, as well as in other areas will only get worse before they get better. The report noted that weak human-resources-related control practices are impacting the VA’s ability to meet veterans’ health care needs.

At the hearing, VA staff acknowledged past hiring practices were unduly burdensome and under the MyVA program, the hiring process has improved and is more efficient. 

Interim Report on Federal Government’s Veteran’s Employment Initiative
Syracuse University issued an interim report about the Federal Government’s Veteran’s Employment Initiative (VEI) in January 2017.  In 2009, post 9/11 veteran’s unemployment stood at 10.2 percent–more than a percentage point higher than non-veterans. As first reported in the November 13, 2009 “Newsbytes,” the White House announced an Executive Order (13518) establishing the VEI to convert the federal government into a model veteran employer. The plan emphasized to federal agencies the importance of recruiting, training and increasing employment opportunities for veterans. It also calls for providing recently hired veterans assistance in adjusting to their new work environment.

The Executive Order created the federal Council on Veterans Employment. The interagency council will advise the president and director of the office of personnel management on veteran’s employment. The order also established a Veterans Employment Program Office in most federal agencies. These offices are responsible for finding veteran employment opportunities within their agencies and provide feedback from veterans employed by the agencies.

The interim report recognized positive outcomes from VEI for the federal government. Since 2009, veteran employment in the federal government has sharply increased. The report also notes there clearly remains room for interagency learning to sustain and to improve upon the gains made since 2009. Information from the interim report was obtained for the period of time from May to December of 2016 and can be found here. A final comprehensive VEI report is scheduled to be completed later this year. 

NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you would like to subscribe, and receive publication via e-mail please contact us at: newsbytes@fra.org with "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. Membership not required but encouraged.

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

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