October 13 2017

In this issue:
NDAA Update
Modest COLA Increase
VA Opposes Unemployabilty Cuts
Dunford Approved for Second Term 
Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!


NDAA Update
Recently the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees- known as the Big Four-recently met to discuss moving forward on the FY2018 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 2810). The Senate passed its bill in September and the House approved its bill in July. As Newsbytes goes to press, only the House has appointed members to the conference committee to resolve differences between the two bills. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) announced that both chambers should try to complete work on the bill by the end of October.   

FRA has dispatched a letter to the "Big Four," as well as the Chairmen and Ranking Members of each committees Personnel Subcommittees, expressing opposition and support for numerous provisions in the House and Senate bills. A copy of the letter is available on the FRA website. A major priority for FRA is our opposition to Senate provisions that mandate substantial TRICARE fee increases by repealing the so-called grandfather clause that excludes retirees who retired before January 1, 2018 from scheduled TRICARE fee increases. FRA also opposes provisions in the Senate bill that increases pharmacy co-pays, provides for a smaller active duty pay increase (2.1% vice 2.4%) and makes further cuts to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). 

In addition, FRA is urging Congress to exclude Defense from sequestration.  Budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 pose a threat to national security and will substantially impact member's pay and benefits. These automatic cuts, known as sequestration, require that 50 percent come from Defense even though Defense spending makes up only 16 percent of the total federal budget. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to urge their legislators to exclude Defense from sequestration and oppose onerous Senate provisions before it's too late! 

Modest COLA Increase
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently announced a two percent increase in the 2018 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for military and federal civilian retirees, survivor benefit annuitants, disabled veterans and Social Security recipients. The new COLA rate is effective December 1, 2017 and the adjustment will appear in the December 30, 2017 payment.

By law, COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). It is a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the BLS from the third quarter of the previous year to the third quarter of the current year. The CPI-W measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education. Since 2008, the annual COLA has been above two percent only once and has been zero three times.

VA Opposes Unemployabilty Cuts
The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin dispatched a letter to FRA and other Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) stating the VA does not support termination of Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits. The letter further states, the VA is "committed to finding ways that empower disabled veterans through vocational rehabilitation and employment opportunities, when available."

The Trump Administration's proposed budget, released May 2017, proposed eliminating the IU benefit payments to disabled veterans age 62 or older. Under current policies, the IU program allows the VA to award payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if they are not deemed 100-percent disabled.  The Administration has proposed stopping payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. This cut would impact more than 225,000 veterans currently receiving this benefit.  

FRA strongly opposes IU Cuts and would like to thank FRA members who weighed in on this issue using the FRA Action Center.

USMC General Dunford Approved for Second Term as Chair of JCS
The Senate recently confirmed Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford to a second two-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general was the Commandant of the Marine Corps when President Obama nominated him in May 2015, to become the new chairman. He officially took over on October 1, 2015, upon the retirement of his predecessor, Army General Martin Dempsey. President Trump nominated him for a second term in May 2017. As chairman, he serves as the principal military advisor to the President.

Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!
The U.S. Navy celebrates its (242nd) birthday today (October 13, 2017) by remembering the evolution from humble beginnings to the most powerful and sophisticated sea power in the world. The U.S. Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, established by the Continental Congress on October 13, 1775, to fight in America's war for independence. The Continental Navy numbered some 50 ships throughout the course of the war. The Constitution of the United States that was ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a Navy."

        

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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