August 17, 2018
In this issue:
President Signs NDAA into Law
Retirement Boards for Officers and Senior Enlisted
Eligibility for Military OneSource Expanded
Vet Unemployment Drops
President Signs NDAA into Law
President Trump this week signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.5515) at Fort Drum, N.Y., which is the home of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division. The bill passed both chambers of Congress with large margins (House 359-54 and Senate 87-10). This is the first time since 1996 that the NDAA will be sent to the President on time or before October 1. Key provisions of the bill include:
• Blocking a huge TRICARE fee increase that would have doubled annual fees for TRICARE beneficiaries under age 65;
• Expanding the VA Caregiver Program to include all severely disabled veterans. The original program applied to badly disabled veterans that were injured after September 11, 2001;
• Limiting rent increases for residents at Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) for next year and prohibiting AFRH from removing residents only because they are unable to pay rent;
• Increasing Navy and Marine Corps reserve and active duty end strength for FY2019;
• Increasing annual active duty pay by 2.6 percent, which keeps pace with civilian pay increases;
• Repealing a scheduled one percent cut in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for active duty;
• Expanding availability of Military One Source for retired and discharged members of the Armed Forces (see story below);
• Allowing Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, former POW, service-connected disability veterans and caregivers for disabled veterans to use commissaries and MWR facilities;
• Permitting veterans, who have a 100 percent service connected disability, to utilize a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard; and
• Mandating maximum life insurance coverage for service members deployed in a combat zone.
This final bill provides an overall increase in topline funding to support our troops and readiness recovery. FRA wants to thank Shipmates for using the FRA Action Center on issues pertaining to the NDAA.
Navy Retirement Boards for Officers and Senior Enlisted
Despite the increasing end strength authorizations, the Navy has announced it will hold selective early retirement boards for specific groups of officers later this year. The goal is to force non-performing senior officers into retirement. This is the first time since 2012 that the Navy has employed officer retirement boards.
The Navy will also convene a senior enlisted board this coming December. As part of the “Sailor 2025 Up-And-Stay” program, officials will grant more High Year Tenure waivers to chiefs, senior chiefs and master chief petty officers who will serve at sea or other tough jobs in order to continue their Navy service.
FRA wants to ensure that early retirement and other benefits will be authorized for service members involuntarily separated with less than 20 years of service. This includes the temporary early retirement authority (TERA) program to minimize the impact of end strength reductions on career personnel.
Eligibility for Military OneSource Benefits Expanded
The Department of Defense (DoD) announced it will extend eligibility for Military OneSource benefits from the current 180 days to 365 days after separation or retirement from military service. This is to ensure all service members and families have access to comprehensive support as they transition to civilian life. The change was authorized by the recently signed into law, National Defense Authorization Act, and goes into effect immediately. Military OneSource provides information, resources and support for active-duty, Reserve Component members, their families and survivors. Provided at no cost, Military OneSource gives exclusive access to programs, tools and benefits designed to help ensure service members and their families are mission-ready and able to thrive in both their military and post-military lives.
As a DoD program, Military OneSource offers a wide range of services designed exclusively for the military community. Some of the services include help with relocation, tax support, financial planning, health and wellness coaching. Also offered are confidential non-medical counseling and specialty consultations for spouse employment, education, adoption, elder care, special needs are offered. Military OneSource services are accessible 24/7. Service members and family members can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or go to www.militaryonesource.mil. To explore the complete list of benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, go to https://explore.va.gov/.
Veteran Unemployment Drops
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows veterans who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 had an unemployment rate of 3 percent in July—the lowest it has ever been since 2006. Overall veteran unemployment dropped from 3.3 percent in June 2018 to 3.0 percent in July, 2018. Non-veteran unemployment stayed at 4.0 percent for the same time period.