NewsBytes May 20, 2022      
     

In this issue:
Put Concurrent Receipt Reform in NDAA
SVAC Announces Bipartisan Agreement on VA Toxic Exposure Bill
Woman Admiral Becomes Coast Guard Commandant
Armed Forces Day on May 21



URGENT! Put Concurrent Receipt Reform in NDAA
The markup of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the House and Senate will begin soon. FRA is working to add a provision to these “must-pass” bills to expand concurrent receipt.  Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) are sponsoring the FRA-supported “Major Richard Star Act” (H.R.1282, S.344 respectively) that expands concurrent receipt to include Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) beneficiaries who are medically retired who are less than 100 percent disabled and with less than 20 years of service. Your FRA Action Center messages are having an impact. The “Major Richard Star Act” (H.R.1282) has 229 co-sponsors, and the Senate companion bill (S.344) has 58 co-sponsors. 

Other FRA-supported legislation to expand concurrent receipt has recently been introduced by Senator Jon Tester (Mont.) that extends concurrent receipt to Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) retirees (20 or more years of service) rated less than 50 percent disabled. The “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (S.1147) is similar to legislation (H.R.303) introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) with the same title. Earlier, Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.) introduced the “Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act” (H.R.333), which is comprehensive concurrent receipt legislation that would also give concurrent receipt to CRDP retirees whose disability ratings are below 50 percent and Chapter 61 retirees with less than 20 years of service.

Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to include concurrent receipt reform in the FY 2023 Defense Authorization (NDAA) bills. 


SVAC Announces Bipartisan Agreement on VA Toxic Exposure Bill
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (Kan.) announced a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive legislation to deliver to many toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the first time in the nation’s history. For more than a year, Sens. Tester and Moran led negotiations between Democrats, Republicans, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, Ranking Member Mike Bost, the Biden Administration, the FRA and other veterans service organizations.

Military service for our nation can require service members to go places that may expose them to toxins that cause illness and diseases that may not be diagnosed for years or even decades after their service. That is why the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is a member of the Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition to ensure that no veteran who suffered exposure to burn pits or other environmental toxins goes without access to VA health care benefits. 

The “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act” will:
 
• Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
• Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
• Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension; 
• Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure; 
       - Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
• Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
• Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans; and
• Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in: 
      - VA claims processing;
      - VA’s workforce; and
      - VA health care facilities.
 
Once the text of the bill has been finalized, it will be put on the Senate floor for a vote. After Senate passage, the legislation must be passed by the House before being signed into law by the president.


Woman Admiral Becomes Coast Guard Commandant
The Senate unanimously approved Admiral Linda Fagan to become the next Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard effective June 1, 2022, making her the first woman to lead a military service. Admiral Fagan has served in the Coast Guard for 36 years. She has served as Vice-commandant since June of 2021. Previously she was commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, overseeing operations from the Rocky Mountains to the waters off the east coast of Africa. Fagan is also the Coast Guard’s first Gold Ancient Trident, the officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety field. She graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985 with a B.S. degree in Marine Science. She later earned a Master of Marine Affairs degree from the University of Washington in 2000 and an M.S. degree in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University in 2008.


Armed Forces Day
May 21, 2022 is Armed Forces Day, that was started on May 20, 1950. This day is intended to recognize the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service in support of our nation and give thanks for those who keep our nation safe. Many DoD installations will hold events that are open to the public.


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