Newsbytes 10-22-21     
In this issue:
Senate NDAA Pending on Senate Floor
Navy to Review Recent OTH Discharges
VA Still Seeking VHA Boss
Former Chairman JCS Colin Powell Passes Away

Senate NDAA Pending on Senate Floor
The House recently passed its version of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R. 4350) and the Senate is expected to follow suit soon. The Senate bill (S. 2792) is pending on the Senate floor for a final vote and will soon consider floor amendments. Several of these amendments are supported by FRA. These amendments include:

· Sen. Jon Tester (MT) amendment with the provisions of the "Major Richard Star Act" (S. 344) that expands concurrent receipt to include Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) beneficiaries who are medically retired with less than 20 years of service;
· Sen. Rob Portman (OH) amendment with provisions of the "Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act" (S. 1669) that would authorize the retention of the full final month's retired pay by the surviving spouse for the month in which the member was alive for at least 24 hours; and
· Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) amendment to require a joint report from DoD and the VA to designate the next national cemetery that affords full military honors as Arlington National Cemetery reaches capacity and directs DoD to not change ANC eligibility until after the report is submitted.

Once the Senate passes its version of the NDAA, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills. That final bill will be submitted to the House and Senate for a vote. If approved by both chambers, the bill will go to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.
Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their Senators to support these important amendments by going to:

Navy to Review Recent OTH Discharges
The U.S. Navy has recently agreed to review more than nine years' worth of other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges given to thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or certain other trauma-related health conditions. That announcement follows preliminary court approval of a settlement of a 2018 lawsuit alleging that a Navy board had improperly denied a Marine Corps veteran's request for a better discharge status.

The suit was filed by Tyson Manker and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress. Manker, who served from 1999 to 2003 and earned multiple awards and commendations, received an other-than-honorable discharge for smoking marijuana. The settlement would require the Navy to review discharge status upgrade applications made to the Naval Discharge Review Board between March 2, 2012, and October 12, 2021.

The review applies to Navy and Marine Corps veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan era who were given OTH discharges and were partially or fully denied upgrade relief, the Navy said in a statement. The settlement also expands reapplication rights for eligible applicants who were discharged and received an adverse review board decision between October. 7, 2001, and March 2, 2012. In addition, the Navy agreed to provide discharge review board members and staffers with annual training in PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, military sexual trauma and other behavioral or mental health conditions, according to the settlement.

VA Still Seeking VHA Boss
According to press accounts, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has abandoned its initial search for someone to lead its huge health care system (Veterans Health Administration) and is starting the process all over again. The VA is establishing another commission to help choose a candidate for the role of undersecretary for health - a position that oversees hundreds of hospitals and clinics that comprise the largest health care system in the country. Whoever takes the job will be responsible for hundreds of thousands of employees and an annual budget of about $61 billion.

The VA has been without a confirmed leader of the Veterans Health Administration for more than four years, since the position was held by David Shulkin. Shulkin left the position in February 2017 after he was nominated by then-President Donald Trump as the VA secretary.
Dr. Richard Stone served as the acting undersecretary for nearly three years and led the VA's reply to the coronavirus pandemic. Stone resigned in June, once it was clear that the initial commission charged with finding an undersecretary did not select him to stay in the role on a permanent basis.

Former Chairman JCS Colin Powell Passes Away
Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, has died from COVID-19 complications, according to a statement from his family. Colin Powell was the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. He was the youngest and the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served as Chairman from Oct. 1989 to Sept. 1993, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.

Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents were immigrants from Jamaica. He was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor's degree in geology. He participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958.

He was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of four-star general.
During his time as Chairman JCS, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1990-1991. As Secretary of State, he formulated the Powell Doctrine which limits American military action unless it satisfies criteria regarding American national security interests, overwhelming force, and widespread public support.

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