Weekly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve Association

December 8 2017

In this issue:
New CR Stops Government Shutdown
SVAC Passes VA Health Care Reform
Senate Confirms DHS Director
A Day that Will Live in Infamy
New CR Stops Government Shutdown

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) met with President Trump to resume budget negotiations and pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) beyond the Friday, December 8 deadline for the current CR. The meeting was a "do-over" from last week's meeting that the two minority leaders boycotted in response to a Trump tweet. The CR keeps spending at last year's levels. House Republicans proposed to include the FY2018 Defense spending bill with the CR, but Senate Democrats balked. The House, on a mostly partisan rollcall (235-193), passed the CR without any amendments. This extends government operations until December 22, 2017. The Senate quickly passed the House CR (81-14), avoiding a government shutdown. 
To date, Congress has been unable to lift or eliminate spending caps (sequestration) enacted on Defense spending in 2011. Legislators have temporarily lifted spending caps several times since 2013 but Democrats and Republicans argue whether Defense spending increases should be matched with non-defense spending increases. Sequestration mandates a more than $75 billion cut in the FY2018 Defense Authorization bill (H.R.2810) that recently passed Congress and was presented to the President on November 30, to sign into law or veto.
FRA has long sought to exclude the Defense Department from sequestration and encourages its members to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to exclude Defense spending from sequestration.     
SVAC Passes VA Health Care Reform
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) passed the "Caring for Our Veterans Act" (S.2193), sponsored by SVAC Chairman Johnny Isakson. The act reforms the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system by providing veterans easier access to private-sector doctors and the expanded VA's care givers assistance programs. The bill is estimated to cost $54 billion over 5 years. It also includes $3 billion in additional funding for the current VA Choice program. 
The bill would establish a permanent, streamlined "Veterans Community Care Program" that provides veterans access to health care services in their own communities. Under this legislation, a veteran and their doctor will decide where that veteran can receive care, taking into consideration the veteran's healthcare needs, availability and quality of both VA and community care.
The bill expands eligibility for the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to veterans of all generations, including Vietnam-era veterans.
In addition, the legislation will help improve existing VA health care and services by removing barriers for VA healthcare professionals to practice telemedicine. It also strengthens opioid prescription guidelines for VA and partnering community care providers and eliminates impediments to hiring and retention of VA healthcare professionals.
Additional provisions in the legislation include:
• Authorize access to walk-in community clinics for enrolled veterans who have previously used VA healthcare services in the past two years;
• Allow the VA to enter into agreements with community healthcare and extended-care providers who meet veterans' demands for care in their community; 
• Create reporting requirements to ensure all VA and community care programs are operating efficiently and effectively based on a number of factors including veterans' satisfaction and quality standards; and
• Create standards for timely payment to community care providers.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee has similar legislation (H.R.4242) expected to be considered early next year. FRA supports the VA Choice program and extending the VA Caregivers Act to full-time caregivers of catastrophically disabled veterans who served in conflicts before September 11, 2001. Members can use the FRA Action Center on our website to ask their legislators to support the Senate bill. 
Senate Confirms DHS Director
Kirstjen Nielsen was confirmed by the Senate (62-37) as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-the department that includes the U.S. Coast Guard.  Nielsen will be the first woman to hold the DHS Secretary position, and the sixth secretary since DHS was created after the 2001 terror attacks. She will succeed John Kelly who is now the White House Chief of Staff. Nielson served as Marine General John Kelly's Chief of Staff while he served as DHS Secretary. She is a cybersecurity expert who previously worked in both the George W. Bush Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.
"A Day That Will Live in Infamy"
FRA shipmates around the country participated in events on Thursday, December 7, to remember the Japanese sneak attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that killed more than 2300 Americans. Thursday marked the 76th anniversary of the attack. FRA National President William E. Starkey (Branch 57) participated in Pearl Harbor ceremonies memorializing those who made the ultimate sacrifice on "The Day That Will Live in Infamy".





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