NewsBytes July 28, 2023

In this issue:
Senate Ready to Pass NDAA 
HVAC Approves Legislation
Biden Nominates Women to Serve as CNO
Mental Health Improvements Implemented
CFPB Military Families Report
Korean Conflict Armistice
Convention Journal and Booster Rolls Deadline Approaching

Senate Ready to Pass NDAA 
As NewsBytes goes to press, the Senate is still considering floor amendments, including an amendment on concurrent receipt reform (Major Richard Star Act), for its version of the FY2024 NDAA (S.2226) and then passing the bill. A full report on floor action and passage will be provided in next week’s NewsBytes if the bill moves forward.  

The Senate voted 95-2 to approve an FRA-supported amendment sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock (Ga.), to curb “unfair” debt collection practices, such as threatening prosecution under the military justice system or to revoke a service member’s security clearance. 

Earlier the House considered floor amendments and passed the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.2670) with a mostly partisan roll call (219-210). Members can reference last week’s NewsBytes on key provisions of the House NDAA. Once both chambers of Congress approve their versions of the NDAA, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills. This bill will be voted on by both chambers and if approved, sent to the president to be signed into law.  

HVAC Approves Legislation
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) approved eleven bills to address veteran homelessness, improve TAP, expand access to home-based care for aging veterans, increase access to mental health resources for caregivers, protect deployed servicemembers USERRA rights, and more. Each of these bills would have a direct impact on veterans, Reservists and National Guardsmen, veteran caregivers, and their families. 

The following bills were passed out of the Committee:
H.R.4278, Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act (Chairman Bost) 
H.R.3848, HOME Act (Rep. Chavez-DeRemer) 
H.R.3943, Servicemember Employment Protection Act of 2023 (Rep. Franklin) 
H.R.3874, Veterans Education Assistance Improvement Act (Rep. Rosendale) 
H.R.3933, TAP Promotion Act (Rep. Van Orden) 
H.R.4461, Modernizing VA Disability Benefit Questionnaires Act (Rep. Luttrell) 
H.R.3581, COPE Act (Rep. Kiggans) 
H.R. 1767, To provide that educational assistance paid with VA educational assistance to an individual who pursued a course of education that was suspended or terminated for shall not be charged against the entitlement of the individual. (Rep. Ramirez) 
H.R. 3981, Veterans Education Oversight Expansion Act (Rep. McGarvey) 
H.R. 542, Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act of 2023 (Rep. Brownley) 
H.R. 984, Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act (Rep. Levin)

These bills now go to the House floor for further consideration. 

Biden Nominates Women to Serve as CNO
President Joe Biden has nominated Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next chief of naval operations, making her potentially the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Franchetti would be the first woman to lead the Navy or any Defense Department military service. Her appointment requires Senate confirmation. Franchetti’s nomination is likely to be delayed by ongoing political fights on Capitol Hill over the military’s abortion access policy. The ongoing hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, (Ala)., has stalled more than 250 senior military confirmations over the last four months, with no resolution in sight, over the Defense Department’s abortion policies.

Franchetti was born in 1964 in Rochester, New York. She studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, Il., being awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism. While at Northwestern, she joined the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program and was commissioned in 1985. Franchetti, a career surface warfare officer is only the second woman to be the Navy’s vice chief.

Mental Health Improvements Implemented
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recently announced that the Navy and Marine Corps have established new measures intended to improve service members' access to mental health treatment by allowing them to confidentially request a referral from their supervisor or commanding officer at any time without repercussions.

The Navy and Marine Corps are implementing these provisions in compliance with the Brandon Act. Named for a Navy sailor who died by suicide in 2018, the new policy allows members to "seek help confidentially for any reason, at any time and in any environment, thereby reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment," according to Del Toro.

Under the new directive, commanders must make sure that Sailors and Marines know how to ask for a mental health evaluation, ensure that those who ask can get an evaluation as soon as practical, and treat a mental health evaluation referral like any referral for a physical health condition.

The Brandon Act is named after Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta who died by suicide in 2018. The FRA-supported legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 27, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

CFPB Military Families Report
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its annual report on the top financial concerns facing military families. The report highlights the growth of digital payment app usage in the servicemember community, the unique risks to servicemembers from these services, and the potential abuse from bad actors. Some servicemembers have also indicated in their complaints about incurring serious financial harm from scams and fraud when using these services, and their complaints suggest digital payment app providers often fail to provide timely and substantive resolutions.

Servicemembers, veterans, and their families have submitted more than 323,000 consumer complaints since the CFPB opened its doors in 2011. In 2022, they submitted nearly 66,400 complaints to the CFPB, a 55 percent increase from 2021. In 2022, they submitted more than 1,100 complaints on digital payment apps, one of the fastest-growing complaint types submitted to the CFPB. Many of the reported issues and complaints about digital payment apps relate to frauds and scams, suggesting it is a rapidly growing financial threat to military families.

For the first time, the report also provides detailed complaint data from active duty servicemembers, members of the National Guard and Reservists, and veterans and retirees by year, by complaint category and by state.

75th Anniversary of Desegregation of U.S. Armed forces
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order (EO) 9980, "Regulations Governing Fair Employment Practices Within the Federal Establishment," and EO 9981, "Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services," which desegregated the Federal Government and Armed Forces. These actions officially ended segregation of the Federal workforce and military, afforded eligible Americans equal opportunity to serve their country regardless of their race, and opened doors for individuals who were previously excluded or marginalized.

National Convention Journal Ads and Booster Rolls Deadline Approaching
Don’t miss out on promoting your branch or unit, or your personal business in the Official Convention Journal. DEADLINE is 10 August 2023.

Your Support is needed and appreciated to help make the Convention a financial success. The application can be found on the FRA website under the “National Convention” tab, on page 5 of the latest Convention Newsletter (#4).

Korean Conflict Armistice
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement ending the hostilities that began with the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950.  The agreement that was signed created a demilitarized zone (DMZ) to separate North and South Korea and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace was ever signed.

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