NewsBytes November 19, 2021     

In this issue:
NDAA Slows Down in Senate
Medicare Costs Increase in 2022
House Passes Veterans Legislation
FRA NHQ Holiday Schedule

NDAA Slows Down in Senate
Progress on the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R.4350) slowed as Senate leaders attempted to expand the scope of the bill to include trade policy with China. There are 945 Senate floor amendments that have been filed for consideration. Votes on hundreds of amendments are expected to extend into the weekend.  Several of these amendments are supported by FRA. The amendments include: 
•Sen. Jon Tester’s (Mont.) 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’s (Ohio) 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;
• Sen. Lankford’s (Okla.) amendment repealing the 180-day delay for retirees applying for Defense Department civilian positions GS-13 and below; 
• Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) 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; and
• Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) amendment to prohibit forced arbitration provisions in financial contracts for service members and re-employment disputes for reserve component members.

The House recently passed its version of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Once both chambers pass their version of the NDAA a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences and create a final bill. This bill will be voted on by each chamber and if approved will be sent to the President to be signed into law or be vetoed. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to weigh in on these Senate amendments.  

Medicare Costs Increase in 2022
For 2022, Medicare premiums will increase an average of 14.5 percent. That means the average Medicare user will pay $170.10 monthly, a $21.60 increase from the 2021 average monthly premium of $148.50.
Medicare is the federal government health insurance program for:
• People 65 years of age and older; and
• Some people with disabilities under age 65.

Members with TRICARE coverage are eligible for Medicare when they reach age 65. Beneficiaries must enroll for Medicare parts A and B before they turn age 65, even if they currently have TRICARE or some other insurance coverage. If a beneficiary does not enroll in Medicare when first eligible, they will have to pay penalties or higher rates when they do enroll.

When a TRICARE beneficiary enrolls in Medicare they are automatically enrolled in Tricare for Life, a no-cost Medicare wrap-around insurance package which pays for some things Medicare does not cover. TRICARE for Life also provides the option for beneficiaries to continue to use TRICARE’s pharmacy program.

House Passes Veterans Legislation
The House passed several veteran’s proposals that include: 

• The “Electronic Health Record Transparency Act” (H.R.4591) to require the Department Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit to Congress quarterly reports that evaluate the performance of Electronic Health Record (EHR);
• Legislation (H.R.5671) authorizing VA to furnish season flu shots to veterans;
• The “VITAL Assessment Act” (H.R.5516) to require VA to report on the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership program and establish uniform best practices across VA medical centers for a support program for student veterans who struggle to adjust; 
• The “Student Veterans Counseling Centers Eligibility Act” (H.R.4233) to require the VA to provide counseling services to veterans and service members who receive VA education benefits;
• The “Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Ac” (H.R.2433) that requires VA to ensure it can record the cause of death for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals from open-air burn pits; 
• The “VA AIM Act” (H.R.4626) requires the VA to contract with one or more private sector entities, at least once every decade, to conduct independent assessments of VA’s healthcare services;  
• The “Protections for Student Veterans Act” (H.R.5603) would prohibit Academic institutions from penalizing service members who take a leave of absence or withdraw from a program due to military service and modify flight training benefits for veterans;
• The “Hire Veteran Health Hero’s Act” (S.894) that requires VA to ask DoD to refer military healthcare workers to work at VA. 
• Legislation (S.1031) requiring GAO to study disparities for VA benefits based on race; 
• The “Protecting Moms Who Served Act” (S.796) would require a Government Accountability Office report on maternal mortality and health conditions among veterans; 
• The “BRAVE Act” (H.R.147) that requires the Labor Department to provide information on registered apprenticeship programs to members of the armed services separating from active duty, and their spouses. The bill also would direct the department to coordinate with the VA to establish or update an existing public website with information on registered apprenticeship programs that are eligible for VA education benefits; 
• Legislation (H.R.3730) to require the VA to establish an Advisory Committee on U.S. Outlying Areas and Freely Associated States to counsel the VA on serving veterans from U.S. territories and other insular areas. The committee would submit an annual report to the VA and Congress on recommendations for changes; 
• The “VA Infrastructure Powers Exceptional Research Act” (H.R.5721) provides that the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Research and Development would be codified.  The measure would also expand the VA’s ability to contract for research and development and retain and recruit researchers. 
• The “Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act” (S.1095) provides that under Post-9/11 GI Bill, public institutions of higher learning charge survivors the in-State tuition rate.

The above referenced Senate bills (S. 1095, S. 894, S.1031 and S.796) now go to the President to be signed into law. The House proposals now go to the Senate for further consideration. 

FRA NHQ Holiday Schedule
There will be no NewsBytes next week due to Congress being in recess for the Thanksgiving Day Holiday. The next issue of NewsBytes will be sent out Dec. 3, 2021.  The FRA NHQ will be closed Thursday and Friday in observance of the holiday.  

NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail us  and include your name and contact information in the body of e-mail. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number.


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