OnWatch is a quarterly newsletter of the Fleet Reserve
June 9, 2020
Proposed Pay Increases and Benefits in the NDAA
As the Senate and House begin the process of markup and passage of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), FRA recently dispatched a letter to key members of the House Armed Services, Military Personnel Subcommittee providing the Association's recommendations on military personnel issues and earlier (March, 11) the FRA provided a statement to Senate Armed Services Committee, Personnel Subcommittee. The range of issues includes familiar subjects such as military housing oversight, active duty pays, BAH and a new focus on burn pits accountability. The following are FRA recommendations on issues of interest to Reserve Components and Active Duty members.
The FRA is seeking to secure annual active duty pay increases that are at least equal to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) to at least keep pace with the private sector pay. Our recent (January/February) online benefit survey of active duty members indicated that more than 78 percent see the threat of cuts to future pay increases as "Very important" (the highest rating).
The FRA is thankful for the proposed three percent activity pay increase in the Administration's budget which, but it still only keeps pace with civilian pay. The Association notes that 4 of the 8 years of the Obama administration annual pay increases were less than civilian pay increase. The nation is still at war, the protection and upkeep with the private sector is not only a morale booster but a good retention strategy. The Association believes that the DoD should provide dislocation allowance for separating and retiring service members, especially those that are separating at the convenience of the government.
The association supports the Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R.663/S.191). The bill directs DoD to provide service members in Iraq and Afghanistan to have periodic health assessments during deployment and during military separations an evaluation of whether a service member has been exposed to open burn pits or toxic airborne chemicals.
The FY2020 NDAA mandated exposures to burn pits and blast events to be recorded in a service member's medical record. The FRA believes it is critically important that Congress provides adequate oversight to ensure that these provisions are effectively implemented. These toxic exposures could potentially impact millions, and many Post-9/11 veterans believe this could be the "Agent Orange issue of their generation." Members can go to the FRA Action Center to contact their legislators to weigh in on this issue.
The issue of the conditions of privatized military housing has been ongoing battle. Congress made a significant improvement by incorporating the tenants bill of rights in the last year FY2020NDAA (S.1790). The Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) along with the secretaries of each branch signed all but 3 of the 15 rights authorized by congress, the exclusions include:
• Access to maintenance history;
• Process for dispute resolution; and
• Withholding of rent until disputes are resolve.
The FRA will continue to work with members of congress to make sure all the rights included in the tenants' bill of rights are enforced.
As part of their service, qualified active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members are entitled to hazard-duty incentive pay (HDIP) while performing hazardous duties such as flying duty, parachute jumping, and demolition of explosives. However, Reserve component are only awarded 1/30th of HDIP compared to their active duty counterparts, while still being required to perform the same requirements and being subject to the same risk. The FRA is asking congress to pass Guard and Reserve Hazard Pay Equity Act (S.3308 and H.R.5887) that would provide equity among the services. Members can go to the FRA Action Center to contact their legislators to weigh in on this issue.
The FRA supports TRICARE Reserve Select Improvement Act (S.164/H.R.613) that would impact more than 70,000 dual status military technicians in the Reserve Component by providing expanded health care options. The bill will reduce costly healthcare service and allow for continuation of service for several reserve components and their families. The FRA also supports the Reserve Component Employer Incentive, Compensation, and Relief Act that would incentivize employers to hire and retain reserve service members. The FRA wants to ensure Congress adequately funds and supports Reserve Component requirements for an operational reserve and a full tax-deductibility of non-reimbursable expenses related to military training and weekend drill. Members can go to the FRA Action Center to contact their legislators to weigh in on this issue.
The FRA will fight efforts to reduce military retired or retainer pay and ensure equitable cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for all current and future military retirees.
As the NDAA moves through the legislative process, the FRA will continue represent the concerns of active duty and reserve component members of the sea services.
OnWatch is a quarterly news update for active duty and Reserve personnel, written by Theo Lawson. He served 8 years total reserve and active duty in the United States Marine Corps and has a personal interest in these matters. As the assistant director of Legislative Programs for the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), he’s also committed to FRA’s mission to maintain and improve the quality of life for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel and their families. He looks forward to keeping you up to date on FRA’s legislative efforts to protect and enhance your earned military and veterans’ benefits.