NewsBytes August 9, 2019

In this issue:
Increased Military Overseas Voting in 2018
FRA Supports Arthritis Research
Taskforce to Examine Toxic Exposure on Bases

Military Overseas Voting Increased in 2018 Election 
In 2018, 53 percent of the ballots sent to military and overseas voters were successfully counted — compared to only 33 percent in 2006. This is according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s examining post-election research from the 2018 General Election. 

Military members stationed away from their voting residence face more difficulties compared to local voters because the ability to receive and submit absentee ballots on time remains a problem. 

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 requires states to allow active-duty military members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens to vote absentee in federal elections. The FRA-supported Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) amended and improved UOCAVA in 2009 by providing greater protections, such as requiring states to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections. They also must provide an electronic option for sending ballots to voters. 

“FVAP data from elections in the years 2000 to 2005 show that 30 percent of military members didn’t vote because their absentee ballot didn’t arrive or arrived late,” FVAP Director David Beirne said. “A decade after the MOVE Act, that figure has been reduced by nearly half.” 

Use of electronic options for sending and receiving materials between voters and election offices has rapidly increased in recent elections. In 2018, election offices reported transmitting 57 percent of military and overseas ballots by email. In contrast, in 2014, only 36 percent of these ballots were transmitted via email. 

The FVAP State of the Military Voter data will be released, after each federal election year. The findings are based upon post-election surveys and studies of voter file data. 

For additional information, visit , e-mail or call 1-800-438-VOTE (8683). 

FRA Supports Arthritis Research at DoD
Due to the rigorous and physically demanding requirements of military service, veterans are more likely to develop arthritis than civilians. That is why FRA recently signed onto a letter with other VSO/MSO organizations urging Congress to designate an arthritis research program at the Department of Defense (DoD) within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and appropriate $20 million for FY2020. The current budget for CDMRP does not specifically identify arthritis as an area of concern.

Arthritis encompasses more than 100 diseases, including mechanical (or degenerative) and inflammatory ones. This research will focus on prevention in order to head off years of therapy, medication, and potential surgeries and to lower cost within the VA. Arthritis is a major cause of medical discharge from the military and severely impacts military readiness and retention. Enlisted service members have the highest rates of arthritis. A dedicated budget for arthritis research for would help establish a sustainable focus on arthritis, since it is such a high-impact disease in the military population. 

Pentagon Taskforce to Examine Toxic Exposure on Bases
The newly confirmed Secretary of Defense has set up a special task force to review the military's obligation in cleaning up contamination from cancer-linked “forever chemicals.” “The Department is committed to taking a strong and proactive stance to address the effects arising out of any releases of these substances from all defense activities including the National Guard and Reserves. We must approach the problem in an aggressive and holistic way, ensuring a coordinated DoD-wide approach to the issue,” Esper wrote in a memo establishing the taskforce. A class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS are used in non-stick products ranging from Teflon pans to raincoats, but the heavy use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam by the military has contributed to water contamination across the country. PFAS’s persistence in the environment has earned it the “forever chemical” nickname.

“We must approach the problem in an aggressive and holistic way, ensuring a coordinated DOD-wide approach to the issue,” Esper stated.

There are at least 400 military sites with PFAS contamination, and the chemical has often spread to the water supply of nearby communities. The cost for cleanup is estimated at $2 billion.

The PFAS task force would be responsible for devising cleanup standards, finding alternative firefighting foam without PFAS, and addressing Public/Congress perceptions of DoD’s efforts. Esper gave the task force six months to report back.

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