NewsBytes September 24, 2021     
     

In this issue:
House Passes NDAA
CR and Debt Limit Suspension Combined
LGBT Veterans with OTH Discharges Will Get VA Benefits


House Passes NDAA
As NewsBytes goes to press, the House is expected to pass the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R.4350). The FRA supported floor amendments pertaining to concurrent receipt and survivor benefits were not called for a vote. Key provisions in the House NDAA include:

• No new TRICARE fee increase;
• Prohibiting any reduction or realignment of military medical staff at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) until a review of medical manpower requirements by the GAO can be conducted;  
• Providing an annual active duty pay increase that keeps pace with civilian pay increases (2.7 percent);
• Establishing the Naval Community College as a degree granting institution for enlisted sailors;
• Requiring the Defense Department to pay basic needs allowance to a qualified service member;
• Expanding the in-home childcare pilot program providing financial assistance for in-home childcare;
• Requiring all Americans ages 18 to 26, regardless of gender, to register with the Selective Service beginning one year after enactment of NDAA;
• Directing DoD to notify survivors of sexual assault about the outcomes of any administrative action taken against their perpetrator; and
• Removing the commander from decisions related to prosecution of sexual assault and sexual harassment crimes and criminalizes sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). 

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved its version of the FY2022 NDAA and the full Senate is expected to debate floor amendments and approve its version later this year. Once both chambers approve their bill, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills and then submit a final bill to be voted on in the House and Senate. If the bill is approved, it will be sent to the president to be signed into law or vetoed.  


CR and Debt Limit Suspension Combined
The House approved a Continuing Resolution (H.R.5304) to keep the government running after Sep. 30, 2021, that includes an extension of the debt limit suspension until Dec. 16, 2022. 
 
A Continuing Resolution (CR) keeps the government funded beginning Oct. 1, 2021, the start of the new fiscal year. This will give Congress time to merge the 12 regular appropriations (spending) bills into one larger “omnibus” spending bill that can pass each chamber and be signed into law by the president. 

The debt limit came back into effect at $28.4 trillion on Aug. 1, 2021, following a two-year suspension. The Treasury Department is using “extraordinary measures” such as delaying certain payments to allow the government to finance operations. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claims these measures will run out in October. Suspending the current limit through Dec. 16, 2022, would enable the U.S. government to continue to borrow money to pay its bills.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. 


LGBT Veterans with OTH Discharges Will Get VA Benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that LGBT veterans with Other-then-Honorable (OTH) discharges because of their sexual preference will be allowed to receive full VA benefits despite their dismissal status. The change comes as the country approaches the 10th anniversary of repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) law which prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The policy was issued under Department of Defense Directive 1304.26 and was in effect from Feb. 28, 1994, until Sept. 20, 2011. Legislation to repeal DADT was enacted in December 2011. The VA insisted the new guidance does not amount to a change in law, which would require an act of Congress. Rather, the VA contends it’s merely a clarification of the existing policy because veterans discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell are already “generally eligible for benefits under current statute and regulation.”

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