NewsBytes December 6, 2019

In this issue:
FRA Provides Navy Fellows Legislative Brief
Senate Hearing on Military Housing Report
Committee Leaders Help Spouses Storm the Hill
Senate Committee Reviews Veterans Scams
The Date That Will Live in Infamy 

The FRA Provides Navy Legislative Fellows Legislative Process Brief
National Executive Director Chris Slawinski and Director of Legislative Programs John Davis gave a legislative process brief to the Calendar Year 2020 Navy Fellows (15 officers and 3 enlisted) at the FRA NHQ. The Navy Congressional Fellowship Program offers participants the opportunity to work in the legislative branch of the federal government for one year.  The program also provides education through the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University.  The FRA has provided Navy Legislative Fellows their legislative process brief several time in recent years.

Senate Hearing on Military Housing Report
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that indicated the system that provides housing for families on military bases is plagued by systemic problems and sloppy record keeping. Elizabeth Field, GAO Director of Defense Capabilities, told committee members that housing problems include repeated sewage leaks, mold and rodent infestations. The GAO report is based on housing data collected from 10 different military installations and from 15 town hall meetings with residents. She testified that these are the same concerns revealed earlier this year from military families living in off-base private housing. The secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, along with senior members of each military service, testified and were called on to crack down on landlords who have failed to provide safe and clean living quarters for our military and their dependents.  

The FRA is supporting provisions in the pending National Defense Authorization Act that provides for a tenant bill of rights for families in military housing. In April, the FRA National Board of Directors meet with senior Pentagon officials and expressed alarm about off-base private housing conditions. These conditions include faulty wiring, exposed plumbing, poor water quality, vermin infestations, mold and lead contamination, raw sewage, and other toxic exposures. These things all have made negative health impacts for all residents, many of whom are young children. Members can weigh in on this issue with their legislators by going to FRA Action campaign entitled Oppose Skinny NDAA.  

Armed Services Committee Leaders Help Military Spouses Storm the Hill
Reps. Adam Smith (Wash.), Mac Thornberry (Texas), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee respectively, together with Military Personnel Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Trent Kelly (Miss.) hosted dozens of military spouses as they kick off their Storm the Hill with Kindness effort. 

The effort is part of a worldwide Giving Tuesday Military mission to inspire one million acts of kindness. The event was led by 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Coast Guard Spouse of the Year Jessica Manfre, 2018 Armed Forces Insurance Navy Spouse of the Year Brian Alvarado and Gold Star Spouse and 2018 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year Krista Anderson. Military spouses in the National Capitol Region from all branches of service and from hometowns across the country converged on the Hill on this week. The spouses plan to visit legislators and staff in their offices. Armed Services Members hosted the spouses at an informal kickoff event before their office visits.

Senate Committee Reviews Veterans Scams 
Assistant Director of Veteran Programs Brian Condon attended a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging entitled Veteran Scams: Protecting Those Who Protected Us. Committee Chair Sen. Susan Collins acknowledged that some veterans are too embarrassed to report that they fell for a scam, suggesting that the reported number of scams is deflated. She emphasized the need to protect veterans before they become victims. 

U.S. Postal Inspection Service senior law enforcement official Carroll Harris said veterans are twice as likely to unknowingly participate in a scam as the general population. According to a 2017 American Association of Retired People (AARP) survey, 16 percent of veterans have lost money to fraudsters, while 78 percent have been targeted by scams specifically crafted to exploit their service history. Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (Ariz.) said, “As a veteran, I get one of these every week,” as she waved a printout of a scam email. She added that “There is a special place in hell for these people.” Indiana Senator Mike Braun said, “The federal government, banks and phone companies can do more to monitor these types of scams.” Chair Collins agreed that focusing on preventing scams instead of providing remedies is a realistic option. Sen. Jacky Rosen (Nev.) encouraged veterans, who believe they have become the victim of a scam, to seek state resources.  

Air Force veteran Ben Wells suggested enhancing awareness and education. He testified that while he was volunteering with Vet2Vet, he identified and prevented an elderly veteran from becoming a victim. Older veterans have a tendency to want to help and when they see a need they react instead of asking questions. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to be mindful of unknown solicitors. Do not give out personal information over the phone and most importantly do your homework on the organization that is asking for money before you give.

The Date That Will Live in Infamy
FRA Shipmates around the country will participate in events tomorrow (Saturday) to remember the Japanese sneak attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii killing more than 2300 Americans. December 7th, 2019 marks the 78th anniversary of the attack and the FRA National President Donna Jansky will be at Pearl Harbor to participate in ceremonies memorializing those who made the ultimate sacrifice on “the date that will live in infamy.”

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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