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ALABAMA COUNCIL OF
MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
LEGISLATIVE & PERSONAL AFFAIRS
AUGUST 2014 REPORT
Compiled by LTC Jim Wallace, USA (ret)
Vice President and Legislative Chairman

July 22, 2014

1. VA's ONE MILLIONTH CLAIM PROCESSED - The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on July 21, 2014 that the Veteran's Benefits Administration has completed its one millionth disability claim in fiscal year 2014, and is on track to complete more than 1.3 million claims this fiscal year. This will insure that nearly 200,000 more veterans will receive decisions on their disability claims than in fiscal year 2013. Three things that improved the case load were resignation of the VA Secretary, elimination of the executive bonus program, and the ability to terminate a VA employee that was granted by Congress. Maybe now it will begin to operate correctly and really help our disabled veterans. The acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told Senate lawmakers that the department needs over $17 billion to shorten waiting lists for veterans who want care from the VA and make reforms. The Acting VA Secretary Gibson outlined his plan to address the access crisis, including-
* Removing the 14 day scheduling goal to eliminate incentives for employees to game the system.
* Getting veterans into care and off waiting lists.
* Holding senior leaders accountable and suspending performance awards.
* Changing VA culture.
* Increasing transparency of patient wait-time data.
* Initiating an independent external audit of scheduling practices.
* Modeling best practices in facilities that need improvement.
* Quantifying resource requirements.
* Protecting whistleblowers- A new Secretary of Veterans Affairs has been appointed by President Obama, Mr. Robert McDonald, former executive with Proctor and Gamble. If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace Acting Secretary Gibson. Secretary Nominee McDonald faces a tremendous challenge in turning around a government department that has created total mistrust by the veterans. He has to terminate many VA leadership personnel for their inability to do the correct and needed care for our veterans. The VA employees (whistle blowers) that have come forward with complaints on the care of our veterans have been retaliated by their supervisors. The report by the Project on Government Oversight has obtained over 800 complaints from current and former employees of the VA from 35 states and the District of Columbia. The federal investigative agency said it is examining 67 claims of retaliation by supervisors at the VA against employees who filed whistleblower complaints.

2. CONGRESS IN RECESS - Congress will come back to work on September 8, 2014 and will be facing many difficult decisions. This is the time when our Congressional Legislators are home and available for us to discuss eliminating military pay cuts, military personnel reduction, and Tricare funding.

3. PROPOSED BAN ON RUSSIAN ARMS FIRMS WOULD HURT U. S. TROOPS - A day after President Obama slapped sanctions on several Russian arms firms over the Ukraine conflict and the downing of the commercial airline over the Russian/Ukraine border, a top U.S. general warned that a congressional bid to bar dealings with Moscow's main weapons exporters could be catastrophic for U.S. forces. Marine General Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said 88 Russian helicopters the Pentagon is buying for Afghan security forces were critical for protecting U.S. troops that remain in the country after the end of this year. Why-o-Why are we purchasing helicopters from Russia when we have helicopters in Afghanistan that we can leave with qualified mechanics and pilots to teach the Afghans how to fly our copters. Then replace the ones left with new American made helicopters for our own military.

4. CONGRESS IS EXPECTED TO APPROVE WAR BUDGET - Lawmakers have pushed back against the Pentagon's $58.6 billion war budget proposal but are expected to approve it. Among the issues raising the most contention is the counterterrorism fund proposed by the White House, a fund which lawmakers said came with too few details on how it would be used. Despite that, experts believe Congress will pass the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which pays for war activities.

5. U.S. BOOSTS TRAINING OPERATIONS IN MEXICO - The Pentagon spent more than $15 million last year on training Mexico's armed forces, compared with about $3 million in 2009, according to U. S. Northern Command. Mexican and U. S. officials have been discreet about the buildup, volunteering few specifics about training exercises.

6. SPECIAL FORCES AT RISK TO INSIDER THREAT IN IRAQ - U. S. Special Forces teams in Iraq will have to consider the "insider threat" posed by the Iraq military before working more closely with them in an advisory role against Islamic militants. The assessment found that the Iraq forces were now dependent on Shiite militias in the ranks and advisors from Iran. The insider threat was a major concern for U. S. troops in Afghanistan. The so-called "green-on-blue" incidents in which Afghan troops turned their weapons on coalition forces at one point threatened to scuttle talks on a continued NATO presence in the country. "It's more important to get this right than to get this quick," Rear Admiral Kirby said of the possibility of an advisory mission against the ISIL fighters who have taken control of Iraq territory from the Syrian border to the outskirts of Baghdad.

7. GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEE BUT NOT FOR ME - For the second year, Congressional lawmakers from both parties are engaged in behind the scenes talks with the aim of exempting lawmakers and their aides from the insurance exchanges mandated by President Obama's signature health-care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act. "If Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan," according to the report, "they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office." With this in the minds of the voting citizens, we may find many new House of Representatives and Senators this coming election season for our government.

8. U. S. TO SELL $11 BILLION IN MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO QATAR- The U. S. has signed an $11 billion arms deal with Qatar. It reportedly is the largest arms sale by the U. S. so far this year. This arms deal is very interesting and possibly involves the current war in the Gaza Strip. Israel invaded the Gaza Strip after thousands of Hamas missiles bombarded Israel, killing many civilians. The Palestine/Hamas Front has declared war with Israel. I find this sale to be very interesting. The Hamas states that any possible peace talks with Israel must go through the Qatar government. Why are we buying Russian helicopters and selling weapons to Qatar?

9. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WRONG ABOUT PERSONNEL CUTS? For years, and as recently as this Spring-DoD and service leaders have insisted military personnel pay and benefits costs are "exploding out of control," that by "2025- .98cents of every dollar will be going to pay benefits," and the time will come when "all we'll be doing is paying people. " The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission's (MCRMC) interim report validated Military Officers Association of America's (MOAA) analysis that military personnel costs have remained steady at about 30 percent of the defense budget. The recent retired DoD Comptroller Robert Hale acknowledged military personnel costs are coming down and claimed. "We are making some progress." Uniformed Pentagon leaders point out this is not a "pay cut," as no service members will see their pay decrease, essentially saying "Hey, you're still getting a pay raise, so what are you complaining about?"

10. COLA WATCH - The consumer Price Index for 2015 increased in May 2014 to 1.7 percent above the FY2014 Cola baseline. We are awaiting the report for the month of June 2014 that is expected to further the increase.

CONVENTION 2015

The convention committee is expecting each chapter to purchase a full page advertisement in the 2015 The Alabama Council of Chapters of MOAA Convention 2015 booklet. The cost for a full page advertisement of the Chapter and it's city is $395.00. A recommendation for the advertisement would be to visit your local Chamber of Commerce for assistance in the ad lay out and perhaps they will share in the cost since you are advertising your home city with your chapter. The convention committee has already sold some half page ads to local Montgomery businesses and a full page inside front cover ad to the Montgomery American Legion for $450.00. LTC Lew Nyman has done a spectacular job of obtaining advertising commitments for the convention. If you have questions regarding advertising in the convention booklet, please be sure to coordinate with Lew. He can be reached at his home by telephone- 334-273-9655 or by e mail- lnyman@knology.net. Be sure to reserve a space for your ad with Lew.

Also, Please consider obtaining advertising in our convention booklet with automobile assembly plants that are near your city. We have Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota within Alabama. Also, the VA Hospitals and universities. Create a chapter convention advertising committee and start selling. Great way to get out and meet the public and recruit new members.

We can do all things when we work as a team. Remember a military officer never ever quits or takes no for an answer.

Hope everyone has signed up to attend the MOAA Symposium in Jacksonville, Florida on September 4-6, 2014. See you there.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH: "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. "
Thomas Jefferson, American Revolutionary War Leader, primary writer of the U. S. Constitution, President of the United States.


LTC Jim Wallace, USA(Ret)
Vice President and Legislative Chairman,
Alabama Council of Chapters of MOAA

Material compiled for this report is subject to copyright 2011 and 2012, Military Officers Association (MOAA), Military.com, RAO, DAV, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, VFW, and The Office of Senator Sessions, all rights are reserved. Except for MOAA affiliated organizations, it may not be used without written permission.