ALABAMA COUNCIL OF
MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
LEGISLATIVE & PERSONAL AFFAIRS
FEBRUARY 2014 REPORT
Compiled by LTC Jim Wallace, USA (ret)
Vice President and Legislative Chairman
January 25, 2014
1. COLA UPDATE- The consumer price Index (CPI) fell 0.3 % in December
2013. over the first three months of FY 2014, inflation down 0.5%. This makes six consecutive years (and nine of the past 12) that consumer prices fell the first quarter.
2. BILLS WOULD ENABLE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO ENLIST-Two lawmakers have introduced legislation to give illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children a chance to serve in the military and gain citizenship. The bills were introduced by Reps. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif. The question is would you feel comfortable with an illegal immigrant to watch your back in combat? Would he only want to serve a short term just to become a citizen? Would he want to remain in the military after his first tour? What would the costs be if most dropped out after the first tour?
3. COST OF LIVING FIX NOT FAIR TO ALL DISABLED RETIREES-While the omnibus spending bill has restored cost-of-living benefits for medically retired veterans and survivors, some critics say it has created two groups of disabled retirees. "A fully employable Chapter 61 disability retiree rated at 0% (disabled) by DOD will not be subject to COLA reduction," said retired Army Lt. Michael Parker. Some legislators have vowed to appeal the COLA cap for all military retirees.
4. NAVY PREPARES TO DEPLOY NEW CATAMARAN- The Spearhead, a high-speed vessel designed to ferry Army, Navy, and Marine personnel and equipment, deployed last week for the first time. The Navy ship is a catamaran that can carry 600 tons and has an average speed of about 40 mph.
5. THORNBERRY MAY BECOME HASC CHAIRMAN-Rep Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, reportedly is the most likely successor to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., as charman of the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry is currently vice chairman of the committee. Rep Buck Mckeon is retiring after working courageously for the military in the House. We will miss him and his never ending support for the military and veterans. With his retirement all four defense committees in Congress will be led by lawmakers with two years experience or less. The loss of key defense backers comes as defense committees themselves are becoming less influential.
6. EITHER 10,000 U.S. TROOPS SHOULD REMAIN IN AFGHANISTAN OR NONE- The U. S. security community agrees that there should be 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014 or none, according to an anonymous U. S. official. The intelligence community, the State Department and the Pentagon all believe that unless the 10,000 level is maintained, "it would be most prudent to have nothing."
7. WIDESPREAD COMMISSARY CLOSURES POSSIBLE UNDER DOD PROPOSAL- The Pentagon reportedly is considering cutting $1 billion from the Defense Commissary Agency's budget over the next three years, which would result in the closures of most rural and overseas military commissaries operated by the agency, according to the Pentagon. The Pentagon is reviewing their options, but no commissaries were about to close.
8. CONGRESS NOT DOING THEIR JOB-Congressmen confessed to not reading the budget bill that cuts veteran pay. Many lawmakers including a vast cross-section of Republican House members voted for the recent two-year budget deal without reading that it slashes veteran pensions - and there's now bipartisan desperation reaching the White House to repeal that provision with new legislation. I wonder if the budget had indicated that all lawmakers would take a cut in salary, healthcare, and retirement benefits if they would have read that document? What about the Affordable Health Care Act (Obama Care) which the lawmakers stated they also did not read that document that has Americans very upset and disgusted with our government. Perhaps a new law needs to be written requiring all lawmakers take a reading test before they are sworn into their seat in Congress. In the past few days, Congress has received an angry response from every veteran organization about the COLA cut to veterans under the age of 62. Because this is an election year for Congress, Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, D-Nevada has stated he will push to have a bill passed to eliminate the one percent reduction of COLA for veterans.
9. HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE PURCHASE OF RUSSIAN HELICOPTERS FOR THE AFGHAN AIR FORCE- We have heard from the Galactic News that President Obama has made a deal with Vladimir Putin of Russia to spend $700 million dollars for Mi-17 Russian Helicopters to be produced by Rosoboronexport Manufacturing for the Afghan Air Force. When Congress passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, it had an interesting provision. Congress included, as part of that law a prohibition on the United States buying helicopters from Rosoboronexport, the Russian manufacturer of the Mi-17 helicopter. Congress again did not read the bill entirely as the law stated that if the Secretary of Defense certified it was in the interest of National Security then the president could make the purchase. Now let's consider what a $700 million contract would do for the helicopter industry in our own country-
(1) Employ more workers,
(2) Strengthen our industrial output,
(3) Give our Pentagon in control of weapons used by the Afghans. What could our military do with $700 million dollars- perhaps eliminate the grounding of 17 squadrons of our Air Force because of the $591 million dollars in budget cuts.
10. AIR FORCE WILL RELY MORE ON RESERVES- The Air Force Reserve and Guard will be relied on more as the service looks to reduce costs while maintaining readiness, said the new Air Force secretary, Deborah Lee James, in her first public testimony. "Effective utilization of our Reserve components is critical if we want to get the best defense of our nation, particularly if resources are scarce," she said. OH! OH! Go back and read paragraph 9.
11. VA WANTS A NEW STANDARD FORM FOR DISABILITY CLAIMS-
Veterans groups have again voiced criticism of a proposed rule change by the
Department of Veteran Affairs that seeks again to standardize the application
process for disability compensation. The change could make it more difficult
for veterans to submit "informal claims" while they gather evidence for a more
formal application. In the last three years, the VA has made three new
forms a requirement and spent millions of dollars on three failed computer
systems to make the process supposedly easier. Something is still very wrong
with the process.
12. MILITARY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA (MOAA) on the Hill's
Top Lobbyist - For the sixth consecutive year the Hill, an influential newspaper
that covers Capitol Hill, has named MOAA as one of the top lobbying
organizations in Washington D. C.
13. Some bills being introduced again to benefit the military families are:
1.) S.234/H.R.333/H.R.303 and a pending amendment to the Senate FY 2014
NDAA (S.1197) to provide payment of concurrent receipt of full military
retired pay and veterans' disability compensation for all disabled retirees.
2.) S.1197 supporting H.R. 1960 that provides for a 1.8 percent pay hike equal
to the Employment Cost Index (ECI). This bill would eliminate the reduction
of COLA benefits for veterans under age 62.
3.) S.944/H.R. 1960- Provides veteran status for Reservists with 20 years or more
4.) H.R.1360 authorizing the widow of a military retiree to retain the full month's
retired pay at the time of the retiree's death.
5.) S.734/H.R. 32 the introduction of the "Military Surviving Equity Act" and
pending amendment to Senate NDAA to eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP/DIC) offset for widows of
6.) H.R.813/S.932 supporting the "Putting Veterans Funding First Act" that
would require Congress to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs
budget a year in advance (two year funding), ensuring that all VA programs
have timely and predictable funding in an era where continuing resolutions
and threats of government shutdowns are common.
7.) H.R.543 supporting the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans' Act which
seeks to authorize those who served off the cost of Vietnam (so-called "blue
water vets" to claim disability benefits for exposure to Agent Orange from
14. The Defense Health Agency announced that TRICARE Dental Program (TPD)
monthly rates will change effective February 1, 2014. These rate changes are
regular annual increases that are part of the TDP contract.
In case you did not receive an earlier message, we have lost a great fellow officer
this past Saturday, January 18, 2014. Colonel William (Bill) Edward Callender, Sr., USA (ret) passed away. His service to the nation and dedication and hard work for all service members of the military and MOAA will be greatly missed.
Many Hand Salutes to a great Military Officer.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH- "Anyone with so little perspective as to describe any level of needed care for our service members and their families suffering the terrible consequences of those decisions as a " burden to the system or the tax payer" needs some sense slapped into them".
Colonel Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret), MOAA.
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.