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MAY 18, 2012 DATELINE: CAPITOL HILL House subcommittee marks up fi scal 2013 NDAA On April 26, the House


Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel conducted a hearing on its portion of H.R. 4310, the House’s version of the fi scal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). T e bill was discussed, received no amendments and was passed unanimously by the subcommittee to the full committee for debate. Specifi c provisions of


interest to T e American Legion include: • A troop pay-increase authorization of 1.7 percent and extension of bonuses and special pay;


House VA panel holds markup on pending legislation


On April 27, the full House


Veterans Aff airs Committee held a markup hearing to discuss amendments to pending legislation, and to vote on whether or not to favorably recommend the pending legislation to the fl oor of the House. Five bills were up for consideration, with varying levels of comment and amendment. T e fi rst bill


Kenneth F. Governor Chairman, National Legislative Commission


• Limits to end- strength cuts to no more than 15,000 active-duty soldiers and 5,000 active Marines per year for fi scal years 2014 through 2017;


• New regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting military sexual assault, including a requirement that the most serious allegations of sexual assault be dealt with by a special court-martial convening authority of a rank no lower than colonel (captain in the Navy), and establishing a special victims team to investigate sexual- assault and domestic-abuse allegations;


• Extended access to family housing for six months and to Commissary and Exchange benefi ts for two years for troops who are involuntarily separated;


• Some extended TRICARE benefi ts to members of the Selected Reserve who are involuntarily separated;


• Creation of a unifi ed medical command; and


• Clarifi cation that nonmonetary contributions to health-care benefi ts made by U.S. troops and their families through a career of military service to America represent prepayment of health-care premiums in retirement, but that this does not specifi cally deny DoD the authority to raise TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays. T e subcommittee also


added a provision to award Purple Heart medals to troops injured in two fatal attacks within the United States in 2009 – one at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., and the other at Fort Hood, Texas.


discussed garnered the most discussion. H.R. 4072, the “Consolidating Veteran Employment


Services for Improved Performance Act of 2012,” saw confl ict over two amendments. T e primary purpose of the legislation is to transfer the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Veterans Aff airs. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., off ered an amendment that would provide for a study to take place regarding such a move, with no provision to ultimately move the program. T is amendment was rejected by a 14-10 vote of the committee. Rep. Tim Walz, DL-Minn., off ered an amendment that also included a study – this one taking place aſt er the move was made – to measure what progress was made by such a move. T is amendment passed by a vote of 21-3. Further amendments


included text of measures from previous legislation now being consolidated into the larger bill. An automatic annual cost-of- living adjustment for disabled veterans was added, in addition to additional support for the Missing in America Project’s eff orts to identify and provide proper burial for unclaimed cremated remains of veterans. A study on Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines was added, and a requirement for residency within 50 miles of the “National Capitol Region” was added for judges serving on the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. A minor provision addressing Internet forms used by VA was also included. T e bill as fi nally amended was voted on by the committee, and by majority vote was recommended for passage to the fl oor of the House. Other bills considered by the


markup committee included: • H.R. 4114 – T e “Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of- Living Adjustment Act of 2012,” an annual measure passed by Congress to provide for a one-year-only increase in COLA for veterans if the Consumer Price Index deems such an increase warranted. T is bill passed the committee by voice vote. T e Legion has previously commented on bills that sought to make the COLA automatic, similar to language contained in H.R. 4142, a bill approved by the House Veterans Aff airs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Aff airs on April 18;


• H.R. 4201 – T e “Servicemember Family Protection Act,” which provides protections in custody arrangements for servicemembers facing deployment, was passed favorably by a voice vote;


• H.R. 4482 – T e adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)/hybrid ARM permanent authorization, which would replace current authorization for veterans to use these types of loans in utilizing VA home loans, was recommended favorably for passage; and


• H.R. 3670 – A bill to apply protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to certain TSA employees would seek to ensure that in the future, TSA will not be exempted from extending USERRA employment protections to Guard and reserve- component servicemembers working for that agency. It was also reported out of the committee by a voice vote.


Legislation introduced to target for-profi t schools’ use of federal student funds


On April 18, Sen. Tom


Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., introduced S. 2296, the “Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act.” T is bill would prohibit colleges of all kinds from using dollars from federal student-assistance programs to pay for advertising. Federal student-aid programs can account for up to 90 percent of for-profi t colleges’ revenues. T e schools spend, on average, one-quarter of their revenues on


recruiting – in some cases approaching what they spend on instruction. A Senate report on 15 large for-profi t education companies found that they get 86 percent of their revenues from taxpayers, and have spent a combined $3.7 billion annually on marketing and recruiting. For-profi t schools have been


known to specifi cally target veterans due to the generous money available through the GI Bill. While not all for-profi t


schools are bad, veterans have been known to fall prey to less-than-honest recruitment practices, and may risk using all of their GI Bill benefi ts for educational programs which are not useful in advancing the veteran’s career. T is legislation would make strides to minimize this possibility.


Retiree mail at embassies discussed with State Department


On April 11, Legislative


Division staff met with State Department offi cials to discuss the issue of military-retiree mail at overseas embassies. Resolution 226 from the 2010 National Convention urges Congress to change laws that restrict the use of embassy mail benefi ts for military retirees overseas. T e State Department offi cials stated that while they are sympathetic to military retirees living overseas, as well as to the position of the Legion, there is very little they are able to do in the way of reinstating this service. It seems that when the


decision was made in 2006 to transition the operation and funding of postal services at embassies, there was an unspoken expectation that the service would continue as it had previously: to include providing mail services to military retirees. T is was the case for a period; however, the impetus for reconsidering the policy came when the embassy in Panama requested two additional staff members to assist in the processing of mail, due in large part to the large volume of military-retiree mail processed at that location. T is led to the State


Department questioning why they were incurring expenses resulting from the handling of the mail of military retirees, and they began looking into the possibility of having the


Department of Defense reimburse the costs associated with it. DoD lawyers began


examining the steps necessary to allow the reimbursement of the State Department by DoD, but found that there was no legal authority for DoD to transfer funds to pay for a service which is not being provided to or for DoD. Furthermore, there had not been authorization for DoD to provide this service all along, but there had been an ability for DoD to internally absorb the relatively marginal costs of providing these mail services. However, because DoD no


longer funds the operation, and there is no authorization for DoD to provide or fund services to individuals who are not DoD employees, this service has been rescinded. T ere is the additional


problem that State Department mail is regulated by various international treaties. Nations which have status-of-forces agreements with the United States allow for considerably more leeway in terms of customs immunity for mail for APOs and FPOs. However, this immunity


applies only to diplomats and those directly associated with the functioning of the embassy for diplomatic post offi ces. T e Legion will consider a revision to Resolution 226 at the 2012 National Convention.


Visit Legislative section of legion.org for more info T e Legislative section of


www.legion.org contains a variety of up-to-date information on Legion eff orts in Washington. T e section includes links


to Legion written testimony, weekly updates on key legislative issues, legislative point papers, listings of Legion resolutions with legislative intent, and breaking stories about House and Senate hearings attended by, and receiving testimony from, Legion staff . T ere is also a section


explaining how to use thomas.loc.gov, a website administered by the Library of Congress that provides legislative information to any and all interested people or organizations.


www.legion.org/legislative


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