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"Latest Update from National Headquarters"
April 16, 2021
President Releases FY2022 Budget Outline
President Joe Biden released the FY2022 budget outline to Congress. The outline does not have the detail of a full budget request but does give Congress a general understanding of President Biden's budget priorities. The president plans to ask for $715 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Defense for the next fiscal year, which would be a 1.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The Pentagon has responded to a Military Coalition (TMC) letter that the FRA signed onto, which urges the Pentagon not to include a new TRICARE fee increase in the budget. The DoD response indicates that there will be no TRICARE fee increase in the Biden Administrations request. In addition, the outline indicates that active-duty service members will receive the full scheduled active-duty annual pay increase. Senator James Inhofe (Okla.) Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended a 3-5 percent increase in the FY2022 Defense Budget. The House Progressive Caucus has demanded that the Defense Budget be cut by 10 percent.
The outline indicates that spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will increase 8.2 percent over the current fiscal year. The outline increases funding for the Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation, suicide prevention (75 percent increase), homelessness assistance and toxic exposure research. The outline wants the VA to hire 334 new claims processors to support claims for new Agent Orange presumptive conditions and reduce the pandemic-caused disability claims backlog. A more detailed budget is expected in May or June. The FRA will continue to monitor the legislative process to ensure adequate funding for both agencies and make sure there are no cuts in earned benefits.
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Help Military Survivors
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (Mont.) and Senator John Boozman (Ark.) have introduced legislation to adjust monthly benefits for family members and survivors of veterans who lost their lives in service to our country.
The "Caring for Survivors Act" (S.976) seeks to increase payments to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) in line with the payments made to surviving spouses of other Federal employees (55 percent). The rate of compensation paid to survivors of service members who die in the line of duty - or veterans who die from service-related injuries or diseases - has been minimally adjusted since its establishment in 1993. DIC payments currently, which are currently 43% of retiree benefits, lag behind other programs' payments by 12 percent.
Under current law, the DIC restricts benefits for survivors if the veteran was disabled for less than ten years before his or her death. This legislation would reduce the timeframe that veterans need to be rated totally disabled from ten to five years, which will broaden the eligibility to more survivors. Members can weigh in on this issue by going to the FRA Action Center.
Legislation asks for Study of Involuntary Discharges for Women
Congresswoman Julia Brownley (Calif.) has introduced the "Justice for Women Veterans Act," (H.R.2385), which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the involuntary discharges of women from the Armed Forces between 1951 and 1976. The study would identify any irregularities in discharges that may have left these women without the veterans' benefits that they earned. The study would also make recommendations to restore those benefits.
The study is being requested because President Truman in 1951 signed Executive Order 10240, which granted the Armed Forces authority to involuntarily discharge a woman if she became pregnant, gave birth to a child, or became a parent by adoption or as a stepparent. In response, the Armed Forces systematically discharged thousands of women who became pregnant, regardless of whether the pregnancy was planned, unplanned, or the result of sexual violence. Further, the federal government did not provide separation benefits, counseling, or assistance to these women, who were involuntarily discharged. Between 1951 and 1976, thousands of women serving in uniform were summarily dismissed under this discriminatory policy. In 1976, the policy was rescinded after it was ruled as unconstitutional by a Federal court.
This bill would require the GAO to conduct a study of women who were involuntarily discharged from the Armed Forces due to pregnancy or parenthood during the period of 1951 to 1976, to identify the scope of the impact of the policy, including disproportionate impact by race and ethnicity. Members can weigh in on this issue by going to the Action Center.
Happy Birthday Navy Nurse Corps
The U.S. Navy Nurse Corps celebrated its 113th birthday on April 13, which was officially established by Congress in 1908. Unofficially, however, women had been working as nurses aboard Navy ships and in Navy hospitals for nearly 100 years. The Navy Nurse Corps was all-female until 1965. After the establishment of the Nurse Corps, twenty women were selected as the first members and assigned to the Naval Medical School Hospital in Washington, D.C. In time, the nurses would come to be known as "the Sacred Twenty" because they were the first women to formally serve as members of the U.S. Navy.
New ID Card for Retirees
The Department of Defense is abandoning the flimsy laminated paper-based ID cards for military retirees and dependents in favor of an all-new card system called the Next Generation Uniform Services Identification Card. This represents the first ID update for retirees since 1993, and will be more durable while more closely resembling the Common Access Cards, or CACs, used by active-duty troops and DoD civilians. These new ID cards are already in circulation. The military began issuing them to retirees, reservists and dependent military family members on July 31, 2020 at a few ID card facilities. "The new USID cards are enhanced with an updated design and security features to deter counterfeiting and fraud," said Michael Sorrento, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center. All DoD USID card facilities were supposed to be set to offer the IDs by December 2020, according to the DoD release. The complete transition to new USID cards is targeted for Jan. 2026.
This transition does not affect current card expiration dates and does not change the populations who are eligible to get the current USID cards. More than 200,000 new cards have been issued as of Feb. 28, 2021.
For more information on this topic go online
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