"Latest Update from National Headquarters"

August 30, 2019

Senators Push for Elimination of Widows Tax
Senators Doug Jones (Ala.) and Susan Collins (Maine) recently sent a bipartisan letter - co-signed by 64 of their Senate colleagues - to the chairmen and ranking members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees calling on them to ensure the House-passed provisions to repeal the SBP/DIC offset (Military Widow's Tax) remains in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-HR 2500-S. 1790). Senators Jones and Collins were unsuccessful in their efforts in June to amend the Senate NDAA. However, the House NDAA includes this FRA-supported provision. The final bill is currently being negotiated between the House and the Senate. The final bill will be voted on by both chambers and if approved will go to the President to be signed into law or vetoed. 

If signed into law, this legislation will repeal the unfair law that prevents as many as 67,000 surviving military spouses nationwide from receiving their full Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs survivor benefits. Currently, military widows and widowers who qualify for the VA's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are forced to take a dollar-for-dollar offset from the Survivors Benefits Plan (SBP) benefit, even though retirees elected to pay into the program.

Legislation to repeal the Military Widow's Tax has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate and House over the past 18 years, but this is the first time this provision has been included a bill that has passed either chamber of Congress. The text of the letter can be found online.

FRA members can weigh in on this issue through the FRA Action Center located on the FRA website. This issue is listed in the campaign at the top of the page entitled: "Ask Senators to Support House NDAA Provisions."   

DHA will Manage DoD Healthcare
Effective Oct. 1, 2019 the Department of Defense will begin consolidating military hospitals and clinics under a single agency. The Army, Navy and Air Force will begin a two year transition to shift administration and management of their medical facilities to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) by October 2021. 

"For the first time in our modern military's history, a single agency, the DHA, will be responsible for all the health care the Department of Defense delivers to our 9.5 million beneficiaries," Bono said. "Whether you receive your care at an on-base facility or through our TRICARE civilian networks, DHA will oversee your care.  This consolidation will drive higher levels of readiness for operational and medical forces and integrate health care services to standardize practices across the entire Department, which means patients will have a consistent, high-quality health care experience, no matter where they receive their care."

This change was mandated in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2017 that included sweeping changes to military healthcare. Congress, among other changes, wanted a single agency to be responsible for the administration and management of all military hospitals and clinics. DHA will be responsible for health care delivery and business operations across the Military Health System including budgets, information technology, health care administration and management, administrative policies and procedures, and military medical construction.

The FRA will monitor the consolidation process to ensure that access and quality of care will not be reduced for beneficiaries. 

President Orders Loan Forgiveness for Some Disabled Veterans
President Donald Trump recently issued a presidential memorandum requiring the Department of Education to eliminate the federal student loan debt of 100 percent permanently disabled veterans. "The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It will be gone. They will sleep well tonight," said President Trump. Veterans who are 100 percent disabled are currently eligible to have their federal student loan debt entirely expunged, but government officials have struggled to get all eligible veterans to take advantage of the program. Essentially the memorandum is an effort to make loan forgiveness automatic, putting the impetus of clearing the debt on federal agencies instead of veterans.

SVAC Chairman Announces He Will Resign from Senate
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Johnny Isakson has announced that he will step down from serving as Georgia's senior Senator on Dec. 31, 2019. He served in the Georgia National Guard (1966-1972). He was re-elected to the Senate in 2016. He announced in June 2015 he had Parkinson's disease and insisted it would not impact his ability to serve as Senator that included serving as Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

He was elected state representative in 1976 after losing two years earlier. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Georgia in 1990, and was elected to state senate in 1992. In 1996 he lost a Republican primary race for U.S. Senate. He was elected to Congress in a special election when Newt Gingrich resigned from Congress in 1999.  In 2004 he was elected to the U.S. Senate when the incumbent Senator retired.   

FRA NHQ Closed Monday
The FRA National Headquarters will be closed Monday, September 2, 2019 in observance of the Labor Day holiday.



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