1. House Armed Services Committee completes mark-up of FY 2009 NDAA
2. NMFA Speaks to Senate Leaders
3. Virginia Considering Limiting Parent/School Partnership
1. House Armed Services Committee completes mark-up of FY 2009 NDAA: The House Armed Services Committee finished the mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09 NDAA), H.R. 5658 on Thursday, May 15. Next stop on the bill is the House floor where many amendments are expected. NMFA appreciates the family friendly provisions included in the legislation, several of which also appear in the Senate Armed Services Committee version. NMFA specifically championed:
- Authorizing an increase of $15 million to expand family support programs,
- Providing tuition assistance and training opportunities for those spouses seeking degrees or careers that are portable, such as nursing, mental health providers and financial educators (similar to Senate),
- Providing a professional weight allowance for spouses of service members (similar to Senate, does not include specific weight),
- Providing $50 million in supplemental impact aid for school districts severely impacted with the attendance of military children, with an additional $15 million for those heavily impacted by force structure changes such as BRAC (authorizes more than Senate for impact aid but nothing for disabled students),
- Expanding the phased in annuity authorized in the FY08 NDAA to surviving spouses of members who die while serving on active duty.
Other provisions include:
- 3.9% across-the-board pay raise, 0.5% above the budget request (same as Senate),
- Evaluation and study of current suicide prevention efforts (similar to Senate),
- Extending prohibitions on increased premiums and co-pays for TRICARE recipients and increase user fees for the TRICARE retail pharmacy program (similar to Senate),
- Recalculation of TRICARE Reserve Select premiums for beneficiaries (same as Senate),
- Directing a study on the feasibility of training wounded service members as health professionals,
- Establishing a DoD School of Nursing,
- Improving housing allowance for service members in grade of E-8 to standard of E-9,
- Increasing weight allowance for service members in grades E-5 through E-9 by 500 pounds,
- Requiring computation of retired pay for reserve component service members include total years of service, not just active duty years,
- Directing a study to look at the feasibility of expanding the group of veterans allowed to shop at commissaries and exchanges to include those rated from 30% to 100% disabled,
- Providing for greater flexibility for officer and enlisted personnel management by authorizing a pilot program to allow a service member to be released from active duty for a maximum of three years to focus on professional goals outside of the military (same as Senate),
- Prohibiting permanently service members being charged for meals at military treatment facilities while undergoing medical recuperation or therapy.
NMFA thanks the committee for addressing these important issues concerning service members and their families. To read the press release outlining all the provisions included in the H.R. 5658 go to http://armedservices.house.gov/pdfs/fy09ndaa/FINAL051508.pdf. We will offer further analysis as the report language is released over the next few weeks.
2. NMFA Speaks to Senate Leaders: On May 14, 2008, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) was invited to attend the Senate Democratic Steering meeting, co-chaired by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), to discuss veterans' issues. Joyce Wessel Raezer, NMFA's Executive Director, spoke in front of 24 Senators. She thanked them for addressing the needs of military families through the inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act Fiscal Year 2008 of the provisions to provide health care for caregivers of our wounded service members and veterans and the expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act to 26 weeks. She encouraged them to continue to examine access to quality health care for our military families and requested an extension of the Senior Oversight Committee.
Other Veteran Service Organizations in attendance discussed:
- GI Bill enhancements,
- changes in the disability rating system,
- military pay raises,
- pending cuts in Medicare reimbursement and its impact on TRICARE,
- funding for veterans' health care to address traumatic brain injury, eye injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and,
- ending the SBP-DIC offset.
NMFA is thankful for the progress that has been made, but remains aware there is still more work to be done. Families need permanent funding and access to quality child care, family support programs that address the entire deployment cycle, and access to quality health care and mental health care providers in a timely and efficient manner.
3. Virginia Considering Limiting Parent/School Partnership: If you are a military family with special educational needs living in Virginia, you should know that the Virginia Board of Education has proposed new special education regulations that will limit a parent's right to partner with schools. These draft regulations will end a parent's role in the decision to terminate a child's services. Governor Kaine has voiced his support for continued parent involvement in decisions concerning their children, but the Board of Education needs to hear from citizens why it's important to maintain these rights.
In order to hear citizen concerns, The Virginia Board of Education is holding nine public hearings across the state on the proposed regulations. Written comments will be accepted until June 30th by e-mail: ReviseSpedRegs@doe.virginia.gov; fax:: (804) 786-8520; or mail to:
Special Education Regulations Revision Process Office of Dispute of Resolution and Administrative Services Virginia Department of Education P.O. Box 2120 Richmond, Virginia 23218-2120
4. A Time to Honor Those Who Have Made the Supreme Sacrifice: On Monday we celebrate Memorial Day and remember those who have given all in defense of the nation. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Over the past 140 years Americans have decorated the graves of the battle fallen and attended parades and ceremonies.
Memorial Day holds a special place in the hearts of military families as they gather to honor not just faceless heroes of old, but family members, friends, and neighbors who are no longer with us. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
"They are dead; but they live in each Patriot's breast,And their names are engraven on honor's bright crest."
NMFA salutes the brave men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in defense of our nation.