AFSA HQ Newsletter – July 15th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

The Budget Deficit and Military Pay

In recent days the nation’s leaders have been consumed with efforts to strike a deal that will slash the budget deficit but raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. At press time, an agreement was nowhere in sight.

On Tuesday the President warned the U.S. Treasury might not be able to make Social Security and veterans disability compensation payments if an agreement is not reached prior to the August 2 deadline. His comment has understandably worried many of our members, but it is unclear if such drastic action would actually occur (the “experts” and Members of Congress disagree with each other). As of this writing, no effort was underway in Congress to guarantee Social Security, VA disability compensation or similar payments.

There is however, growing concern in Congress that active duty personnel might also be affected, so lawmakers are revisiting the question of what to do about military pay. Members may recall that last spring, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 1297 and S. 724 (respectively), the “Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011. This pair of AFSA-endorsed bills would make sure the troops get paid for their work during any federal funding gap impacting the Armed Forces.

Representative Gohmert and Senator Hutchinson will be discussing plans for their legislation at a press conference this afternoon and we will let our readers know what they had to say. AFSA intends to help secure passage of this, or similar legislation, because regardless of what happens in politics, we should always ensure that our service members are paid—particularly in wartime.

House Passes Defense Appropriations Bill

Last Friday (July 8), the House of Representatives passed its Fiscal Year 2012 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2219). In total, H.R. 2219 contains $530 billion in non-emergency funding, an increase of $17 billion over last year’s level but a decrease of $9 billion from the President’s request. It would also provide $119 billion in emergency spending for Defense activities related to the Global War on Terror.

The legislation, which passed by a vote of 336 to 87, provides a military pay raise of 1.6 percent in 2013, as well as comparable increases in housing and basic subsistence allowances. It also includes a provision, sponsored by Representative Jon Runyan (R -NJ) and Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY), that prevents service members travelling back and forth from theatres of operations from paying excess baggage fees.

H.R. 2219 must be squared with a Senate version that has not even been drafted yet. Senate appropriators are waiting for a Senate budget resolution that has been drafted, but is not expected to be released until a larger deal over the national deficit is reached.

The FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act

In mid June, we reported that the Senate Armed Services Committee had approved its version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1253). At that time, Senate leaders were planning to bring the bill to the floor for full chamber action shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. That did not occur!

Although there is a remote chance the bill may make it to the floor before the summer recess, in all likelihood that won’t happen until Senate lawmakers return in early fall. And, as past history suggests, if that happens we probably won’t see a completed authorization measure in time for the start of the new fiscal year on 1 October.

Lynn to Step Down as Deputy Defense Secretary

Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III announced he will step down later this year to return to private life. His departure clears the way for the new Defense Secretary, Mr. Leon Panetta, to choose his own deputy secretary. Lynn’s impending departure is the latest in a series of leadership changes at the Pentagon. Mr. Panetta took over the reins of the Defense Department July 1, Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright is scheduled to step down as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff next month, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will complete his four-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on September 30.

Medal of Honor

On Tuesday, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry, United States Army. Sergeant Petry distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, in action, with an armed enemy in the vicinity of Paktya province, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008. This is only the second time since Vietnam that a living service member from an ongoing conflict received this distinction. Last fall, the President presented the Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta for his heroism in Afghanistan.

VETERANS NEWS

Energy Department: Troops to Energy

With the unemployment rate high among Post 9/11 Vets, the Department of Energy instituted a new program: Troops to Energy. The goal of the program is to provide Vets with the appropriate career training to enter the energy industry. Learn more at VA’s official Blog, (VAntage Point) http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/.

AAFES Celebrates at the Pump

In 1895, the War Department issued General Order 46 directing commanders to establish an Exchange at every post. Since then, Exchange associates worldwide have faithfully served alongside the service members of the United States during peace and times of war. They live the Exchange’s motto “We Go Where You Go.”

Exactly 116 years later, the Exchange is marking the occasion offering 16-cents off per gallon of gas July 25-27 when patrons use their Military Star Card or Rewards MasterCard. The 16-cent a gallon discount is above and beyond the everyday five-cent a gallon savings Military Star® cardholders enjoy when filling up at the Exchange. “It is our way of saying thanks,” said the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Acting Chief of Staff Col. Colice Powell. “If it were not for the war fighters of the United States military, the Exchange would not be where it is today.”

HEALTH CARE

TRICARE Standard Gives Families More Options

TRICARE Standard is a great option for military families who want more freedom when it comes to selecting their medical providers.
Read more at http://www.tricare.mil/mediacenter/press_article.aspx?fid=549

TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits – There’s an App for That!

TRICARE and Express Scripts, Inc. (ESI) recently announced the launch of the TRICARE Express Rx mobile app and mobile-optimized website. These tools allow TRICARE beneficiaries to manage their prescriptions and access important health information safely and securely from anywhere using their smart phone.
You can read the complete news release here.

TRICARE Supports Safe Skin in the Sun

The summer sun brings longer, warmer days, encouraging people to spend more time outdoors. TRICARE reminds all beneficiaries to take precautions while out in the sun. Click here to read more.

AROUND OUR NATION

AFSA Congratulates National Association of State Veterans

Congratulations to the National Association of State Veterans Homes on their Summer Conference this week in Burlington, VT. Outgoing President Steve Matune did a great job leading the Association that takes care of 30,000 resident veterans in 140 homes across the Nation. Elected for this next year is Fred Sganga. AFSA is supportive of the veteran’s homes and the outstanding job they do for our veterans regardless of DOD component or grade.

WANT INSTANT UPDATES? – AFSA IS NOW ON TWITTER

Be first in getting the latest updates and follow AFSA ON CALL. We are now posting daily and weekly updates on Twitter. As you may already know, Twitter allows for instant updates and happenings around the world, either on computers or your portable devices.

Sign up for your AFSA Twitter updates at – http://twitter.com/#!/afsahq

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

FREE SAT & ACT TEST PREP SOFTWARE

eKnowledge Donates $200 SAT and ACT Test Prep to Military Service Members and their families.

In alliance with the DoD and supported by patriotic NFL and MLB players, eKnowledge is donating $200 SAT and ACT PowerPrep™ Programs to military service members and their extended families. To order the free software, visit www.eknowledge.com/AFSA. There is a nominal charge of $13.94 for the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.

ON-LINE SHOPPING MALL

Shop on-line with special AFSA member discounts from over 600 of the best in class retailers. Your purchases will also earn AFSA cash back rebates! Shop online HERE.

AFSA WIRELESS CENTER

Save on phones and accessories at the AFSA Wireless Center. Shop and compare from a vast selection of carriers and products. You’ll get the same great rate from the carrier you choose, plus a better phone at a better price. Click HERE or call (866) 416-3060.

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