AFSA HQ Newsletter – June 5th

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND USAF RELATED NEWS

AFSA Testifying to Senate

On Wednesday June 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense holds a hearing to receive testimony regarding funding for NDAA 2013.  AFSA CEO, “Doc” McCauslin will represent AFSA   and   speak on a number of issues including full funding of military healthcare education and survivor programs.  His written testimony was turned in last month and we will make it available on the AFSA website once it has been released by the committee.  In addition to the above topics, it covers many other issues including military pay, concerns with sequestration, tuition assistance, concurrent receipt, retirement age reduction for Guard and Reserve personnel, and considerations of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (divorce law). 

Reconciliation Defined

In an earlier edition of On Call, “sequestration” was explained in detail.  Another option that also looms as a potential solution to mandated budget cuts by Congress is known as “reconciliation.” 

Webster’s defines reconciliation as the act of reconciling, as in to check (a financial account) against another for accuracy.  Another, more ominous definition is to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant.  With regard to reconciliation in the context of national budget cuts, this definition is highly accurate as a reconciliation of our budget would truly be accepting of something unpleasant. 

Created in the 1974 Budget Act, reconciliation has been used before on 19 occasions with 3 of the attempts vetoed.  A primary factor in its use is that it’s supposed to limit discussion strictly to budgetary concerns, no slipping in other hidden agendas to a fiscal bill.  Also it limits the amount of floor debate to only 20 hours, forcing Congress to move forward. 

If sequestration is the “quick kill” to budgetary concerns, than reconciliation is the “long drawn out death” that nobody wants to sit through.  In either case they are indicative of a failure by Congress to resolve the budget, and both are undesirable outcomes.  Pay attention to the dialogue in the near future as we near the deadline for sequestration.  If the word reconciliation slips into the conversation, don’t mistake it for a desirable alternative to sequestration; we don’t want that either.

Montgomery GI Bill

June 1st marked the 25th Anniversary of the Montgomery GI Bill. Named after former House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman, G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, the Montgomery GI Bill was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on June 1, 1987, and continues to serve today’s veterans and servicemembers. The Montgomery GI Bill was a successor to the original GI Bill, which put hundreds of thousands of World War II veterans through college upon their return home. 

AFSA played a significant role in the evolution of this educational benefit, lobbying heavily for almost a decade before the Montgomery GI Bill finally got signed into law, superseding the less beneficial Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP).  AFSA was pivotal in the further evolution of the GI Bill as the now famous Post 9/11 version affords transferability to immediate family members and covers much of the cost of a four year college degree.  Rest assured we will continue to ensure educational benefits are maintained for our members and that these benefits remain relevant and useful. 

Vietnam to Open 3 Sites to POW/MIA Team

According to a story from Armed Force Press Service, the Vietnamese government will open three areas to help resolve the fate of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.  The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s Detachment 2 based inHanoihas conducted 107 field searches for Americans missing inVietnam.  To date, the command has repatriated and identified 687 remains inVietnam.   A total of 1,284 Americans remain missing.   Of these, 586 cases are in the category of “no further pursuit” — meaning there is conclusive evidence the individual perished but it is not possible to recover remains. 

The three sitesVietnamopened to exploration are in the central part of the country. 

  • The first site is in Quang Binh province and involves the crash of an Air Force F-4C Phantom II jet in 1967 with two personnel aboard. Detachment specialists located the site in 2008, but now they will be allowed to examine it, Ward said. 
  • The second site is in Kontum province and involves the loss of an Army private first class in January 1968 during the Tet Offensive. 
  • The third site is in Quang Tri province and involves the loss of a Marine F-4J Wild Weasel aircraft. One of the crew of two punched out of the aircraft and was rescued. 

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said these efforts are important to troops serving today, because they know the military means that it will leave no man behind. 

Generals Still In Holding Pattern

Recently a number of general officer announcements made the news, including the nomination of Gen Mark A. Welsh III as the next Air Force Chief of Staff and Lt Gen Herbert J. Carlisle as the next PACAF Commander.  Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) suspended Carlisle’s promotion to 4-star due to lack of clarity on moves inAlaskabetween Eielson Air Force Base nearFairbanksand Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.  Since the General officer promotions and subsequent moves to assume command are interrelated, Begich’s maneuver has in effect stymied multiple command moves. 

As reported by Newsminer.com, The Air Force in February announced a plan to relocate Eielson’s F-16 fighter plane squadron to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson outside Anchorage.   The move, part of a proposed realignment at 60 military installations around the U.S., would transfer roughly half of the 3,100 military and civilian jobs at Eielson.  The Air Force announced the move as a cost-cutting measure, but has given differing estimates of what it might save, Begich said.

“I was sick and tired for hearing reasons why they couldn’t get it and the vagueness of the report,” he said.   “If they give me the numbers we’re looking for then we’ll go ahead and let the general move forward on his promotion, because that’s what we were looking for.” 

The much anticipated 46 page report was released late last week.  Unfortunately, it failed to adequately answer the Senator’s concerns and his hold on the promotion remains in effect. 

“The bottom line is we have yet to see a comprehensive five-year analysis detailing the total budgetary ramifications of the relocation and long-term plan for Eielson,” Begich said in a statement.  “The Air Force needs to be straight with Congress.   We cannot make major decisions impacting the budget, military operations, and our military families based on incomplete data and inconsistent information,” he said. 

The role of the Senate in the confirmation process is defined in the Constitution.   Article II, Section 2 provides that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate” appoint high government officials.  Neither a consensus nor a vote is required as a single Senator can place a hold like Mr. Begich has done here. 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

Senate: DC Work Week; contact lawmakers via Washington offices

House:  DC Work Week; contact lawmakers via Washington offices               

VETERANS NEWS 

House Grills VA and DoL

On May 31st the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.   Signed into law by President Obama on November 21st, the Act is designed to assist current servicemembers with transition out, expands education and training opportunities for those in veteran status, and also provides tax credits for employers who hire veterans. 

The panel consisted of representatives from Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor (DOL).  VA was represented by Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey and DoL sent Junior Ortiz, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Veterans Employment and Training Services division. 

AFSA was present as Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and 13 other Committee members received opening statements and then proceeded to aggressively question the panel. The primary focus was on the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) and the outreach efforts, or lack thereof.  Corinne Brown (D-FL), Tim Walz (D-MN), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) attacked the VA and DoL for their short-sighted approach to spreading the word.  Jon Runyan (R-NJ) was focused on their reliance upon Veterans Service Organizations (VSO).  Chairman Miller was visibly agitated with Undersecretary Hickey, noting that twice she mentioned no need to request funds for outreach.  Miller also cited minutes from a February meeting where HVAC had specifically asked how much money was needed. 

It appears that HVAC wants VA and DoL to operate independently of VSOs.  They are funded departments and VOW is law, there should be no reliance upon outside agencies (e.g., like AFSA) to do their job in advertising and outreach to eligible veterans.  We couldn’t agree more.  It was clear that Congress wants to ensure this program goes well and if there is an opportunity for AFSA to help ensure our members are “in the know,” we’ll be sure to spread the word. 

For a detailed breakdown of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, vocational rehabilitation, VRAP, seamless transition, employer benefits, program eligibility and important dates click here

HEALTHCARE 

Hurricanes and Healthcare

The official 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season started on Friday June 1st.  If you live in an area that could be affected by hurricanes, or any other natural disaster, you should bookmark TRICARE’s Disaster Information page (www.tricare.mil/disasterinfo/default.aspx) You will get TRICARE’s most recent updates about any ongoing natural disasters, including information about referral/authorization procedures and emergency prescription refills. 

TRICARE Covered Retail Vaccines

Did you know you could receive preventive vaccines for zero copay at participating TRICARE retail network pharmacies?   Check out the list of covered vaccines here

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS 

Insurance: Property & Casualty

Protect what’s important to you with affordable insurance from USAA. USAA offers top-rated coverage at low rates. Combine that with award-winning service — in fact, USAA was ranked one of Business Week’s top two “Customer Service Champs” the last four years in a row. To make it easy for you, you can do it all online — quote, buy, print ID cards, and much more. Call USAA at (800) 531-8722 or go online here. 

Apple Systems

Thinking about buying a Mac, iPod, or IPhone? Shop through the AFSA partnered website here, or call (800) MY-APPLE (be sure to request your AFSA member discount when calling Apple). 

AFSA 2012 Professional Airman’s Conference

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for theJacksonville,FLevents, August 11-15.   You are encouraged to sign up early and make your Hyatt Regency room reservation at the AFSA special rate while that special is available. Additionally, why not advertise your Div/Chapter in the PAC magazine?   Contact AFSA Marketing for details. 

WORTH REPEATING 

“You can’t build a reputation based on what you are going to do” 

— Author Unknown 

AIRMEN’S FORUM 

What do you think?

Sexual harassment and sexual assault seem to be the focus of many recent news stories, briefings and even garnered amendments to the 2013 NDAA.  Internet and cable TV provide easy access to material banned on government computer systems but we still can buy Playboy and similar magazines in the BX.  What’s your take on all this, interrelated or a non-issue?  Click HERE to send your inputs


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This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

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