AFSA HQ Newsletter – December 21st

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

Congress in Overtime

According to their published calendar, Congress was supposed to adjourn last Friday.  While we can’t guarantee we’ll be happy with the results, we are happy to report that they are in fact still in session this week.  There are too many big ticket items left undone with too much potential collateral damage for them not to be working.  Word on the street also indicates that legislators will be working December 24th, flying home for Christmas day, and then returning on the 26th to continue working.  AFSA can’t help but think about our membership who “pulls weekend duty” when work falls behind…so it only seems right for lawmakers to follow the same principle.

Final NDAA Readied for House, Senate Passage

House and Senate conferees have concluded their work of compiling a final FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill conference report was filed late last night and is being readied for final approval by the House and Senate.  According to a House Armed Services press release, the bill authorizes $552.2 billion for base national defense and $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingencies Operations. This is $1.7 billion above the President’s budget request, and is an incremental step to address the $46 billion decrease when considering where the President proposed national defense would be for FY13 in last year’s budget.  The bill is not yet available for viewing, but here are seven items we have confirmed are in the bill:

1. Military Pay:   The FY13 NDAA authorizes a 1.7 pay increase and extends bonuses and special pay for our men and women in uniform.

2. TRICARE Pharmacy Copays:   The bill restates the firmly held sense of Congress that access to quality health care services during retirement is a benefit earned though prior service to our nation.   It rejects a number of Administration proposals to increase some TRICARE premiums and establish new TRICARE fees.   Congress felt these proposals went too far and they were not included in the bill.   The FY13 NDAA will allow modest increases in TRICARE pharmacy co-pays in 2013 followed by a cap on pharmacy co-pays beginning in 2014 and beyond that would allow fees to rise by no more than the annual retiree COLA.   Originally proposed by the House, costs associated with this action would be offset by a 5-year pilot program that requires TRICARE for life recipients to obtain refills of maintenance drugs through the TRICARE mail-order program.

3. Commission on Military Pay:  Early this year, the Administration proposed a special commission to study military pay & compensation using a BRAC-style approach.  Using this process, Congress would only have the option of voting for or against the recommendations of the commission, and organizations like AFSA would likely have little chance to weigh-in on behalf of Air Force enlisted members.  The bill includes the special commission, but left out the “fast-track” approval process—a big win for all who serve in uniform!

4. Abortion:  The FY13 NDAA retains the overall prohibition on federal funding for abortion but would include rape or incest in the exemption.

5. Suicide Prevention:  The bill requires DOD to develop a comprehensive policy on the prevention of suicide among service members. It also requires the Secretary to establish a position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that would be responsible for overseeing all suicide prevention and resilience programs of DOD and the military services.

6. Conscience Clause for Servicemembers and Chaplains: The bill requires the Armed Forces to accommodate the moral principles and religious beliefs of service members and chaplains and restricts adverse personnel actions because of those beliefs.

7. Aircraft:  The bill allows continued funding of various airframes and related systems but permits the Air Force to continue with a number of previously announced aircraft divestments, transfers, and retirements. It stops the retirement of 26 C-5A aircraft, until DOD completes a comprehensive study of air mobility requirements.  Also it requires the Air Force to maintain an additional 32 C-130 or C-27J tactical airlift aircraft, beyond the Air Force’s new plan, to meet the Army’s requirement of 40 dedicated aircraft to support Time Sensitive / Mission Critical direct support airlift.

As stated above the House and Senate must still approve the bill before it is presented to the President.  We are told the House could vote on the measure as early as tomorrow (Thursday).  And even if Congress approves the bill, there is still the specter of a presidential veto looming out there.  At least three times this year the Office of Management & Budget—official spokesperson of Administration policy—said presidential advisors would recommend he veto the bill if items like higher TRICARE fees were not included in the bill.  Without question, the decisions on TRICARE and the pay and benefits commission contained in this bill are big wins for AFSA.  We couldn’t have done it without the grass roots involvement of our membership and I offer my heartfelt thanks for all your hard work.

Aloha, Danny – Senator Inouye dies at age 88

Born September 24, 1924, to immigrant parents, Daniel K. Inouye was 17 yrs old when the bombers flew over his house en route to Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941.  Two years later he enlisted in the Army, joining the infamous Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  As a member of “Go For Broke” Inouye rose to the rank of Captain earning the Distinguished Service Cross and the Bronze Star.  Later in 2000 with 22 other Asian-Americans, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallant actions in Italy in 1945, where he took a shot to the abdomen and lost his arm to a grenade.  Coincidently, during his 20 months of recovery in military hospitals, he met Bob Dole; a fellow disabled vet, future senator, and presidential candidate.

Inouye was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1959; the same year Hawaii became a State.  During his second term as Congressman he ran for the Senate in 1962 and has served there ever since.  Until his death yesterday, Inouye was the longest serving Senator and was President Pro Tempore of the Senate…meaning he was 3rd in line for president behind Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Inouye had a remarkable career on Capitol Hill.  Aside from being Hawaii’s 1st Congressman, he was the last remaining member of senate to have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964; he turned down the offer to run for Vice President in 1968; he was on the 1972 panel that investigated Nixon for Watergate; he was chairman of the 1987 panel investigating the Iran-Contra affair; and after working his way up the ranks became chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

By law, Hawaii’s Governor will appoint a member of Sen. Inouye’s party to replace him until the next election cycle meaning the Democrats are not expected to lose a seat in the Senate as a result of his death.  In 2014 a special election will then be held for a replacement to serve out the remainder of his term until 2016.  Following a Senate tradition, business opened December 18th with a black drape and white roses upon Inouye’s empty desk.  Later that morning, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was sworn in by Vice President Biden as the new President Pro Tempore of Senate.

A true “elder statesman” and military sympathizer, Senator Inouye’s presence will be sorely missed in Washington.

TOTAL FORCE WHIP AROUND

USAF Active Duty

Unmanned Fitness Centers Tested (from af.mil) Six installations will implement 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week fitness center access this and next month as part of an Air Force Services Transformation Initiative test concept, Air Force Personnel Center officials announced today.  Test installations include Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Scott AFB, Ill., F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., Tinker AFB, Okla., Little Rock AFB, Ark., and Joint Base Andrews, Washington D.C., said Capt. Matthew Dunn, AFPC Services Transformation deputy chief.  “Fitness centers are critical to Airman fitness and resiliency, but most centers have fixed hours, unlike the Air Force which has a 24/7 mission,” Dunn said. “Airmen who work unusual hours may not be able to get to the fitness center during routine operating hours.”  While 24-hour fitness center access may be an obvious answer, manpower authorizations and budget restrictions prevent round-the-clock manning, he explained.  “Unmanned fitness centers are not uncommon outside the gates, so test results from the participating installations will help us determine if the practice will work for Air Force fitness centers, as well.”

Air National Guard

ANG Director Nominated – Lt Gen Stanley E. “Sid” Clarke III has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Director of the Air National Guard.  Current Director, Lt Gen Harry “Bud” Wyatt III, has been in the seat since February of 2009 and is set to retire in January of 2013.  Lt Gen Clarke is currently moving through the process of confirmation by the US Senate.

Air Force Reserve

Couple Enlists Together – Ashley Todd was ecstatic to be joining the Air Force Reserve and her husband Eric Todd supported her 100 percent…perhaps 110 percent.  It turns out that after multiple meetings with Ashley’s recruiter, MSgt Charles Loftland, Eric got hooked and also “crossed into the blue.”  The couple made it official on November 30th and now both are members of the 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field, Washington.

Veterans

Joining Forces with Monster – The Department of Commerce’s acting Secretary, Rebecca M. Blank, made the announcement at the National Veteran Employment Summit in Washington DC.  Employment website Monster.com will come on board with the White House’s Joining Forces campaign which has already worked with 2,000 companies to employ or train over 125,000 veterans and military spouses.  The goal now is to hire or train an additional 250,000 veterans or spouse by the end of 2014.  Joining Forces is an initiative of 1st Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden.

WORTH REPEATING

“If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?”

— Will Rogers

FROM THE FIELD

What’s On Your Mind?

Is there a particular area of interest you think we should be covering in more detail?  Is there a political situation or definition that we could explain, educate or expound upon that would be beneficial to our membership?  Fill in the blanks…

“I THINK AFSA SHOULD __________.”

Send inputs toafsaoc@hqafsa.org

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.

Enterprise & Alamo

Need a rental car?  Shop here and choose either Enterprise or Alamo to get a discounted rate.  Both sites have the discount embedded in them, so there is no need to enter a promotional code!

Bellevue University $500 AFSA Grant

Bellevue University offers AFSA members a $500 military grant to attend Bellevue University as part of our Military Partners program.  Bellevue University will also waive the application fee and provide a Personalized Degree Plan for each student.  To apply for the grant, please click here and select “AFSA” as your military partner.  For more information, contact our prior service enrollment team at 866-676-3614 or at military@bellevue.edu.

Over 20 Other Items of Interest

For a complete and detailed listing of the many benefits to AFSA membership, go to the AFSA webpage and click on the left menu listing “Member Benefits” or just click here.


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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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