AFSA HQ Newsletter – February 22nd

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 & OTHER NEWS

113th Congress; 1st Session

  • Senate: In Recess – contact lawmakers via state offices
  • House: In Recess – contact legislators via state offices
  • Congressional Switchboard:  1 (888) 762-8760 (Note: the operator will help you contact your elected officials).
  • Capwiz: open 24/7/365 – communicate with Congress at any time on any subject

Fiscal Cliff, the Sequel

If we’re going to give it a Hollywood marquee name, perhaps it would be more appropriate to borrow the title “The Neverending Story.”  And with Congress’s continued pattern of inaction, all three components of the so called fiscal cliff will continue to grab headlines.  It’s been almost a month (Jan 24th newsletter) since we gave a detailed breakdown on each component, here’s an update:

Sequestration – No signs of activity with this byproduct of the Budget Control Act of 2011.  It is currently scheduled to be triggered on March 1st.  The Administration has been doing a lot of talking but unfortunately both chambers of Congress are in recess this week; they’ll only have 4 days in session to come together and develop a solution. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), was quoted in a recent interview as saying: “Senators are going to be running around with their hair on fire when this thing actually hits. I remember during BRAC, everybody was going crazy to make sure their base was not on the list – this is BRAC on steroids.”

Continuing Resolution – There has been little effort to resolve Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations for the budget year we are now nearly halfway through.  This will be the next big budget battle once sequestration is addressed.  The current CR expires March 27.

Debt Ceiling – Little or no activity here; the current deadline is May 18.

New Threat– Trimming COLAs

A different way of calculating the rate of inflation called the “chained CPI” has been floating around Capitol Hill for the past couple of years. This scheme to trim your annual COLAs has gained traction lately so it is important you are aware of it and take action accordingly.

The acronym CPI stands for consumer price index, a formula that looks at how the prices of stuff we need (food, for example) change over time.  The federal government currently uses the CPI to make annual cost-of-living adjustments in programs such as Social Security, military and veterans’ benefits.  A “chained CPI” is simply a twist on the existing formula.  It would measure living costs differently because it assumes that when prices for one thing go up, people sometimes settle for cheaper substitutes (e.g., if beef prices go up, consumers will buy more chicken and less beef).

Estimates show that under a chained CPI, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) would be about .3 of a percentage point below the plain old CPI.  This works out to $3 less on every $1,000 of benefit earned which doesn’t sound like much–except it keeps compounding over time.

How would the chained CPI impact you or your family members specifically?  There is an easy way to find out.  Recently the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) developed an online calculator which gives you an idea how much less you will receive over the years should Congress and the Administration approve use of the chained CPI.  You can access it here.

Since 2011 AFSA and its partner organizations like AARP have worked with House and Senate champions to resist budget gimmicks like the chained CPI. We’ve succeeded thus far but this year will be particularly challenging—

“everything is on the table” as Congress looks for ways to bridge an ever-increasing budget deficit.

Next week, we hear the Senate leadership plans to move forward with legislation that will stop the sequester.  We are also told an amendment may be offered as part of that process to implement the chained CPI.  Monies saved from this change would then be used to fix another evergreen issue, the “Doc Fix.”

Now is the time to send a message via AFSA CapWiz to your two senators telling them to say “No” to this scheme.  Take note that we included a place for you to fill in that dollar amount generated by the online calculator if you used it.  Don’t forget to fill this in or delete it (whichever is appropriate).  The letter is editable, if you want to say more, by all means do so.

Last but not least, once you have sent you message, be sure to ask your family, friends and coworkers to do the same.  Wacky ideas like these won’t die unless there is a concerted effort by all interested parties to repel the threat.

Medal Melee

Recently the Department of Defense’s new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) has taken fire from the field.  The vast difference of opinion seems to hinge upon the DoD’s intent behind the DWM versus it’s perception among those in uniform, especially since it now ranks above the Bronze Star but below the Distinguished Flying Cross.

According to the official press release, “Service members do not have to be physically present on the battlefield to contribute to success in combat. Unmanned aerial vehicle pilots and cyber specialists can be thousands of miles away from combat and make contributions to victory.  To be eligible to receive the award, a service member has to have direct, hands-on employment, such as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator dropping a bomb or a cyber specialist detecting and fending off a computer network attack.”

Making a case for the new medal, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, “we expect this award to be granted pretty rarely, and that factored in to the decision (on its precedence).”  Little went on to say “we are not diminishing at all the importance of the Bronze Star — that remains an important award for our combat troops and will remain so.”

Offering an opposing view was an unnamed AF NCO from Hill AFB who asked in a posting to an American Forces Press Service Article, “What about the maintainers?  What about the aircraft mechanic that pulls a 16 hour shift to get the aircraft combat ready to be able to drop warheads on foreheads…where is our recognition at? I know for a FACT that no maintainer will EVER receive this medal.”  Others have told AFSA there is a distinct difference to someone who has boots on the ground at great personal risk versus someone miles away engaged in operations.

So we ask, what are your thoughts about the Distinguished Warfare Medal?  Click HERE to send inputs.

PICK ONE

Best of the Worst?

When it comes to earned benefits like pay (active or retired), healthcare, education, etc., the best case scenario when it comes to slashing the DoD budget is to keep them all in tact.  What about the worst case scenario?

Let’s pretend just for a second you have the ear of all the decision makers in Washington DC.  They have a solution to all the budgetary concerns that affect DoD and VA forever, but the catch is you might have to give up one of those earned benefits.  Which one would you let go?

Please rank the following 1-10 with 1 being your first choice, meaning it’s easiest to give up; and 10 being your last choice, meaning you can’t survive its loss.  Remember, this is a hypothetical exercise.  We simply like to know what matters most to you.

  • Commissary
  • Insurance (SGLI or VGLI)
  • BX & Shoppette
  • Medical Care
  • Space A Travel
  • GI Bill (any version)
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Annual Pay Raises
  • Retirement Pay
  • Other (not listed, but tell us)

Click HERE to send inputs.

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS

From Colin Powell (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State) as compiled by Oren Harari.

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

“Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.”

AFSA can’t help but draw a parallel between this corporate philosophy and the world of Washington politics…especially when looking at how the nation’s fiscal woes have been repeatedly stalled instead of solved.

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!

Hertz

Call (800) 654-6511 and provide the associate with promotional code 10635 click here and click the I have a discount box under reservations, then enter Code 0010635 under the Discount/CDP/Club Code section and select Quote me the program my company has negotiated.

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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