AFSA HQ Newsletter – February 8th

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 Session – contact lawmakers via DC offices
  • House: Not In Session – Democrats are holding their annual retreat
  • Capwiz: open 24/7/365 – communicate with Congress any time on any subject

AFSA in the Room(s)

Boots on the Ground – Since the 113th Congress took the gavel on January 3, 2013, your AFSA advocates have visited 88 different offices in the House and Senate. This number is independent of hearings and receptions we’ve also attended. We shared our legislative platform and have held numerous conversations with key staff on how to attack the issues that lie ahead. We’ll need new shoes soon, but we’ll keep pressing.

VAMC and Legionnaires Disease – the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation held a hearing to address concerns of an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease. 26 cases and 5 fatalities recently occurred at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Pittsburgh. Dr. Robert Jesse, VA’s Undersecretary for Health, was accompanied on the panel by Dr. Lauri Hicks from the Centers for Disease Control. A bipartisan group of 10 Representatives grilled the panel on a wide variety of questions on health practices as well as administrative processes. While the VAMC did have room for improvement with some of their processes and notifications, it appears they were not criminally negligent given the idiosyncrasies of the Legionella pathogen. Readers should also know that this was specific to the Pittsburgh VAMC and not indicative of a nation-wide VAMC issue.

Temp 100% Disability – the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) held a hearing to examine the effective use of the 100% Temporary Disability rating. Aside from testimony from two of AFSA’s TMC partners, VA was represented by personnel from their Office of the Inspector General and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). DAMA Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) expressed concern that the overpayments identified as glitches by the VA represent millions of dollars that could have been spent elsewhere. The strongest words of the day came from Paul Cook (R-CA), a freshman Congressman, Vietnam Vet and former Inspector General. Cook said “if you (VBA) can’t fix this within 6 months you should find another job.”

Legislation vs. Budgets – AFSA was invited to attend a comprehensive briefing that covered cybersecurity reform from Congress, how shrinking budgets will affect implementation of new laws or mandates, and details of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Seated (and networking) with personnel from the Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), Booz Allen Consulting and others, we heard from a professional staffer on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former Senior Counsel from the House Committee on Homeland Security. Two major take-aways from the conversation that centered on fiscal concerns included strategy and perhaps some delusion. Strategically, moving discreet (small) pieces of legislation might prove to be more productive in comparison to comprehensive omnibus bills with this congress. On the slightly delusional side, it was mentioned that “cyber will be okay.” Given the interplay between the FBI, DHS and DoD, and that sequestration could devastate one third of that triad (DoD), it’s hard to imagine things will be “okay.” AFSA is working “our network” to ensure the budget gets resolved, reducing the pinch on our members across Cyber enterprise, DoD and the country as a whole.

Hill Focus: $$

Two issues will dominate lawmakers’ attention the next couple weeks; the looming arrival of sequestration and the coming expiration of the continuing resolution (CR) that has kept the government running thus far. Absent alternative congressional action, on March 1 provisions in the Budget Control Act of 2011 will trigger $60 billion in automatic cuts to the defense budget for FY 2013. This amount is over and above the $45 billion already taken for the year—a cumulative 18 percent cut in one year!

Several proposals have emanated from the White House and chambers of Congress but none have gained traction thus far. Cost has been the major sticking point as they work to find a way to pay for a fix. Leaders on all sides are frustrated, but none more so than outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta. On Tuesday Panetta blasted lawmakers for their failure to live up to their responsibilities, saying, “These steps would seriously damage the fragile American economy, and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.” He went on to say, “This is no way to govern the United States of America.”

Congress must also act fairly quickly to enact legislation that keeps the government running beyond March 27th. Earlier this week AFSA learned that the House Appropriations Committee is drafting another continuing resolution—a signal that lawmakers believe there is little hope of advancing any of the 12 annual spending bills for FY 2013. The principal challenge to crafting the new CR is the uncertainty of sequestration which AFSA views as the keystone of congressional action in the months and years to come. Avoiding the terrible effects of sequestration is fundamental to sustaining the nation’s ability to defend itself. AFSA continues to press lawmakers to work together on a solution to both problems.

Concurrent Receipt Bill Introduced in Senate

Yesterday Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced S. 234, “The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013” which would permit retired service members with service-connected disability rated less than 50% disabling to receive their full military pay and VA disability compensation. Sen. Reid, who is a long-standing champion for concurrent receipt says 625,000 disabled veterans across the country would benefit from his bill. “For the past 122 years, Congress has repeatedly forced the bravest men and women in our nation – retired, career veterans – to forfeit dollar-for-dollar their retirement pay if they also receive disability pay for an injury that occurred in the line of duty.” said Sen. Reid, “This is simply wrong, and we owe it to our veterans to do better.”

SECDEF Vote Postponed

On Wednesday the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) announced Thursday’s planned vote on former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary was postponed. According to SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), the Committee’s review of the nomination is not yet complete, forcing the delay. Levin says the Committee will conduct the vote as soon as possible; we will keep you posted on when that may be when more information becomes available.

Retiree ID Cards Now Have Expiration Dates

Blue retiree identification cards issued prior to December 2012 had the word “INDEF” instead of an expiration date. Since December, retiree cards issued have an expiration date effective the day before the retiree’s 65th birthday. Although benefits will not automatically expire, some changes will take effect based on Medicare eligibility, Air Force Personnel Center officials said. They stressed that Airmen who retired before the December card change took effect do not; repeat, do not need to get a new ID card just because of the expiration date change. If your ID card is worn out, unserviceable or your appearance has changed significantly enough that the picture is no longer a good likeness, you should get your card replaced. But there is no mandate to replace your card with the new expiration date card.”

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS

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

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.”

Small companies and start-ups don’t have the time for analytically detached experts. They don’t have the money to subsidize lofty elites, either. The president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to bottom-line results or they’re history. But as companies get bigger, they often forget who “brought them to the dance”: things like all-hands involvement, egalitarianism, informality, market intimacy, daring, risk, speed, agility. Policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenues. Real leaders are vigilant, and combative, in the face of these trends.

HEY YOU!!!

How We Doing?

Are we on target or do we need to recalibrate our sights? Is there a particular area of interest you think we should be covering in more detail? Is there a political situation or definition that you want explained? Fill in the blanks…

“I THINK AFSA SHOULD __________.” Send inputs to: afsaoc@hqafsa.org

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

AFSA New Member Term Life Insurance Benefit

New AFSA members under the age of 40 receive $10,000 of Term Life Insurance provided at no-cost for 12 months. For more information click here, or call Marsh Affinity Group Services toll-free at (800) 882-5541.

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.

Vacation & Travel: AFSA Cruises and Tours

If you’re thinking about a cruise or other vacation tour, check out our AFSA Vacations here. Administered by Brennco Travel, a leader in the travel industry.

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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