AFSA HQ Newsletter – March 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: In Session – contact legislators via DC offices
  • Capwiz: open 24/7/365 – communicate with Congress at any time on any subject

AFSA Testifies to Congress

Despite the message, “The Federal Government is closed”, your AFSA advocates braved the weather, trekked down to Capital Hill and testified to the special joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees. AFSA CEO McCauslin presented the Association’s views on numerous Veterans-related issues during this special joint session.   Our testimony covered a wide variety of issues including VA funding, the claims process (which badly needs attention), healthcare and education programs, efforts to curb suicide and homelessness among veterans, concurrent receipt, repeal of the SBP/DIC offset and extending Veterans status to certain members of the Guard and Reserve.

Our message was well received.   A telling sign of the effectiveness of any testimony is the amount of questions Senators and Congressmen have as follow ups.   Even though we were part of a nine person panel, nearly half of the follow up questions were directed towards our Association indicating Congress is listening to AFSA.   Before, during and then after the session, your AFSA advocates had a chance to answer additional questions and thank a number of elected officials for their endless support of AFSA and many of our key objectives. These include:

Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC) for H.R. 32 which would repeal the SBP/DIC offset; Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) for H.R. 679 which seeks to extend Veterans status to ALL members of the Guard and Reserve; Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Mike Michaud (D-ME) Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (respectively) for H.R. 813 which seeks to fund VA’s entire discretionary budget one full year in advance; and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the Senate Veterans Committee for his staunch opposition to a Chained CPI which would reduce annual COLAs.

Additionally, several emails have come to the AFSA headquarters with kudos for being the voice for specific issues such as concurrent receipt and the repeal of SBP-DIC Offset.  We are anticipating several other opportunities to present testimony to Congress in the future; the complete testimony and photo’s   are now available on the AFSA website.

Stopgap Funding Bill Approved

On Wednesday the House approved a stopgap funding bill that will keep the government running beyond March 27th which is when the current continuing resolution expires.   The bill which now heads to the Senate contains detailed spending plans for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs but keeps the rest of the federal government on cruise control at last year’s spending levels.   The Senate is likely to modify the bill somewhat by including full-year appropriations for other government agencies.   Lawmakers on both sides of the Hill are likely to accept the inclusion of other annual spending bills so long as the total cost of the short-term funding package remains the same.

Advance Funding for VA

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 (PL 111-81) established advance appropriations authority for certain parts of the Veterans Affairs budget.  The Act requires Congress to approve funding for VA medical care programs one year in advance of the next fiscal year.  This action ensures veterans’ health care programs receive timely and predictable funding in the event lawmakers fail to pass VA’s annual funding bill by October 1 each year.

A pair of key lawmakers hopes to take the concept of advance appropriations a step further and fund the entire Veterans Affairs department through similar legislation.  House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME) have introduced H.R. 813 which would fund the entire discretionary budget of the Veterans Affairs Department one full year in advance.  The “Putting Veterans First Act” would make it easier for VA to plan for key investments in information technology, benefits claims processing and construction projects in addition to its healthcare programs.   AFSA supports passage of H.R. 813 as a common-sense approach to ensure arbitrary budget cuts don’t jeopardize the care and benefits America has promised our Veterans.

Sequestration – 1

U.S. Air Force – 0

It’s early in the game, so don’t panic (for now), but the first high profile casualty in the automatic cuts is the grounding of the USAF Aerial Demonstration Squadron.  Citing   combat operations and contingency planning priorities over recruiting and public relations, the Thunderbirds received official word recently to cancel their 2013 air show schedule effective April 1st, and no, it’s not an “April fool’s” prank.  The DoD must cut $43 billion in Fiscal Year 2013 (meaning between now and October 1st) and the Thunderbirds cost $10 million per year just for airlift, travel, marketing, life support, and other operating expenses, including fuel costs and military salaries.    In similar moves, the Navy hangared the Blue Angels, and the Army grounded the Golden Knights.

AFSA wonders about negative impacts outside the Nellis AFB gates since the sequester has grounded the Thunderbirds and others.  When some bases went from annual to biannual scheduling there was some economic impact on the local community.  Major air shows can generate significant revenue from all the attendees (both participants and observers) who travel to shows and spend money on hotels, food, gas, etc.  Since the T-Birds travel, a case could be made that their grounding (while appropriate) has impacts on economies across the country.  A term some of us used while in the USAF when experiencing the surprise of unplanned collateral damage from various decisions was “unintended consequences.”   Unfortunately it may apply here too.

AFSA IN THE ROOM

Happy Birthday DHS

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.  AFSA was invited to attend a ceremony marking the milestone in which all three DHS Secretaries appeared for the first time.  The department’s first Secretary Tom Ridge made mention that work went on behind the scenes for almost a year in order to officially launch the new Cabinet position on January 24, 2003.  His successor, Michael Chertoff, commented that it was an uphill battle in garnering support and solidifying the Department.  Many questions were posed to third and current Secretary Janet Napolitano with regard to sequestration effects.  Two important take-aways from her comments were:

1 – Get to airports early.  TSA will be impacted from a manpower perspective and it will show via numbers of workers at security checkpoints.  Furloughs, no overtime, and shift reductions means less TSA workers on site.  This will lead to longer lines.

2 – Have patience with TSA.  The workers at the airport had absolutely nothing to do with sequestration.  While obviously different, there is a parallel to being upset with the military over a war, like Vietnam.  Today, TSA is just making due with what the politicians have left them.

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS

AFRC’s Brig. Gen. Jay Flournoy, who became the 32nd Air Reserve Personnel Commander on January 25, 2013, called his expectations nine lines.   “As long as we follow the nine lines, everything else will take care of itself,” he said.   His nine lines:

  1. Live the Air Force core values 24/7, on/off base, in/out of uniform
  2. Treat others how you want to be treated
  3. Hold yourself and others accountable
  4. Be fit to fight year round (military)
  5. Be mission ready year round
  6. Use your chain of command
  7. Be a good Wingman
  8. Maintain a culture of compliance
  9. Have fun!

Flournoy emphasized accountability.   “Hold yourselves and others accountable. From the youngest Airmen and the youngest civilian in this room, I expect you to hold me accountable and me to hold you accountable.   That’s what will make this a great place and ensure we are all complying with the standard,” he said. SOURCE: by Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, ARPC Public Affairs

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 to: afsaoc@hqafsa.org

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

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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.

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Don’t miss this special subscription offer! Order the Air Force Times at $39.95 for the year.   A savings of 76% off the cover price, and the Air Force Times will send $5 to AFSA on your behalf — and send to you – two free gifts!   Order online here   or call (800) 368-5718. [Please advise the AF Times that you are an AFSA member.]

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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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