AFSA Chapter 1681 Legislative Update – 30 July 2014

MSgt Latrise Russell

1. New VA Secretary Confirmed by Senate. An article in The Hill reports, “The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly confirmed President Obama’s pick to run the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department.

“The chamber approved former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald in a 97-0 vote, with lawmakers from both parties expressing confidence that he would reform the troubled agency.” To read more, go to: https://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/213686-senate-confirms-mcdonald-as-va-secretary

2. SASC Chairman Again Signals Probable Shortcut Defense Bill for FY 2015. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has indicated that discussions of a “fallback” Defense bill for FY 2015 will continue during Congress’ August recess. This comment once again highlights that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will not allow the already-passed House version of the Defense bill for FY 2015–nor the product produced weeks ago by Reid’s own SASC–to come to the whole Senate floor for advancement.

While Levin publically blames the Senate’s political intransigence and amendment disagreements as the reasons for even discussing a “fallback” bill (which violates normal legislative, authorization procedure), this delay seems to point once again to Majority Leader Reid wishing to produce a shortcut, non-debated bill toward the end of the year as was produced in December 2013. It is important to note that both the House and SASC-passed versions of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act would reject several Administration proposals.

To read a Defense News article on Chairman Levin’s pursuit of a fallback Defense Bill in lieu of Senate debate of the version Levin’s own committee produced weeks ago, go to:

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140729/CONGRESSWATCH/307290035/Levin-Senate-House-NDAA-Fallback-Talks-Will-Continue-During-August-Recess

3. Compromise VA Reform Bill. As reported yesterday, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees held a joint press conference to announce an agreement on H.R. 3230, the “Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.” This legislation, as compromised, is intended to help relief the problem of long waits for appoints and medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, hold top VA administrators more accountable, mandate in-state tuition rates for GI Bill users, and extend Post-9/11 GI Bill Fry scholarships to the surviving spouses of military members who die on active duty. You can review this report at: http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20140728/crpt-113hrpt564.pdf

Government Executive reports on the aspect of the compromise bill that would make it easier for senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department to be fired for poor performance and/or misconduct: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/07/congress-reaches-deal-firing-va-senior-execs-immediately/89864/

4. Top Schools Using the Pos-9/11 GI Bill and Military Tuition Assistance. The Military Times provides two charts showing use of military/veteran’s education benefits. The “Top Tuition Assistance Schools” chart can be viewed at: http://projects.militarytimes.com/charts/military/top-tuition-schools/

The “Most Popular Colleges for the GI Bill” chart: http://projects.militarytimes.com/charts/military/top-gi-bill-schools/

An accompanying article on these schools with comments on why service members use them, and taking a look at some of the issues faced by these schools can be read at: http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140728/EDU/308040012/Top-TA-GI-Bill-schools-Most-popular-colleges-cater-troops-by-taking-classes-them

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