Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue
- Call to Action!!
- Debate to Start on Fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill
- House Passes Military Construction and VA Appropriations Bill
Call to Action!!
As previously reported in this Newsletter, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., strongly believe that the only way to ease the well-documented stress and strain on soldiers and their families is to increase the Army’s active duty end strength now. More soldiers means more dwell time at home for troops that are serving 12 months in the war zone with only 12 months at home before returning to combat — if they’re lucky. Some units have deployed after fewer than 12 months at home.
During the mark up on the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee adopted Sen. Lieberman's amendment that authorizes an increase in the Army’s active duty end strength by 30,000 during fiscal years 2011 and 2012 if the Administration includes the funding in the budgets for those fiscal years.
As the Senate starts debate on the defense authorization bill this week, Sen. Lieberman will offer another amendment that increases the Army’s end strength for fiscal 2010.
Your messages to Congress do have an impact. Please send an AUSA-suggested letter to your Senators urging them to support Sen. Lieberman’s floor amendment to S. 1390, the Fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Act. Go to www.ausa.org, click on Contact Congress, enter your zip code and then click on the AUSA-proposed letter titled, “Support the Lieberman Amendment to Increase Army End Strength.”
There have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army in calendar year 2009. No one can fix a soldier’s problems, but giving them more time at home with their families may help them better cope with the stress. It is imperative that the Army's end strength increases immediately.
Debate to Start on Fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill
The Senate starts debate on the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 1390) this week and several AUSA-supported amendments are scheduled to be introduced.
TRICARE: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., will offer an amendment to assert that military retirees earned their health benefits with their military service.
Concurrent Receipt: An amendment, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., would end compensation penalties for thousands of disabled uniformed services retirees.
SBP/DIC: Sen. Bill Nelson's, D-Fla., amendment would end compensation penalties for survivors of military personnel who died of service-caused conditions.
Reserve Retirement Age: An amendment to make retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, the provision that reduces the reserve retirement age by 3 months for every 90 days activated will be offered by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
Please send an AUSA-suggested letter to your Senator urging that they vote for these important amendments. Go to AUSA’s website, www.ausa.org., click on Contact Congress, enter your zip code and then click on the AUSA-proposed letter titled, “Support Senate Amendments to S.1390.”
House Passes Military Construction and VA Appropriations Bill
The House passed the fiscal 2010 Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs Appropriations bill last week by a vote of 415-3.
After the final vote, Chairman of the Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee Rep. Chet Edwards, said, "This bill sends a clear message to America's servicemen and women, their families, and our veterans that we deeply respect their service and sacrifice. With passage of this bill, Congress has provided a 58 percent increase in funding for veterans health care and benefits since January 2007. In addition we have a new 21st Century GI Education bill that now also transfers this important benefit to the children of those service members who have died while serving our country. This is an unprecedented increase in Congress' commitment to veterans, and in my book, our veterans have earned every dime of this funding.
Here is an overview of the bill.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: $108.9 billion, the same as the President's request and $14.5 billion above 2009, for veteran’s medical care, claims processors, and facility improvements. In addition, for the first time ever, $48.2 billion is provided in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2011 for three medical accounts: medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities.
Veterans Health Administration (VHA): $45.1 billion for veterans' medical care to include:
* Medical Services: $34.7 billion to improve access to medical services for all veterans.
* Mental Health: $4.6 billion for mental health care.
* Assistance for Homeless Vets: $3.2 billion for a Presidential Initiative to combat homelessness, $150 million for the homeless grants and per diem program, $20 million for supportive services for low income veterans and families, in addition to $21 million to hire additional personnel for the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program.
* Rural Health: The Department estimates that $440 million will be spent in fiscal year 2010 on innovative practices to improve access to care for veterans in rural areas. More than 3.2 million (41%) of enrolled veterans live in rural or highly rural areas.
* Medical and Prosthetic Research: $580 million to include a $48 million increase for research to address the critical needs of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
$23.2 billion, $1.8 billion below 2009 is provided for the base programs. The decrease from 2009 is attributable to the expected decline in BRAC construction requirements and the success of the family housing privatization program. In addition, $1.4 billion is provided for Overseas Contingency Operations, for a total funding level in the bill of $24.6 billion, $226 million above the President's Request and $472 million below 2009.
* Trainee Troop Housing Initiative: $450 million to accelerate the Army's program to modernize troop housing facilities for trainees. The Army has a need for $2.2 billion to bring all 115,413 trainee barracks spaces up to standard and the program currently is not scheduled to finish until 2017.
* Guard and Reserve Initiative: $200 million in additional funding is provided for Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve construction to address critical unfunded requirements, in recognition of the tremendous contributions made by Guard and Reserve personnel to emergency assistance, homeland security, and national defense.
* BRAC 1990 Environmental Cleanup: $537 million to address the large unfunded backlog of environmental cleanup for bases that were closed during the four previous BRAC rounds.
* 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and Re-stationing: $7.5 billion to implement base closures and realignments, and support the re-stationing of troops and their families from overseas to the United States.
* Military Housing: $2 billion to further eliminate inadequate military housing.
* Overseas Contingency Operations: $1.4 billion to support additional military construction requirements to support operations and troop increases in Afghanistan.