Legislative Newsletter Update 30 March 2009 

3/30/2009 

Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's 
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Monday when Congress is in session. 



       

In this issue:
 

  • Troops and Equipment Discussed at Meeting
  • Bill to Expand Retirement Benefits for Guard/Reserve Introduced
  • Legislation to Improve Veterans' Benefits Passes Committee

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    Troops and Equipment Discussed at Meeting


    AUSA President, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., and Director of Government Affairs Bill Loper met with Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and his national security advisor, Sandy Luff, for more than an hour to discuss the defense budget and how best to ensure that both troop strength is maintained and that funds are available in the out years to reset equipment, procure new equipment and develop future systems. 

    Sen. Sessions contacted Gen. Sullivan after receiving his recent letter concerning the issue and discovered they shared a mutual concern about the future of the defense budget.   They fear a trend may begin in which the budget would either fund increased troop levels or procurement and modernization efforts but not both.

    Gen. Sullivan described his experiences when, as Army Chief of Staff, troop levels diminished as part of a “peace dividend.”  He pointed out that the past (in terms of troop cuts or deep budget cuts) should not be repeated as we exit Iraq.  He said rather than repeating the past where we entered the Iraq war with too few troops after the cuts he had to make, now we must maintain a larger Army that will retain the trained, educated, experienced, battle hardened midlevel and senior NCO's and officers we now have.  Concurrently the defense budget should not be cut so that equipment lost or damaged in the war can be reset and weapons that will be needed in the "next war" can be developed.

    AUSA and Sen. Sessions' staff will continue the dialogue begun during the meeting to determine the best way to protect funding for both troops and equipment.
     

    Bill to Expand Retirement Benefits for Guard/Reserve Introduced


    AUSA Assistant Director of Government Affairs Julie Rudowski attended a press conference last week to announce the introduction of legislation that would expand retirement benefits for Guard and reserve members.

    Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Dan Boren, D-Okla., introduced the National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act (H.R. 208) which amends the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (NDAA) to repair the gap in eligibility for National Guard and Reserve members to receive credit towards early retirement by including any active duty service since September 11th, 2001.  Current eligibility only applies to service following the enactment of the 2008 NDAA on January 28, 2008.

    In a statement released after the press conference, Rep. Wilson said, “Since September 11, 2001, our National Guard and Reserve soldiers have fought bravely in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Their courage and dedication throughout this transition to a more active duty role should be reflected in their retirement benefit system.  I greatly appreciate Congressman Boren’s support in this effort, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure we continue to honor the tremendous sacrifices made by all the members of our Armed Forces and their families.”

    “These brave men and women deserve to be included in the retirement benefits enacted under the Defense Authorization Act of 2008.  Their service should be counted toward retirement because their sacrifice for the last 8 years has been critical to the security of our entire nation.  I am proud to join Congressman Wilson on this common sense piece of legislation.  It is yet another way we can provide long term benefits to those who have fought bravely in the War on Terror,” said Rep. Boren. 

    The statement noted that more than 600,000 members of the reserve components have been mobilized in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other contingency operations and that more than 145,000 members have been mobilized more than once.


    Legislation to Improve Veterans' Benefits Passes Committee

    The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously passed three bills last week aimed at improving benefits and services to veterans.

    H.R. 1377, introduced by Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif would expand veteran eligibility to require the VA to pay for emergency treatment for a non-service connected condition if a third party is not responsible for paying for the full cost of care.  The bill clarifies that the VA only pay the difference between the amounts paid by the third party and the VA allowable amount, and is not responsible for copayments the veteran owes to the third party.

    Arkansas Republican Rep. John Boozman’s bill (H.R. 1171) would reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for fiscal years 2010 through 2014.  The bill was amended to authorize an additional $10 million to provide dedicated services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.  Grants would be made available to provide job training, counseling, placement services, and child care services to expedite the reintegration of veterans into the labor force.

    The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1513) would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of basic compensation for disabled veterans and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation to their survivors and dependents, along with other benefits, in order to keep pace with the rising cost-of-living.  The adjustment would become effective December 1, 2009, and would be equal to that provided on an annual basis to Social Security recipients.   Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., introduced the legislation. 

    All three bills are scheduled to go to the House floor for a vote this week