12 March 2014 Legislative News Update
Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- AUSA Provides Testimony on Veteran's Issues
- Clarification Please!
AUSA PROVIDES TESTIMONY ON VETERAN’S ISSUES
Joint hearings held every year by the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees give AUSA and other service organizations the opportunity to present their legislative agendas. AUSA Vice President for Education Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, USA, Ret., provided testimony for the joint hearing held last week.
In his statement, Swan said, “The inherently difficult nature of military service has never been more self-evident than during the current conflicts. While grateful for the good things done for veterans, AUSA reminds our elected representatives that we consider veterans benefits to have been duly earned by those who have answered the nation’s call and placed themselves at risk – these are not “entitlements.”
Swan added, “As elected representatives, you must be responsible stewards of the federal purse because each dollar emanates from the American taxpayer. AUSA emphasizes that the federal government must remain true to the promises made to her veterans. We understand that veterans’ programs are not above review, but always remember that the nation must be there for the country’s veterans who answered the nation’s call.”
· Urges Congress to pass legislation that would authorize Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for surviving spouses of the current conflict, the same educational benefit available to their children under the Gunnery Sgt. John D. Fry Scholarships, in lieu of Dependents and Survivors’ Educational Assistance (DEA) benefits.
· Believes additional full time counseling staff is needed for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) program to support the increasing demand among the rising number of disabled veterans.
· Encourages Congress to raise education benefits for National Guard and Reserve servicemembers under Chapter 1606 of Title 10.
· Urges that the thousands of disabled veterans left out of the concurrent receipt of retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation legislation be given equal treatment and that the disability offset be eliminated completely.
· Believes that a member who is forced to retire short of 20 years of service because of a combat disability must be “vested” in the service-earned share of retired pay at the same 2.5 percent per year of service rate as members with 20+ years of service.
· Supports continuing congressional efforts to help homeless veterans find housing and other necessities, which would allow them to re-enter the workforce and become productive citizens.
The hearing was held shortly after the Senate failed to pass a bill, offered by Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that addressed many of AUSA’s veteran-related resolutions. We hope that Congress can work together and pass legislation that will address these important goals.
Several weeks ago, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., sent a letter to the House leadership expressing his opposition to a bill that would create a congressional commission to study the structure of the Army to determine the proper force mixture of active and reserve components.
The letter was misinterpreted by some to suggest that he and the Association were taking sides in the debate between the active Army and the National Guard.
Gen. Sullivan’s current message to our members offers some clarification:
“Folks, I want to clarify my rationale for AUSA’s opposing the use of a commission to determine Army force structure. There are several reasons why I believe it is unnecessary, in addition to the rationale I expressed in my letter to congressional leaders. Here are some additional thoughts.
First, the Army Chief of Staff has consulted with National Guard leaders at the NGB, ARNG, and TAG levels throughout the process of proposing the appropriate mix of active component, National Guard and Army Reserve manpower and force structure. Many Guardsmen are probably not aware of this, but the CSA can document this engagement.
Second, the need for a commission to study the organization of the U.S. Air Force was precipitated by decision making in the Air Force that did not fully include the equities of the Air National Guard. Under those circumstances, a commission was probably warranted. Those conditions do not exist in the Army.
Third and most importantly, my letter is a vote of confidence in General Frank Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Major General Judd Lyons, Acting Director of the Army National Guard, Lieutenant General Jeff Talley, Chief of the Army Reserve, the State Adjutant Generals, General Ray Odierno, the CSA, and John McHugh, the Secretary of the Army. I am confident that these leaders are fully qualified and capable of assessing and adjusting the Army's structure to meet national security needs at home and abroad.
Standing up a commission, as some advocate, indicates a profound lack of trust and confidence in these National Guard leaders and Army leaders to do what they were confirmed by the Senate to do.
I do not understand why others question the credibility of these battle-tested National Guard leaders. AUSA does not support undermining the authority and responsibility of these distinguished Guard, Reserve, and active officers and experts. A commission will do just that - undermine the trust that the troops - active, Guard, and Reserve - have in their leaders. That is unacceptable to AUSA. We support Guard leaders, Reserve leaders, and active component leaders to get the job done.”