February 22, 2013
1. Sequestration a Week Away:
The Defense Department is pulling no punches in letting Congress and the American public know the serious impact mandatory sequestration will have on the force. With very exceptions, 800,000 DOD civilians will be forced to take a three-week furlough beginning in late April. That roughly means one day a week, per week, through the end of the current fiscal year, which will lower civilian pay by 20 percent. The mandatory sequester will kick in March 1, and barring a last minute agreement by Congress it will force the Pentagon to cut more than $46 billion in current year spending by Sept. 30, just seven months away. The automatic cuts would be in addition to the $487 billion in planned defense spending reductions over the next 10 years, as mandated by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011. As mentioned previously, planned reductions include:
* Slashing noncombat flying, sailing and driving hours.
* A hiring freeze and cut back on installation, facility and contract maintenance.
* Requesting a 1 percent military pay raise for fiscal year 2014 instead of the planned 1.7 percent.
* Requesting another base realignment and closure round.
* And possibly increasing military dependent and retiree Tricare health program fees, and changing the current military retirement system for future generations.
DOD is guaranteeing, however, that deployed forces will be protected, but forces in garrison and not "on deck" to deploy will be impacted. Read more about the potential furlough at http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119337.
2. Others Want New Medal Ranked Lower:
More veteran and military service organizations have joined with VFW in opposing the placement of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which if left unchanged will rank it the ninth highest in the order of precedence---higher than the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The VFW has been joined in our call to lower the ranking by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Association of Uniformed Services, and the Military Officers' Association of America, among others. The new medal, announced by Defense Secretary Panetta on Feb. 13, would be awarded to drone pilots and cyber warriors who are having a significant impact, but who are not required to be physically present on the battlefield. "The VFW fully concurs that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact," said VFW National Commander John Hamilton, "but medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear." The VFW continues to urge the Department of Defense and now the White House to reconsider the new medal's placement in the military order of precedence.
3. VFW Attends DOL Meeting:
This week, VFW attended a Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) update for VSO's on how the agency is working to deliver employment resources to veterans. Newly-confirmed Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS, Keith Kelly discussed how he wants to improve VETS by soliciting feedback from veterans' advocates like the VFW to make sure the agency's programs succeed. The meeting also included briefings from other senior VETS leaders on programs like Jobs for Veterans State Grants, or JVSG, enhanced outreach to separating service members, data-sharing agreements with DOD, unique challenges for female veterans in the workforce, Family Medical Leave Act provisions for veterans, and usage of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. VFW will continue to monitor DOL resources for veterans, to stay up to date, click here for the blog posting: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/02/department-of-labor-hosts-veterans.html
4. IB Lays Out VA Budget Needs:
The VFW, along with its three Independent Budget (IB) partners- PVA, DAV, and AMVETS - have released what we believe to be the necessary funding for VA to continue to offer consistent high quality health care and services to all eligible veterans, their families and survivors. The comprehensive budget highlights the needs of older veterans and those young men and women returning from active duty to join civilian life. Funding information is provided after careful review of medical and administrative costs within VA which form the foundation of the recommendations. The Administration and Congress are expected to release their FY 2014 budget proposals sometime in March. Will continue to update you here as the budget and appropriations cycle moves along in the 113th Congress. We will continue to ask Congress and the Administration to provide sufficient funding to meet the health care and benefit needs of veterans in a timely and predictable manner.
IB Recommendations for FY 2014 include:
* $58.8 billion total for health care---$1.3 billion more than what the Administration recommended ($57.5 billion) in their advance appropriation last year.
* $2.4 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration---approximately $226 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level.
* $2.25 billion for all construction programs---approximately $900 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level, and well below the true funding needs of construction projects.
* $611 million for medical and prosthetic research, approximately $28 million more than the expected FY 2013 appropriated level.
For the full FY 2014 Independent Budget recommendations, http://www.independentbudget.org/
5. Nominate a Woman Veteran:
The White House Champions of Change program highlights the stories of citizens across the country who are moving their communities forward. This March, they want to highlight the many contributions made by women veterans, especially those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Examples of their work within the veterans' community may include:
* Improving healthcare services available to women and children;
* Helping women veterans transitioning into the workforce;
* Leading programs to improve the well-being of young women;
* Developing a program to support victims of domestic violence or trauma;
* Helping engage and support Wounded Warrior transitioning;
* And providing services and support to eliminate homelessness, among many others.
There is no limit to the number of women veterans you can submit, but all nominations must be received by midnight, February 26. For more information or to nominate, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
6. VFW Discusses Student-Veterans in Higher Ed:
This week the New York Times published an op-ed by VFW Deputy Legislative Director Ryan Gallucci, highlighting the good work of student-veterans on college campuses across the country, but also explaining why potential student-veterans need to be armed with quality information before choosing a school. To read the full story, click here: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/how-to-help-veterans-succeed-in-college/. Your VFW has standing invites to contribute these kinds of issue-based narratives to the Times and other major military and general news media outlets. If you would like to share a story of yours, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.