VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
January 10, 2014
1. COLA Penalty Fight Update:
More than a dozen individual pieces of legislation have now been introduced in the House and Senate to remove the COLA penalty from the two-year bipartisan budget agreement that was signed into law Dec. 26. The penalty, which impacts working age military retirees and medically-retired troops, is an automatic one-percent reduction from annual COLA increases until age 62. If left unchanged, the penalty would be phased in over three years, beginning with a quarter-percent reduction in 2015, then a half-percent reduction in 2016 and the full one percent in 2017. Budget reduction advocates say the penalty would only reduce an E-7's lifetime compensation from $1.8 million to $1.7 million, but left unsaid is an E-7 retiring today only earns a taxable retirement of $25,200, which for a family of four is borderline poverty level, and that the E-7 would have to live another five decades or more to accumulate anywhere near those totals. The VFW is working with congressional allies to find a bipartisan solution to eliminate the penalty, but we still need your voice to tell Congress that this is important to keep the faith with our military of today, yesterday and tomorrow. Join the VFW Call to Action today by going to http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63034211
2. VFW Hears Army and NGB Chiefs:
The VFW was at the National Press Club twice this week to hear Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno on Tuesday, and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass on Thursday, discuss a range of topics, mostly concerning the budget and the way forward. General Odierno said the budget is very challenging for the 1.1 million Total Army, and even though the recent budget agreement stopped the sequester for two years, it is still a threat and hurts rebalancing efforts. Regarding recent events, he said Fallujah was very disappointing, but doesn't advocate sending boots on the ground, that standards will not be lowered just to open up the combat arms to women, that sexual assaults will not be tolerated, the Army is not in competition with the Marines in the Pacific, and that Army Guard and Reserve forces exist to complement, not replace, the active force. General Grass said the 460,000 members of the Air and Army National Guard are at their highest state of readiness ever, but also worries how to balance the force and keep it relevant during the fiscal drawdown, especially knowing that a major event, such as a New Madrid earthquake or another Category 5 hurricane, could be just around the corner. For video of both events, go to http://press.org/
3. Memorial Day Concert Seeks D-Day, Afghan Vets:
On May 25, 2014, Gary Sinese and Joe Mantegna will return to host the Memorial Day Concert on the Mall, along with Gen. Colin Powell. This year Capital Concerts, the producer of the event, is seeking veteran support of their two main themes: The 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of the National WWII Memorial, and the ending of the war in Afghanistan. Being sought are:
* World War II veterans who participated in the Normandy Invasion. Selected veterans will be interviewed on videotape and then honored on stage with music by the National Symphony Orchestra. A short documentary about the invasion will be broadcast as part of the concert.
* Active-duty, Guard, Reserve, or veterans who were wounded (physically or mentally) in Afghanistan, and who are willing to share their stories of combat and their transition home. Selected stories will be reenacted by well-known actors. The selected veterans and their families will also be honored at the concert.
The Memorial Day Concert on the Mall is a 90-minute live event broadcast on PBS to 10 million viewers, and performed in front of an audience of 300,000 on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Interested service members and veterans should contact Celia Straus, writer of the concert, at Celia.firstname.lastname@example.org
. More information about the Memorial Day Concert is at www.pbs.org/memorialdayconcert/features/