February 14, 2014




1. COLA Penalty Removed for Most: Thanks in large part to VFW's grassroots advocates for bombarding their congressional offices with tens of thousands of phone calls and e-mails, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation this week to eliminate the controversial one-percent COLA penalty on working-age military retirees. The House vote Tuesday was 326-90 and the Senate vote Wednesday was 95-3. The bill also contained a grandfather clause that extends to those currently serving, provided they were in uniform prior to the end of 2013. The legislation does not, however, remove the penalty on all future retirees who entered the military after Jan. 1. Regarding future retirees, VFW National Commander Bill Thien said "the world will remain a very dangerous and unpredictable place even after America ends its involvement in Afghanistan, and future military retirees will be required to serve just as long and perhaps sacrifice even more than their predecessors. It is in that regard that the VFW will continue to fight for a full repeal of the COLA penalty, and we hope that this week's vote continues that conversation." To read Thien's full statement, click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2014-Articles/VFW-STATEMENT-ON-MILITARY-RETIREE-COLA-VOTE/

2. Benefits Fights Not Over: The COLA penalty was a surprise provision in last December's Bipartisan Budget Agreement. More surprises could come in March, when the administration releases its fiscal year 2015 budget recommendations. Back in August 2011, the VFW unveiled its 10 for 10 Plan, which were 10 DOD/VA programs that we believed were under threat of elimination or reduction to help pay for (then) 10 years of war. Below are the 10 programs, which are still on the radarscope based on present-day budget battles, the deficit, the continued threat of sequestration, and the recommendations to be made next year by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission:
     * Change the 20-year military retirement plan to resemble civilian plans.
     * Increase healthcare premiums for military families and retirees on TRICARE.
     * Increase pharmaceutical fees for military families and retirees.
     * Reduce COLA increases.
     * End government subsidies to military commissaries.
     * Eliminate DOD elementary schools stateside.
     * Eliminate DOD tuition assistance programs for service members.
     * Eliminate presumptive service-connected conditions for disabled and ill veterans.
     * Lock out or increase fees for VA Priority Group 7 and 8 veterans.
     * And lower or freeze military pay, similar to the recent three-year (FY 2011-13) freeze for federal civilians.
Become a VFW Action Corps member today and help us stop the government from balancing the budget on the backs of veterans, service members and their families. Join us at: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm

3. VFW Joins Panel on Veterans' Education: On Monday, your VFW joined a panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing student veterans as part of the mid-winter training conference for the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA). During the panel, the VFW highlighted the recent launch of VA's student veteran complaint system and the GI Bill Comparison Tool. The panel also discussed why collaboration among all stakeholders in veterans' higher education was critical to ensuring student success. To learn more about the discussion, click here: http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2014/02/vfw-discusses-veterans-education-with.html

As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

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