The day after Thanksgiving, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law on Friday providing an assurance of stability in funding to service members and their families. The NDAA funds the work of the Department of Defense (DoD), including pay and benefits for troops and their families and warfighting efforts.
This year’s NDAA is a big win for IAVA members. It includes several provisions that aim to improve the benefits and services received by service members and reflects a changing attitude about retirement options, which was supported by IAVA members in our 2014 member survey. Through testimony and persistent advocacy, IAVA was a leader in the fight on these issues and we will continue in that role on behalf of veterans and their families.
While the entirety of the NDAA includes many provisions that address key benefits for service members, a few key provisions are highlighted below.
Mental Health Care:
● Requires the DoD and the VA to have a joint formulary to ease the transition of care for service members transitioning from DoD to VA care.
● Creates a mechanism to connect service members who choose to seek care outside of the DoD with private providers who have trained in evidence-based practices proven to best treat mental health challenges experienced by service members.
Compensation and Benefits Reform:
● Creates a blended retirement system by providing additional retirement-savings options to those serving less than 20 years. While this has a delayed implementation, it will eventually allow the 83% of service members who do not remain in service for the traditional 20 years opportunities to save for their eventual retirement through Thrift Saving Plan (TSP) contributions.
● Supports the traditional retirement option and encourages service beyond 12 and then 20 years by maintaining retirement annuity while also offering service members the ability to take an upfront lump sum payment. It’s important to note here that those currently serving with less than 12 years of service will have the option to be grandfathered into existing system or choose the new TSP system.
● Maintains the current commissary system, but does allow the DoD to explore innovations for the system.
● Creates a Job Training and Post-Service Placement Executive Committee which will review and propose changes to the DoD’s existing post-service placement efforts.
Military Sexual Assault:
● Adjusts aspects of the Special Victims Counsel by requiring victims be notified of their right to a Special Victims Counsel by law enforcement and by creating minimum training standards for Special Victims Counsels.
● Enhances sexual assault prevention and response for male victims by increasing education on preventing sexual assault and evaluating the different needs of men and women survivors of sexual assault.
● Requires the DoD to develop additional strategies for dealing with retaliation against service members who report sexual assault which must include additional training for commanders and an emphasis on bystander intervention in preventing sexual assault.
A more comprehensive summary of the NDAA key provisions by the House Armed Services Committee can be viewed here.