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Senate Poised to Pass Annual Defense Bill this Week

With last week’s House passage of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which directs Department of Defense (DoD) operations and spending for the next year, the Senate is set to pass the measure as soon as this week.  After passing their own versions earlier this year, they have reconciled differences and are nearing final passage into law.

Of interest to IAVA members, the $717 billion bill would provide a 2.6% pay raise for servicemembers, the largest increase in nine years, as well as new purchases of aircraft, ships, and weapons.  It would increase the size of our service branches. The Army’s end strength will grow by about 4,000, the Navy’s by 7,500, the Air Force by 4,000, and the Marine Corps by about 100. It also increases funds for training and readiness.

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Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

The bill also requires DoD to carry out an annual education campaign to inform those who may be eligible to enroll in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry of such eligibility. And it requires a study on the feasibility on phasing out the use of open burn pits. This is a good showing of progress in IAVA’s #BurnPits campaign, but there’s much more work to be done—you can help by taking action here.

The NDAA provides additional assistance to military spouses seeking employment by enhancing the My Career Advancement program and requiring a report on the effect of frequent moves on spouses’ careers. The bill also includes substantial improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) designed to provide training tailored to servicemembers’ post-separation plans. TAP improvements also require resources to be available to treat victims of military sexual trauma as part of preseparation counseling.

DoD would also be required to provide all active duty and reserve servicemembers an “authoritative assessment of their earned GI Bill benefits” prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization.

The measure also addresses the controversial military parade that the President has requested – opposed by 70% of IAVA members – being planned in Washington, DC around this Veterans Day. Notably, Congress authorizes the parade “In order to honor American veterans,” including those of past wars that “have not received appropriate recognition.” It also prohibits use of operational units and equipment if their parade use would undermine military readiness.

IAVA will be looking further into provisions in the conference report in the coming days for items of interest to our members. Stay tuned!

 

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