We have no Action Items today
Summary of Issues
At Issue 1. we see TOP MILITARY DOC DISCUSSES HEALTH CARE ISSUES. MOAA President Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret) met with the director of the Defense Health Agency to talk about this year’s proposed changes to TRICARE. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 2. we see DOD PROPOSES UCMJ CHANGES. First set of changes in 30 years. Sentencing guidelines and expanded criminal offenses are among the recommendations. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 3. we see PENTAGON PULLS PLUG ON HIRING. DoD issues civilian hiring freeze. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)
At Issue 4. we see SO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? Red tape frustrating for military spouses
Federal employment can be an attractive option for military spouses if they know how to navigate the system (Click on SO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? here or above for the details. GF)
Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference
FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –
don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources
Issue 1. TOP MILITARY DOC DISCUSSES HEALTH CARE ISSUES
April 1, 2016
On March 28 Defense Health Agency (DHA) director VADM Raquel Bono, USN, hosted MOAA president Lt Gen Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret.) and several other association leaders to discuss various aspects of defense health programs.
The meeting comes at a critical time as lawmakers mull serious changes to military health care.
The meeting began with a discussion of the budgeting process and the flow of funds through DHA to the services. In response to MOAA’s request concerning actions being taken to address shortcomings in access to care, the DHA staff provided a briefing on the services’ efforts to increase appointments in military facilities and make progress toward the goal of “first-call resolution” for appointment requests.
Bono’s staff also provided an update on TRICARE payment rate changes for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for autistic children. MOAA and others have expressed concern the payment reductions could affect access to ABA providers. Defense Health Agency representatives said they would be watching this closely.
It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for MOAA’s president, who also has had meetings with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), and staff members of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.
“These meetings are great opportunities to build relationships and find common areas where we can do what’s right for currently serving and retired servicemembers and their families,” said Atkins. “There are some areas where we’re going to disagree, but we need to keep up the dialogue, keep exchanging information and analysis, and keep working to end up in the right place.”
Issue 2. DOD PROPOSES UCMJ CHANGES
April 1, 2016
For the first time in 30 years, the Pentagon has proposed several changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
The UCMJ is the foundation of military justice, encompassing procedural and substantive criminal laws for the military. In the wake of military sexual assault incidents, a lot of attention was drawn to the procedural statutes in the code, leading then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to direct a full review in 2013.
After an extensive two year review, the Pentagon has proposed a number of changes, including:
Publicly Accessible Court Documents
Unlike the civilian justice system, filed court documents are not publicly available. The only way to currently gain access to that kind of information is by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
DoD would make filed court documents publicly available and easily accessible.I
Individualized Criminal Statutes
Many criminal offenses currently fall under one broad article. The Pentagon proposes breaking out criminal offenses into separate articles under the UCMJ to better distinguish crimes and “ensure each offense receives separate consideration.” The additional articles expand legal protections for sexual assault victims.
The proposals also explicitly prevent suicide attempts as being marked as a crime.
Stronger Sentencing Guidelines
Military sentencing procedures are very different from the civilian justice system. For most military crimes under the UCMJ there are no minimum or maximum sentences, leading to considerable variance in sentencing for similar offenses.
The Pentagon proposes sentencing guidelines established by the Department of Justice, to be carried out by military judges in all non-capital trials.
Right to Appeal
Judicial review is not currently a right in all cases for convicted servicemembers under the UCMJ.
The new proposals would mirror much of the civilian appeals process, giving servicemembers the ability to determine whether or not to file an appeal. The appellate process would then focus on issues raised by the parties during the original court proceeding.
The Pentagon proposals also would allow the government to appeal sentences under certain conditions.
MOAA supports the Pentagon’s proposals to better align UCMJ practices with current judicial standards.
t will still be up to Congress to enact the proposed changes.
Issue 3. PENTAGON PULLS PLUG ON HIRING
April 1, 2016
Effective March 20, the Pentagon has implemented a civilian hiring freeze that affects all vacant permanent civilian positions for which no tentative employment offer had been presented as of March 19.
The freeze is part of a broader effort to reduce the number of Pentagon staff. In 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memo calling for a 20 percent reduction in Pentagon staff. Later instructions from senior DoD leaders raised the required reduction to 25 percent.
The move comes amid reports the staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) increased by 20 percent over the last decade or so. The rapid growth in personnel was due to increased mission responsibilities, reliance on federal employees instead of contractors, and staff reorganizations.
Unsurprisingly, requirements driven by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a primary driver of personnel growth. As the wars wind down, lawmakers are looking to cut costs.
A hiring freeze at the Pentagon may end up hurting veterans. According to the Office of Personnel Management, 46 percent of DoD employees are veterans.
“Hiring freezes are usually double-edged swords,” said Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s Director of Government Relations. “DoD saves some salary funds, but the work of the absent employees usually still has to be done, so the remaining military and civilian employees have to pick up the slack.”
That’s it for today- Thanks for your help over the years!