Legislative Roundup: Pro-Military Family Legislation You Should Know About
National Military Family Association has 45 years of history advocating for military families. We track important legislation that affects you, let you know what is happening on the Hill, and speak up when your readiness is at risk. Here’s a round-up of exactly that kind of information.
Student Loans: June 9, the President signed an Executive Order (EO) outlining new measures to help student loan borrowers manage their repayments affordably. This included a rule calling for the Department of Education (DoEd) to automatically reduce interest rates for eligible active duty service members to 6 percent without the service member doing additional paperwork (in other words, the DoEd and the Department of Defense are supposed to take care of it for the service member). This is great news! However, we get a little nervous about EOs…they are a lot easier to change than other kinds of laws. Any sitting President can revoke or modify an EO issued during or before his term. So, we would like to see these changes made through legislation.
Servicemember Higher Education Protection Act, S. 2448: This was introduced on June 5 by Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and includes the same rule about capping service member student loan interest rates as the EO. However, the legislation also includes other provisions to benefit service members and families. If passed, this legislation would:
- Extend the 6 percent cap for 1 year after active duty ends;
- Ensure that Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protections are not forfeited when service members take advantage of other repayment programs (ex: Income Based Repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness);
- Provide for a loan discharge for service members or veterans assigned a 100 percent disability rating;
- Create a military spouse loan deferment for 180 days after a Permanent Change of Station (PCS).
This is legislation that could do a lot for military families. Unfortunately, it is stuck in limbo. After the bill was introduced, it was referred to the Senate Veterans' Committee. With the current turmoil surrounding the Veterans' Administration, it is unlikely that the Veteran’s Committee will take up any new legislation before the end of the fiscal year, or even during this Congressional session. So, it looks like this legislation is stalled. We will stay in contact with Senator Hagan’s office to see what can be done to move forward these important initiatives.
Amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, S. 2456 and H.R. 4672: These two bills allow service members called up to active duty to submit their contact information to consumer reporting agencies and require the agencies to contact the service member if any negative action is taken against their credit. Service members can have a difficult time managing their credit through PCSs and frequent deployments, and delinquencies can affect a security clearance. This legislation would help service members stay on top of any issues that would adversely affect their credit.
We support this legislation. S. 2456 was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and has been referred to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. H.R. 4672 was introduced by Representative Linda T. Sanchez (D-38th/CA) and has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee. Once legislation has been referred to a committee (or subcommittee) the leaders of the committee decide whether or not to examine it and have the committee make a recommendation. If the committee recommends it, the bill continues to the next higher committee, or the floor, for action. You can find out which legislators are on a committee here.
Military Spouse Career Advancement Act, H.R. 4818: Introduced by Representative Patrick E. Murphy (D-18th/FL) on June 9, and referred to the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), this piece of legislation turns the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) into a codified program that must be funded. It has several provisions that expand the annual cap, defines how MyCAA can be used, and opens the program up to all pay grades. However, the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (FY15 NDAA) has already been approved in the House. The HASC would have to recommend it to the House as a stand-alone bill. Given how late it is in the year for Congress (they take recess in August and will return after Labor Day preparing for the election), we just don’t have much faith that this will go anywhere, and the cost is a barrier. However, we are in contact with Rep. Murphy’s office to facilitate similar legislation for next year.
Remember, just because legislation has been introduced does not mean that it will be passed into law. Letting your members of Congress know how you feel about legislation that affects service members and their families is important. If you feel that changes should be made or additional provisions should be added, include your reasons. Let Congress know and let us know so we can pass the word.
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Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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