Senate Armed Services Committee Marks-up Defense Bill
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) completed its mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (FY14 NDAA) (S.1034) on June 14. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a final vote. The House finalized their deliberations on their version of the Defense authorization bill (H.R.1960) at the same time.
The completed bill and its accompanying report had not yet been released as we write this article. Here are the highlights pertaining to military families, according to the committee press release. We will provide a more in-depth look at the provisions in the coming weeks as the bill and report are released.
Our Association is especially pleased at the inclusion of several provisions responding to issues of concern to military families that we emphasized in our testimony before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.
The Senate bill:
- Directs the Secretary of Defense to report on Department of Defense’s (DoD) current capabilities to track the suicides of military family members
- Authorizes $25 million in supplemental Impact Aid to school districts serving a large number of military children and an additional $5 million for schools with military children with severe disabilities
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on DoD child development center hiring and personnel practices
- Authorizes the payment of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity to a special needs trust for the sole benefit of a disabled dependent child incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity
- Expresses concern about the high rates of emergency room usage, DoD regulations requiring pre-authorization for visits to urgent care clinics, and delays to implementing the DoD 24 hour nurse advice line
- Expresses the committee’s expectation that DoD continue to assist eligible autistic beneficiaries to receive effective, evidence-based intervention and treatment approaches, and to ensure the provision of these services for dependents living in rural and underserved communities
Other provisions include:
- Authorizes a 1 percent raise for service members (this contrasts with the 1.8 percent raise included in the House version); the 1 percent raise is consistent with what was included in the President’s budget
- Restores funding for the DoD STARBASE program which focuses on elementary school 5th graders in civilian schools to encourage them to study math and science
- Eliminates the requirement for continued certification for financial support in the case of a dependent granted a permanent ID card for permanent disability when the member or retiree providing the basis for dependency dies or becomes permanently incapacitated
The bill does not include any provisions to allow DoD to establish or increase health care fees, deductibles and copayments for working age military retirees and their families.
Demonstrating how monies are being realigned is the reduction of $1.34 billion from military construction and $16.6 million from family housing. The reduction from requested amounts will augment the readiness accounts of the Services to help address shortfalls created by sequestration.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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