National Guard Jan 2017 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff All Guard, Reserve Retirees Now Veterans Under New Law All retired National Guardsmen and Reservists are now recognized as veterans in U.S. law. President Barack Obama signed legislation Dec. 16 that expands the legal definition of a veteran to include Guardsmen and Reservists with 20 years of service. It was part of a package of veterans bills Congress passed just before adjourning Dec. 10. U.S. law previously defined veterans as service mem-bers with more than 179 consecutive days of federal (Title 10) active duty for other than training. Most ac-tive-component members meet the standard after a year of service, but until the war on terror, many Guardsmen and Reservists served entire careers without a qualifying mobilization. The new status is honorary and does not convey any additional benefits. NGAUS had pushed for the change for six years. It easily passed in the House every session only to be sty-mied in the Senate by fears that it would increase enti-tlement costs. “It took a while, but we finally convinced everyone in the Senate that Guard retirees just wanted the honor of being able to call themselves a veteran, not more bene-fits,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the association president. The Senate actually approved the change in late 2015, but the language differed from the House version. This forced the two chambers to develop and formally approve a compromise provision, which they did last month. NGAUS received several emails from Guard retirees after the association publicized the congressional action on social media and in Washington Report , the associa-tion’s weekly e-newsletter. “I’ve been unsure of whether to stand to be included whenever veterans were being recognized,” said a Hawaii Air Guardsman with 33 years of service. “Now I will never again have to debate in my mind whether to stand or not as a veteran who was proud to serve our nation and protect the freedoms we cherish.” She said her confusion stemmed from her eligibili-ty for some veterans benefits, even though she did not meet the old legal definition of a veteran. This is due to different entitlement criteria for each benefit. For exam-ple, Guardsmen and Reservists can get a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan after six years of service, even without a mobilization. But they must spend time on active duty to draw the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-Conn. Hargett credited Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., for the final push in their respective chambers to bring Guard and Reserve veterans status to a vote before Congress adjourned. He added that Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was in-strumental in getting the Senate to pass the legislation in 2015 and “continued to carry the torch” on the issue through the final vote. NDAA Includes Pay Raise, Army Guard Troop Increase A 2.1 percent military pay raise and a boost in Army National Guard troop strength are part of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that President Barack Obama signed just before Christmas. The NDAA raises the Army Guard’s authorized end-strength from 342,000 to 343,000 soldiers. The Pentagon had requested 335,000 Army Guardsmen. The cost of the additional troops will be covered by an increase in the war-related overseas contingency operation (OCO) account. In a sign of how far apart the two chambers of Con-gress were at one point on the voluminous annual de-fense-policy bill, the House approved 350,000 while the Senate went along with the original troop proposal for the Army Guard. The final figure was part of a sweeping compromise. Active-component Army end-strength will also get a boost, to 476,000 soldiers, or 16,000 more than the Pentagon requested. The Air National Guard will grow by 200 personnel, from 105,500 to 105,700 airmen. The increase was in the original defense proposal. Overall, the NDAA authorizes $618.7 billion in de-fense spending, of which $523.7 billion is for base-de-fense activities and $67.8 billion in OCO ($8.3 billion is for base programs). The so-called topline is $3.2 billion more than the Pentagon’s proposal. It also contains provisions related to the Guard’s full-time technician force. One delays until Oct. 1 the controversial conversion of some dual-status military technicians to Title 5 civilians. Another directs the defense secretary, in consultation with the National Guard Bureau chief, to submit to Congress by March 1 a report on the feasibility and advisability of converting the remaining dual-status technicians to Active Guard Reserve positions. The new law also contains language NGAUS believes will adversely affect the Guard’s ability to develop candi-Sen. Johnny Isakson R-Ga. Sen. Jerry Moran R-Kan. Rep. Timothy Walz D-Minn. Sen. John Boozman R-Ark. 12    NATIONAL GUARD   JANUARY 2017   WWW . NGAUS . ORG |

Washington Update

John Goheen, Cody Erbacher


All Guard, Reserve Retirees Now Veterans Under New Law

All retired National Guardsmen and Reservists are now recognized as veterans in U.S. law.

President Barack Obama signed legislation Dec. 16 that expands the legal definition of a veteran to include Guardsmen and Reservists with 20 years of service. It was part of a package of veterans bills Congress passed just before adjourning Dec. 10.

U.S. law previously defined veterans as service members with more than 179 consecutive days of federal (Title 10) active duty for other than training. Most active- component members meet the standard after a year of service, but until the war on terror, many Guardsmen and Reservists served entire careers without a qualifying mobilization.

The new status is honorary and does not convey any additional benefits.

NGAUS had pushed for the change for six years. It easily passed in the House every session only to be stymied in the Senate by fears that it would increase entitlement costs.

“It took a while, but we finally convinced everyone in the Senate that Guard retirees just wanted the honor of being able to call themselves a veteran, not more benefits,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the association president.

The Senate actually approved the change in late 2015, but the language differed from the House version. This forced the two chambers to develop and formally approve a compromise provision, which they did last month.

NGAUS received several emails from Guard retirees after the association publicized the congressional action on social media and in Washington Report, the association’s weekly e-newsletter.

“I’ve been unsure of whether to stand to be included whenever veterans were being recognized,” said a Hawaii Air Guardsman with 33 years of service. “Now I will never again have to debate in my mind whether to stand or not as a veteran who was proud to serve our nation and protect the freedoms we cherish.”

She said her confusion stemmed from her eligibility for some veterans benefits, even though she did not meet the old legal definition of a veteran. This is due to different entitlement criteria for each benefit. For example, Guardsmen and Reservists can get a Department of Veterans Affairs home loan after six years of service, even without a mobilization. But they must spend time on active duty to draw the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Hargett credited Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., for the final push in their respective chambers to bring Guard and Reserve veterans status to a vote before Congress adjourned.

He added that Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was instrumental in getting the Senate to pass the legislation in 2015 and “continued to carry the torch” on the issue through the final vote.

NDAA Includes Pay Raise, Army Guard Troop Increase

A 2.1 percent military pay raise and a boost in Army National Guard troop strength are part of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that President Barack Obama signed just before Christmas.

The NDAA raises the Army Guard’s authorized end-strength from 342,000 to 343,000 soldiers. The Pentagon had requested 335,000 Army Guardsmen. The cost of the additional troops will be covered by an increase in the war-related overseas contingency operation (OCO) account.

In a sign of how far apart the two chambers of Congress were at one point on the voluminous annual defense- policy bill, the House approved 350,000 while the Senate went along with the original troop proposal for the Army Guard. The final figure was part of a sweeping compromise.

Active-component Army end-strength will also get a boost, to 476,000 soldiers, or 16,000 more than the Pentagon requested.

The Air National Guard will grow by 200 personnel, from 105,500 to 105,700 airmen. The increase was in the original defense proposal.

Overall, the NDAA authorizes $618.7 billion in defense spending, of which $523.7 billion is for base-defense activities and $67.8 billion in OCO ($8.3 billion is for base programs). The so-called topline is $3.2 billion more than the Pentagon’s proposal.

It also contains provisions related to the Guard’s full-time technician force. One delays until Oct. 1 the controversial conversion of some dual-status military technicians to Title 5 civilians. Another directs the defense secretary, in consultation with the National Guard Bureau chief, to submit to Congress by March 1 a report on the feasibility and advisability of converting the remaining dual-status technicians to Active Guard Reserve positions.

The new law also contains language NGAUS believes will adversely affect the Guard’s ability to develop candi dates for the four-star position of National Guard Bureau chief. It eliminates the requirement of three-star rank for the NGB vice chief and the Army and Air Guard directors.

It also opens the eligibility criteria for the three-star position of deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command to all qualified reserve-component officers, not just Guard officers.

The NDAA also will provide more opportunities for enlisted airmen to fly remotely piloted aircraft. It requires the Air Force to transition RPA operations to a model that uses enlisted personnel for a “significant number” of RPA operators by 2020. Implementation will be required in the active component by fiscal 2021 and in the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve by fiscal 2024.

The new law also has a provision affecting military retirement pay in divorce decrees. It modifies the amount to be divided to the sum of the member’s retirement benefit at the time of the divorce rather than at the time of retirement. The spousal share would then be computed on the retired pay as adjusted by the annual increases in military pay.

A comprehensive overview of the fiscal 2017 NDAA is available in the Issues & Advocacy section at www.ngaus.org.

Government Begins Year On Stopgap Spending Plan

Congress sent to President Barack Obama last month and he signed a temporary spending bill that runs through April 28.

The continuing resolution keeps the government open and funded but at fiscal 2016 levels. Aside from some named exceptions, the CR prevents the Pentagon from starting new programs, increasing production rates or initiating multiyear procurement.

Exceptions include Army AH–64E Apache and UH– 60M Black Hawk helicopter multiyear procurements; Air Force KC–46A Pegasus tanker funding, to avoid contract penalties; and $650 million more for the European Reassurance Initiative, which is funding the rapid increase in deployments to Eastern Europe for training.

The CR also funds the 2.1 percent military pay raise included in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

The action is the result of most congressional Republicans wanting to push final decisions on fiscal 2017 appropriations into the new year to give the Trump administration a chance to put its stamp on the spending plan.

However, 13 Senate Republicans voted against the CR, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We’re going to kick the can down the road because we failed to fund our troops,” he said on the Senate floor before the vote. “Tell me one company or corporation in the world, small or large, that has their budget frozen for seven months of the year and you expect to operate with any kind of efficiency. You can’t.”

Capitol Hill Ceremony Marks Guard Birthday

Pentagon leaders, industry partners, congressional staff and citizen-soldiers and airmen helped celebrate the National Guard’s 380th birthday Dec. 14 on Capitol Hill.

The National Guard Educational Foundation hosted the event in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, who is serving his last few months as the NGAUS president, took advantage of the moment to look back on his seven years with the association and talk about legislative victories, including the addition of the NGB chief to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He also spoke about the recent congressional approval of veteran status for members of the Guard who give 20 years of service.

“So I think about all of those things and I look out and see a lot of people. I’m not going to call names, but we didn’t do that without you guys,” Hargett said. “You are truly the people that make NGAUS strong and I just wanted to say thank you for all of that.”

General Joseph L. Lengyel, the National Guard Bureau chief, thanked the crowd of more than 100 people.

“I think we are who we are because of you,” he said before cutting the birthday cake with Hargett, Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, the director of the Army Guard, and Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the director of the Air Guard.

“What a great day to be a Guardsman,” Hargett added. “I wasn’t here 380 years ago, but I bet you if they were here today, they’d be proud too.”

Several sponsors made the event possible. They were AM General, Boeing, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Raydon, The Roosevelt Group, Sikorsky, Textron, USAA, Cobham, Dentrust Optimized Care Solutions, Donohoe Real Estate Services, Honeywell, Humana Military, Oshkosh Defense, PULAU Corporation, Saab North America, Chris Mears & Associates Inc., Grantham University, LANDAUER and Laser Shot.

Read the full article at http://nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Washington+Update/2682664/374983/article.html.

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