National Guard April 2017 : Page 12

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff How You Can Help By Mike Hadley HE STATE NATIONAL GUARD association conference season is in full swing. It kicks off annually in February and fills every weekend on the calendar until mid-June. In recent weeks, it’s been my privilege to speak at conferences in Montana, North Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with a visit to West Virginia still on my schedule. Other NGAUS staffers, including our presi-dent, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, will appear at several other conferences. We go where we’re invited, and we can usually find a knowledgeable staffer to go—no matter the location or how short the notice. NGAUS is an association of asso-ciations, and these conferences are great opportunities for us to hear what is on the minds of our members. T Don’t assume that someone else will get the ball rolling. Take charge. Share your concerns and your knowledge on an issue. In fact, our legislative objectives begin taking shape at state conferences, where ideas for our priorities are often first voiced. This grassroots participation is a hallmark of NGAUS. Our members are our strength. From them, we find our association leaders, identify the issues important in armories and on flight lines, and communicate our needs to those in Congress who make the decisions. Without that effort in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, NGAUS would be not be an effective presence in the nation’s capital. Lawmakers know that the Guard is in every congres-sional district, a boast no other service can make. And they know, too, that the military is one of the few public insti-tutions still enjoying the respect of the American people. One reason for that is the example set by Guardsmen in more than 3,000 communities, not only while in uni-form but also in their civilian lives. Keep closer tabs on legislation by signing up for the weekly Washington Report at www.ngaus.org. For daily reports, click on the Newsroom. Whenever I meet with our members, I am always asked, “How can I help?” Just asking the question is a step in the right direction. It demonstrates an interest in the issues and a desire to participate in their resolution. Of course, the first step is to know what is going on so you can recognize where something is amiss. As professionals, we have a responsibility to keep up on issues related not only to the Guard, but to overall national security. NGAUS uses this magazine, a weekly e-newsletter and social media to keep members aware of what’s go-ing on in Washington, D.C. When an issue needs your immediate attention, we distribute legislative alerts via email. Don’t assume that someone else will get the ball rolling. Take charge. Share your concerns and your knowledge on an issue. Talk to peers, subordinates and supervisors. And take your concern to your state association. Make it part of the agenda at the state conference. From there, the path is nearly direct to the NGAUS legislative priority list that we compile every year. It’s important to know that most of the issues that NGAUS addresses have a price tag. Sometimes the re-sources are simply not there to support a change in pol-icy or adding a piece of equipment. Take time to learn how the Guard is funded so you can understand how lawmakers view legislation. Finally, remember that you can contact your elected officials directly. You vote, so they are ready to listen. So are their staffs. In fact, reaching out to the district and state office staffs can be effective. Invite them to your unit. Let them attend a deploy-ment ceremony or the homecoming of soldiers or air-men from an overseas mission. Tell them about a special training activity on your schedule. Those relationships will pay dividends when you need help with an issue. NGAUS is an effective advocate for the Guard in the nation’s capital. But our success depends on the partici-pation of each of you. The author is the NGAUS legislative director. He can be contacted at 202-408-5881 or at mike.hadley@ngaus.org. 12    NATIONAL GUARD   April 2017   WWW . NGAUS . ORG |

Washington Update

Mike Hadley

How You Can Help

Don’t assume that someone else will get the ball rolling. Take charge. Share your concerns and your knowledge on an issue.

THE STATE NATIONAL GUARD association conference season is in full swing. It kicks off annually in February and fills every weekend on the calendar until mid-June.

In recent weeks, it’s been my privilege to speak at conferences in Montana, North Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with a visit to West Virginia still on my schedule. Other NGAUS staffers, including our president, retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, will appear at several other conferences.

We go where we’re invited, and we can usually find a knowledgeable staffer to go—no matter the location or how short the notice. NGAUS is an association of associations, and these conferences are great opportunities for us to hear what is on the minds of our members.

In fact, our legislative objectives begin taking shape at state conferences, where ideas for our priorities are often first voiced. This grassroots participation is a hallmark of NGAUS.

Our members are our strength. From them, we find our association leaders, identify the issues important in armories and on flight lines, and communicate our needs to those in Congress who make the decisions.

Without that effort in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, NGAUS would be not be an effective presence in the nation’s capital.

Lawmakers know that the Guard is in every congressional district, a boast no other service can make. And they know, too, that the military is one of the few public institutions still enjoying the respect of the American people.

One reason for that is the example set by Guardsmen in more than 3,000 communities, not only while in uniform but also in their civilian lives.

Whenever I meet with our members, I am always asked, “How can I help-” Just asking the question is a step in the right direction. It demonstrates an interest in the issues and a desire to participate in their resolution.

Of course, the first step is to know what is going on so you can recognize where something is amiss. As professionals, we have a responsibility to keep up on issues related not only to the Guard, but to overall national security.

NGAUS uses this magazine, a weekly e-newsletter and social media to keep members aware of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. When an issue needs your immediate attention, we distribute legislative alerts via email.

Don’t assume that someone else will get the ball rolling. Take charge. Share your concerns and your knowledge on an issue. Talk to peers, subordinates and supervisors.

And take your concern to your state association. Make it part of the agenda at the state conference. From there, the path is nearly direct to the NGAUS legislative priority list that we compile every year.

It’s important to know that most of the issues that NGAUS addresses have a price tag. Sometimes the resources are simply not there to support a change in policy or adding a piece of equipment. Take time to learn how the Guard is funded so you can understand how lawmakers view legislation.

Finally, remember that you can contact your elected officials directly. You vote, so they are ready to listen. So are their staffs. In fact, reaching out to the district and state office staffs can be effective.

Invite them to your unit. Let them attend a deployment ceremony or the homecoming of soldiers or airmen from an overseas mission. Tell them about a special training activity on your schedule.

Those relationships will pay dividends when you need help with an issue.

NGAUS is an effective advocate for the Guard in the nation’s capital. But our success depends on the participation of each of you.

The author is the NGAUS legislative director. He can be contacted at 202-408-5881 or at mike.hadley@ngaus.org.

Bill Would Correct ‘Injustice’ For Wounded Guardsmen

National Guardsmen and Reservists stop earning credit for the Post-9/11 GI Bill when hospitalized or in rehabilitation for wounds, injuries or illnesses suffered on active-duty deployments.

Three senators have introduced legislation that would prevent reserve-component members from losing those benefits, which active-component troops continue to earn.

The GI Bill Fairness Act, which was introduced early this month by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would consider time in 12301h status, or medical hold, as active-duty service for the purpose of receiving the education benefit.

“It is absurd that combat-injured Guard and Reserve members are being unfairly penalized under current law,” Boozman said. “This legislation is needed to correct this injustice for our service members.”

Wyden described the current law as “inexplicable” and said, “Our common-sense, bipartisan legislation will fix this injustice by making sure these brave Americans get the benefits they’ve earned.”

New Technician Legislation Includes Benefits Equity

Legislation introduced last month would provide the most sweeping modernization to the National Guard military-technician program since its creation in 1968.

Military technicians provide much of the full-time support required to maintain Guard readiness. They are federally funded employees of the state military department. Most wear the uniform in the course of their duties and are required to serve part time in their state’s National Guard.

However, they do not enjoy the same benefits as other traditional Guardsmen. For example, they are not eligible for re-enlistment bonuses and they cannot purchase TRICARE Reserve Select, which is far less expensive than the medical coverage offered to federal government employees.

The Military Technician Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the Senate (S. 766), and Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., in the House (H.R. 1777), would provide technicians with benefits parity.

The legislation also caps the percentage of competitive technician positions at a level the Defense Department has determined will not degrade readiness.

“These inequities have persisted for far too long,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “The problem is the laws that govern the technician program. We greatly appreciate the provisions in this legislation that establish benefits to National Guardsmen without regard to employment status, and we look forward to being a part of the discussions sure to follow.”

Congress Votes to Extend Veterans Choice Program

The House voted unanimously this month to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue the Veterans Choice Program until it runs out of funding.

The Senate approved its version of the legislation earlier. The Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act now awaits the signature of President Donald Trump.

Congress created the $10 billion program in 2014 to enable some veterans to seek care at VA expense at non- VA facilities. Those eligible would otherwise have to wait 30 or more days for an appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic.

The program is set to expire Aug. 7, but more than $1 billion of the original funding is still available. The legislation extends the program until the funding runs out.

VA Secretary David Shulkin favors continuing an improved version of the program. He calls it Veterans Choice 2.0 and says it will be less bureaucratic and eliminate the time and distance requirements.

Bill Would Allow Deduction Of Drill Expenses for Some

Legislation in the Senate and House would allow National Guardsmen and Reservists to deduct from their taxes expenses incurred while traveling to and from a duty station.

The Tax Relief for Guard and Reserve Training Act (S. 697 and H.R. 1687), has the support of NGAUS, which distributed a legislative alert on the bill.

Under the legislation introduced by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, reserve-component members could deduct mileage, meal and lodging expenses from their adjusted-gross income. It applies only to journeys that exceed 50 miles.

Daines said in a statement, “This common-sense measure will ensure service members aren’t penalized for serving their country.” —Also contributing: Ron Jensen

Read the full article at http://nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Washington+Update/2768067/402332/article.html.

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