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  Posted on 7/25/2014

Senate Panel Likes McDonald

July 23rd, 2014: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously approved President Obama’s pick to lead the controversy laden Department of Veterans Affairs, sending his nomination to the full chamber. Although it is unclear when the full Senate will actually vote on former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald to run the agency, Wednesday’s decision suggests final approval could come prior to the August recess. At his confirmation hearing earlier in the week, McDonald promised to hold the department’s employees responsible for their actions and reform the troubled agency. He told lawmakers. “Employees that have violated the trust of the department and of veterans must be, and will be, held accountable.” Over the past two weeks, AFSA has been urging Members of Congress to fill the vacancy quickly, so the difficult task of fixing VA’s problems can begin in earnest.

  Posted on 7/25/2014

MCRMC Still Wants Your Input, So Does AFSA

July 25th, 2014: The Military Retirement & Compensation Modernization Commission launched a survey last month. AFSA encourages any members who have received invitations to participate in the survey to do so. It is a unique opportunity to perhaps shape the MCRMC’s final report due to the President and Congress by February 2015. That said, anyone participating should be sure to take their time, read questions thoroughly and think about their answers…in other words don’t just whip through it. Additionally, any AFSA members who have already completed the survey are encouraged to contact AFSA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations via email at pgrugin@hqafsa.org for a few follow up questions about the survey itself.

Below is a message from the MCRMC staff to survey recipients:

Dear Service Member,

Recently the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission notified many of you that you were selected to complete a special, invitation-only survey on future military pay and benefits. Your voice is needed, and your answers will speak not only for yourself, but for fellow Service members of similar backgrounds. If you received the survey please take it. Your answers are anonymous, strictly confidential, and will not be connected to any of your personal data.

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is an independent federal agency whose mission is to propose recommendations to the President and Congress on modernization of military compensation and retirement systems. Your answers will assist them greatly in shaping their proposed recommendations. If you do not participate before the close of the survey, there will not be another opportunity to directly influence the Commission's decision making.

  Posted on 7/25/2014

Déjà Vu

July 25th, 2014: Only a handful of days remain before Congress plans to depart for the August recess and lawmakers find themselves in a familiar place; a full plate of “must pass” legislation which includes the 12 annual appropriations bills, the defense policy bill and important Veterans legislation. Hope still remains for passage of a bill to address VA healthcare access prior to the break, but there is none for the funding bills or the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Regarding the latter, for the second straight year Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin has instructed his staff to begin “pre-conferencing” with the House Armed Services Committee on a final NDAA for FY2015—even though the upper chamber has yet to complete its version of the bill. Levin says he gave the green light for the preliminary discussions because he needed a fallback position in case the Senate bill doesn’t reach the floor this fall. The House completed its version of the bill two months ago, and has been waiting for the Senate to catch up. Meanwhile we’ve seen several reports that House leaders may be thinking about moving a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through the first few months of fiscal 2015 very soon. Efforts in both chambers to fund the government through the normal appropriations process have fallen flat in recent weeks. With the upcoming General Election this November, it is clear some lawmakers want to avoid another government shutdown if at all possible.