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TREA Legislative Update for October 13, 2006

Happy Friday the 13th! So far nothing very scary has happened. Nor anything terribly interesting either. Congress is out of town campaigning so there is little movement concerning our issues. That will speed up again during the lame duck Congress in November. Of course the real worry is about North Korea and its claimed atomic test. The action on that is, at the moment, in New York City at the U.N.  The next few Updates will be shorter than usual but there are still noteworthy things happening.

Special Targeted Raises
Federal Deficit Shrinks
The National Guard in the NDAAs
VA News
Weekly TRICARE Reserve Select Report

1) Special Targeted Raises- In the 07 NDAA Warrant Officers and a group of middle-grade enlisted personnel will receive a second pay raise. Warrant Officers raises will be between .9% to 8.3% depending on grade and years of service. Enlisted grades E-5 with 8 or more years of service and E-6 and E-7 grades with 12 or more years of service will receive raises of 1.2% to 2.5%.

2)  Federal Deficit Shrinks- The federal budget deficit shrank to its lowest level in 4 years. The 2006 fiscal year deficit is now estimated to be $248 billion; $71 billion below last year’s deficit. This is well below the $296 billion the Administration predicted in July or the $423 billion it had predicted in February.  The improvements were caused, in part, by corporate taxes $76.8 billion higher than expected and the fact that several Federal Departments, including DOD spent less that predicted in the midyear analysis.

3) The National Guard in the NDAAs- A section in the NDAA will allow the President to take control of the National Guard to deal with natural disasters, public health disasters and domestic terrorist attacks.  Under the present federal law, the Insurrection Act, the President may federalize the National Guard within the United States only to suppress a rebellion or enforce federal laws. The present provisions update the act to include national disasters, terrorist attacks and public health emergencies. The changes grew out of the conflict when President Bush wanted to federalize the National Guard in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina but was blocked by the State’s Governor. In 07 the size of the National Guard will be 350,000 members. The 07 National Defense Appropriations Act provides $4.8 billion for personnel spending; $4.3 billion for operations and maintenance and $2.9 billion in emergency spending to purchase equipment for the National Guard and Reserve.    

4)VA News- a) In Ohio the VA announced 2 new programs: A temporary VA Clinic in Newark, Ohio, was made permanent. It had opened as a temporary facility on March 15, 2004, and last year its 8 person staff had 8,400 outpatient visits. In the meantime the VA has signed a $21 million contract with OhioHealth to provide inpatient and outpatient care to Veterans in Columbus for the next 4 years. b) In New Jersey the VA announced that it will expand the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in North Hanover Township. c)  VA Secretary Nicholson has appointed a search Commission to recommend finalists for the post of Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Commission will be chaired by VA Deputy Secretary Gordon H. Mansfield. The other members of the Commission are Dr. Jordan J. Cohen, president emeritus for the Association of American Medical Colleges; Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, director for the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality; Jeffrey Oak, vice president for Bon Secours Health System, Inc.; John F. Sommer, Jr., executive director of The American Legion; and James B. King, national executive director of AMVETS; Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; Cynthia P. Heckscher, managing director of Diversified Search; Dr. George E. Thibault, chairman of VA's Special Medical Advisory Group; and Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, former VA under secretary for health. It is expected that Secretary Nicholson will make a nomination in January 2007.

5) Weekly TRICARE Reserve Select Report- Below is the TRICARE Reserve Select weekly count for October 6, 2006.   
Tier 1 plans: 11,600
Tier 2 plans: 258
Tier 3 plans: 28
Total current TRS beneficiaries:  33,346