Fra today – October 2018

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FRA Today – October 2018















The 2019 FRA Calendar
Hello Shipmates!

The 2019 Fleet Reserve Association Calendars are hot off the printing press. This year, the images compiled are some of the most illustrative and engaging photographs taken by Armed Services personnel in the past year or so. The photographers not only serve their chosen branch of service, but they also have a real knack for being in the right places at the right times.

One example is the photograph used for January. I just cannot imagine standing on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf while an F/A-18F Super Hornet launches AND getting the picture! It is not like you can stand up and say, “Hold it! I didn’t get the shot. Can we do that again?”

The cover took a little more time, thought and research. Since we featured the Marines in 2017 and the Navy in 2018, this was the year for the Coast Guard. What struck me about the image we chose was the contrast created by the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, with the Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE it was flying next to in Norfolk, Virginia. The EAGLE is a 295-foot barque sailing vessel used to train Coast Guard Academy cadets in the historic aspects of sailing, leadership, navigation and teamwork. Old and new, side by side.

I hope you enjoy your calendar and appreciate the fantastic images compiled this year. We really enjoy this project and look forward to it each year. FRA
In Loyalty, Protection & Service,

William Stevenson, Communications & Marketing Director

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Happy 243rd Birthday, U.S. Navy!

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Navy was officially recognized as a “sea service” that would “support and defend” while spearheading a nation towards its independence.

Our Navy, has not only served as a measurable gauge, but proclaims the “national defense and tranquility” of a nation that “secures the blessings” of a free-trade for economic development, while bringing together the peoples of the world. This may not have been in the original Magna Carta but a blueprint for the future.

Sailors, as a whole, are kindred to each other. No place on our planet can awareness, understanding nor “carry-on” be more attributable to the ways of the oceans, seas, lakes and bodies of waters, than through the Navies of the world and its sailors. It unites us in “peril on the sea” while tapping off the “splice the mainbrace” to our mission. More than 75 percent of our planet is covered with water and within that geographic dimension, our attention to the environmental respect of what “she” may throw at us, is demanded.

Sometimes we forget that bond, association and appreciation in the “BRAVO-ZULU” to each other. Our sister sea services, the Marines and the Coast Guard know all too well those ideals in the “chewing the fat” of unity of “ALL HANDS ON DECK.” Our “watch” is to “steam ahead” to share and take care of our shipmates and yes, their families. “Full steam ahead” to strive for progress, not perfection, from the engine rooms, on deck or even up in the “crow’s nest.” We have to maintain the “guard to protect” and be SEMPER PARATUS for our homeland and others.

As we “dress ship” to salute our Navy, take a moment and say, “Well Done” to all sea service members. “Holy stone” old ideas and make “brassy shine” new ones. Visit a Career Center (Recruiting Office) and Reserve Centers, to pass along the well-deserved “WELL DONE.” “Toll the ships bell” for our “fallen” shipmates, but always toast the memory of “The Lone Sailor.”

Two distinguished Americans have given “ahoy” in their character and esteemed memories in the following two quotes:

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, nor a lack of knowledge, but rather, a lack of will.” —Vince Lombardi

The most highly recognized “nautical mainstay” is from President John F. Kennedy.

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career, and man (or woman) who may be asked in this century what he/she did to make his/her life worthwhile, that can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: I served in the United States Navy.”

Again, Happy “Navy” Birthday, ANCHORS AWEIGH! PRESS ON! FRA

In Loyalty, Protection & Service

NED Tom Snee

Tom is FRA’s National Executive Director and can be reached at
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Is this the new Navy Pride?

The Great Memories letter from LCDR (LDO) Bruce De Wald USN (Ret.) in the July issue of FRAtoday started me thinking of my own observations, now that I am retired from the Navy after serving 26 years. At that time in 1992, I already felt there was something missing compared to when I started serving.

The new Navy now appeared to want to show how much more important getting a college degree was to “getting the job done.” I remember having to wait on needed information to get my job completed while the individual who needed to supply it had to leave work early for classes, which were only given at the local college during working hours. When evaluation time came around, he was commended for having achieved this. No note was taken about his failure to train others in his work center to perform his duties during his absence, because getting that college degree was more noteworthy for the Command than others doing their jobs.

Now here it is, 2018, and I wonder where the Navy Pride has gone. I live in Pensacola, Florida and the only Navy uniforms I see off base are camouflage and flight suits. We had to wear our dress uniforms during off duty hours, even on weekends and holidays. While I did not much like the “crackerjacks,” I was still proud to wear it and show my pride in the Navy and with each rise in grade, to show off what I had accomplished. Now it almost appears as if the Navy wants to be just another company, with no reason to train the next generation of Sailors. Encouraging them to get all of the college education they can and getting advanced, sending the message that military training is not so important any more. We will get by. Walter B. Carillion, CEC, USN (Ret.)
Sorry Lowe’s, “I AM MILITARY, SEE?”

Recently, I visited a Lowe’s store in Florida. When checking out I asked if Lowe’s gave a military discount to military members. The clerk said, “yes” so I presented my Navy I.D. Without even looking at my I.D. she said, “in order to obtain a military discount you must fill out a form and register with Lowe’s before I can give you a military discount.”

I was very much insulted that my official Navy I.D. card had no meaning to Lowe’s Corp. and that I must prove to them that I was legitimate. At that point, I asked the Lowe’s employee what the form for registration consisted of. She replied that it required information such as address, telephone number, I.D. card number or social security number. I said that I did not and never would give out such information for anyone to keep on their files.

If Lowe’s Corp. told me they did not give military discounts I would accept that. Many other places do not offer military discounts and that does not offend me. What greatly offends me is that my military I.D. card, which I worked 34 years to obtain, means nothing to Lowe’s.

Since that day, I have not entered, nor will I ever enter a Lowe’s store. I have talked to more than 50 other military members about Lowe’s and 90 percent of them feel the same way. We are all upset that our official military I.D. card means nothing to the Lowe’s Corp.

I suggest Lowe’s either give military discounts based on producing a military I.D. card or just don’t offer a military discount. It is insulting to me that they ask for proof other than my official Navy I.D. card. I worked very hard for many years serving my country in the Navy to obtain my Navy I.D. card.

MCPO Wayne Dean US Navy (Ret.) FRA Life Member

Submit Shipmate Forum letters to FRAtoday, 125 N. West Street Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Submissions may be sent to Please include “Shipmate Forum” in the subject line. FRA reserves the right to select and edit letters for publication. Letters published in Shipmate Forum reflect the opinions and views of individual FRA members. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of FRA as a whole. FRA is not responsible for the accuracy of letter content.

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Congress on Schedule for a Change
As this issue of FRAtoday goes to press, Congress is working to complete the FY2019 spending (appropriations) bills before the start of the fiscal year. FRA dispatched a letter to key appropriators reminding them that we are still a nation at war. The U.S. military is struggling to remain effective in the face of marginalized and unpredictable funding levels. The all-important FY2019 defense appropriations legislation provides the necessary resources and continuity for our military services to grow, equip, train and sustain the all-volunteer force necessary to meet today's growing global threats. This is also the first time since 1996 that the NDAA was sent to the President before October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. (See PresidentSigns NDAA story below for further details.)
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President signs FY 2019 NDAA into law
President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.5515) at Fort Drum, New York, which is the home of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division. The bill passed both chambers of Congress with large margins (House 359-54 and Senate 87-10). This is the first time since 1996 that the NDAA will be sent to the President on or before October 1. Key provisions of the bill include:
• Blocking a TRICARE fee increase that would have doubled annual fees for TRICARE beneficiaries under age 65;

• Expanding the VA Caregiver Program to include all severely disabled veterans. The original program applied only to severely disabled veterans that were injured after September 11, 2001;

• Limiting rent increases for residents at the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) for next year and prohibiting the AFRH from removing residents only because they are unable to pay rent;

• Increasing Navy and Marine Corps reserve and active duty end strength for FY2019;

• Increasing annual active duty pay by 2.6 percent, keeping pace with civilian pay increases;

• Repealing a scheduled one percent cut in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for active duty;

• Expanding availability of Military One Source for retired and discharged members of the Armed Forces (see story on page 14);

• Allowing Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, former POW, service-connected disability veterans and caregivers for disabled veterans to use commissaries and MWR facilities;

• Permitting veterans, who have a 100 percent service connected disability, to utilize a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard; and

• Mandating maximum life insurance coverage for service members deployed in combat zone.

This final bill provides an overall increase in top line funding to support our troops and readiness recovery. FRA wants to thank Shipmates for using the FRA Action Center for issues pertaining to the NDAA.
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NED Meets with SecNav Retiree Council and VA Secretary
National Executive Director Tom Snee met with members of the Secretary of the Navy Retiree Council. NED Snee and staff from several other associations provided a legislative update to the Council. He stressed the need to pass the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R.299) this year. The original proposal would clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide.

During the committee markup in the House, the legislation was amended to extend the presumption of herbicide exposure for veterans who served on or near the Korean DMZ between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971. As amended, the legislation will now also extend health care, vocational training and rehabilitation and monetary allowance to a child who was born with spina bifida, if at least one of the child’s parents served in Thailand between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 and the VA determines that at least one of the parents had been exposed to an herbicide agent during that period. The bill also now includes improvements to VA’s home loan program. The bill passed the House by a unanimous vote (382-0) and has had a hearing in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC). As of yet, no committee vote has been scheduled. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center located on the website to urge their Senators to support the bill.

Other issues discussed include:
• The possibility for more TRICARE fee increases for military retirees;

• SBP/DIC offset repeal legislation;

• Discussing efforts to reduce veterans suicide;

• Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges being reviewed due to PTSD;

• Burn pit exposure legislation (H.R.5671); and

• Lack of financial literacy for active duty personnel making investment decisions with the new Blended Retirement System.

In related news, NED Tom Snee met with the new VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, confirmed in July, to discuss veteran’s issues. This off-the-record meeting included a discussion of the pending “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act” (H.R.299), and VA efforts to reduce the frequency of veteran suicide.
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July 2018 CPI at 2.9 Percent
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retired pay, VA benefits for disabled veterans, survivor annuities and Social Security benefits for the next year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the CPI inflation rate for July 2018, was 2.9 percent and the rate of year-over-year growth is up 0.2 percent from last month. Last year’s COLA was 2 percent. Since 2008, the annual COLA has been above 2 percent only once and has been at zero three times. This year’s COLA will be announced in October.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is an indicator of the general level of prices. CPI is a benchmark to determine the cost of a “basket of goods” for the average American. Components in the “basket of goods” include gasoline, electricity, food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care and entertainment. When the consumer price index goes up, it is an indication that consumers have to pay more for the same amount of goods and services.

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SASC Chairmen Passes
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator John McCain passed away from brain cancer just before his 82nd birthday on August 25, 2018. The Senior Senator from Arizona who served as a Navy fighter pilot and for more than five years was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, served nearly 32 years in the Senate (1987-2018) and two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1983-1987). The Naval Academy graduate ran twice for President unsuccessfully (2000 & 2008). FRA awarded Senator John McCain the Pinnacle award in 2000.

The Senator will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Only 31 Americans have lain in state or in honor in the Capitol Rotunda since the structure was completed in 1824. Most recently, evangelist Billy Graham lay in honor from February 28 to March 1, 2018.

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FRA Media Briefing on Predatory Lending Regulations
LP John Davis participated in a media briefing to explain the association’s concerns about media reports that the Administration is planning to roll back enforcement of the Military Lending Act (MLA). Davis told the media that this legislation was included in the FY2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and passed in 2006. In addition, the Dodd-Frank banking regulation legislation passed in 2010 and included the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) that provided for the Office of Servicemembers Affairs that enforced MLA, as well as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

FRA, with several other like-minded groups, signed and sent a letter to President Trump expressing the groups’ concerns, including the impact on military readiness and security clearances for service members. In addition, 49 Senators signed a letter to President Trump urging him not to relax MLA oversight over predatory lenders.

The MLA was an FRA-supported measure that passed in 2006 as part of the FY2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It had bipartisan support to help safeguard active duty military members and their families from financial fraud, predatory loans and credit gouging. The law caps the annual interest rate for an extension of consumer credit to a service member or his or her dependents at 36 percent. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center on the FRA website ( to send a message to President Trump asking him not to reduce regulatory oversight of predatory lenders.

In related news, the Department of Defense (DoD) made some significant changes to the way it monitors security clearances. The federal government recently implemented new security clearance guidelines that make it more important than ever for service members to stay on top of their bills and monitor their credit histories. DoD will now “continuously” monitor the financial status of service members with security clearances. This means that a past-due bill or an error on your credit report could jeopardize your clearance status. For more information on new changes to security clearances go to:
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CNO Selects New MCPON
The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson selected Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith to be the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) on August 29. “After a thorough and deliberate review process, I am confident that Fleet Master Chief Smith is the right leader to be our Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy,” said Richardson. “I look forward to working with him to advocate for our Sailors and their families selflessly serving around the world.” The previous MCPON Steven Giordano resigned last June. His resignation came during an ongoing inquiry by the Navy Inspector General’s office into claims he created a “toxic work environment” in his office. Fleet Master Chief SW/IW/AW Russell Smith had been acting MCPON since Giordano resigned. He joined the Navy in 1988 and began his career as an airman, later becoming a weapons technician and an intelligence specialist. His sea duty assignments have included SEAL Team 4 and the aircraft carriers USS ENTERPRISE, USS CARL VINSON and USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

As the Navy’s 15th MCPON, Smith will serve as the senior-ranking enlisted leader and advisor to the CNO. The position of MCPON was created by legislation in 1966 that was strongly supported by FRA. The MCPON also serves as a spokesperson on issues impacting enlisted personnel.

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Navy Retirement Boards for Officers and Senior Enlisted
Despite the increasing end strength authorizations, the Navy has announced it will hold selective early retirement boards for specific groups of officers later this year. The goal is to force non-performing senior officers into retirement. This is the first time since 2012 that the Navy has employed officer retirement boards.

The Navy will also convene a senior enlisted board this coming December. As part of the “Sailor 2025 Up-And-Stay” program, officials will grant more High Year Tenure waivers to chiefs, senior chiefs and master chief petty officers who will serve at sea or other tough jobs in order to continue their Navy service.

FRA wants to ensure that early retirement and other benefits will be authorized for service members involuntarily separated with less than 20 years of service. This includes the temporary early retirement authority (TERA) program to minimize the impact of end strength reductions on career personnel.
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Bill to Expand Veterans Treatment Court Sent to President
The Senate recently passed the “Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act” (H.R. 2147), sponsored by Chairman of the House Armed Services, Military Personnel Subcommittee, Mike Coffman (CO). The House passed this bill in June, and recently the Senate passed it unanimously. The bill now goes to the President’s desk for his expected signing into law.

This FRA-supported legislation requires the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to hire 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists to aid in the rehabilitation of veterans caught up in the criminal justice system due to convictions on misdemeanor offenses. Under the expansion of this program, more veterans will be diverted from serving sentences behind bars to Veterans Treatment Courts providing them with a second chance by participating in a court-mandated treatment program with services coordinated and provided by the VA. Currently, there are not enough VJO specialists to serve all of the eligible veterans. Veterans Treatment Courts are designed to deal directly with behavioral problems associated with PTSD, substance abuse, and anger management—symptoms that are often associated with repeated combat tours of duty.

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Veteran’s Unemployment Drops
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows veterans who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 had an unemployment rate of 3 percent in July—the lowest it has ever been since 2006. Overall veteran unemployment dropped from 3.3 percent in June 2018 to 3 percent in July 2018. Non-veteran unemployment stayed at 4 percent for the same time period.

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Eligibility for Military One Source Benefits Expanded
The Department of Defense (DoD) announced it will extend eligibility for Military OneSource benefits from the current 180 days to 365 days after separation or retirement from military service. This is to ensure that all service members and families have access to comprehensive support as they transition to civilian life. The change was authorized by the recently signed into law, National Defense Authorization Act, and goes into effect immediately. Military OneSource provides information, resources and support for active duty and Reserve Component members, as well as their families and survivors. Provided at no cost, Military OneSource gives exclusive access to programs, tools and benefits designed to help ensure service members and their families are mission-ready and able to thrive in both their military and post-military lives.

As a DoD program, Military OneSource offers a wide range of services designed exclusively for the military community. Some of the services include help with relocation, tax support, financial planning and health and wellness coaching. Also offered are confidential non-medical counseling and specialty consultations for spouse employment, education, adoption, elder care and special needs care. Military OneSource services are accessible 24/7. Service members and family members can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or go to To explore the complete list of benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, go to

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