National Guard November 2012 : Page 14

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Good Job By Pete Duffy I Other states may want to take a close look at California’s Work for Warriors program. N RESPONSE TO unemployment rates of 50 percent for California National Guardsmen returning from a deployment, the state’s legislature provided a $500,000 grant not long ago to fund the California Guard’s Work for Warriors program. The effort is already paying dividends. The goal of Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the California adjutant general, is to reduce unemployment by 25 percent in one year with a particular focus on assisting units returning from deployment. He is well on the way. In its first two months, Work for War-riors found jobs for 100 Guardsmen. The key to its early success has been the ability of the program to build relationships with members and employers. Even before a Guardsman returns from the overseas deployment, the Work for Warriors staff is collecting information and helping craft a good résumé. The program tries to match the interests and skills of job seekers with its list of em-ployers committed to hiring Guardsmen. Work for Warriors connects the employ-er with the prospective employee. The state has learned that employers prefer this method over the jumble and chaos of job fairs. Other states may want to give it a close look. Another Looming Deadline Somewhat obscured by the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the need to raise the debt ceiling and the overhang of sequestration ( cover story, October 2012 ) is the deadline for the programmed reduction in the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians. Payment rates in the TRICARE program are tied to Medicare rates. To control the growth in Medicare payments to physi-cians, a complicated programmed formula, which is designed to keep rates in line with a targeted “sustainable growth rate,” is set to reduce payment rates 21 percent on Jan. 1. The fear is that the reduced payments will prevent some doctors from taking Medicare and TRICARE patients. Before the end of the year, Congress must again take action to reverse the sched-uled reduction. Still Failing Mental Health The Defense Department and Congress have done little to address the problem of National Guard behavioral health, in gen-eral, and suicide, in particular. Take congressional funding for the em-bedded mental health program. The House version of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act in-cluded language creating the program that would have put mental health care profes-sionals in close proximity with Guardsmen. And it funded the idea with Defense Health Program dollars. But during the conference committee to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the NDAA, the House conferees backed away from their chamber’s commitment. Suddenly, under pressure from sources we do not know, they switched the funding from Defense Health Program to operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts. The consequence of this change has been to chill the implementation of the em-bed program in the Guard because of the intense competition for the limited O&M dollars in the states. This happened despite a surplus in the Defense Health Program that is expected to climb to more than $708 million this year. Go figure. The natural and foreseeable conse-quence of this funding change has been reduced behavioral health screening and treatment for the Guard and Reserve, and heightened risks of untreated major depres-sion and suicides. These are problems that the embed program might have discovered. The author is the NGAUS acting legislative director. He can be reached at pete.duffy@ ngaus.org. 14 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Pete Duffy

Good Job<br /> <br /> Other states may want to take a close look at California’s Work for Warriors program.<br /> <br /> IN RESPONSE TO unemployment rates of 50 percent for California National Guardsmen returning from a deployment, the state’s legislature provided a $500,000 grant not long ago to fund the California Guard’s Work for Warriors program.<br /> <br /> The effort is already paying dividends.<br /> <br /> The goal of Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the California adjutant general, is to reduce unemployment by 25 percent in one year with a particular focus on assisting units returning from deployment.<br /> <br /> He is well on the way.<br /> <br /> In its first two months, Work for Warriors found jobs for 100 Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> The key to its early success has been the ability of the program to build relationships with members and employers.<br /> <br /> Even before a Guardsman returns from the overseas deployment, the Work for Warriors staff is collecting information and helping craft a good résumé.<br /> <br /> The program tries to match the interests and skills of job seekers with its list of employers committed to hiring Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> Work for Warriors connects the employer with the prospective employee.<br /> <br /> The state has learned that employers prefer this method over the jumble and chaos of job fairs.<br /> <br /> Other states may want to give it a close look.<br /> <br /> Another Looming Deadline<br /> <br /> Somewhat obscured by the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the need to raise the debt ceiling and the overhang of sequestration (cover story, October 2012) is the deadline for the programmed reduction in the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians.<br /> <br /> Payment rates in the TRICARE program are tied to Medicare rates. To control the growth in Medicare payments to physicians, a complicated programmed formula, which is designed to keep rates in line with a targeted “sustainable growth rate,” is set to reduce payment rates 21 percent on Jan. 1.<br /> <br /> The fear is that the reduced payments will prevent some doctors from taking Medicare and TRICARE patients.<br /> <br /> Before the end of the year, Congress must again take action to reverse the scheduled reduction.<br /> <br /> Still Failing Mental Health<br /> <br /> The Defense Department and Congress have done little to address the problem of National Guard behavioral health, in general, and suicide, in particular.<br /> <br /> Take congressional funding for the embedded mental health program.<br /> <br /> The House version of the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act included language creating the program that would have put mental health care professionals in close proximity with Guardsmen. And it funded the idea with Defense Health Program dollars.<br /> <br /> But during the conference committee to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the NDAA, the House conferees backed away from their chamber’s commitment.<br /> <br /> Suddenly, under pressure from sources we do not know, they switched the funding from Defense Health Program to operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts.<br /> <br /> The consequence of this change has been to chill the implementation of the embed program in the Guard because of the intense competition for the limited O&M dollars in the states.<br /> <br /> This happened despite a surplus in the Defense Health Program that is expected to climb to more than $708 million this year.<br /> <br /> Go figure.<br /> <br /> The natural and foreseeable consequence of this funding change has been reduced behavioral health screening and treatment for the Guard and Reserve, and heightened risks of untreated major depression and suicides. These are problems that the embed program might have discovered.<br /> <br /> The author is the NGAUS acting legislative director. He can be reached at pete.duffy@ ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> Budget: What We Know, Don’t Know About Deliberations, Defense Strategy<br /> <br /> The current budget cycle—and what lies ahead—is more uncertain than any in modern memory.<br /> <br /> The Defense Department is currently preparing its fiscal 2014 budget request, balancing myriad variables to address the nation’s defense needs in what will be a more constrained environment, with or without sequestration (cover story, October 2012) .<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the entire federal government is functioning under a six-month continuing resolution for the current fiscal year signed by the president Sept. 28. It essentially funds operations at slightly above fiscal 2012 levels through March 27.<br /> <br /> However, because it’s not a full budget, the stop-gap measure causes serious problems, hindering contracting and production plans, among other things.<br /> <br /> The nation has been here before, planning for current and future fiscal years at the same time.<br /> <br /> However, this time is particularly noteworthy because not only are the finances uncertain, the nation’s defense strategy moving forward is called into question. Pentagon officials say the current strategy, without factoring in cuts through sequestration, already assumes maximum risk.<br /> <br /> Sequestration, which would cut $600 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years, would throw current plans out the window.<br /> <br /> Continuing Resolution: Good News For Guard Counterdrug Program<br /> <br /> Congress is once again stepping up to ensure the proper funding of National Guard counterdrug program.<br /> <br /> The continuing resolution, which funds the government through March, includes as much funding for state counterdrug programs ($89 million) as the Pentagon originally requested for all fiscal 2013 ($105.9 million).<br /> <br /> But the real good news is that both the House and Senate intend to fund the program at levels close to the fiscal 2012 appropriation of $229.7 million.<br /> <br /> The House defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 includes an additional $130 Million over the original proposal, while the Senate version contains a $113 million add.<br /> <br /> House and Senate negotiators will reconcile the different figures in a conference committee later in the process, which still could be affected by sequestration.<br /> <br /> Many Retired National Guardsmen Still Denied Official Veterans Status<br /> <br /> Thousands of retired National Guardsmen will spend another Veterans Day wondering if America truly appreciates their service.<br /> <br /> At issue is the federal government’s definition of a veteran. In short, Guard service alone does not meet the criteria if it does not include six months of active duty for a fully federal mission.<br /> <br /> Even homeland security missions don’t count because they are performed in a state status.<br /> <br /> This means an active-component member who serves a few months at a domestic post is a veteran, but a Guardsmen who spends 20 years training and serving on a variety of missions at home is not.<br /> <br /> NGAUS believes it’s a demeaning bureaucratic definition that should be changed.<br /> <br /> Legislation passed in the House of Representatives would begin to do just that. H.R. 1025, which was introduced by Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., would grant veteran status to anyone who served at least 20 years in the Guard or Reserves.<br /> <br /> It would not bestow eligibility for veterans’ benefits, but it would allow all Guard retirees to consider themselves veterans.<br /> <br /> The Senate has yet to address similar legislation (S. 491) sponsored by Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark.<br /> <br /> If the Senate doesn’t pass its version of the bill this year, the effort would have to start all over in the new Congress next year.<br /> <br /> —Contributor: Annie Lively<br /> <br /> Legislation 101<br /> <br /> Conference Committee: A temporary, ad hoc panel composed of House and Senate members formed to reconcile differences in legislation that has passed both chambers.<br /> <br /> Keep closer tabs on legislation by signing up for the weekly Washington Report at www.ngaus.org. For daily reports, click the Blogspot icon at www.ngaus.org.

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