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04 Aug 21. Big VA budget boost on track as Senate panel backs $270bn spending plan. Senate appropriators on Wednesday backed White House plans for another substantial boost in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs next year, signaling strong support for the idea across congressional chambers.
The committee also supported plans from the administration and House appropriators to spend about $11bn in military construction projects next year, even as lawmakers continue to argue over the total level of defense spending for fiscal 2022.
“[This plan] enhances readiness and quality of life for servicemembers and their families, and funds quality care and benefits for our nation’s veterans,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. and chairman of the appropriations committee’s panel on VA spending.
“Homelessness services and prevention will be continued with this funding, and it makes a historic level of investment in medical research.”
The VA/Military Construction bill passed by a 25-5 vote, with most Republican votes against the measure focused largely on complaints about the budgeting process and not the specifics of the spending plan.
If approved by the full House and Senate later this year, the legislation would boost discretionary spending for Veterans Affairs by nearly 9 percent (to about $113bn) and raise total department spending to nearly $270bn next year, the largest in history.
That would mark yet another substantial funding increase for a department that has seen uninterrupted raises for the last 20 years.
In fiscal 2001, the VA budget totaled about $45bn. By fiscal 2011, it was about $125bn, almost triple that total. Ten years later, in 2021, the department’s budget was nearly double that again, at $245bn.
The Senate Appropriations Committee plan is about $200m less than what House lawmakers approved last week for VA spending next year, with small differences in medical program spending. House appropriators added that money to President Joe Biden’s budget proposal released in May.
The committee added language to the bill which would rescind federal rules prohibiting VA doctors from discussing medical cannabis use with patients. The idea has been floated by lawmakers multiple times in recent years, but failed to become law.
Within the Senate plan, $13.1bn would be set aside for veterans mental health care services, $2.4bn for expanded telehealth services, $2.1bn for veterans homelessness prevention efforts and $1.4bn for VA’s program supporting caregivers.
Another $2.5bn would be set aside for implementation of VA’s new electronic medical records overhaul plan, which was halted earlier this summer after department officials found serious flaws with their training and deployment schedule. House lawmakers had approved $100m more for that work, above the president’s request.
“By providing record-level funding for our veterans, we are demonstrating our commitment to addressing critical challenges they face including preventing veteran suicide, increasing rural access to health care, investing in essential mental health programs, and putting an end to veteran homelessness,” Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. and ranking member of the appropriations committee’s panel on VA spending, said in a statement.
As it has in recent years, the bill also includes about $267bn in advance appropriations for VA in fiscal 2023, to ensure that potential Capitol Hill fiscal fights do not disrupt VA medical care or benefits delivery.
On the military construction side, about $1.4n of the $11bn total would be set aside for improvements and maintenance for military housing.
Despite the bipartisan vote out of committee, the future of the VA and military construction budget bill remains uncertain. During Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans to block the spending bills on the chamber floor until his party gets concessions on military spending.
“Our Democratic colleagues must commit to respecting parity,” he said. “National security and border security need to grow at parity with non-defense [agencies] within an overall number that we can all accept. The Senate cannot be writing budgets based on the president’s partisan budget request with cuts to defense funding.”
Senate appropriators have signaled they may support increasing military spending over the $715bn mark set in Biden’s budget, but House appropriators have already approved plans for a defense budget at that level for next fiscal year. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
03 Aug 21. TIAG and CoachMePlus win US Army contract for ARCP programme. The five-year contract facilitates the enhanced rehabilitation efficiency for wounded warriors by the ARCP programme.
The US Army has awarded $1.4m contract to TIAG and CoachMePlus under the Army Recovery Care Program (ARCP).
Technology specialist TIAG has formed an exclusive partnership with CoachMePlus to bring a commercial athlete management system (AMS) to the US Department of Defence (DoD) marketplace.
The new AMS is known as Warrior Performance Platform (WP2) and is designed in partnership with CoachMePlus and TIAG.
ARCP is a US Army programme that handles recovery and complex care for wounded, sick and injured soldiers across all the components in the Army.
The five-year contract enables the ARCP programme to enhance accessibility and efficiency of rehabilitation for wounded warriors using CoachMePlus and the TIAG platform.
WP2 platform will provide a digital Activity Clearance Form (ACF) for each soldier and real-time calendar updates for the ARCP-related events.
Furthermore, the platform will provide compliance with weekly ARCP requirements using a centralised tracking of Soldier AR participation.
TIAG president and COO Neil Lampton said: “We are honoured to expand our relationship with the Department of Defense and the ARCP to continue helping warriors, especially wounded warriors, with a dynamic, customisable and proven tool that will allow them to automate business practices and support staff and soldier engagement in the ARCP Adaptive Reconditioning Program.”
According to the companies, WP2 will serve a total of 14 Soldier Recovery Units and automate involvement in the Adaptive Reconditioning Program.
CoachMePlus co-founder and president Kevin Dawidowicz said: “This solution will provide a highly customisable tool for support staff across the ARCP to help hyper-personalise rehabilitative care for our soldier’s recovery process.
“Our current work in the Department of Defense has provided valuable lessons in working with a large and complex enterprise organisation with very unique needs.”
The partnership of both companies is aimed at providing ARCP with advanced human performance technology for injured warriors. (Source: army-technology.com)
02 Aug 21. Roke receives Defence Silver ERS Award for commitment to Armed Forces in the South East. Roke is proud to receive the prestigious Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Silver Award from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for its support and continued commitment to the Armed Forces community in the South East region.
The award is the second highest badge of honour presented to organisations that demonstrate their support to the Armed Forces and inspire others to do the same.
As a silver award winner, Roke has shown it actively communicates and upholds a positive stance for employees who are veterans, Reservists and Cadet Force Adult volunteers, as well as spouses and partners of those serving in the Armed Forces.
The values of the ERS closely align with its mission and culture which is dedicated to combining and applying emerging technologies to keep people safe whilst unlocking value. Roke signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2017 and was delighted to receive a Bronze Award in 2018. The company has over 30 employees in its Armed Forces community, and they are supported through a number of policies and initiatives designed to make transition from service personnel to employee as smooth as possible.
Here are some of the ways Roke delivers on its commitments:
- An additional fifteen days paid leave to Reservist employees to complete tours
- Support for Reservists during times of mobilisation and demobilisation
- A sympathetic and flexible approach to requests for leave from service spouses and partners before, during and post operational deployments
- Supporting the rehabilitation of wounded, injured and sick service personnel through relationships with charitable organisations and initiatives dedicated to these causes (Roke’s current charity is Pilgrim Bandits)
- Recruitment of recent service leavers and veterans. All Roke vacancies are listed with the MoD’s Career Transition Partnership
- A Veterans Network employee resource group open to all employees, regardless of service history and includes non-veterans
- Formal recognition of Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day every year through Senior Leadership Team led events
- Submission of numerous nominations for both veterans and Reservists to the Ex-Forces in Business Awards
- Acting as an advocate for the Armed Forces Covenant by encouraging and supporting suppliers and customers to adopt the principles of the Covenant
- Providing training on Roke defence products and capabilities to support Armed Forces training programmes
Paul MacGregor, Managing Director of Roke commented: “This award means a great deal to Roke and recognises the enormous contribution and commitment that our service men and women make in defence of our country. Their considerable leadership, management and engineering skills, honed during military service, strengthen our ability to understand our defence customers’ complex operational and technical challenges. These skills are vital to our future success.”
Michael Walters, Operations Manager at Roke and military veteran said: “Like many, I found it a daunting prospect leaving the service after a long career in the British Army. At Roke, all employees have the option of joining our Roke Veterans Network (RVN). The RVN provides a safe landing space for veterans transitioning from the service where ‘fitting in’ comes naturally, and provides some respite from the stresses of adjusting to the civilian workplace. It is also a place where shared experience helps to drive the success of our business through an intimate understanding of our Defence and National Security customers’.”
Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Leo Docherty MP said: “I would like to thank all of the organisations who have proven their support for the Defence community during such unprecedented and challenging times. The vast range of those recognised this year demonstrates how employing the Armed Forces community makes a truly positive and beneficial impact for all employers, regardless of size, sector or location.”
Roke is one of 48 organisations to be awarded Silver this year in the South East region, including NHS trusts, educational institutions, charities, police services, fire & rescue services, councils and a range of private businesses. This year’s awardees brings the total number of Silver holders in the South East to 139.
30 Jul 21. Information for veterans about The Accumulated Campaign Service Medal (ACSM) 1994 and 2011. Clarification of the qualification criteria for the ACSM 1994 and 2011. The Ministry of Defence can confirm that a formal review of the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal eligibility criteria has been completed. Due to ambiguity within the policy, it was necessary to pause all ACSM applications submitted since 2019, pending a review to ensure that those potentially eligible had their medal earning operational service correctly assessed.
The review reaffirmed the original intent of the medal, and clarified the qualification criteria to ensure that all time on a campaign or operation where a medal is earned should count towards the ACSM, unless the qualification criteria for the campaign medal specifically states it is excluded.
In some instances, prior to 2019, the Initial Qualifying Period (IQP) for the award of campaign medals had been incorrectly discounted when calculating a service person’s aggregated time on medal earning operations towards a potential ACSM.
The IQP will now be included towards all ACSM applications, including those currently awaiting assessment. The MOD Medal Office (MODMO) is in the process of assessing all applications that have been submitted and frozen pending the outcome of this review. These applications do not require resubmitting. However, service personnel and veterans who are concerned that they may not have been awarded the ACSM, or disadvantaged from qualifying earlier, as a result of the exclusion of their IQP are invited to re-apply.
More detailed information, guidance on eligibility and how to apply can be found on The Accumulated Campaign Service Medal (ACSM) 1994 and 2011 Policy Review 2020. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. In 2020, our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 79,000 people in need, the currently serving (both regulars and reserves), veterans from the Second World War and those who have served in more recent conflicts, as well as their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. And we are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.