Top 10 Military Family Issues in Defense Bill

December 16, 2016

Now that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is on its way to the president's desk for signing, we can talk about the provisions important to military families. Here are 10 provisions you should know about.

Family Leave

Servicemembers will now receive six weeks of non-chargeable parental leave for the birth of a child if they are the primary parent, and three weeks if they are the secondary parent (and in the case of adoption and foster of a child).

This is in addition to six weeks of non-chargeable convalescent leave for a servicemember giving birth. Previously, parental leave (for those not giving birth) was 10 days of non-chargeable leave at the discretion of the commander, and foster parents would have to use accrued leave.

Impact Aid

Authorizes $35 million in assistance for public schools with significant populations of military connected children. Impact Aid bridges the gap in tax revenues lost because the area includes a significant amount of tax-exempt federal property (military installations). This matches the amount authorized for 2016.

Reports on allegations of child abuse

Requires anyone in the chain of command or in certain job fields must report credible allegations of child abuse to the Family Advocacy Program (FAP).

Camps for military kids

Authorizes funding or non-monetary support for military children in a camp-like setting for qualified non-profits without any predetermined preference. Many non-profits have great programs that serve military kids both close to and remote from military installations.

Exceptional Family Member Program

Requires an assessment and report on the effectiveness of the EFMP by the end of 2017, identifying program differences between the services and progress in implementing previous GAO recommendations for program improvements and consistency.

Commissary

Provides the Secretary of Defense substantial flexibility in funding the commissaries, including converting them to a Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) system, using a commissary private label and beginning variable pricing (both already being piloted).

The new legislation requires the Secretary of Defense to make regular reports to the Armed Services Committees about any changes being made, while complying with statutory requirements to sustain patron savings and satisfaction levels. MOAA will be watching these changes and reports closely.

Military Star Card

Requires acceptance of the Military Star Card for payment at commissaries. This will generate value for the entire military community via reduced credit card clearance fees for the government, with low-risk low-interest credit for military customers. Previously, the card could not be used to make purchases at the commissary.

Per Diem for Long Term Temporary Duty

Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to provide full per diem during long-term TDYs. In an effort to reduce costs, per diem rates were reduced in 2014 for TDYs longer than 31 days (55-75 percent of full rate depending on length). Reducing the allowances caused undue financial burdens on servicemembers on some long-term TDYs.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Authorizes Service Secretaries to allot space and services on installations to local agencies that administer WIC programs for servicemembers and their families. WIC remains an important lifeline for young and vulnerable families.

Assessment of public schools on installations

Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on the condition and capacity of elementary and secondary schools on military installations. With sequestration cutting budgets in every department, ensuring children's schools on military installations are safe should remain a top priority.

 

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