Here’s What Military Families Need to Know about the NDAA
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devin M. Langer)
[Note from MOAA:This story has been updated to reflect Wednesday's approval of the NDAA.]
The Senate on Wednesday approved the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The $717 billion piece of legislation includes a number of important provisions, such as:
- a full 2.6-percent military pay raise, which matches the administration's request;
- no new TRICARE fees; and
- no reduction in Basic Allowance for Housing.
The bill also includes provisions affecting military families such as spouse employment, children's education, and other facets of military life. MOAA has worked hard to ensure the voice of military families was heard throughout the legislative process.
Unfortunately, Congress dropped provisions to allow servicemembers to defer deployment if they have given birth within 12 months, as well as a provision to allow for more flexible, non-continuous maternal and parental leave.
However, there were some wins in the final defense legislation concerning military families:
A number of provisions were included in the NDAA to help military spouses gain employment. The bill includes a provision to expand temporarily noncompetitive hiring authority of military spouses by federal agencies.
Previously, the noncompetitive hiring authority was reserved exclusively for military spouses who had relocated within two years due to military orders. Under the new provision, the noncompetitive hiring authority will be expanded for five years to all spouses, regardless of whether they are relocating or not. The new provision also requires agencies to report the number of military spouses appointed to federal positions.
The defense bill also makes improvements to the My Career Advancement Account program, ensuring spouses are aware of the program by creating a strategic approach to marketing, training installation career counselors on the program, and creating a mechanism for increased involvement.
The NDAA expands the period of availability of the Military OneSource program for retired and discharged members of the armed forces and their immediate families. Unfortunately, a pilot program to include military spouses in the Transition Assistance Program was not included in the final bill.
MOAA continues to support legislation to allow military spouses to participate in the program.
DoD will also conduct a study of the effects of PCS orders on military spouse employment, which will hopefully lead to increased efforts in effective programs to help mitigate the high unemployment rates among military spouses.
The NDAA allocates $40 million for providing assistance to local educational agencies with significant numbers of military children.
MOAA fought against early proposals to cut funds from Impact Aid to pay for educational savings accounts for military children. This provision was not adopted and Impact Aid funds remain intact, with $10 million in Impact Aid specifically going to schools with military students who have severe disabilities.
The bill establishes policies and procedures comparable to Title IX protections for victims of sexual harassment in DoDEA schools. It also establishes a database for misconduct at DoD Education Activity schools, and directs DoD to asses active shooter threat mitigation at schools on military installations.
The legislation also requires a report on DoD's policies for rehabilitating and holding accountable child offenders, a topic under scrutiny by the DoD inspector general.
Commissaries and Exchanges
The bill expands access to Morale, Welfare and Recreation; commissary; and Post Exchange privileges to Purple Heart recipients, service-connected disabled veterans, former POWs, and their caregivers. Previously, this benefit was only offered to Medal of Honor recipients and 100-percent disabled veterans. The hope is that this added benefit will increase foot traffic and revenue for commissaries, which have seen a consistent decline in sales.
Congress also requested a report on the development of a single defense resale system. MOAA has expressed concerns that finding efficiencies in the defense resale system is code for consolidation and restricting operating hours. MOAA has shared these concerns with the task force assigned with the responsibility of strategizing the consolidation of the current defense resale systems.
Any efforts to create a single defense resale system require congressional approval.