MOAA addressed a letter of support to House and Senate leadership on Nov. 21 for S. 2297, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019. The bill, which passed the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, authorizes appropriations for the Coast Guard through fiscal year 2021.
Section 221 of the legislation contains a provision protecting Coast Guard servicemembers’ pay in the event of a lapse in appropriations or shutdown. In addition to compensation for active duty members, the language covers basic housing allowance (BAH), funding for the reserve component, and authorized travel for funerals. The bill also ensures retired members and their families receive uninterrupted retirement pay, survivor benefits, combat-related disability pay (CRSC), VA compensation for disability (CRDP), and medical care.
[READ THE LETTER: Download MOAA’s Message to Congressional Leaders]
Earlier this year, members of the Coast Guard and of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked through a 35-day government shutdown. While servicemembers who missed paychecks were later reimbursed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the shutdown cost billions of dollars in economic losses, a portion of which was nonrecoverable.
Given the Coast Guard’s critical role in maritime safety and security matters, the letter states, “lapses in compensation to these essential services stymie the ability to grow, equip, and maintain the force necessary to meet national security needs. …”
MOAA supported a January 2019 letter from The Military Coalition, a group of advocacy organizations representing more than 5.5 million current and former servicemembers, endorsing S. 21, the Pay the Coast Guard Act – with a request to include language supporting both the USPHS and NOAA. Though this bill was not passed, language from the legislation was included and expanded upon in the Coast Guard authorization.
[MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: Visit MOAA's Legislative Action Center]
The original authorization bill (H.R. 3409) passed the House on July 24, however the amendment containing the language for paying the Coast Guard was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee before going to a floor vote. The Senate reconsidered and included the amendment in Section 221 of its version of the bill, with the hopes that it will pass a floor vote. Currently, lawmakers are in discussions in advance of a conference. MOAA is hopeful they'll reach an agreement soon to move forward on the authorization bill and secure the necessary appropriations to ensure continuity of Coast Guard operations — now and well into the future.
While this act will not address the pay of Commissioned Corps members in USPHS and NOAA, MOAA will continue to advocate on their behalf through other legislative channels, ensuring their service, and the service of retired members and their families, will not be neglected in the event of a federal funding lapse.