Members of FRA’s board of directors took shipmates’ concerns directly to Capitol Hill on Thursday, April 10. In one-on-one meetings with their respective elected officials and staff, FRA leaders called for adequate funding for Department of Defense (DoD) healthcare programs to preserve the TRICARE benefit, Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (VA) reforms and many other issues that directly affect the quality of life of FRA shipmates and all current and former enlisted sea services personnel.
During the visits, FRA representatives provided background information and described how proposed budget cuts and changes to military benefit programs directly affect them, their shipmates and
their families. Board members asked lawmakers to exclude the Defense Department from further sequestration cuts, preserve the commissary benefit, eliminate restrictions that prevent “Blue Water” veterans from receiving disability benefits for exposure to Agent Orange, secure two-year advance funding for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), reduce the backlog of unresolved VA disability claims and more.
FRA members and other concerned citizens from around the country virtually participated in the Hill event via the Association’s online Action Center (action.fra.org), where users sent thousands of pre-written letters on FRA’s top legislative priorities to lawmakers. These messages from constituents strengthen FRA’s voice on Capitol Hill and help advance the Association’s legislative agenda, which is also available at the online Action Center.
FRA also presented its prestigious Pinnacle Award to Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who represents the state’s Second Congressional District and chairs the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Wilson was selected for this honor because of his strong advocacy for FRA-supported legislation to assist those currently serving in the armed forces, as well as those who served in the past. FRA’s highest honor is presented to a member of Congress whose service and leadership epitomizes the Association’s three cardinal principles of Loyalty, Protection and Service.
Wilson thanked FRA for “making a difference” for military personnel and their families. “Our military is under assault,” said Wilson, after referencing efforts to cut funding for military commissaries and impose higher fees on TRICARE beneficiaries. “These budget cuts are primarily directed at the Department of Defense and I’m working to reverse what I call ‘Defense sequestration.’ I’ll keep trying and appreciate FRA’s help.”