Military news isn’t just about forward-deployed troops, combat operations, and military hardware. There are many issues that affect troops and their families, and the purpose of this column is to provide a weekly roundup of news that affects military communities and families.
Military News For The Week Of July 29, 2022
The PACT Act has failed to advance this week. There was a vote in the Senate on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which failed to get the required 60 votes needed to advance to the next stage of the process.
This bill sought to expand healthcare for post-9/11 combat veterans and require the Department of Veterans Affairs to start a medical screening program to detect exposure to toxins. The bill had many components but those are among the most notable.
On the news of the bill being shut down in the Senate, there was much outrage from veteran service organizations and veteran activists including Jon Stewart who issued a blistering rebuke on CNN;
“I’m used to lies. I’m used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice. I’m not used to the cruelty, the casual cruelty … a bill they had fought for, for more than a decade.” Stewart had particular bile for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Stewart accused of lying to veterans by promising to “get it done” in reference to the bill.
McConnell later voted against the act.
Veteran service organizations issued statements declaring the vote “absolutely unacceptable”. Those are the words of American Legion legislative director Lawrence Montreuil, who adds, “The PACT Act passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan manner, yet this delay continues because of political games. There is no reason this bill should not be signed by the president by the end of next week.”
Montreuil, who was quoted on the American Legion official site, said the failure to move the act forward needlessly and negatively affects veterans who suffer from toxic exposure.
“This bill’s genesis came from the fact that 70 percent of veterans with illnesses related to burn pits were being denied, and as a result couldn’t access health care. Sick veterans couldn’t meet the burden of proof,” Montreuil said on the American Legion official site. “Every day that this delay goes on, veterans are unable to receive care. This is wrong.”
42 senators voted against the bill in all. 41 of those senators are Republicans, one is a Democrat. Their names and state affiliations are presented below without further comment.
Senators Who Voted AGAINST The PACT Act
- John A. Barrasso, WY
- Marsha Blackburn, TN
- Roy Blunt, MO
- Mike Braun, IN
- Richard Burr, NC
- Bill Cassidy, LA
- John Cornyn, TX
- Tom Cotton, AR
- Kevin Cramer, ND
- Mike Crapo, ID
- Ted Cruz, TX
- Steve Daines, MT
- Joni Ernst, IA
- Deb Fischer, NE
- Bill Hagerty, TN
- Josh Hawley, MO
- Cindy Hyde-Smith, MS
- Jim Inhofe, OK
- Ron Johnson, WI
- John Neely Kennedy, LA
- James Lankford, OK
- Mike Lee, UT
- Cynthia Lummis, WY
- Roger Marshall, KS
- Mitch McConnell, KY
- Rand Paul, KY
- Rob Portman, OH
- Jim Risch, ID
- Mitt Romney, UT
- Mike Rounds, SD
- Ben Sasse, NE
- Rick Scott, FL
- Tim Scott, SC
- Richard Shelby, AL
- Dan Sullivan, AK
- John Thune, SD
- Thom Tillis, NC
- Patrick Toomey, PA
- Tommy Tuberville, AL
- Roger Wicker, MS
- Todd Young, IN
- Chuck Schumer, NY
US Army Recruiting Woes Continue
The United States Army is publicly acknowledging its recruiting crisis. It will miss troop strength goals in FY 2022 by some 10 thousand people. The Army predicts its end strength numbers could drop to just over 460 thousand troops with further decreases in FY 2023–troop strength next year could dip to 445 thousand.
To counteract this, at least in part, the Army has attempted to change its recruiting standards. The latest move is to create a “pre-basic training preparatory course” at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Army Times reports that the course would provide 90 days of training to prospective troops who were not able to meet aptitude or fitness standards before shipping out to boot camp.
Army Standardizes Pay System
Once upon a time, troops serving in the U.S. Army had the option of choosing two paydays a month or consolidating both into a single payday each month. But now, some 11 thousand soldiers will have to get used to being paid half their salary two times a month instead of the one-time per option.
The Army has chosen to standardize its pay system into a two-paydays per month system for all soldiers. At press time most serving in the Army area already paid twice. Just over two percent of the entire Army chose to be paid once per month. The new pay schedule is part of a larger push to improve the Army pay system, which also includes plans to allow soldiers to manage their pay using an app or similar options on a mobile device.
Florida Offers Veterans Teaching Jobs–Without Requiring A Teacher’s License
The State of Florida has an education crisis on multiple levels but one of the most serious of those woes can be listed in terms of numbers alone; some 9000 teacher positions that are currently empty ahead of the new school year. Now, the Florida Department of Education wants veterans to help.
Florida offers vets a five-year waiver of typical teacher certification requirements–if the applicants can meet the requirements of the program. To be accepted you must have at least 48 months of military service, at least 60 college credits, and a baseline 2.5 GPA. If hired, these veteran teachers work under the supervision of a teaching mentor.
The push to hire veterans to fill teaching jobs is part of an $8.6 million statewide project to offer more career options and training for veteran communities.
GAO Says Oversight Needed In DoD Pediatric Lead Exposure Issues
The Government Accountability Office has gone on the record stating that without oversight, the Defense Health Agency is unable to determine whether pediatric lead issues are being properly handled in military treatment facilities. A DoD report to Congress issued in 2021 noted the following statistics about lead exposure in military family housing.
- More than 30,000 children were screened for lead exposure;
- More than 12,000 children were tested for elevated blood lead levels;
- More than 80 children had elevated blood lead levels for the period of time listed in the report.
- An audit of the report notes these numbers may not be fully accurate–more lead exposure is presumed to be unaccounted for.
One source notes that military leaders informed the Government Accountability Office that in the past, there was a reliance on “peer reviews” to ensure lead screening and testing was taking place. But the lack of oversight is problematic. At press time the Department of Defense is moving to fix the oversight problem in part by moving military treatment facilities to the jurisdiction of the Defense Health Authority and away from the jurisdiction of the military services.