President Trump last week signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.5515) at Fort Drum, N.Y., which is the home of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division. The bill passed both chambers of Congress with large margins (House 359-54 and Senate 87-10).  This is the first time since 1996 that the NDAA will be sent to the President on time or before October 1.  Key provisions of the bill include: Blocking a huge TRICARE fee increase that would have doubled annual fees for TRICARE beneficiaries under age 65; Expanding the VA Caregiver Program to include all severely disabled veterans. The original program applied to badly disabled veterans that were injured after September 11, 2001; Limiting rent increases for residents at Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) for next year and prohibiting AFRH from removing residents only because they are unable to pay rent; Increasing Navy and Marine Corps reserve and active duty end strength for FY2019; Increasing annual active duty pay by 2.6 percent, which keeps pace with civilian pay increases; Repealing a scheduled one percent cut in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for active duty; Expanding availability of Military One Source for retired and discharged members of the Armed Forces (see story below); Allowing Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, former POW, service-connected disability veterans and caregivers for disabled veterans to use commissaries and MWR facilities; Permitting veterans, who have a 100 percent service connected disability, to utilize a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard; and Mandating maximum life insurance coverage for service members deployed in a combat zone. This final bill provides an overall increase in topline funding to support our troops and readiness recovery. For more information, contact Sandra at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, or call 365-3612.

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