May 27 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) introduced five amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA) this week that seek to protect a valuable military accession program, ensure combat-injured veterans receive their full severance pay and honor National Guard, Reserve and Desert Storm-Desert Shield veterans.
“The number one responsibility of the federal government is to defend our nation. NDAA is essential to providing our men and women in uniform with the resources they need to defend our national security and I will be working to get these amendments included so we can make this bill even stronger,” Boozman said.
NDAA is slated to be considered when the Senate reconvenes from an in-state work period on June 6th.
Below is a summary of each amendment, with additional remarks from Boozman:
Prohibiting Closure of SROTC Programs (Amdt. #4156)
This amendment would prohibit the closure, downgrade of status or probation placement of Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (SROTC) programs. The Army has listed 149 schools in 23 states as “non-viable” and at risk of closure. The majority of these schools are in rural areas and schools in Arkansas are included on the list.
“The ROTC program has commissioned more than a half-million officers. It is the largest commissioning source for our military. Before the Army can suggest closures of specific SROTC programs, it must improve its methodology. Relying on arbitrary standards for a decision of this nature is not acceptable,” Boozman said.
Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness (Amdt. #4157)
This amendment is based on Boozman’s bill, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act (S.2712), that seeks to ensure that veterans who suffer service-ending combat-related injuries are not taxed on the severance payment they receive from the Department of Defense (DOD).
For years, DOD has improperly withheld taxes from disability severance payments to combat-wounded veterans. The Defense Finance and Accounting System (DFAS) claimed this was due to the limitations of its automated computer payment system. Nevertheless, this practice has denied proper compensation to many veterans who were retired from armed service for combat-related disabilities.
This amendment would direct DOD to identify veterans who, since January 1991 when the Gulf War began, have been separated from service for combat-related injuries and received a severance payment. Upon identifying veterans who meet these criteria, DOD would determine how much the combat-wounded veterans are owed and provide them with the appropriate notice and documentation to recover withheld amounts.
“It is apparent that some combat-injured veterans have been deprived of their full severance upon separation by DOD despite federal law prohibiting this action. This is unjust and needs to be corrected,” Boozman said.
National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial (Amdt. 4156)
Boozman led efforts to authorize the constitution of a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial to recognize the 600,000 American troops who were deployed to Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, while remembering the 293 who died in theater. This amendment designates construction of the memorial in an area approved by the Department of Interior.
“The men and women who sacrificed their lives during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield deserve this fitting recognition that shows our appreciation for their service. This tribute deserves a prominent location in our nation’s capital,” Boozman said.
Honoring Guard and Reserve Members as Veterans (Amdt. 4155)
Based on Boozman’s bill, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act (S. 743), this amendment allows National Guard and Reserve retirees who served honorably for twenty or more years but do not have the active duty service time required to qualify them as veterans under existing law.
“National Guard and Reserve members who selflessly serve in defense of our country should be honored for their sacrifice. These men and women have earned this recognition for their steadfast commitment to our national security and rightfully deserve to be honored with the title of veteran,” Boozman said.
Return Mountain Meadows Massacre Victim Remains (Amdt. 4154)
This amendment requires the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) to facilitate the relocation of the human cranium in the museum’s possession associated with the Mountain Meadows Massacre for proper internment at the Mountain Meadows gravesite in southern Utah.
Most of the victims of this 1857 massacre were from Arkansas. Following these murders, the Army buried the remains, however a child’s skull from this murder is at the NMHM. This amendment would authorize the Army to return this artifact for proper internment at the Mountain Meadows gravesite memorial.