|Your 2003 Military Pay and Benefits|
|FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act, Page 4|
Continued from Page 3
Anyone who follows military news at all knows of the "Abaya Flap." Since the end of the Gulf War, the military has required female military members to wear an abaya (a Muslim religious robe) anytime they travel off base in Saudi Arabia, even though Saudi law does not require the wear of the abaya for western women, and women assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Saudi are not required to wear it.
The "flap" made it all the way to Congress, and under pressure, the military changed its requirements from "required" to "highly encouraged." However, this was not good enough for Congress, and Congress has decided to act. The FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act states specifically that "...no commander or person of military authority may require or encourage another service member to wear the abaya garment or any part of the abaya garment while the member is in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
The act requires the military to brief all military personnel (both orally and in writing) about this provision within 48 hours of their arrival in Saudi Arabia.
The FY 2003 Defense Appropriations Act gives the services temporary authority (until December 1, 2003) to allow commissioned officers in the grade of O-4 and above to retire at their current rank held, with only two years time-in-grade. The normal requirement is three years time-in-grade.
Previously, when a member took emergency leave due to family or personal emergency, all leave taken was charged against their leave balance. If a member took more days than they had "saved up" (military members "earn" 2.5 days of leave for each month of service), then leave was charged against future leave time. Under a new provision of the Defense Authorization Act, a commander can now authorize up to 14 days of non-chargeable emergency leave, if the military member uses up all of his/her "saved" leave during the emergency leave period. This new provision can only be used once by a service member during their entire military career. This change will become effective when DOD (and the individual services) amend the current leave regulation(s).
Call to Service Enlistment Program
This is a new enlistment option that the services aren't too excited about. The FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act requires the Secretary of Defense to establish criteria and implement this new enlistment option. Here are the basics:
Defense Service Medal
The FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act requires the Secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy to develop a Korean Defense Service Medal for military personnel who served in the Republic of Korea, *after* the official end of the Korean War. The eligibility period shall be from July 28, 1954 to such time in the future (after the bill is signed) that the Secretary of Defense shall designate as being appropriate for termination of the award period. The intent of this provision is to recognize that Korea is still a "hostile" area. An estimated 1,200 members of the United States Armed Forces have died as a direct result of their service in Korea since the cease-fire agreement in July 1953.
for Military Funeral Honors Details
This section of the FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act requires the Secretary of Defense to set a flat-rate daily stipend (the rate to be reviewed each year) to pay military retirees and others (who are not members of the military, or employees of the United States) who participate in military funeral honors.
The FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act includes authority for the military services to construct or acquire additional military family housing units at certain bases:
The act also contains authorization to expend funds for the improvement of existing family housing units, as well as authority to construct/renovate existing dormitories (barracks) throughout the services.
of National Guard Members Not in FEDERAL Service
In addition to any state laws governing court-martials of National Guard Members not on FEDERAL active duty, the FY 2003 Defense Authorization Act allows the court-martial of National Guard members, even if they are not on FEDERAL active duty.
In addition to any applicable state laws, the following individuals may convene court-martials for National Guard members not in Federal Service:
Other Changes Applicable to Veterans
In addition to the FY 2003 Military Authorization Act, Congress approved the Veterans Benefit Act of 2002, which makes many important changes for military veterans.
Soldier and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) Coverage for National Guard
Probably most significant is a provision that extends Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act protections to members of the National Guard under some circumstances. Under previous law, the SSCRA only applied to National Guard members if they were called to FEDERAL service. The protections did not apply to Guard members performing duty under authority of the State Governor. After 9/11, President Bush asked the state governors to activate members of the National Guard to perform "homeland security" duties, such as guarding airports and other facilities that were considered terrorist targets. Because these members were called by the STATE, and not the federal government, SSCRA protections did not apply. The new provision extends SSCRA protection to National Guard members, anytime they are performing "homeland security" duties, even if under control of the State government.
VA Disability Compensation for Women Who Lose One or Both Breasts
Title I of the act requires the payment of veterans' disability compensation to a woman veteran for the anatomical loss of half or more of the tissue of one or more breasts suffered as a result of a service-connected disability. Under previous law, disability compensation was only allowed if the entire breast was removed.
VA Disability for Hearing Loss
Under previous law, if a veteran had a service-connected hearing loss in one ear, and a non-service-connected hearing loss in the other ear, the veteran's disability compensation was computed using only the hearing loss for the service-connected deafness. Under the new change (section 102), total hearing loss will be used to determine the degree of disability compensation.
Section 103 of the act requires the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to develop a list of military jobs, which, by the nature of the job, is likely to expose the service member to high levels of acoustic trauma. The VA must assume that veterans who have served in those military specialties, who experience a hearing loss, even years after military service, to have a service-connected disability.
Medal of Honor Pension
Section 104 of the Veterans Benefit Act of 2002 increases from $600 to $1,000 the monthly special pension for individuals entered on the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard Medal of Honor Roll. This change also authorizes a lump-sum payment retroactive to when the act of valor actually took place. The lump-sum payment is the amount of monthly pension that would have been received between the time the act took place and the medal was actually awarded.
Prohibitions on "Selling" VA Compensation
Section 105 of the act prohibits any agreement entered into by a beneficiary under which another person acquires for consideration the right to receive any compensation, pension, or dependency and indemnity compensation of such beneficiary. The provision also provides criminal penalties for violations. The section directs the Secretary to conduct an outreach program to inform veterans and other potential recipients of such compensation or pension of the prohibition against the assignment of such benefits, including information on various schemes to evade the prohibition and means of avoiding such schemes.
No Flag or Grave for Those Convicted of a Capital Crime
Section 402 prohibits veterans convicted of or found to have committed a Federal or State capital crime from being furnished a presidential memorial certificate, a flag to drape a casket, or a headstone or marker for a grave.