U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Planning Steep Tuition Cuts For Veterans and Active Service Members.


Washington, D.C. -U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, received confirmation this week from top Navy and Marine Corps leaders that they have reversed course on proposals submitted earlier this month to drastically reduce funding for the Tuition Assistance (TA) program after Hagan questioned the proposed cuts. At an Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, said the Marines Corps and Navy, respectively, would fund TA at 100 percent.

“Tuition Assistance is a critical recruitment and retention tool that allows our servicemembers to further their education as they serve our country,” Hagan said. “I am pleased that after I questioned their proposals for deep reductions, the Navy and Marine Corps have committed to fully funding this effective program that benefits not only our brave men and women, but our entire country as they eventually transition into the civilian workforce. I will continue to ensure our servicemembers receive the education benefits they have earned.”

“We’re going pay 100 percent of cost of courses,” General Amos said at the hearing. “[TA] will be funded at 100 percent.”

“We’ll fund Tuition Assistance at 100 percent,” Admiral Greenert said at the hearing. “Funding Tuition Assistance at 100 percent through FY 2015 is a great return on investment.”

The Navy and Marine Corps planned to cut Tuition Assistance and pass 25 percent of the cost of courses to servicemembers when they released their proposed budgets on March 4. Hagan’s office immediately questioned the cuts in a request for information (RFI) to the Navy and Marine Corps. Three weeks later, both services have changed course and will now fully fund Tuition Assistance in FY 2015.

While the Marine Corps and Navy sought Tuition Assistance reductions that would have shifted the some of the cost burden to servicemembers, other branches of the military have avoided passing on costs.

Last year, Hagan worked with Republican Senator Jim Inhofe (OK) to pass an amendment that reinstated the Tuition Assistance program for servicemembers after the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps decided to suspend Tuition Assistance benefits.

In FY 2012, approximately 300,000 servicemembers participated in the Tuition Assistance program. In the same time period, active duty servicemembers enrolled in the program earned more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Feinstein Bill Improves Voter Registration Services for Veterans



Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced the Veteran Voting Support Act, a bill to improve access to voter registration services for U.S. military veterans. Cosponsors of the legislation include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Text of the bill is available here.


“It is a cornerstone of our democracy that each eligible citizen can register to vote and cast their ballot,” said Senator Feinstein. “I believe we have a special obligation to ensure that service members have every opportunity to have their voices heard, and the least we can do is ease the process of registering to vote. With an election right around the corner, this bill is particularly important, and unlike a VA directive, it would not expire.”


The Veteran Voting Support Act would:


  • Require the VA to provide voter registration forms to veterans when they enroll in the VA health care system;
  • Ensure that veterans who live in VA facilities have access to absentee ballots;
  • Allow nonpartisan voter registration groups and election officials to provide voter information and registration services to veterans in a time, place, and manner that makes sense for the facilities; and
  • Give the attorney general authority to enforce these provisions.




Several years ago, Senator Feinstein learned a Department of Veterans Affairs facility in California was barring voter registration groups from communicating with veterans in the facility. Similar reports emerged in Connecticut and other states.


Senator Feinstein and then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) first introduced a bill to address this problem in 2008, with the support of then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.


While that legislation was pending in the Senate, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a directive improving voter assistance for veterans at VA facilities.


At the end of September 2013, that directive expired, even though Census data indicates that millions of veterans are not registered to vote, and the percentage of veterans who do vote fell between 2008 and 2012.



American Military Turns Its Back on Its Own Rape Victims.

The American Military Refuses to Accept Responsibility for Increase in Rape Among the Ranks.
The American Military Refuses to Accept Responsibility for Increase in Rape Among the Ranks.

In a speech on the Senate floor today, Senator Susan Collins spoke in strong support of legislation coming before the Senate that would address the crisis of sexual assault in the military.

“Since 2004, I have been sounding the alarm over the military’s ineffective response to the growing crisis of sexual assault in the military, including the need to ensure appropriate punishment for the perpetrators of these crimes, to provide adequate care for the survivors, and to change the culture across the military so that sexual assault is unthinkable,” said Senator Collins, who first raised this issue during an Armed Services Committee hearing ten years ago.

In her remarks, she also singled out for praise the courage of two Mainers who have come forward to tell their stories:

“I also want to acknowledge the courage and conviction of Jennifer Norris and Ruth Moore—two Mainers who were sexually assaulted while serving our country. They have made it their mission to change the broken system that has not put victims first. Through their advocacy, they have helped to shine a light on this crisis and deserve our gratitude.”


Senator Collins has led several successful efforts to enact legislation to improve sexual assault prevention response in the military. In the last Congress, she co-authored the STRONG Act with then-Senator John Kerry, which became law in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This Congress, she authored the Coast Guard STRONG Act and cosponsored the Military Justice Improvement Act, BE SAFE Act, and Article 32 Reform Act, many provisions of which have been signed into law as part of the FY 2014 NDAA. In addition, she has cosponsored the Ruth Moore Act, which would make it easier for survivors of military sexual assault to obtain recognition of service-connected disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs and improve survivors’ access to important health services.

In 2012, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) presented Senator Collins with the Lauterbach Award for Truth and Justice in recognition of her commitment to the elimination of sexual violence in the military. Mary Lauterbach, the mother of Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who was 20 years old when she was murdered in 2007 by a fellow Marine accused of raping her only weeks before, presented the award to Senator Collins.

Click here to read the full text of Senator Collins’ remarks.


Special Interests Are Taking Over Washington; An Editorial by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy Congress!
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy Congress!


One of the things America has always stood for is the basic idea of fairness.  But more and more, it seems in Washington like special interests and big corporations play by their own set of rules, while the interests of everyday Americans are being undermined.

That’s why I’m fighting in the Senate for families facing outrageous credit card fees.  For teachers and truck drivers who pay a higher tax rate than wealthy investors. For a political system where corporations can’t drown out ordinary voices with unlimited, anonymous spending in our elections.  And for young people struggling to get out from under a mountain of student loan debt.


As I travel around the country, visiting with families and small business owners,  one thing I hear again and again is the feeling that the deck is stacked against them.  I’ve taken your stories and ideas with me to Washington, and have been fighting for legislation to get our country back on track and restore the straight deal that middle-class families deserve 

Here are some of ways I’m working to level the playing field for Rhode Islanders and all Americans:

Asking the Wealthiest to Pay Their Fair Share

It’s inexcusable that our tax system permits ultra-high income earners like Warren Buffett to pay a lower tax rate than hardworking middle-class families.  That’s why I have introduced the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would ensure that multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30-percent effective tax rate.

Reining In Credit Card Interest Rates

Wall Street banks and credit card companies are not currently subject to state laws that limit outrageous interest rates.  I introduced the Empowering States’ Rights to Protect Consumers Act to restore the ability of states to set limits on credit card interest rates, and protect consumers from the unfair tricks and traps of lenders headquartered in faraway states with weak or non-existent consumer lending protections.

Government By The People, Not Corporations

In its controversial Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court overturned long-standing precedents to allow virtually unlimited corporate and special interest spending in elections.  To undo this corruption of our electoral process, I have signed on as an original cosponsor of a constitutional amendment to grant Congress the clear authority to write common-sense campaign finance rules, and I am leading the fight to require better disclosures of campaign spending.

Ending Tax Breaks for Shipping Jobs Overseas

I introduced the Offshoring Prevention Act to close a tax loophole that rewards companies for moving factories overseas.  Our tax code should be designed to help American companies keep and create good-paying jobs right here in the United States, not ship them overseas.

No More Tax Giveaways for Big Oil

At a time of high gas prices, record oil company profits, and mounting budget deficits, we should not be providing Big Oil with expensive and unnecessary taxpayer handouts.  That is why I am a cosponsor of the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which would end federal subsidies and tax giveaways for these ultra-profitable oil companies.

Holding Those Responsible For The Financial Crisis Accountable

We must investigate and prosecute any criminal behavior behind the continuing financial crisis.  That is why I have urged the Justice Department to bring its full resources to bear, together with state law enforcement, to protect the American people from financial crime.

Protecting Troops from Foreclosure

Troops returning from active duty often need time to regain their financial footing.  That is why I introduced legislation to lengthen the period of foreclosure protection for servicemembers after their tour of duty.  A version of my legislation, extending the grace period from nine months to one year, was approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.



Veterans Are Left Out in the Cold by Congress. By Rep. Rob Bishop. Utah.

Do you know a Vet who is being neglected?
Do you know a Vet who is being neglected?

In his first term, the president passed his bloated stimulus bill, doubling the national debt with massive new spending on non-military programs. The military never benefited from these stimulus spending increases. Instead, defense received two cuts of over $500 billion. Then came sequestration.

Though a blunt instrument, sequestration has had some positive impacts, forcing spending reductions on a reluctant president and Congress. Total government spending has actually been reduced for two consecutive years, which is good. The problem is on the defense side of the equation. While defense spending doesn’t make up anywhere near half our national budget, half of all sequestration cuts were designed to come out of our military. This created a disproportionate hit on one of the few constitutional duties of the federal government — providing for the common defense. That’s not fair and it’s why I opposed the defense sequester from the start.

When defense sequestration is added on top of the first two defense cuts, this basically puts the military $1.3 trillion in the hole. The House saw the chance to stop this trend and we acted, preventing the round of defense sequestration cuts that were set to start again this very week.

The House’s original budget was superior to what finally became law, but it sat untouched in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Our bill prioritized military spending (essential for Hill AFB and civilian defense workers) at around $550 billion.  The compromise eventually adopted is approximately $520 billion, but if this compromise had not passed, sequestration would have automatically cut the military to around $490 billion. This additional defense cut, which would have kicked in right now, would have seriously jeopardized military training and equipment, hurt military families, and virtually guaranteed another round of furloughs for civilian defense workers. It would have harmed the defense of the country, including Hill AFB.  So to put a stop to that, I supported the budget compromise, allowing Congress to fulfill its Constitutional duty to provide for the common defense.

Three other issues in the budget compromise deserve discussion. First, civilian retirement programs have been targeted for cuts by some in Congress and the administration for years. Cuts are not needed to make the federal retirement system secure, but some see it as a source of new federal money. This recent budget bill realized it’s unfair to make retroactive cuts to existing employees, and proposed changes only for future employees and those not vested. This is a big improvement over earlier proposals.

Second, the change in military retirement cost-of-living benefits does not remain once a retiree hits age 62 nor should it apply to disability retirement. This provision is not great, but not as bad as some in the administration wanted. I believe this provision should be further modified to apply only to new service members, and I have co-sponsored House bills to make the adjustment.

Finally, the bill in October that ended the government shutdown included a 1 percent pay increase in 2014 for white-collar government workers but a technical glitch in the Senate left out blue-collar workers. The Senate leadership was aware of this discrepancy and refused to fix it. This most recent budget bill should have fixed this unfairness. I am disappointed that a solution wasn’t included but am hopeful that it’ll be fixed retroactively this month.

Given past defense cuts and the precarious state of military readiness, it was right for Congress to pass this budget compromise and stop more looming defense cuts. Starting this week, we can work on improving the imperfections and building on the progress so far.

We Honor the Utah Honor Flight.



Dan Curtis has a passion for veterans, especially those who fought during World War Two, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  He wants to see that all of them get the chance to visit their respective war monuments in Washington, D.C., free of charge.  Dan is not a millionaire, so he can’t fly them there himself, but he is something better – a good citizen who lives in Richfield, Utah,  who is working to see the remaining veterans of World War Two who are living in Utah, approximately 14-thousand, get the chance to see their monument in the nation’s capital.  The first Utah flight was back in October of 2013, during the government Sequester.

Such flights, in which donors pay for veterans to take quick trips to Washington, D.C., have been around for years, but they received national attention during the recent government shutdown. World War II vets moved National Park Service barricades to see the memorial and they were soon joined by Republican members of Congress in a protest.

It outraged Mike Turner, a member of the City Council in Richfield, Utah. And it didn’t sit well with his friend Frank Biagi either. Biagi, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, said he would love to make a trip to the National Mall to see the memorial.

Turner got in contact with Dan Curtis, a federal employee with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, who was recently relocated from Kansas to Richfield. Curtis had helped organize 19 Honor Flights in Kansas and was already trying to set one up in the Beehive State. Curtis and Turner teamed up to launch the nonprofit endeavor that brought the veterans and their family members across the country and fulfilled Biagi’s dream.

“I’m proud of the fact that I’m here — that I earned the right to be here,” said Biagi, who was an aerial photographer for the Army Air Corps during the war. “Also, I thought there would be a lot of girls here and I was right.”

Curtis says that right now about 35 to 40 WWII veterans pass away each day in the state of Utah, so there is an urgency to arranging and paying for more flights asap.  The next one is scheduled for the end of March/beginning of April.

We heartily support this fine volunteer program.  For more information, please go to their website at  Panoramaland RC&D

It costs about $700 per veteran. Donations are accepted at any Zions Bank.  You may also accompany a veteran yourself, whether you are related to them or not, by paying your own way and being a Guardian.

This is a great and noble way for Americans to honor those who were sent into peril for the good of their country.