New Sexual Assault Prevention Director Named

 

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel named Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow as the new director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO).

Snow will take over the job in January 2014 as the current director, Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, retires after serving for nearly 35 years in the U.S. Army.

Hagel praised Patton for his 18-month tenure as head of th SAPRO and for tackling tough assignments. A fact sheet detailing his initiatives is available at www.sapr.mil .

Maj. Gen. Snow comes to the position with 30 years of dedicated service, to include command at various levels and multiple combat tours in Iraq.  He is currently the Army’s director of Strategy, Plans and Policy.  He was competitively selected for this position from a field of multi-service nominees.

 

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President Orders Death Benefits Fix, Fisher House Helps Out

President Barack Obama Photo credit: White House

President Barack Obama Photo credit: White House

As a temporary fix, the non-profit organization, The Fisher House, has stepped up and agreed to temporarily pay death benefits to military families of service members killed in action since the government shutdown.

And the Pentagon’s legal department is looking for an immediate way to provide emergency help and death benefits to military families who have had a loved one killed, according to the NPR Two-Way.

After much criticism from Republican lawmakers over the halting of emergency benefits to families of service members killed, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that the president has directed lawyers at the Defense Department and White House budget office to find an immediate legal fix for paying death benefits.

“When [the president] found out that this was not addressed he directed that a solution be found and we expect one today,” Carney said.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman says 26 service members have died since the shutdown began, six of them in Afghanistan, but unless the issue is resolved, their families will not receive the $100,000 death benefit owed them.

Four of the service members died in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Military Times is reporting that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has negotiated a deal so families who have been denied a $100,000 death gratuity the past week receive compensation.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the department has forged an agreement with the Fisher House, a private charity organization, to provide payments directly to troops families during the shutdown. When the government resumes routine operations, the Defense Department will reimburse the Fisher House.

“I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Hagel said in a statement announcing the agreement with Fisher House.

“I will continue to work every day to address the very real impact that the government shutdown is having on our people, and I once again call on Congress to fulfill its basic responsibilities and restore funding for the federal government,” Hagel said.

Many are voicing their frustration with the stalemate including one of the soldiers killed this past week. You can read his Facebook comments in the Military Times report made just days before he was killed in Afghanistan:

Troops killed in action whose families will be affected by the suspended death gratuity include Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins Jr., 19, of Milwaukee, Wis.

Just days before his death, Collins vented his frustration with the government shutdown on his Facebook page.

“I am waiting for the moment they breach my contract. Just waiting, I am out here in Afghan so I can’t just leave, but I can sit the f— down and not give two s—-,” Collins wrote on Oct. 3. “Get it together Obama and not to mention Congress. Jesus! Make up your minds, I will protect the being of my country with my life, but do not go [messing] with the men and women that protect your sorry asses.”

Collins died Oct. 5, and his death remains under investigation.

Air Force Recall of Furloughed Civilians

Department of the Air Force SealThe following is a notification from the Air Force official website that says a majority of the 104,000 furloughed workers will be called back.

According to DOD guidance for implementation of the Pay our Military Act, in addition to already excepted civilians, civilian Airmen who contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members should also be removed from furlough status.  Previously furloughed employees that fall in this category will return to work beginning Monday.  Upon return to work, they may only perform “excepted” duties which encompass those duties necessary for the protection of life and property, so there will continue to be ongoing impacts due to the government shutdown.

“You’ve heard that we are bringing back many of our civilian teammates, but a significant number of them will not return. That is not what we or OSD wanted; however, the DOJ/OMB/DOD negotiated position on the interpretation of the law does not eliminate furloughs all together and leaves many of our civilian Airmen left behind,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. “Everyone’s work supports our Airmen, but the mechanics of the legislation is the driving force of who comes back, not the value of the work. This is unfair and simply a disruptive situation for you and your families. From day one, our primary focus has been to rapidly get as many people back to work as soon as possible; and we will continue those efforts. We are a team, a family — always have been. We will not be a fully-functioning organization until the last member returns.”

Today supervisors began notifying Air Force civilian employees who will return to work next week. The Air Force is utilizing all possible means of communication including supervisor contact, social media, Air Force Personnel Center and AF.mil.

For current government shutdown information, visit AF.mil’s Government Shutdown page, the Air Force Portal and/or contact the Air Force Personnel Center Total Service Center at 800-525-0102.

Navy Recall of Furloughed Civiian Workers

Seal-A411075[1]The following is information from the U.S. Department of the Navy for civilian workers currently furloughed:

All currently furloughed Navy Department employees should return to work tomorrow or as soon as practical with the exception of the employees in the categories listed below:

1 – Chief Information Officer (CIO) functions, not previously excepted from furlough based on the Contingency Plan Guidance for Continuation of Essential Operations in the Absence of Available Appropriations of September 2013.

2 – Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) functions not previously excepted. Should not be any below the Secretariat/Echelon I level.

3 – Legislative Affairs and Public Affairs functions not previously excepted or required in support of internal communications to members of the active service.

4 – Auditor and related functions, including Inspector General (IG), not previously excepted. Employees supporting Financial Improvement Audit Readiness (FIAR) activities are excepted and can report to work.

5 – Work done in support of non-DoD activities and Agencies (except the U.S. Coast Guard) not previously excepted. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) employees are excepted and can report to work.

Employees in these categories will receive calls from their supervisors today explaining the situation. If you have questions, please contact your chain of command.

Most Civilian Defense Employees Ordered Back to Work

Traffic is a lot lighter outside MacDill's main gate since 1,500 workers were furloughed Tuesday.

Traffic is a lot lighter outside MacDill’s main gate since 1,500 workers were furloughed Tuesday.

The Pentagon is ordering most of its 400,000 furloughed workers back on the job according to the Washington Post.

The decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is based on a Pentagon legal interpretation of a law called the Pay Our Military Act.

That measure was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama shortly before the partial government shutdown began Tuesday.

The Pentagon did not immediately say on Saturday exactly how many workers will return to work. The Defense Department said “most” were being brought back.

The Department of Defense issued a statement Saturday from Secretary Hagel that relies on a legal opinion and would allow the recall of employees essential for morale, well-being and readiness :

Today I am announcing that most DoD civilians placed on emergency furlough during the government shutdown will be asked to return to work beginning next week.

Immediately after President Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law, I directed DoD’s Acting General Counsel to determine whether we could reduce the number of civilian personnel furloughed due to the shutdown. The Department of Defense consulted closely with the Department of Justice, which expressed its view that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians.  However, DoD and DOJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the Department of Defense to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.

So, Hagel has directed all departments to review the furloughed civilian employees and states that he believes they’ll be able to “significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process.”

You can read the full Sec. Hagel statement.

 

Government Shutdown Info for Military, Civilians

shutdown_2013Thanks to the U.S. Army Budget office, here is a comprehensive list of websites offering guidance to military personnel and civilian employees impacted by a government shutdown.
Financial counseling and/or stress counseling
MILITARY: Military One Source is available at 1-800-342-9647, or their crisis line is 1-800-273-TALK. They available online at http://www.militaryonesource.mil/army.

CIVILIANS:
For stress, counseling: Employee Assistance Program — EAP (FOH4you) is a free, 24-hour confidential counseling and referral service that can help you and your family successfully deal with life’s challenges. They are available via phone at 1-800-222-0364, or online at www.foh4you.com.

Federal Occupational Health’s Work/Life program is offered to you and your dependents at no cost and you can use the services as often as you like.

Call or log in today at 1-877-WL4-NOAA (1-877-954-6622), (TTY 800-873-1322), or online www.WorkLife4You.com.
OTHER RESOURCES AND INFORMATION OPM: Furlough guidance
http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance#url=Shutdown-Furlough

Civilian Personnel Office: Guidance for the 2014 lapse in appropriations
http://cpol.army.mil/library/general/2013sequestration/FY14Lapse.html

DOD: Financial planning during civilian furlough
http://www.whs.mil/HRD/Furlough/FinancialPlanning.cfm

Army Emergency Relief
http://www.aerhq.org/dnn563/

Goverment Shutdown Impact on Veterans, Military

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki speaking at the suicide prevention conference. Photo courtesy of the VA blog.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki speaking at the suicide prevention conference. Photo courtesy of the VA blog.

There will be little or no impact at least on the largest part of the Department of Veterans Affairs which runs VA clinics and hospitals.

The VA health care administration is on a two-year budget cycle, so it already has advanced appropriates for 2014 fiscal year according to Karen Collins, public affairs officer for James A. Haley Veterans Hospitals and Clinics.

“So, this means that a majority of our employees will continue to provide health care services to our veterans and active-duty service members here at James A. Haley,” Collins said.

But there is a VA Contingency Plan which lists the suspension of some functions like:

  • Claims appeals will be discontinued before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
  • The Office for Congressional and Legislative Affairs will suspend all functions including: Congressional relations; Responding to congressional requests for information; Processing testimony and questions for the record; Congressional correspondence; Constituent casework; Advisory Committee Management; GAO coordination.

The USA Today newspaper answered 66 questions about the shutdown .Here are a few relating to veterans services like benefits that are not part of health care:

  • What will happen to veterans receiving compensation for service- or combat-related wounds and injuries? The Department of Veterans Affairs said if the shutdown continues into late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks to more than 3.6 million veterans who rely on the money to support themselves.
  • Does that mean I can’t get a VA mortgage? No. The Department of Veterans Affairs says loans are funded via user fees and should continue. However, during the last shutdown, “loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were delayed.”
  • Will deceased veterans still be able to get a burial benefit? Yes. Burial benefits, headstones and death notices will still be available.

Department of Defense

Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale. Photo courtesy: Department of Defense

Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer Robert Hale. Photo courtesy: Department of Defense

According to a release Friday from the Department of Defense, about half of the civilian employees will be furloughed. That means some 400,000 workers will not go to work.

Priority is given to operations relating to the war in Afghanistan and to safety operations such as fire, police and emergency medical.

A DoD news release states that pay of government employees could also be seriously affected.

“Military and other civilians directed to work would be paid retroactively once the lapse of appropriation ends,” Robert F. Hale, Under Secretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer.  “Civilians on emergency furloughs … would be paid retroactively only if a law is enacted providing the authority to pay them.”

“We would also be required to do some other bad things to our people,” Hale said. “Just some examples, we couldn’t immediately pay death gratuities to those who die on active duty during the lapse, we would have to close stateside commissaries, promotion boards and other similar personnel activities would be disrupted — probably would have to be stopped — and a number of other actions.”

The Department of Defense has created a website: Government Shutdown What You Need to Know  with guidance for contingency plans.

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