Blog courtesy of  National Military Family Association’s  Executive Director, Joyce Wessel Raezer

It’s been a busy few weeks on Capitol Hill. With all of the talk of negotiations and fiscal cliff diving, lately watching and understanding everything on the news has had a dizzying affect. Although the recent fiscal cliff compromise bill took the headline spot for most of the holiday season, another important bill that will potentially affect the military community was signed. President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on January 2, 2013, specifying the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense for the year ahead.

There were several items passed that affect military families and we want to make sure you are aware. You’ll be glad to know that it included family friendly provisions: a 1.7% pay raise, enhanced military spouse employment programs, financial support for schools educating military children, and enhanced consumer credit protections.

The bill also addresses concerns about the availability and access to ABA analysis for all military families by calling for a one-year pilot program for TRICARE coverage for therapies, including ABA therapy, for patients with autism spectrum disorders. Here are a few other provisions that could affect your family:

  • The Act authorizes $25 million for Department of Defense supplemental Impact Aid. This is the financial assistance given to school districts serving large numbers of military children. An additional $5 million was allocated to districts with significant changes in enrollment of military children due to base closures, force structure changes, or force relocations. Also an additional $5 million for schools with military children with severe disabilities.
  • Congress made two changes to the military spouse non-competitive hiring authority. The first change removed the 2 year limitation. This means a military spouse will no longer be required to use the authority within 2 years of a move to a new duty station. The second change applies to military spouses of 100 percent disabled serviced members. A military spouse of a 100 percent disabled service member is eligible to use the non-competitive appointment. 100 percent disabled will now be based on the Department of Veterans Affairs schedule for rating disabilities. Prior to the change it was unclear what rating scale was used.
  • BAH is temporarily increased in 2 cases: in areas impacted by natural disasters and also in areas where there is an influx of military personnel. This increase expires on 12/31/13.
  •  A request for the DOD to, report on the future of DoD and service family support programs over the next 5 years in order to better gage need and provide support systems .

There are other provisions concerning transition assistance, suicide prevention, military lending, and family advocacy, among others. It’s also important to note that this legislation does not reflect the still possible negative effects of sequestration.

Starting a new year out with so much still hanging in the air isn’t ideal, but by staying informed about potential changes that will affect your daily life, we hope you’ll feel prepared for whatever comes your way and our Association will continue to fight for your family.