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Federal and State Laws Protect Military Students on Orders

Posted By Cdr. Wayne L. Johnson, JAGC, Navy (Ret.), Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Federal law and regulations (in some states) protect active duty, guard and Reserve military personnel who are attending post-secondary education schools if they must miss school due to military orders.

Federal law and regulation have the greatest protective impact on a “veteran” who is now attending school and who is also in the Guard or Reserves. The only time the federal law would not directly protect a veteran is when the veteran is not in any reserve or active duty military status.  (It’s conceivable that knowledge of the law might encourage a person, veteran or not, to join the military in some capacity, knowing that many disruptions to one’s education due to service on military orders would now be ameliorated to some degree.

In 2010, the Department of Education published regulations implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.  The regulations, 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) section 668.18, went into effect July 1, 2010.  The law is codified under 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1091c 

The law and regulations accord the post-secondary education student whose education was interrupted by voluntary or involuntary military service the right to readmission to the educational program. These requirements apply to any educational institution that participates in title IV federal student financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program.

This applies to the student who is a member of the National Guard or Reserve and who is called to active duty involuntarily or volunteers for an extended period of active duty. It applies to the student who starts an educational program (often part-time) while on active duty and who then must interrupt the educational program because of a deployment or a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It also applies to a student who interrupts his or her education to enlist in a regular component of the armed forces. Such a person is entitled, as a matter of federal law, to resume the educational program later, either during or after the person’s active duty service.

EXTRA NOTE FOR RESERVE AND GUARD PERSONNEL:  There may be instances where your active military service due to its short duration (or, for National Guard personnel, how one is mobilized) does not receive federal education protection -- see the April 2012 Executive Order below.  In those cases, check your state government laws, as they often provide additional protections. Some states even give the service member the ability to sue the school for violating the state’s law.  Currently 21 states have their own laws in this area:  Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges

Policy Letters, Federal Law, State Laws, and Governing Policies   SOC was established in 1972 to help meet the voluntary higher education needs of servicemembers.  SOC is a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor supporting government-sponsored education programs funded through a DoD-managed contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). 

U.S. Department of Education

Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions

Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional Readmission Requirements for Servicemembers

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)

ROA LAW REVIEW  No. 17019, March 2017:  Presidential Executive Order 13607 Establishes Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, April 27, 2012: Expanded Coverage of 34 CFR 668.18 To Include Mobilizations of 30 Days or Fewer 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15039, May 2015:  Federal Law Protects Students Called to the Colors during a Semester, But it Does not Help the Student who Must Miss a few Days for Drills or Annual Training

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15038, May 2015:  Federal and State Laws Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service  (updates No. 13070)

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 13071, May 2013:  New Washington State Law Protects Students who Are Members of the National Guard or Reserve 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 10052March 2017 (previously No. 1052):  Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions -- Details Regarding the Department of Education (DOE) Regulations Implementing the New Law on Mandatory Readmission of Mobilized Reserve and Guard and Active Duty Students

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Reservists and Veterans in Support of New Americans

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 18, 2017

By Lt. Col. L. Carter Crewe III, USAF (Ret.)

“We do not have you in our database as a U.S. citizen.”

The retired two-star Army general who quoted these words was sitting next to me during a recent veterans panel discussion calling for immigration policies that enhance military readiness. He got that frustrating answer, one that inaccurately reflected his citizenship status, when applying for Medicare benefits. One of our nation’s highest-ranking immigrant officers, with a distinguished military career spanning more than 34 years, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), had to prove his citizenship so that he could receive the benefits he earned as a naturalized citizen.

But clerical errors are the least of the unforeseen challenges and obstacles encountered by immigrant service members and their families. Continued inaction on the part of Congress to reform our outdated federal immigration system is also weakening our ability to strengthen our national security and our efforts to enhance our military readiness as we prepare to face global challenges.

Immigration laws are relevant to everyone who serves our country in uniform. Immigrant soldiers have served in every conflict since our nation was founded. Consequently, both reservist’s and veteran’s communities must find a unified voice on this issue.

To seek answers on the many challenges faced by our immigrant service members, a new group, Veterans for New Americans, supports immigration policies that will benefit our veterans, service members and the military overall. A project of the National Immigration Forum, Veterans for New Americans is a national network of veterans from each branch of the military who are committed to ensuring that immigrants are fully included in our military readiness plans, to effectively meet any global or national security challenges.

In addition, we support immigrant service members by advocating for stronger efforts to inform them about how they can become citizens -- and encourage them to do so.

Finally, we support measures to ensure that new American veterans receive the care they deserve for service-related conditions, as well as support to reduce the risk of behaviors that may lead to deportation for the approximately 82,000 veterans who are legal permanent residents.

Recruitment, retention and developing the cultural intelligence required for global operations are continuing challenges for our armed forces. For example, the U.S. Army is now challenged to recruit 80,000 new soldiers, including the 15,400 needed for the U.S. Army Reserve. Each year, about 80,000 undocumented youth come of age without a clear path to legalize their immigration status. Many graduate from our high schools with strong academic records, have no criminal record and are able meet and exceed the physical requirements needed to join our military. Legislation like the ENLIST Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-10), would allow undocumented youth to earn legalized status with military service, would help them fully integrate into and contribute to American society.

Given the dual role reservists have in society as citizen soldiers, we have an opportunity to voice our concerns on issues and situations connected with national security and military readiness that have a direct impact on the Reserve Component.

Immigration is no exception: reservists have the opportunity to support, encourage and educate our immigrant communities on the importance of supporting our men and women in uniform. As reservists and veterans, we can have a positive impact on our communities by serving as role models for immigrant youth and encouraging them to pursue military service as a rewarding way to stand up and contribute to their new country.

As a retired Air Force officer and reservist, I have gained a special appreciation for my immigrant brothers and sisters in uniform who have put themselves in harm’s way on behalf of all Americans. We should all be proud of the countless contributions and acts of selfless sacrifice made by immigrants on active duty, in the reserves and National Guard, as well as veterans and their families. Today, more than ever, we must honor their tremendous contributions by updating our national immigration laws to fully address the unique immigration challenges new American veterans and their families face — and to help ensure our continuing force readiness. 

Lt. Col. L. Carter Crewe III, USAF (Ret.), is Co-Chair, Veterans Advisory Committee for Veterans Association of North County (Oceanside, California) and a member of ROA and Veterans for New Americans.

To join Veterans for New Americans as a Reservist and veteran, please contact Octavio Hinojosa, National Coordinator, at ohinojosamier@bbbimmigration.org.

Tags:  naturalized citizens 

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SIANC-NCS Spotlights Reserve Capacities

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 11, 2017

By  U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs Reserve Component

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) – This past August, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) Reservists welcomed eight foreign navies to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida, for the Specialized Inter-American Naval Conference on Naval Control of Shipping (SIANC-NCS), an off-set of the bi-annual Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC), usually held by rotating host nations every other year.  The directives produced by the IANC are exclusively managed by the Navy Reserve through the Navy’s Naval Cooperation for Guidance and Shipping (NCAGS) organizations. In keeping with that precedent, and to showcase of the breadth of skill and capacity in the reserve force, the conference itself was managed entirely by reservists from Buffalo, Chicago, Houston, New York, Norfolk and Washington, DC among other cities across the nation.

The reservists, who had been planning every aspect of the international conference since February of 2016, fully embodied the mission of the Navy Reserve to “deliver strategic depth and operational capability.”  As testament to that diverse experience, the 23-person team included industry executives, New York City police officers, an exotic pet distributor, a Harvard graduate, an aesthetician, a Notre Dame alumni association board member, a food service staffer, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a champion runner.

Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Bravo, a Broken Hill Proprietary Billiton Completions Engineer, remarked:  “The skillsets we develop in our civilian roles enhance our military training and enable us to quickly adapt to any scenario.  We are ready now, anytime, anywhere.”

The reservists’ broad base of experience was immediately recognized and appreciated by the naval delegations in attendance.  Capt. Jesus Lopez Vallejo of the Mexican Navy explains, “Lt. Anthony Bravo is an excellent example – he was there the moment I arrived in Florida, helped us overcome a tri-lingual language barrier throughout the conference, and ensured I had a positive firsthand experience with the U.S. Navy.”  Lopez Vallejo was surprised to learn that Bravo was a reservist, due to Bravo’s depth of Navy knowledge.  “Reservists’ ability to be a civilian and then a navy officer the next day is very impressive. If reservists didn’t exist our national friendships wouldn’t exist.”

This year marked the first time in more than 12 years the U.S. has hosted the conference, which first convened in 1959. NAS Jacksonville was selected due to its importance to the U.S. Navy, waterway shipping, and all that it offers as a destination conference city. The conference underscores the U.S. Navy’s position as a key contributor to inter-American shipping as well as the value the Navy places on its productive maritime partnerships.

Accordingly, this year’s conference focused on the sharing of knowledge, the exchange of ideas, and the development of insights among each country’s navy towards greater hemispheric solidarity. In addition to the U.S., navies represented include those of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. Over the course of the conference, each attending nation delivered a presentation focused on this year’s theme, “Exchanging Information to Strengthen Partnerships.”

Rear Adm. Chris Sadler, USFFC reserve deputy director of maritime operations served as senior U.S. Navy representative. 

“This conference is a great example of how we support the Fleet. Since NCAGS is a 100 percent reserve mission, it only makes sense that we should play such a large role in this conference,” said Sadler. “The maritime shipping and language expertise our reservists bring to the plate are essential to getting the job done and building the relationships that are so valuable in working with our partner navies.” 

While they were in Jacksonville, conference organizers also arranged for delegates to visit a static display of the P8 Poseidon aircraft hosted by  Patrol Squadron Sixteen (VP-16), a trip to American retail shops, and eating American hot dogs at a Jacksonville Suns baseball game.

In the Reserve and among our international partners, “trust cannot be surged,” concluded Sadler, quoting a familiar saying.

So, as intended, with the help of reservists, the conference reinforced participants’ and organizers’ appreciation for and trust in each other, well in advance of need.

Tags:  Reserve Capabilities  SIANC 

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A Proposed Model for a Public Health Service Officer Reserve

Posted By ROA, Tuesday, November 22, 2016


By Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D.
There has been considerable discussion about the need to create a true reserve corps for the U.S. Public Health Service. The current PHS reserve does not provide the augmentation to active duty forces that are afforded to the federal military services by their reserve components. This paper represents an attempt by someone who is familiar with military reserve forces, especially those of the U.S. Army, to suggest a workable structure for a true PHS reserve corps.

I spent most of my thirty years of Army service as a member of the United States Army Reserve, including the Selected Reserve (troop program units and the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program) and the Individual Ready Reserve. I am also co-author of the official history of the U.S. Army Reserve: Twice the Citizen: A History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908-1995 (Washington, DC: Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, 1997). Researching and writing this book afforded me a unique perspective from which to understand the rationale behind the creation of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which was the first federal military reserve organization. (The National Guard traces its lineage to a Massachusetts unit that was organized in the early seventeenth century, but these are state forces, and in 1908 there was some question about whether they could be accessed by national authorities). It also gives historical lessons as to how a reserve component for the USPHS might be structured.

The U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps, predecessor to today’s Army Reserve, was created in 1908 as a result of lessons learned from the Spanish-American War. In 1898 the Army had a complement of physicians that was sufficient in number to take care of its needs in peacetime. When war with Spain occurred in, however, the Army grew in size, injuries from combat and disease suddenly became an issue, and the Army recognized that it did not have enough physicians on its rolls. “Contract surgeons” augmented those in the Army ranks, just as they had during the Civil War (1861-1865), but these civilian doctors were not as flexible in their assignments as were those in uniform. They could not necessarily be sent where they were most needed, as could doctors in uniform.

The Army leadership of the time decided that the answer to a wartime physician shortage was to reach into the civilian community and offer Reserve commissions to physicians who would agree to come onto active duty in time of war. To attract civilian doctors, the Army contacted the most prominent among them: the Mayo brothers, offering them commissions as lieutenant colonels (O-5s) in the Medical Reserve Corps. Recruitment into the Medical Reserve Corps went so well that it was soon expanded to include nurses and ambulance drivers. The ranks of the MRC had reached 160,000 by the time the United States entered World War I in 1917. From this modest beginning has come today’s U.S. Army Reserve, a force of about 450,000, including 4,000 Individual Mobilization Augmentees.

It is this last category of reservists—IMAs—which I believe offers the best model for a USPHS reserve. IMA soldiers are assigned to a particular Army unit or organization and perform 12 days of active duty a year. If they fall into the category of “Drilling IMA,” they also perform two days of duty a month at their assigned station. There are both commissioned officer and enlisted soldier IMAs in the Army, but for now, I will focus only on the officer side. Many of these IMAs previously served on active duty and then embarked on civilian careers that develop skills needed by the Army but for which enough active duty positions have not been provided. The author, for example, was for five years a drilling IMA with the Army’s Office of Legislative Liaison in the Pentagon. This is the office that represents the Army to Capitol Hill, and as a former Hill staffer, I was a logical fit to augment the active duty soldiers and civilians who worked there. As a Reserve colonel, I performed active duty each year when an active duty colonel in the office wanted to take a vacation. I was as knowledgeable about the Congress as were the officers who served regularly in OCLL, thus the office did not lose capacity because a Reserve officer had taken a position there.

This could be the model for the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS. The idea would be to contact civilians who have the skills required to be an officer in the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and offer them Reserve commissions, the rank to be determined in the same manner as active duty PHS accessions. These officers would go through the Officer Basic Course with active duty PHS officers and would be assigned to fill a billet that would correspond with one held by an active duty PHS officer.

The benefits would be immediate. Using the Indian Health Service as an example, a Reserve physician or dentist or nurse or pharmacist would be called to active duty whenever one of the clinicians at a particular IHS facility wanted to take two weeks of vacation time or depart their job at the IHS to go on a deployment. As the system works now, officers assigned to the IHS are frequently denied the opportunity to deploy because the leadership of the IHS feels that they cannot endure the shortage of that particular officer’s skills. Having a Reserve physician or dentist or nurse or pharmacist available to fill the billet occupied by the active duty PHS officer would allow the active duty officer to deploy or take vacation without degrading the quality of care provided at the IHS facility to which they are assigned. This would be particularly effective if the PHS Reserve IMA regularly completed 12-day tours at the facility to which they were assigned.

Exact costs of implementing a PHS Reserve IMA program are hard to estimate, as there are many variables. It is anticipated that the cost of the program would largely fall onto the agency or department to which the Reserve PHS augmentee was assigned, as that is where most of the benefits would accrue. Even if Reserve PHS officers were afforded the same benefits as federal military IMA officers, the costs would not be great.

The benefit to the employing agency is that they would have the services of a qualified clinician who could augment the full-time staff, filling in when an active duty PHS officer was absent. The benefit for the Commissioned Corps officers would be palpable. Agencies would not be reluctant to release an officer for deployment if they knew that a qualified replacement would be immediately available. The benefit to the augmentee would be the privilege of serving in uniform, qualifying for some no-cost benefits like exchange and commissary, and perhaps ultimately qualifying for a modest retirement. The benefit for the Public Health Service itself would be enormous. It would instantly create a corps of prominent civilian supporters in every state, thus increasing understanding of the Commissioned Corps and its mission at the local level and greatly increasing the corps’ recognition and acceptance in the Congress.

We know that there has been some discussion of using the Coast Guard Reserve as a model for the USPHS. We think that the Army IMA model might be a better fit for the Commissioned Corps, and we urge the Office of the Surgeon General to explore such as an alternative to a Coast Guard model.

Tags:  Officer Reserve  Proposed Reserve Model  USPHS 

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‘Lateral entry’: Direct commissioning of civilians, a pro and con

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 3, 2016



Jeffrey E. Phillips, Maj. Gen., USA (Ret.)
ROA Executive Director

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in June announced a second “tranche” of initiatives in his Force of the Future program designed to position the department for, well, the future.  Among those initiatives was the reliably controversial “lateral entry” proposal.  Secretary Carter recognizes that the military doesn’t always produce every type of expert it needs.  He wants the ability to “laterally” bring volunteers with the needed skills into uniformed service at an appropriate rank (and subject to the UCMJ and rigor of military command).

“In situations where, for example, a network defense or encryption expert from a tech company feels a call to serve and is willing to contribute to the DoD mission as a reservist or on active duty, the department needs a way to harness their expertise and put it to use,” Carter said, according to a June 2016 DoD release. “Allowing the military services to commission a wider segment of specialized outside talent … who can meet our standards, who provide unique skills we need and who are willing to serve in uniform will help fill critical gaps in our force and will make us more effective.”

I specifically advocated this innovation to Secretary Carter in an early 2016 meeting, noting that the idea of lateral entry is not new.  Just months after Pearl Harbor, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall made film director Frank Capra a major.  Marshall needed a skilled filmmaker to help the war effort and the Army had no such expertise. Major Capra produced the Why We Fight series showing troops why America was going to war and why they were being called on to risk their necks. 


“Now, Capra, I want to nail down with you a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films – the first in our history – that will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting,” Marshall told the filmmaker. “You have an opportunity to contribute enormously to your country and the cause of freedom. Are you aware of that, sir?”


The 1943 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Capra an Academy Award (later the “Oscar”) for Best Documentary film of 1942 for the Why We Fight film Prelude to War. 

It is worth noting that in 1942, conscription gave the nation access to any able-bodied adult, yet the Army still had to “reach out” for a specific expert – and recognized that such an expert needed significant commissioned rank.

In his book, Bleeding Talent, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Kane explores the military’s centralized personnel systems and what he sees as their corrosive effect on retention.  Kane criticizes the inability of the military to accommodate lateral entry from outside, as it has done before with good effect.

One obvious objection (one I considered in helping develop ROA’s position on the matter) involves the integrity of the culture.  The concern is that a civilian injected into the military, especially as a field grade officer, without acculturation and years of training, will weaken the integrity of the military culture.  After all, being an officer is more than learning how to salute (and what to salute) and so forth . . .

And yet, and yet, we already do this: our doctors come in as officers with less military training and seasoning than a “line” officer of equivalent rank; the same might be said of our lawyers.  Yet their performance – or effect on military culture – is rarely the subject of serious criticism.

Consider the United States Marine Band, “The President’s Own.”  By all accounts, it is an integral and even beloved component of the Corps.  But Marine bandsmen don’t go through “Parris Island” basic training; they are expert musicians recruited directly into the Marine Corps.  With minimal training, they don the uniform and perform to the adulation and respect of all, including their Corps brethren. 

The Reserve could be home to a revival of this enlightened way of selectively accessing specialized expertise; the Reserve could even be responsible for identifying capabilities needed and candidates for accession. For example, in addition to cyber and with the evolving nature of military operations, experts in macroeconomics and advanced finance may well be critical to a combatant commander; there is no military occupational specialty for these skills. 


The implementation of this proposal would dramatically expand both the expertise available to the military and the types of people potentially amenable to service.  Lateral entry would be a solid move toward enhancing civil-military relations; and most important, would increase the readiness of the total force.


Who knows, maybe we’d get another Oscar . . .



Dennis Laich, Maj. Gen., USA (Ret.)
Author of
Skin in the Game

I fully understand that the Department of Defense has a major problem attracting and retaining cyber talent.  I also understand that the problem is the result of the failure of senior civilian and uniformed bureaucrats at the Pentagon to anticipate and address the problem in a timely manner.  Globalization, the Internet, and social media did not suddenly appear.  Furthermore, this problem is a reflection of the limitations and failure of the All-Volunteer Force model of manning our military which gives an exemption from service to every citizen.


The   proposed “fix” by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to allow more “lateral entry” of lifelong civilians with “cyber skills” into the officer corps at ranks as high as O-6 is a monumental mistake with negative secondary and tertiary effects.  First, it weakens the military’s longstanding tradition of growing its own force, which is the foundation of its culture and social fabric, and the source of its effectiveness.  Lateral entry creates a tribe of outsiders disconnected from the career force.


Second, this initiative opens the door to a slippery slope that threatens the longstanding rank structure and organization of the military.  The “cyber-logic” could be applied to logistics, military police, and civil affairs, thereby demoralizing traditional careerists in these fields.  Third, a quick internet search reveals that the average annual salary of an undergraduate computer science or software engineering major is $86,000 per year (Monster.com).  The base pay of an O-6 with 10 years of service is $88,000 per year. 


“Financial patriotism” is not a factor in this situation.  If the lifelong civilian was not motivated to “volunteer” as an E-4 why would he or she be motivated to volunteer as an O-6?  Is the Pentagon selling rank and cheapening it at the same time?  It is unrealistic to think that a civilian with these skill sets would surrender his or her personal and professional autonomy for this tradeoff.


I suspect that very few would respond to this trumpet’s call, but the Pentagon would invite the unintended consequences of placing two centuries of tradition, culture, and effectiveness at risk.


The authors invite your comments using the blog site comment function.

Tags:  Direct commission Civilians  Pro/Con 

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Shouting Down Ideas And Shutting Down Options

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Jeffrey Phillips, Executive Director

For those not familiar with Washington dysfunction: here is a prime example: a commission grappling with a tough issue (veterans’ health care) discusses some controversial ideas that don’t go over well with someone (in this case some veterans’ groups).  These advocates, who have for decades done good and dedicated work for veterans, nonetheless essentially disapprove of outsourcing veterans’ care, with some exceptions.  Yet, in a manner of speaking, veterans themselves have already shown readiness to make some decisions in this regard: only 9 million of the nation’s nearly 22 million veterans are enrolled in VA health care, and about 6 million vets are actually patients.  Thus about 16 million vets get their care elsewhere, many presumably eligible for VA enrollment but satisfied where they are. (Ever hear of a congressman, senator or president getting care at a VA hospital for anything more than a publicity shot?  – Pardon the pun . . .)  

From its website, the Commission on Care, established by Congress, is charged “to examine veterans’ access to VA health care and to examine strategically how best to organize the VHA [Veterans Health Administration], locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.”  We have not taken any position on the commission’s work so far.  We are, however, deeply interested in a robust and open exploration of ways to improve veterans’ health care and benefits administration and delivery.  Many members of the reserve components use VA’s services and they deserve the best. 

One valid concern is that if you bleed VA hospitals of patients, doctor skills get rusty (this fear, by the way, is largely why DoD is letting retirees back into its military hospitals and clinics: fear of rusty doc).  VA health care is good care, once you get past the bureaucrats, secret wait lists, and so forth, to the actual clinicians -- who often also work at good private-sector hospitals (I once had excellent VA inpatient care from a VA doctor who also worked at a highly regarded DC hospital).  But like everything else in the country, VA care would benefit from competition.  (You should see the change in DC’s taxis after the arrival of a certain app-based transportation company that is helping transform the “taxi” business internationally.)

So forget ideas: instead of allowing the exploration and development of ideas – even ideas with which one may not agree – all too often the approach is to politicize, demonize, and smash the idea, insinuate it to death or discredit those associated with the idea.  In this case the idea is attacked in part because it arose allegedly outside some narrowly prescribed commission process (if you want ideas to consider, who really cares how they arose?).  Where would we be if the private sector worked this way? We’d still be using the abacus, the earth would still be flat, I’d be driving a Pinto . . .

Decreasing the brick-and-mortar component of a $182 billion-per-year federal system (it was under $50 billion in 2001) that now inhales well over $1 billion to build a hospital the private sector could likely build for half that (in less time), and allowing veterans more choice may indeed be a lousy idea; let a free, full, and public airing convince us of that. 

Otherwise the shout-down drill so characteristic of this polarized and paralyzed town shuts down options, choice, potential, and the very liberty that vets served in harm’s way expressly to preserve.

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DoD Fy 2017 Budget Submission: Blended Retirement System

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

According to DoD, as part of their FY17 budget submission, “In general, the Department supports the blended retirement system established by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.  However, DoD is proposing some modifications now to ensure that, when the new system goes into effect, it best meets the retention needs of the Services and our men and women in uniform.”





The Department seeks flexibility in the application of continuation pays in order to shape the force vice the NDAA, which provides a minimum continuation payment to all members at 12 years-of-service (YOS)  (ROA Supports).

ROA Supports.

TSP MATCHING  - Increase Matching to 6%

The Department seeks to increase TSP matching to 5 percent for a total contribution of 6 percent. The NDAA provides a 1 percent automatic TSP contribution to the Service member and up to 4 percent in TSP matching contributions for a total of 5 percent.

ROA Neutral.  We have found out this will probably not be supported on the Hill because they would be pressured to increase the contribution for civil servants.

TSP MATCHING - Delay to the 5th YOS

The Department seeks to amend the start date for matching service member TSP contributions to the first day of the fifth YOS generally aligning the start date with a service member’s second enlistment. The NDAA begins matching the first day of the third YOS.

ROA does not Support.  This would put servicemembers too far behind their civilian counterparts and reduce their 20 year retirement earnings.  For example, in a 20 year period it reduces matching contributions to having occurred for only 15 years.  For individuals retiring at the 20 year mark this significantly reduces their retirement.



(Extend to Retirement Date)

The Department seeks to extend TSP matching contributions until the member’s retirement, similar to civilians covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, while the NDAA ceases TSP matching contributions at 26 YOS.

ROA does not Support.  This could be seen as a bargaining tool for getting Congress to agree to delaying matching contributions for the first five years.  In actuality it reduces contributions for 100% of the force in the first 5 years, and shifts to less than 17% of the force that retires.  It also reduces the TSP earning power from more almost 50 years of potential gains to only 18-25 years of potential gains.  To be fair, some of those years could show a loss.

Example Current Blended Retirement:  Contributions would begin at the 3rd year of service but would stop at the 26th year for those individuals staying in for retirement.

100 PERCENT OF THE FORCE – Everyone who joins the service


Enlistment Age

Ages for Matching Contributions

Years of Service for Matching Contributions

Age for Drawing TSP

Period of Time for TSP Earnings



21, 22

3-4 YOS


49-48 years



25, 26

3-4 YOS


48-47 years


Example DoD Proposed Changes to Blended Retirement: Contributions would be delayed until the 27th year of service and only those individuals staying in for retirement would see contributions extended after serving 26 years or more of service.

17 PERCENT OF THE FORCE – Everyone who stays to retirement


Enlistment Age

Ages for Matching Contributions

Years of Service for Matching Contributions

Age for Drawing TSP

Period of Time for

TSP Earnings




27-30 YOS


25-22 years




27-30 YOS


21-18 years


BOTTOM LINE:  83 percent of the force loses the opportunity to receive matching contributions and let their money increase over a 45-48 year time span.  Additionally, their 20 year retirement will only have 15 years of matching contributions.

TSP MATCHING (Extend to Retirement Date)

As part of the FY 2017 budget, DoD has made several proposed changes to the new blended retirement plan.  One proposal would delay implementing the matching contribution until the 5th year of service (YOS).  Matching contributions would then be shifted to extend contributions from the 27th year and beyond until retirement. 

DoD Proposal

The Department seeks to extend TSP matching contributions until the member’s retirement, similar to civilians covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, while the NDAA ceases TSP matching contributions at 26 YOS.

For the purposes of this discussion the data focuses on final retirement by the 30 year of service.  The chart shows that a total of 27,756 servicemembers retired by their 26th YOS versus 3,345 who retired from their 27th to 30th YOS.  This is not a better option than the current law which provides matching contributions to 100 percent of the military force beginning in their 3rd year.

Military Retirees Retired during FY2014

Statistical Report on the MRS - September 30, 2014, http://actuary.defense.gov/Portals/15/Documents/MRS_StatRpt_2014.pdf

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Obsession With Technology May Endanger Defense Capability

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

A senior Air Force officer’s comments made in September illustrate the defense technocracy’s willingness to sacrifice proven and plentiful lower-tech weapon systems in pursuit of the alluring promise of technological advantage, endangering real combat capacity.

“Air Force Gen. Herbert. J. ‘Hawk’ Carlisle said Tuesday the raging debate over whether the A-10 or the F-35 is better equipped to perform close air support was totally missing the point on the future of the mission.

‘What we’ve got to talk about is how you do UCAS (unconventional close air support) better’, rather than which aircraft can do it better, the head of Air Combat Command said. ‘The discussion of what platform is going to replace the A-10 is ludicrous. We have to talk about how to do it better, and we do it better with technology’.

In a session with reporters, Carlisle called the A-10 ‘a fantastic airplane doing fantastic work down range’ in Iraq.

‘One of the questions I get is if you’re going to retire the A-10s why are you still using them in the fight? Well, that’s an easy answer. I don’t have enough capacity. I’ve got to use every single thing I’ve got. I don’t have enough capacity’ to handle the missions in Iraq and Syria without the A-10s, the general said.

However, Carlisle said, ‘It’s about how we do CAS, not what platform is replacing what platform’. In addition, the A-10 was not suited for operating against more sophisticated air defenses being developed by Russia, China and other potential adversaries, he said.

‘The A-10, it’s more difficult for that airplane to operate in a contested environment’, Carlisle said. ‘We would lose, which none of us want to accept, we would lose a good portion of those airplanes potentially in a contested environment’.

The F-35 Lightning II’s advantage was stealth, Carlisle said. ‘The F-35, it does very well. Its ability, stealth-wise, to penetrate contested airspace unobserved gives it an advantage over everybody else’.”

The general justifiably rues the lack of capacity.  Yet, invoking the demands of a tough budget, he and others in the defense community would sacrifice the A-10 – which he praises for its actual combat performance – to fund the technological advantage promised by the F-35. 

The F-35 itself is apparently progressing.  Yet even when fully capable, it is fairly short-ranged (low loiter time) – worrisome to ground troops who would depend on it for close air support.  The CAS mission requires an ability to withstand hits: will all that technology survive ground fire?  And the airplane is so expensive we can buy it in only small quantities.  How does that ensure “capacity?”

War requires reliability, capability, and survivability.  Survivability addresses not just the system, but the capability itself: in WWII, technologically superior German Panther and Tiger tanks were destroyed, not by American superiority in quality, but by superiority in quantity: a single Tiger couldn’t beat five Shermans.  With few of them in the field, the loss of every super-tank badly drained German capability.

To Stalin is attributed the observation that “quantity has a quality all its own.”  If he didn’t say it, history does.

Likewise, superior technology must contend with risks inherent in the entire performance envelope: the vastly superior ME-262 jet had to land; to do so, it slowed.  That’s when P-51 Mustangs pounced.

In his 1951 short story, “Superiority,” Arthur C. Clarke wrote of a future space war in which a superpower fighting a less-advanced interstellar enemy discards its sizable fleet of conventional weapon systems in favor of – in obsession with – the promise of technological advantage.  Its new fleet is vanquished when the advanced weapons – late to the field, incompletely developed, and few in number – are destroyed piecemeal by swarming enemy ships that exploit the techno-chinks, as happened to the Tigers and the ME-262s.

Like Clarke’s fleet, our expensive super weapons will be produced in small numbers; they are slow in the development and increasingly temperamental.  They are not invulnerable; and once their weakness is discovered, Stalin’s maxim fully comes into play.  The F-35’s supremacy – and much of the rationale for the $1.5 trillion we’ve paid for it so far – is that its stealth design will enable it to conduct long range strikes undetected by enemy radar.  Yet, its single huge engine emits an infrared signature likely detectable by sensors in Russian and Chinese fighters over distances that could negate the stealth advantage.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said last February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable.” 

So, then what do we have; where is our capacity then?

The Air Force general speaks as if, after Iraq (and Afghanistan, and Syria, and . . .) there will be no more dirty, lower-tech combat environments with lots of determined, self-sacrificial foes, no more surprises; the assumption is apparently that the future belongs to the direct, technology-enabled clash of superpowers.  And their super weapons. 

And he’s not alone.

“What happens is that life gets in the way of the perfect plan,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, in a January 24 broadcast of Defense News with Vago Muradian. “So when we made the decision on retiring the A-10, we made those decisions prior to ISIL, we were not in Iraq, we were coming out of Afghanistan to a large extent, we didn’t have a resurgent Russia.”

But life happened . . .

Yet, as Clarke implied in his short story, the argument isn’t “either-or”: we must certainly, by both evolution and revolution, exploit technology to enhance weapon system capability.  The F-35 and other such marvels, if they can perform, will be valuable.  The risk is a capacity imbalance driven by obsession with promising technology (that, like stealth, may be overrated and vulnerable) to the neglect of complementary systems that are adequate or can be adapted to be adequate – and can be had in quantity. The F-16, F-18, and the M1 Abrams tank are examples.  So is the A-10. 

“Military strength requires both quantity and quality of capability,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry in response to the president’s State of the Union speech. “The Obama administration argues that a ship today is more capable than one twenty years ago.  Generally that is true, but a ship can still only be at one place at a time.”

This imbalance in capacity is perilous for a nation that must be ready to fight any type of war and likely more than one war at a time.  This imbalance is already influencing our force structure; it is facilitated by those who, drawn by the siren call of technology, disregard the lessons of historical perspective – and prescient science fiction.

Lead photo: A10 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sr. Airman Corey Hook, U.S. Air Force)

Jeffrey E. Phillips, executive director, ROA
January 25, 2016

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Arlington National Cemetery Grapples With Capacity Limits And Changing Nature Of Memorialization

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Louisiana National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery after a lengthy fight with the Army. (Louisiana National Guard, AP)

The inevitable faces Arlington National Cemetery: it is nearing capacity for “below-ground” interments (commonly called “burials”).  There is plenty of room for the enshrinement of cremated remains, called “inurnment.”

At a recent Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery’s Honor Subcommittee meeting at Arlington attended by ROA and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard (and no other veterans or military organizations, curiously), subcommittee members focused on ANC’s diminishing capacity. 

During fiscal year 2015, Arlington, which is under the jurisdiction of the Army, saw 6,828 interments and “inurnments” (cremations), up from 5,813 in FY 2013, but down a bit from FY2014.  Under the 27-acre “Millennium Project” expansion underway, room is expected to run out in 2035.  A second, “Southern” expansion of 40 acres on the grounds extends that fateful day to the 2050s. 

While service members killed in action are quickly scheduled by Arlington for interment, scheduling for other remains reflects a cemetery team under great pressure: the wait for scheduling a funeral ranges from 12 weeks for USMC remains to 22 for Navy remains, with the Army and Air Force being about 14 weeks.

The Honor Subcommittee also discussed ANC interment eligibility.  Given the nature of service provided by an “operational” reserve in a time of constant hostilities, the old rules have grown visibly and unacceptably out of balance.  An example is the struggle entailed in gaining Army approval for the burial at Arlington of Louisiana ARNG Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich.  Staff Sergeant Florich was killed in the March 2015 crash of a UH-60 Black Hawk.  His family’s request for a waiver permitting his burial (instead of inurnment, which was authorized without waiver) was denied because he was on inactive duty for training orders.  ROA advocated for his burial at ANC; Secretary of the Army John McHugh ultimately reversed the bureaucracy’s decision, approving the Guardsman’s burial at Arlington.

In a conversation with committee member and former chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Hon. Chet Edwards of Texas, ROA’s executive director, Jeff Phillips, conveyed the point that eligibility reform must ensure that the type of orders under which a service member is “paid” must not influence the manner in which he or she is honored in death, as nearly became the case with Staff Sgt. Florich. 

Arlington will, sooner or later, become full.  Now is the time to review eligibility criteria to ensure equity and appropriateness, recognize that Arlington’s capacity will inevitably run out, and explore options.  As Chairman Edwards said, in doing so, what cannot be compromised is the “iconic” nature of Arlington; it is the nation’s shrine; its solemnity, dignity, serenity, and beauty must be fittingly preserved. 

Edwards, son of a WWII naval aviator, also voiced the opinion, with which we agree, that the people of America and the Congress would “be offended” if recipients of the Medal of Honor could not be buried at Arlington: should then a dedicated area be set aside to ensure perpetual space for recipients of our highest award for valor?  Could the impeccably maintained VA-run National Cemeteries, which now have different eligibility criteria, somehow play a helpful role as Arlington’s capacity disappears? Could a sizable Arlington annex be built elsewhere in the National Capital Area? Could ceremonies be held at ANC, but the actual interment occur at the annex . . . ?  

ROA will take an active role in helping shape this discussion; the outcomes must in any event assure equity for Reservists who die doing their duty, serving our nation.

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CR To Accompany H.R. 1735-A10 Fleet

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 authorized restoration of procurement, operations and maintenance, and personnel to the A-10 program.  The budget will need to appropriate the same amounts or they can reduce or add to these amounts.

The conference report agreed to these changes to what the House and Senate had previously placed in their versions of the NDAA.

Read the full report (pdf)

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