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International Reserve Congress CIOR Summer Congress

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

Reservists from more than two-dozen countries gathered to take part in the 2014 Congress of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers, known globally by the French acronym, CIOR. Now in its 66th year, this international conference plays a critical role in maintaining readiness for millions of Reservists represented here by these NATO partners.

Part diplomatic conference part military competition, the Congress is an annual meeting designed to facilitate CIOR’s mission of support to the NATO Alliance. Through committees that examine issues and provide analysis relating to reserve forces and international competition that display combat and medical tactics, the Congress has also become a one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity for individual Reservists.

As if the complexities of Reserve service weren’t enough, CIOR is chiefly responsible for maintaining the continuity of Reservists across international borders and advising on the use of Reserve forces in joint operations worldwide: no easy mission. But leaders here say it’s essential to maintaining the levels of Reserve efficiency and capability the US military has come to expect and rely upon.

 “Freedom is not free and success in battle takes readiness training.” said Brigadier General Michael Silva, USA (Ret), National President of the Reserve Officers Association of the US. The CIOR Military Competition brings reserve forces together from our NATO allies to compete and demonstrate their skills in fundamental military tasks. But, the value to the individual Reservist doesn’t stop there as the exposure to Reserve Forces of other nations adds a broadening dimension that is unique. Silva said international events like these add a level of readiness training and international broadening that, “US service members simply can’t find anywhere else outside of actual coalition operations.” Silva added, “In addition to the MILCOMP, this Congress also has a Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROW) that really serves to enhance the professional development and ultimately the cultural capability of our young Reserve officers. CIOR is a valuable experience more American Reservists should have in their careers as global perspectives will be even more important to our future leadership.”

Detailed Congress informaton will be posted as soon as available.

Learn more about CIOR at: http://www.cior.net/

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ROA Honors Johnson & Johnson And Huntington Ingalls Industries

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Reserve Officers Association Nathan Hale Awards go to Johnson & Johnson and Huntington Ingalls Industries

CEOs to be recognized for serving the nation’s Reserve Components at the Reserve Officers


Washington, D.C. – The Reserve Officers Association (ROA) honored Johnson & Johnson and Huntington Ingalls Industries for their support of our nation’s Reserve Components and veterans at its annual STARS Foundation Gala March 17.

Johnson & Johnson will be recognized for their history of valuing veterans’ leadership and for serving the needs of veterans through innovative research and wellness programs. “Being a part of helping support our veterans through this great program is another of the ways we meet the responsibilities defined in Our Credo at Johnson & Johnson. This simple document guides our decisions and actions by describing the responsibilities we have to the doctors, nurses and patients … the mothers and fathers … and all who use our products. It defines our responsibility to our employees … and to the communities in which we live and work. As a veteran … I take great personal pride in this part of fulfilling those responsibilities,” said Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson CEO and chairman of the board, and a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Huntington Ingalls Industries was recognized for their leadership and commitment to supporting Reservists and veteran employment opportunities. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of all the Reservists at Huntington Ingalls Industries,” said Mike Petters, president and CEO of Huntington Ingalls, and a veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve. “At HII, we are proud that more than 17 percent of our workforce is made up of veterans, many of whom are either active or retired reservists. We are a stronger company because of their dedication and service to our Nation.”

In recognition of the passage of the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) will be honored with the Twice the Citizen award. Senator Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Serves Committee, championed the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014, signed by the President in December. The law will help reduce the suicide rate among Reservists, as it requires an annual mental health assessment for all service members. “The Reserve Components are an essential part of our country’s military, and our nation is safer because of them. I am honored to be recognized by the Reserve Officers Association and thank the ROA for its tireless advocacy on behalf of service members,” said Donnelly.

About ROA

For more than 90 years, the Reserve Officers Association has been the only organization dedicated to supporting Reservists and their critical role in national defense. ROA serves Reservists through its policy advocacy work, Law Center and professional development services.

The ROA Stars Foundation is a membership organization of patriotic individuals and corporations Standing Together for America’s Reservists. The Foundation supports ROA’s work through philanthropy, professional military awards, educational forums, legal information, and scholarship, and tools for family readiness. Additional information on ROA is available at ROA.org

Media Contact for ROA and STARs: Jeffrey E. Phillips, (202) 646-7701; jphillips@roa.org

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NCSAF Report Details Integration of RC

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, February 20, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

By Jenny Swigoda
ROA, Content Manager

The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force (NCSAF) released its findings to the public on Jan. 30. The commission took a holistic approach in examining the Air Force - personnel, budgeting, equipment and force structure. As we expected, the commission’s report reflected a valuable and cost-effective Reserve Component (RC) that operates on the same level of readiness as the Active Component (AC). The NCSAF report is the latest in a long line of reports which support ROA’s position that the RC should have a larger role in our nation’s defense. In addition, the commission supported the apples-to-apples concept of evaluating personnel and component expense using “life cycle costs.” In a recent report by the Reserve Forces Policy Board (RFPB), the board used their  comprehensive life cycle costing model to examine defense appropriations in the RC compared to the AC. The RFPB reported that the RC was 60-70 percent cheaper than the Active Component (AC) for 90 percent of the readiness and capability. The NCSAF supported the use of this model and recommended that DoD follow suit. The report pointed out that life cycle costing inevitably leads to the conclusion that the USAF should integrate most of its forces into the RC.

ROA supports a majority of the recommendations outlined in the report, and many more could be useful when fully examined. The overall message of the report pointed to an Air Force that relied more heavily on the RC, which has demonstrated an equal level of readiness compared to their Active Duty counterparts in the last 10 years of war, and needs to rely even more on the RC in the future. ROA applauds this conclusion, as it further validates the extraordinary talents and sacrifices of our nation’s Reserve family.

Of the commission’s 42 recommendations, a few stood out as having potentially negative impacts for the Air Force Reserve and the Reserve commander’s ability to organize, train, and equip their force. The recommendation to disestablish the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) would make it difficult for the Reserve commander to manage his reserve forces and therefore have a negative impact on overall readiness. Eliminating AFRC HQ would not result in cost savings as the oversight mission has to be done, so it would go from one centrally managed HQ to several smaller units spread across eight different Major Commands (MAJCOMS). This would be less efficient. In addition, our experience has proven that it is critical for Reservists to manage Reservists, even if just administratively, because of the unique demands placed upon our citizen-airmen.

While there are potentially positive outcomes to the commission’s recommendation that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force should direct the integration of AFR units (wings, groups and squadrons) in to AC units, there are many potential pitfalls that could wipe out all of the benefits we see in today’s total force integration organization. Today, Reservists are administratively managed and led by Reservists under AFRC command, even if they are under operational control of the AC. If not executed properly, assimilating all levels of Reserve units into the AC control would pose significant management and leadership challenges for both the RC and AC. The Chief of the Air Force Reserve echoed this concern in his response to the report, pointing out that “if the AF intends to ensure sustained readiness and retention, the management and oversight structure for RC forces must be responsive to personnel that have full-time civilian careers and maintain their military affiliation on a voluntary basis.”

These two recommendations, taken at face value and without the guidance a specified desired end state would have provided, offer the greatest risk to the RC and our nation’s military readiness. As written ROA has serious concerns with these ideas, and we would like for the commission to expand on their reasoning, detailed way ahead and desired end state before we could support them.

The report also calls for budgeting flexibility and planning ahead for the increased reliance on the Reserves. The report recommends that the Air Force should include a line in all future budgeting submissions calling for “operational support of the Air Reserve Component.” Funds specifically outlined for the Reserves will ensure access to the operational capabilities of the AFR forces.

A shift to a Total Force (TF) that is more reliant on the RC will have implications for AF installations. While the report recommends the “closing or warm basing of some installations,” Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) authority may be needed in this process. However, the use of AC personnel in AFR units will help enhance TF awareness and broaden experiences across the AF. The AFR currently has embedded AC Airmen at several installations.

The report also calls on Congress to reduce the number of RC duty statuses in a way that will not reduce the overall compensation of RC members. It’s noted that this recommendation, of reducing the number of separate duty statuses from more than 30 to no more than six was also suggested by the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation and also by the Reserve Forces Policy Board. The reduction in number of duty statuses will make it easier for members of the AFR to serve in an operational capacity.

At a time of fiscal constraints, the Air Force will have to be creative in its use of the Airmen in all three components. The report calls for improved continuum of service; TF Air Command and Staff College; multiple career track options; modifying “up or out”; adopting fully-burdened cost approach; and several other corporate process reforms. Continuum of service will aid in the seamless transition among the three components. While it was previously perceived that a move from Active Duty to the RC constitutes as “separation,” the commission recommended the AF offer incentives to make this transition more appealing. Currently, the AF offers a retention bonus for Active Duty pilots to remain in the AC for an additional term but no such bonus is offered to transfer to the RC and no bonus is offered for Reservists who extend their service.

The commission asserts the notion that leadership with a broad Total Force appreciation will greatly aid the integration of RC members. The Air Force Reserve is currently integrating staffs and sharing infrastructure. There are several AFR and AC Wing Commanders that have been integrating staffs for years, and in the process, grooming the future leadership of the Total Force.

Overall, ROA was pleased that so many of the recommendations highlighted in the report called upon the unique skill sets of the RC. While some suggestions in the report could affect the infrastructure of the Air Force, the universal theme of a Total Force more reliant on its RC members is a positive step that has the possibility of influence in other service branches.

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America's Army In 2015

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Thursday, February 19, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

In the face of growing threats and a volatile security environment, the army – as a result of budget cuts and sequestration – is dramatically cutting back in personnel and modernization. To cope with these challenges the Army has developed five focus areas:

  1. Develop leaders of character to lead the Army through this time of transition. Younger officers will be in a tactical mode one minute and must be prepared to transition almost instantly to thinking strategically (it could be said that, given the tempo and complexity of operations we’ve seen, these leaders must often think tactically and strategically with virtual simultaneity).
  2. The Budget Control Act of 2011, the legislation that cut defense spending and created the mechanism we refer to as sequestration, is the single greatest danger to the well-being of the Army. According to the Army, in the aftermath of sequestration going into effect in 2013, readiness dropped precipitously in the Army with only 10% of brigade combat teams (BCTs) deemed fully ready. Since the relief from sequestration given by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), readiness has increased to 31% of BCTs.
  3. Maintain balance in a fiscally constrained environment. To achieve readiness, force structure and modernization have taken big hits. The Army is heading from a high of about 566,000 soldiers five years ago to 490,000 by the end of this year, on its way to 450,00 by the end of FY17. If sequestration continues, it may drop to 420,000 by FY18. Both the National Guard and Army Reserve are also seeing end strength cuts (to 350,000 for the ARNG and 202,000 for the USAR) that could plunge a further 10% under continued sequestration. The Army has essentially given up on modernization – nothing is in the pipeline. Modernization has been mortgaged to achieve near term readiness.
  4. Build toward Force 2025 and beyond. The key to this is the new Army Operating Concept (AOC) the Army is transitioning to that suggests new ways of approaching doctrine, training, material, leader development, personnel and facilities.
  5. Preserve the All-Volunteer Force. While engaging in a responsible drawdown the Army is striving to maintain the trust of the soldier. It is doing this through a renewed focus on leadership at all levels – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has called leader development his number-one priority. “We cease to be effective as an Army if we let that go,” Odierno has said. The Army is continuing to develop activities such as the Ready and Resilient Campaign and Soldier for Life.

The Army has gone from 45 BCTs in 2010 to 32 by the end of this year. The key reason for this decline is the growing cost of people. For FY16, 61% of the budget will be for personnel – military and civilian. Both the base funding and overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding are substantially down from 2012. In 2012 the base funding was $138B; it was down to $117B in 2014 (although the BBA provided $9B in additional funds ultimately). For FY16, the President has requested $127B, but this is subject to sequestration unless the law is changed.

Bottom line: The Army needs relief from sequestration. The Chief of Staff of the Army has said that at 450,000 soldiers we run high risks, but that at 420,000 he cannot execute the national security strategy. Congress must be urged to accept the President’s FY16 budget proposal for the Army -- $127 billion plus $20 billion in OCO funding.

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MCRMC: Where Is The “Net Pay Neutral” Position?

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC)

Recommendation 1 for Pay and Retirement: Where is the “net pay neutral” position?

Have you heard of “blended families” as the new normal? The Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Commission suggests “blended retirements” for the new normal among military members and their families. A blended retirement is a portable retirement savings 401(k) plan with retention benefits and bonuses paid at milestones along the military career path. ROA suggests that thinking in terms of the “net pay neutral” position may help understand the retirement recommendation.

A position of “net pay neutral” helps determine the impact to each service member, with an eye toward the least amount of money coming out of each paycheck, if this recommendation goes forward. For example, “net pay neutral” would mean someone making $35,000 a year would take home $1,122.23 each pay period even if they invest in a 401(k). That would not happen under current tax laws and the commission proposal; their net pay would not be “neutral”: they would have less in their paycheck if they invested in the 401(k).

Currently, contributions you make into a 401(k) reduce your adjusted gross income, lowering your overall tax liability and how much pay you take home (net income). For example, if the salary of a single E-5 with over 8 years is $35,000 and they contribute 5 percent of their salary -- $1,750 -- annually into the commission’s proposed 401(k), the income tax saved is $310 annually, or $12.90 per paycheck. At this rate of contribution, their paycheck will be $1,062.21 or a reduction of $120 per month.

This can be a significant amount of money to forgo each month; it might pay an electric bill or daycare.

ROA Recommendation: As a minimum, ROA recommends allowing service members who make a modest salary (i.e. $60,000 or less) to contribute up to 5 percent without a reduction in take-home pay to achieve a “net pay neutral” paycheck; this can be done by adjusting taxable income for their 401(k) contribution. Changing the taxable income amount would reduce the tax burden and thus achieve the “net pay neutral” effect on take-home pay.

MCRMC Recommendation 1: The commission recommendation would help more service members save for retirement earlier in their careers, leverage the retention power of traditional Uniformed Services retirement, and give the Services greater flexibility to retain quality people in demanding career fields: The committee believes the current retirement system only works for 17 percent of service members who stay in 20 years or longer; 83 percent of the enlisted men and women would not benefit according to the report. Here is what the recommendation includes:

  • 1 percent – Automatic Contribution by DoD.
  • 3 percent – Auto-enrollment by each service member (with an annual opt out)
  • 5 percent – Matching Funds are provided up to 5 percent by DoD.
  • 12 years – Continuation Pay would be paid equal to 13 months of basic pay.
  • 2.0 percent – Defined Benefit multiplier reduced from 2.5 percent.

The commission included additional recommendations in their report at http://mldc.whs.mil/. In the coming weeks, ROA will review each recommendation to gauge how it applies to the Reserve Components and how it affects service members and their families.

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ROA Member Key to Passage of Year’s First Bill - “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015"

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, February 2, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

By unanimous vote, the first bill passed in 2015, the “Hire More Heroes Act of 2015” (H.R. 22), would facilitate the hiring of veterans by businesses eyeing the costs of healthcare coverage.

“I am honored to have been part of this historic piece of veteran legislation,” said Bradley Levite, an Army Reserve major and ROA member. Levite, was singled out by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13), as the first to bring this issue to the Representative which resulted in it being introduced as H.R. 22.

Businesses that employ 50 or more full-time employees must offer healthcare; the act exempts veterans from that headcount, making it easier for businesses to hire vets.

The bill applies to businesses hiring any veteran or service member who is covered by TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Despite receiving some of the best training in the world, post-9/11 veterans are consistently faced with higher unemployment rates than that of other veterans,” said Davis, when he presented the bill to the House. “So as more and more of our veterans return home, the Hire More Heroes Act will give those who have sacrificed and served our country a leg up in a very competitive job market.”

Davis recognized Levite’s efforts before the full House, which then became part of the Congressional Record. After the vote, the Senate took action on the issue.

“I hope we can get to it quickly,” said a determined Sen. Roy Blunt (MO).

On January 6, Senator Blunt sponsored a companion bill. Last year both Davis and Blunt tried to get the bill passed but it was held up in the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously on H.R. 22 on January 28, 2015, and it will now go before the Senate for a full vote.

“Veterans who have served since 9/11 at one time last year had an unemployment rate right at the 9 percent number.” Blunt said. “Any number is unacceptable. We need to take those veterans’ skills and put them to work.”

To support this bill, ask your Senator to vote for H.R. 22.

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Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Thursday, January 29, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Today, ROA attended a briefing to review the commission report recommendations prior to public release. Chaiman Alphonso Maldon, Jr., thanked the Military Service Organizations and Veteran Service Organizations for their input.

ROA testified before the commission on November 13, 2013 and met with commissioners April 10, 2014. Additionally, commission members met with more than 100,000 active duty service members, Reserve Component members, veterans, retirees, and their families. They also interacted with 150 government agencies, military advocates, research institutions, and related interest groups.

Both House and Senate leadership have already stated they will be considering the 15 commission recommendations when they prepare the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of Defense budget and National Defense Authorization Act. One of the reasons for the strong interest is, if fully implemented, the recommendations would save $4.8 billion in 2016 with savings each year through 2055 when it would save $8.7 billion.

Chairman Maldon stated the commission was guided by an overarching imperative to maintain the all-volunteer force during both peacetime and wartime. To do that, they focused on the structure of pay and benefits and not the level of pay and benefits.

Going forward, ROA will analyze the recommendations to identify those that affect the Reserve Components and evaluate which ones require Congressional action. We will continue to keep ROA members informed and we encourage the Departments and Chapters to submit any proposed ROA resolutions they believe are necessary.

The report is available on http://mldc.whs.mil/


1. Blended Retirement

  • Give everyone a TSP account with a government contribution of 1% then auto enroll military members with a self contribution of 3%. The government will match up to 5% (plus the 1%).
  • Each year individuals can disenroll from the 3% contribution. Everyone gets 1% regardless. Individuals are vested at the first day of the 3rd year.
  • New retirement continuation pay will be established at 12 years of service to help maintain force profiles. There is a very long timeline for implementation.

2. Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

  • Create a secondary SBP so members have a choice to opt-out of the offset provision, however, they will pay a higher premium.
  • Provide a one-time Open Season to opt-in to the new SBP program.
  • The existing SBP program would keep the offset.

3. Financial Literacy

  • Increase the frequency and strengthen the content of financial literacy training and provide on a regular basis throughout the service member's career.
  • It would be far more robust then the current program.

4. Reserve Component Statuses

  • Reduce the number of status from 30 to 6 broader statuses and only require new orders when the authority changes.
  • There was not a clear path for modernization so they did not address the 2 days of pay versus 1 day of inactive duty pay.

5. Joint Readiness

  • Establish a Joint Readiness Command and a Joint Staff Medical Readiness Directorate. The services would keep the three surgeon generals who would come under this broader umbrella.
  • Establish Essential Medical Capabilities to ensure certain critical medical capabilities in the military.

6. Healthcare Benefit

  • End TRICARE and replace with a new DoD health program to offer a selection of commercial insurance plans to other beneficiaries.
  • Service members would continue to receive health care from the unit of MTF.
  • Service members would receive a Basic Allowance for Health Care (BAHC) to offset the vast majority of health cost shares for family members.
  • Increases would occur for non-Medicare eligible retirees cost shares gradually over 15 years; would change cost share from 5% to 20%.
  • Institute a program of education and benefits counseling.
  • Finance health care programs through trust funds.
  • OPM would solicit for the medical plans based on the DoD set of criteria.
  • TRICARE for Life would not go away.

7. Extended Care Health Option (ECHO)

  • Increase services covered through ECHO to be comparable to what is provided by the state’s Medicaid waiver program.

8. DoD-VA Collaboration

  • Grant additional authorities and responsibilities to the Joint Executive Committee (JEC) to standardize and enforce collaboration.
  • Make the JEC part of the budget process.

9. Commissaries and Exchanges

  • Maintain the grocery savings but consolidate the commissaries and three exchange systems into a single Defense Resale Activity.

10. Childcare

  • Reestablish authority to use operating funds for minor construction projects for Child Development Program facilities.

11. Service Member Education

  • Sunset several education programs (MGIB-AD and REAP).
  • Increase Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability requirements to 10 years of service (YOS) plus add an additional commitment of 2 YOS to provide stronger retention incentives.
  • Sunset housing stipends for dependents on July 1, 2017.
  • Eliminate eligibility for unemployment insurance.

12. Transition Assistance

  • Require mandatory participation.
  • Review the core curriculum to ensure it meets the needs of the Service member.
  • Encourage states "One-Stop Career Center” employees to attend Transition GPS classes.

13. Nutrition Assistance

  • Sunset the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) where Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) are available as it is a richer program with less stigma attached
  • Retain FSSA for families stationed overseas.

14. Space A Travel

  • Allow unaccompanied dependents of Service members deployed for at least 30 days to use Space-A travel.

15. Military Student Identifier

  • Establish a national military dependent student identified.

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Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Military and Veterans: Challenges & Solutions

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, August 1, 2014
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The Reserve Officers Association (ROA) sponsors a broad range of educational events through its educational branch, the Defense Education Forum (DEF). In its most recent symposium, Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Military and Veterans: Challenges & Solutions, ROA panelists addressed recent developments in behavioral health treatments, upcoming legislation, and current obstacles to ensuring veteran access to effective behavioral health professionals.

Several lawmakers kicked off the symposium with presentations addressing legislative perspectives on veteran health care needs as well as proposed solutions. Senator Joseph Donnelly discussed his recently introduced Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014, attached to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Most notably, the bill provides an annual mental health assessment for every member of the Armed Forces. The results, which remain confidential, are used to provide a platform for future diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health issues. The bill also attempts to address the disparity in mental healthcare resources between the active duty and the reserve components of the armed forces by increasing collaboration between the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. Major General Drew Davis, ROA Executive Director, emphasized the crucial nature of this particular provision. “What is lost on many Americans is the fact that out of the 2.3 million serving today, about 50% serve in the reserve components.” Donnelly noted the bill’s emphasis on a “best practices” approach. “We’re trying to review what practices are working in the various components and branches so we can implement them across the board.” Donnelly mentioned incorporating practices from the militaries of other nations as well, citing the Israeli Defense Force’s success in reducing suicides by 75%.

Congressman Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District described his in-progress Medical Evaluation Priority for Service Members (MEPS) Act of 2014 as “grounded in good statistical data and research.” Thompson noted that one in five military members entering service had a psychiatric history, and that half of all soldiers who attempted suicide had a previous attempt prior to enlisting. Congressman Thompson hopes to use the MEPS Act to bring mental health on par with physical health by mandating a mental health assessment before enlisting. The bill also ensures that the assessments remain private to prevent any detrimental career impacts. Senator Rob Portman, R-OH, who introduced the MEPS Bill in the Senate, emphasized that the bill is “not a complete solution, but it provides us with a baseline to take care of those who put their lives in harms way to protect us.”

Each lawmaker took a moment to pay tribute to the late CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.), ROA’s Legislative Director, who passed away earlier this month. Congressman Glenn Thompson, R-PA, said, “We lost a great hero in Captain Hanson. He was a tireless advocate for veterans and service members. He is missed.” Senator Portman spoke warmly of Hanson. “He was a true professional and a pleasure to work with. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew him and who worked with him.”

Sergeant First Class (SFC) Micah Welintukonis, led the Voice of the Veteran portion of the symposium. Welintukonis, a senior medic in the United States Army, gave attendees a firsthand account of the daily challenges brought on by Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS). SFC Welintukonis described the horrors of “losing my first guy” and “seeing children wounded by shrapnel.” He emphasized the long-term and often insidious nature of combat stress. During trauma- and stress-inducing events, “training just kicks in and you just react. There is no fear.” Resulting stress and mental complications emerge later; sometimes decades later. Welintukonis recounted his own emotional and mental responses after receiving serious wounds during a Taliban complex attack, describing feelings of guilt, stress, pressure, anguish, and not knowing where he fit in without a mission or soldiers to lead. He noted that his experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs had been largely unsatisfactory, and emphasized that more work needs to be done to reach veterans suffering from the effects of combat stress. Based on his personal experience, he recommended implementing measures that would allow veterans suffering from combat stress and mental health issues to speak with persons of similar backgrounds.

After the individual presentations, General Davis introduced two distinguished panels of experts. Terri Tanelian, Senior Social Research Analyst at RAND, Phil Carter, Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for New American Security, Dr. Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth of the Purdue Military Family Research Institute, and Dr. Heather O’Beirn-Kelly of the American Psychological Association comprised the Clinical and Research Perspectives Panel. The panel focused on current mental health needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and ways to ensure that clinical practitioners had access to the most effective treatments and screening procedures. Mr. Carter cited current research showing 60% of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans were currently no longer affiliated with the active military, and about 20% of these had returned from combat with some form of TBI or PTSS. Ms. Tanelian estimated that only about half of the veterans currently suffering from PTSS had sought professional help for their conditions, highlighting the need to increase veteran access to care. Dr. O’Beirn-Kelly emphasized the need to balance clinical and research activities, warning against increasing treatment facilities and practitioners at the expense of research efforts. “Part of the reason we are aware of these problems in the first place is because of research efforts. We cannot short change research for clinicial work.”

CAPT Richard Stolz, USN, Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and Dr. Wendy Tentula, National Director of the VA/DoD Integrated Mental Health program chaired the Policy Perspectives Panel. The panel discussed recent innovations in treatments and new programs designed to more effectively notify veterans of available treatment options. CAPT Stolz emphasized the need to minimize potential negative stigma attached to seeking help for behavioral issues, and highlighted some of the cutting-edge advances used by practitioners today, including smartphone applications that enable clinicians and patients to collaborate and tailor a specific treatment plan for each individual, sleep studies, and websites designed to maximize outreach to veterans and provide referrals and other resources. Perhaps most notably, the Defense Department has simultaneously increased and dispersed its behavioral health practitioners. Dr. Tentula emphasized the need for increased veteran outreach and outlined recent VA approaches, including one similar to the program suggested by SFC Welintukonis. In the last eighteen months, the VA has hired approximately 1000 “peer specialists”—individuals who have experienced the stresses of combat and received treatment—to interact with veterans currently experiencing similar issues and provide advice on how to overcome behavioral health challenges.

Senator Donnelly captured the spirit of the symposium best in his closing remarks: “Every man and woman who has served our country has the right to come home in peace, to secure employment, and to know that we consider them extraordinary heroes.” The Reserve Officers Association will continue to maintain a strong commitment to these goals in the years to come.

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DEF Presents: The Military Implications Of Energy Security

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, June 27, 2014
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

ROA Director of Strategic Education Mr. Bob Feidler sits down with Professor Douglas C. Lovelace, Jr. of the Strategic Studies Institute following Dr. Lovelace's talk during the DEF Event: New Realities: Energy Security in the 2010s and Implications for the U.S. Military.

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ROA Stumps For Suicide Prevention In Indiana

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

This week, ROA members took to the stump in Indiana to support momentum on the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014. Colonel Jim Sweeney, USMC, ROA's National Naval Services Vice President appeared with the bill's author, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) one week after the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to include the legislation as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Sexton Act of 2014 would ensure that mental health is evaluated regularly and as a central element of a service member’s overall readiness by requiring annual mental health assessments for all service members, including members of the Active, Guard and Reserve components. Right now, the military provides the most effective mental health screening only for those who are preparing for or returning from deployment, despite research that shows the majority of military suicides occur among service members who have never deployed.

ROA has endorsed the Sexton Act as a "solid first step towards providing the tailored research and targeted support our Reservists need and ultimately the parity in service they deserve.”

In his remarks, Col. Sweeney detailed the dispariity in mental healthcare which has led to a staggering suicide rate among members of the Reserve Components.

The Reserve Officer’s Association—representing the entire Guard and Reserve component—thanks Senator Donnelly for his leadership and fully supports the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act.

Today’s citizen warriors sign up for service in the Reserve and Guard with the clear understanding that their duty will carry unique burdens.  Dispersed across local communities from coast to coast, rather than concentrated on or near military bases, these citizen warriors understand that they will enter a culture of service and a system of support that is ill-suited for the challenges presented by the duality of their lives in and out of uniform.  They bear these burdens with open eyes and unwavering dedication.

To fill gaps in support of our Reserve Components, the cause of suicide prevention must take center stage. The staggering and disproportionate rate of suicide among members of America’s Reserve and Guard is, in part, the result of a “one size fits all” approach to prevention. The challenges of repeatedly deploying from, and returning to, civilian lives are largely misunderstood by a public weary of war and a Congress strapped for cash. In truth, Reservists operate outside the comforting routine and cocoon of support found on Active duty installations.

Once out of uniform, Reservists carry their burdens, not only in silence but too commonly, without a clear understanding of where to turn. The Sexton Act is a solid first step towards providing the tailored research and targeted support our Guard and Reserve members need, and, providing, ultimately, the parity in service they deserve.

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