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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Bilirakis Supports National Defense Authorization Act, Scores Big Wins as Conferee

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Congressman Bilirakis released the following statement in support of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which he helped negotiate as a House Conferee.  “I am proud that my colleagues in the House and Senate were able to put aside partisan differences and achieve consensus about how to best prioritize the security of our nation while addressing the needs of our military, their families and Veterans.  This comprehensive, bipartisan legislation contains three provisions I co-authored as well as a host of important policy solutions that are vital for our national defense,” said Representative Bilirakis.

The three Bilirakis co-authored provisions are listed below:

  • The Welch/Bilirakis Burn Pit exposure and COVID-19 amendment requires the Tricare COVID-19 Registry to include any prior respiratory illnesses and information from the burn pit registry for the beneficiary.
  • The Increased Deployments to Greece Feasibility Study amendment provides a feasibility study on increased rotational deployments to Greece and enhanced United States-Greece diplomatic engagement.  Such an enhancement of the United States’ Strategic Partnership with Greece would be a benefit to both nations.
  • The Crist/Bilirakis amendment requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a feasibility study on the transferability of military certifications to civilian licensures.  Veterans learn valuable skills and gain incredible on-the-job training during their service; however, there is no mechanism currently in place to ensure these critical skill sets are recognized in civilian industries.  This study can identify barriers to achieving this goal.

Additionally, during Conference negotiations Congressman Bilirakis successfully advocated for the following provisions which were included in the final package:

  • A 3% military pay raise;
  • A halt to proposed military medical cuts;
  • Addition of three conditions to the list of ailments presumed connected to Agent Orange exposure.  This change means 34,000 Veterans suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism will receive the care and benefits they deserve;
  • An increase in Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay;
  • Child care improvements for Military Families;
  • Expanded benefits available under the TRICARE Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program which helps military families with special needs dependents;
  • No new TRICARE fees or copay increases;
  • A requirement for increased collaboration between DoD and VA to allow Veterans to view their Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) to better link their exposure to toxic burn pits. This is a provision that Bilirakis has championed in his TEAM Act legislation;
  • Improvements to military housing, including repeal of DoD’s authority to lease substandard housing, and implementation of recommendations outlined in the DOD Inspector General’s report on housing.  The bill also will expand the Uniform Code of Basic Standards for housing along with inspection requirements to government-owned military family housing. An audit also will be conducted to track medical conditions of residents in privatized military housing; and
  • A requirement for the DoD to provide a Congressional briefing with status update on the methodology and timeline of current research and studies being conducted to assess burn pit health effects.  American heroes are already getting sick and some are dying from complications related to exposure.   They can’t afford for federal agencies to continue to waste time on endless studies regarding widely-recognized scientific facts.  Additional oversight is certainly warranted.
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