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Bill Would Boost Coast Guard Benefits, Pay Members During Federal Shutdowns

todaySeptember 16, 2022

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In January 2019, members of the Coast Guard went a month with out pay — the one a part of the armed forces pressured to work at no cost throughout the longest U.S. authorities shutdown in historical past.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation needs to verify it by no means occurs once more.

Among the many personnel initiatives within the Senate’s 2022 Coast Guard Authorization Act, which extends via fiscal 2023, the Treasury Division would make sure that active-duty Coast Guard women and men, in addition to reserve members on lively obligation, would receives a commission throughout shutdowns stemming from a federal funding hole.

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Throughout the 35-day shutdown in 2019, the Coast Guard, which is nested within the Division of Homeland Safety somewhat than the Division of Protection, scrambled to cowl pay for the primary paycheck of the month however labored with out pay via the second pay interval, sending many members to meals banks and aid organizations.

“The Coast Guard can at all times be counted on to save lots of American lives, defend our homeland, and hold maritime transportation flowing safely, however it’s time we do higher for our service members,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., stated of the laws throughout a listening to Wednesday.

The invoice, which would supply $14.94 billion for the service for fiscal 2023, contains numerous provisions aimed toward enhancing high quality of life for Coasties, together with elevated funding for baby care providers and enhancements to medical providers.

The legislative proposal would broaden the service’s baby care subsidy program that reimburses households for personal baby care providers and offers the service flexibility to set charges at Coast Guard baby improvement facilities with the goal of decreasing prices for households with a couple of baby.

It could enhance entry to medical care and coaching by requiring the service to evaluation its well being staffing and capabilities and set up a brand new behavioral well being coverage, to incorporate steerage for dealing with members with post-traumatic stress dysfunction. And it requires the Coast Guard to check its telemedicine capabilities at distant obligation stations and on ships.

It additionally encompasses a first-among-services, five-year pilot for members to entry fertility remedy, permitting them to request reassignment to areas the place providers can be found, together with navy remedy services, or accessing remedies not lined by Tricare via a non-public supplier.

The Tricare well being program covers prognosis of diseases that may trigger infertility and correction of any medical points that may be the supply of the issue however doesn’t cowl IVF or synthetic insemination.

The invoice additionally would enable Coast Guard Academy cadets who grow to be dad and mom to retain their parental rights, graduate and fee.

Till this 12 months, college students on the DoD service academies had been required to resign and, relying on how lengthy they had been in class, repay the price of their training, or request a depart of absence as much as one 12 months and quit parental rights tied to their kids so as to return to highschool.

However a provision within the fiscal 2022 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act — sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, required the DoD to rewrite its coverage and permit cadets and midshipmen to have kids. The Coast Guard invoice would require an analogous coverage change.

In December, a former Coast Guard cadet sued the service over his expulsion from the Coast Guard Academy for revealing two months earlier than he graduated that his fiancee had given beginning.

The invoice additionally would require the Coast Guard to check its housing inventory and meals safety amongst its members.

“This invoice additionally makes actual investments in packages aimed toward retaining Coast Guard members, like increasing entry to higher-quality baby care, requiring the Coast Guard to deal with the pressing wants for extra reasonably priced housing for members, and builds on the success of earlier Coast Guard payments by persevering with to broaden packages wanted to retain and improve range within the Coast Guard workforce,” stated Committee Chairwoman Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Beneath the invoice, the Coast Guard would stay at 44,500 active-duty members, however the invoice contains a number of initiatives to broaden range throughout the ranks. The laws proposes that the service set up not less than one Junior Reserve Officer Coaching Corps in every of its 17 administrative districts and requires it to develop a 10-year plan for growing the variety of ladies and repair members from racial minority teams.

With the U.S. stepping up exercise within the Arctic area to counter the elevated navy presence by Russia and China in addition to an increase in financial curiosity within the space, the service will want extra ships able to performing duties in that space’s harsh circumstances, the senators stated.

The laws requires $841 million for a 3rd Polar Safety-class icebreaker, in addition to $20 million for an Arctic Safety Cutter program workplace, which might oversee the following era of medium-sized icebreakers.

It additionally funds a Nice Lakes icebreaker just like the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw, a heavy icebreaker that retains the channels and harbors of the lakes open to delivery within the winter.

Different provisions embody:

  • Authorizing the Coast Guard to spend as much as $3 billion, if appropriated, to deal with infrastructure restore and substitute backlogs
  • Giving the Coast Guard stronger oversight over sexual assault and harassment within the maritime business, together with service provider mariners, and making certain that Coast Guard members have entry to care when deployed or in distant areas following a sexual assault
  • Increasing protections for marine mammals

The invoice handed the committee in a unanimous vote; it now heads to the complete Senate for approval. Any discrepancies with the invoice handed within the Home have to be reconciled earlier than it may well grow to be regulation.

— Patricia Kime may be reached at Patricia.Kime@navy.com. Comply with her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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