Obama Signs $633B Defense Bill
By Matthew Daly, Associated Press
President Barack Obama signed a $633 billion defense bill for next year despite serious concerns about the limits Congress imposed on his handling of terror suspects and lawmakers’ unwillingness to back the cost-saving retirement of aging ships and aircraft.

Obama had threatened to veto the measure because of a number of concerns, but relented because he couldn’t pick and choose specific sections. However, in a statement, the president spelled out his concerns about restrictions on his ability to carry out his constitutional duties as commander in chief.

Specifically, he complained that the bill limits the military’s authority to transfer third-country nationals being held at a detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan. He also took issue with restrictions on his authority to transfer terror suspects from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

2012 W-2 Information for Sailors

Navy Reservists can get their 2012 W-2s on myPay Now! Hardcopy W-2s hit the mail Jan. 10-14. The myPay homepage is here: http://go.usa.gov/ghc5. If you forgot your myPay password, click “Forgot or Need a Password” for a temporary one. Active Duty should be able to view their W-2s online beginning Jan. 24. A complete 2012 myPay Tax Statement Schedule is on the myPay homepage also.

Navy Experts Weigh-In on Staying and Getting Fit
Navy guidance recommends Sailors complete at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week and perform strength-training exercises at least twice a week to work all major muscle groups. The Navy Physical Readiness Program website at http://goo.gl/JlsCQ has links to sample warm-ups and workouts users may choose.  

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Announces New Website

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center has recently upgraded its website. Improvements include an enhanced search capability, optimized navigation and user-friendly access to public health resources in areas such as fitness, nutrition, injury and disease prevention, psychological health, tobacco-free living, and shipboard sanitation. The website is: http://goo.gl/XKdqi 

Financial Management

Financial management is a key quality of life issue that affects every Sailor, family member and the command. Sailors experiencing financial challenges should notify their chain of command and work with their command financial specialist to develop a budget, explore options for military relief societies, eligibility for interest rate reductions and other strategies. Visit www.MilitarySaves.org to learn more. 

Ford Awards Scholarships to Children of Active Duty Service Members
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jonathan P. Idle, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
SAN DIEGO (NNS) The Ford Motor Company Fund awarded 50 scholarships totaling $57,000 to children of active duty service members from the San Diego area during a ceremony Dec. 4 aboard the USS Midway Museum.

The winners were selected based on essays that answered the question, ‘What have you learned from having a family member in the service, and how has this impacted your goals and plans for the future?’

”We contacted the students through local schools and different military organizations,” explained Jim Vella, president of the Ford Motor Company Fund. “The essays were graded, and we picked 50 winners. The bulk of them get $1,000 scholarships, but there is one student that gets a $5,000 scholarship and two that get $2,500 scholarships.” 

Ford has worked closely with the military for a number of years, and through that relationship the company recognized the need and value of investing in the education of future generations, Vella said.

VA Eliminates Annual Eligibility Veritification Report
From the American Legion
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that veterans will no longer have to complete an annual Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). This elimination will allow more than 100 VA staff to focus on the compensation claims backlog.

Completion of an EVR has been required annually of beneficiaries to ensure pension benefits are received. Now, VA will work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify continued eligibility for pension benefits.

The American Legion applauds the interagency collaboration in order to reduce the time and processing of veterans’ claims.

“As the backlog for veterans’ claims rapidly approaches 900,000 claims, any news to assist in the reduction of the backlog is welcome,” said Zach Hearn, national appeals representative for The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. “The statement released by VA encourages a partnership with various government agencies that should not only reduce the burden of veterans receiving VA pension but also assist in allowing VA to focus on disability claims.”

Additionally, both the SSA and IRS are pleased with the partnership.

VA will send a letter to beneficiaries who currently receive pension that explains the changes and provides instructions on how to continue to submit their unreimbursed medical expenses.

Visit www.benefits.va.gov/pension for more information about VA pension benefits.

Army Separating More Troops for Being Overweight
About 16 times more U.S. troops were drummed out of the Army this year for being overweight than were five years ago, military officials say.

The Washington Post reported Monday during the first 10 months of this year, the Army discharged 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape.

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center says between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel categorized as overweight or obese more than tripled, with 86,186 troops diagnosed as overweight or obese in 2010.

The effort to weed out the overweight comes as the military moves to reduce its forces by tens of thousands of troops in the coming years to save money, the Post notes.

“A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The weight problem in the military is a reflection of the U.S. population in general.

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said that in 2009 he found 75 percent of civilians who wanted to join up were ineligible and obesity was the leading cause. And of the 25 percent who could join, 65 percent could not pass the physical training test on the first day.

But with two wars to fight, the Army granted waivers and overweight recruits made it in. Now with the wars winding down, the Army is able to tell soldiers to get fit or get out.

“We will use the drawdown as an opportunity to shape our Army by ensuring that we retain only the very best soldiers,” the Post said Army Secretary John M. McHugh wrote in a Feb. 2 memo.

Some Spouse Clubs Deny Membership to Gays
The Fort Bragg Officer’ Spouses’ Club last week denied membership to a gay military spouse, sparking a firestorm of questions about how gay military spouses should be included in on-base activities, if at all.

The club, which is a private organization and not governed by the Defense Department, last week told Ashley Broadway, a gay spouse who married Lt. Col. Heather Mack in D.C. in November, that she is not permitted to join because she is not a DoD active-duty dependent ID card holder.

At the time of the denial, the club’s bylaws did not specify an active-duty ID as a membership requirement. Their website was updated Monday to reflect the new rule.
“I truly, truly felt like things are changing and finally, after all of these years of standing in the corner and having to lie about being her sister or roommate, I see the tides turning” Broadway said. “When I received that denial it was like – whoa.”

Bragg Officers’ Spouses’ Club officials did not respond to Military.com’s repeated requests for comment before deadline.

Broadway and Mack have been a couple for 15 years. They have a toddler son together, and Heather is 8-months pregnant. Broadway holds a care-giver ID card and is able to use it to access post and shop at the commissary.



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