Murkowski Votes for Military Authorization and Appropriation Bills

On Eve of Veterans Day, Senate Sends Messages of Support for Military

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski cast her vote for two pieces of legislation to support our military, veterans, and our national security.

S.1356, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which outlines priorities and authorizes how defense funds should be spent, passed by a vote of 91-3. This is substantially the same bill which President Obama vetoed in October with funding levels conformed to the recent Bipartisan Budget Act. The NDAA now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

H.R. 2029, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which provides funds for veterans’ health services and benefits, military housing and family support, and hospital and military construction for Fiscal Year 2016, passed by a vote of 93-0. This bill now heads to conference with the House of Representatives.

“Our men and woman in uniform, past and present, deserve our unequivocal support. It’s a shame that the implementation of these bills was ever delayed by partisan politics in the first place.” said Senator Murkowski. “We should never compromise our national security. I’m thankful that today my Senate colleagues did the right thing by showing our support for the security of this nation and the well-being of our armed forces.”

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act:

The Senate’s bill includes an amendment by Senator Murkowski requiring that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the nationwide implementation of the Choice Card program, which allows veterans to seek care outside of the VA under certain circumstances. The GAO is specifically directed to examine the failed implementation of the Choice Card program in Alaska.

“Simply put, the Veterans Choice Card program as it is currently designed will not provide Alaska’s veterans with the choices that it promises. By demanding a critical examination into the effects of this ill-conceived, one-size-fits-all program, we are taking a crucial first step in solving some of these crises and making the earned health care benefit a reality for Alaska’s veterans, no matter where in the state they may live,” said Senator Murkowski.

Senator Murkowski also included an amendment requiring that the VA fully explain its strategy for delivering healthcare to Alaska’s veterans in the future. On October 30, 2015, the VA sent a report to Congress proposing to consolidate all of its care in the community programs – including its joint venture hospital on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, its tribal health partnerships, and the Alaska-unique “Care Closer to Home” partnerships with community hospital and providers – into a single national program. This amendment requires that the VA demonstrate there will be no decrease in the access of Alaska veterans to local care under the consolidated national program.

Senator Murkowski co-sponsored Senator Dan Sullivan’s amendment requiring that the VA report on its failure to fill healthcare provider vacancies in rural areas of the country.

As a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, earlier this year Senator Murkowski worked to include a number of Alaska priorities in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill. The bill authorizes the construction of a flight simulator building on Eielson Air Force Base in anticipation of the upcoming beddown of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Interior Alaska. It also provides for improvements to Eielson’s utility infrastructure and an improved physical fitness facility at Fort Greely. Click here to view the Alaska provisions included in the bill.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

The NDAA includes policies to support our troops, military retirees, and their families, including restrictions on Tricare co-pays, protection of the commissary benefit, and improved retirement options. It also authorizes the resources our military needs to combat threats around the world and in the future. It authorizes funding for the Missile Defense Agency’s Long Range Discrimination Radar to be located at Clear Air Force Station and encourages the Air Force to invite Taiwan to participate in the annual Red Flag Alaska exercise at Eielson. It also requires that the Defense Department submit to Congress a definitive plan for military operations in the Arctic.