Parental leave and student loans for servicemembers were benefits that U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) added to National Defense Authorization Act during consideration of the bill in the House Armed Services Committee.
“The House Armed Services Committee came together in a bipartisan manner to improve on personnel benefits to continue our commitment to taking care of our military families,” said Davis, Ranking Member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee. “As we move forward, I will seek ways to build on the committee’s work to ensure our men and women in uniform have the support they deserve.”
Davis amendments added to the NDAA:
- Expand parental leave in the military. Two amendments addressed the expansion of parental leave. The first amendment increases leave for the spouse of someone who gives birth to at least 14 days from 10 days and allows dual military couples who adopt to split 36 days of leave according to family needs. The second amendment orders a study into the feasibility of share parental leave for dual military families after one member giving birth to a child.
- Prevent Servicemembers’ Overpayments on Student Loans. It is estimated that servicemembers have overpaid on student loan interest by $100 million. Under current law, interest on student loans is supposed to be waived for those eligible military borrowers that are serving in areas of hostilities. However, many servicemembers carrying student loans are unaware of such a waiver. Davis’s amendment directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan of action to address these overpayments in student loan interest.
- Create Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Program. Establishes a fully joint EOD program, with the Navy as executive agent, for the Department of Defense to coordinate and integrate research, development, and application for EOD defense programs. This will ensure our brave men and women who perform this critical mission are better equipped and better organized to face future challenges. Davis is the co-chair of the Congressional EOD Caucus.
Provisions that Davis included in the NDAA base bill:
- Increase access to infertility services for seriously wounded veterans. Many servicemembers seriously wounded or injured have trouble conceiving as a result of their injuries. While there are infertility services available after they depart the military, many may be unaware of this assistance. Davis added language to the NDAA to implement a plan on how to reach out to former members of the military who were seriously wounded, ill or injured and inform them of the infertility services available to them.
- Restore the inurnment rights for Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) at Arlington National Cemetery, which were rescinded by the former Secretary of the Army. The bill incorporates the bipartisan WASP Arlington Inurnment Restoration (AIR) Act, which passed the full House in March. Davis was the lead cosponsor of the bill.
- Recognize the role of women in the military by authorizing financial support for military service memorials and museums that highlight the role of women in the military.
- Retention and Recruitment of Afghan Women in Security Forces. As she has done in the past, Davis added language to require a goal of $25 million of the funding authorized for the Afghan Security Forces Fund go toward the recruitment, integration, retention, training and treatment of women in Afghan Security Forces.
Unfortunately, some military families experience food insecurity and yet are being denied SNAP benefits because their housing allowance, when included with their basic pay, makes them ineligible. Davis offered an amendment to exclude the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from the calculation to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This amendment also addressed the gap in military survivor benefits known as the SPB/DIC (Survivor Benefit Program/ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) offset by extending Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) that was expiring this year.
However, Republicans on the Armed Services Committee blocked consideration of the amendment on procedural grounds. As a result, the amendment was not permitted to go forward forcing Davis to withdraw it. Davis plans to offer the amendment when the NDAA comes before the full House for consideration.
“I am disappointed that the Majority blocked my efforts to address the issue of food insecurity among our men and women in uniform and extend survivor benefits for military widows. My amendment to exclude housing allowance when determining income eligibility for SNAP benefits and and pay for these critical benefits is a common sense solution to a problem that is impacting thousands of servicemembers and 63,000 widows. SSIA currently provides modest relief for these deserving widows. We should extend this benefit.”