NGAMA Supported Legislation Passes on Last Day of 2018 Legislative Session

On 1 January 2019, the last day of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed S2611. This legislation had been a priority for NGAMA and the Association actively advocated for its passage. The legislation now awaits the signature of the Governor. Over the past 12 months the NGAMA Executive Committee, the NGAMA Legislative Committee and NGAMA members have been meeting with legislators, calling legislators and writing legislators urging their passage of this Bill.

This Legislation updated Chapter 33 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which governs the MA National Guard. The legislation was originally filed by Governor Baker. The update included a number of changes focused on improving The Massachusetts National Guard and taking care of our Service Members. These updates include:

  • DOUBLING the State Active Duty pay minimum for Soldiers and Airmen
  • Strengthening the NGAMA State Sponsored Life Insurance Program
  • Adding a Massachusetts Code of Military Justice to allow Commanders to maintain higher standards of discipline and morale in our formations
  • Updating Professional Licensing Requirements to bring in line with Federal Standards—this will help recruit the best talent available in our professional licensed corps such as JAG and AMEDD
  • Restoring discretion to Commander in Chief and TAG in arming Military Police
  • Streamlining management of Armories to provide better facilities for all of our Soldiers and Airmen

We thank our NGAMA Legislative Chairperson, CPT Danielle Sullivan, NGAMA Past President LTC Jay Oberton, the NGAMA Executive Committee for their support, NGAMA’s Insurance Administrator Austin Jenkins and all the members of our Association who responded to our Legislative Alerts and who wrote or called their State Legislators. Passage of this Legislation proves that NGAMA can be a force on Beacon Hill when we work to forward a united message.

Passage of this legislation is a great way to end the 2018 Legislative Session. We look forward to working with our Membership to accomplish more legislative victories in 2019.

NGAMA Plans Annual March Trip
To Meet With Congressional Delegation

Maj Gen Scott Rice, NGAMA President Sean Halbrook and NGAMA leaders will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with each member of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation. This annual trip provides an opportunity to update the Members of Congress with the various missions of the Massachusetts National Guard as well as discuss NGAMA and NGAUS Legislative priorities.

During the Congressional visits we will be discussing planned deployments and future missions for the Massachusetts National Guard. We will also be discussing proposed Military Construction projects throughout the Commonwealth. The evolution of the Army and Air National Guard Cyber mission will also be reviewed. Funding for equipment and modernization is always a critical issue as we try to ensure that the National Guard is properly equipped to respond to both international and domestic challenges.

Meetings will also be held with NGAUS President MG (Ret) Gus Hargett and the NGAUS Legislative staff and with the Title 10 personnel currently assigned to the Washington, D.C. area. NGAMA is also sponsoring a social function for Members of Congress and their staff.

NGAMA Makes Annual Trip
Meeting With Congressional Delegation

Issues involving Joint Base Cape Cod were discussed with Congressman William Keating
Issues involving Joint Base Cape Cod were discussed with Congressman William Keating

NGAMA President Nick Macsata traveled with the Adjutant General and key military staff members to Washington, D.C. and met with each member of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation. During each meeting, NGAMA presented two current pieces of legislation for the Delegation’s consideration. Each piece of legislation supports our Service Members and their access to quality health care and benefits. NGAMA also discuss the NGAUS Legislative Priorities in each of these meetings.

NGAMA advocated specifically on H.R. 1096, requesting Congressional support by sponsorship and voting to amend the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. NGAMA was seeking to clarify the distance requirements regarding the eligibility of certain veterans to receive medical care and services from non-Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Additionally, we requested support for S. B. 602, which amends Title 38, to consider certain time spent by members of reserve components of the Armed Forces while receiving medical care from the Secretary of Defense as active duty which would then help gain eligibility for Post-9/11 Educational Assistance.

NGAMA Delegation discusses NGAUS and NGAMA priorities with Senator Elizabeth Warren
NGAMA Delegation discusses NGAUS and NGAMA priorities with Senator Elizabeth Warren

Additionally, NGAMA requested that our Congressional leaders propose new legislation which would provide increased access to confidential mental health care for traditional National Guard members. NGAMA recognizes that a program providing funded access to confidential community based mental health providers would help prevent suicides in the National Guard. Our Soldiers and Airmen and their families need non-clinical services to address stressors before these stressors may lead to more serious complications. A program that would fund community based treatment from trained providers would also insure to the benefit of active duty members, veterans and their families who may seek confidential community based care outside of federal installation treatment facilities.

Meetings were also held with Title 10 personnel currently assigned to the Washington, D.C. area. NGAMA was greeted warmly by each member of our Congressional Delegation – and we continue to build upon established relationships with our officials.

NGAMA Legislative Activity
Busy at Both the Federal and State Levels

NGAMA’s Legislative Committee lead by Lt Col Sean Halbrook has had to really ramp up its activity to meet the various Federal and State challenges. This summer Chapter 33 was revised on the State level and as we head into fall we prepare to ramp up again to tackle the Federal budget issues. This fall will continue to be a critical time month for the NGAMA Legislative Action.

Federal Challenges in Washington, D.C.

After Budget cuts that would adversely affect both the Army and Air Guard were proposes, NGAMA and NGAUS began a campaign to fight the budget cuts. Thanks to our lobbying efforts and the efforts of the NGAMA membership in responding to the Legislative Alerts, the Budget cuts were defeated.

The U.S. House and Senate both passed NGAUS sponsored bills to stop the ARNG force reduction. The legislation now needs to go to a Conference Committee and hopefully the language will remain the same. One of our victories from our lobbying efforts was the creation of the Army Commission to study the structure of the Army National Guard. NGAUS will be closely monitoring the progress of the Commission and NGAUS has initiated an “information on demand” program so that they can aggressively submit current and vital information as necessary to the Commission.

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission are reviewing our pay and benefits. NGAUS and NGAMA will continue to monitor the Compensation Committee. We have been successful because our membership has consistently responded to our Legislative Alerts and have taken the time to “Write to Congress.” Everyone needs to voice their concerns.

Opportunities on the State Level on Beacon Hill

The NGAMA Legislative Committee has been meeting with a number of State Legislators to discuss a wide State Agenda. These meetings culminated with appointments with Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Here are some of the State Actions your Legislative Committee has been working:

  • Success- One of NGAMA’s legislative priorities, the updating of Massachusetts State Statute Chapter 33, have recently passed the State Legislature and await the signature of Governor Patrick. Chapter 33 is the state statute that governs the Massachusetts National Guard. Chapter 33 had not been updated since the mid-1950. Many provisions of the old Chapter 33 did not reflect the reality of today’s National Guard. The updated legislation better reflects the Massachusetts National Guard’s current use as an operational reserve. The updated bill also now allows National Guard military police officers the power of arrest when they are deployed in response to emergency such as the Boston Marathon bombings. It also addressed unfair pay discrepancies between Title 10 and Title 32. NGAMA’s Legislative Committee had been meeting with state legislators in support of the updating of Chapter 33.
  • Success- NGAMA supported passage of the Military Construction Bond Bill. The Bond Bill was recently approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Patrick. This first ever Massachusetts Military Bond Bill provides $177 million in military construction at various sites across the state.

NGAMA Visits Congress

NGAMA Presentation to US Senator Elizabeth Warren
NGAMA Presentation to US Senator Elizabeth Warren

Every year NGAMA travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation. This year with Sequestration forcing budget cuts, the meetings were especially critical for members of the National Guard. Senior members of NGAMA scheduled meetings from March 18-20, 2013.

The March 18th meetings started with meetings at the Pentagon. Then the NGAMA delegation met with the NGAUS Legislative staff to receive a briefing on current legislative issues. Following that briefing NGAMA met with Congressman John Tierney.

On March 19th the NGAMA delegation started with meetings with Congressman William Keating, Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas, Congressman James McGovern, Congressman Joseph Kennedy and the Chief of Staff of Senator Mo Cowan. Following these meetings the day concluded with a reception for Massachusetts Title X personnel assigned to the Washington, D.C area.

The last day, March 20th, the day’s schedule included meetings with Congressman Richard Neal, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Michael Capuano and the Legislative Staff of Congressman Edward Markey.

The discussions with the Congressmen ranged from the budget cuts and furloughs to funding for future missions of the MNG, military construction at Barnes ANG Base, Otis ANG Base and at Camp Edwards. Also discussed were The National Guard Homeland Security Institute, and the MNG Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.

Attending the trip were Maj Gen. Scott Rice, Col Charles Cody, Col Chris Faux, MAJ Brian Pillai, Major Sean Halbrook, Mr. Tim Cullen and NGAMA Executive Director Mr. Grace.

Through the NGAMA Congressional visits you have a strong voice on Capitol Hill. The face to face meetings provide an opportunity to explain the challenges facing the Massachusetts National Guard. Combined with your responses to the Legislative Alerts and the Write To Congress, NGAMA is well positioned to be fully engaged in the future.

Welcome Home Insurance Benefit, Should Include NGAMA’s SSLI

Several years ago NGAMA worked to get legislation passed to have the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pay for a portion of life insurance for all members of the Massachusetts National Guard. This has been a great benefit to all members of the Massachusetts Guard. Unfortunately, the way the legislation was written, it didn’t include NGAMA’s State Sponsored Life Insurance (SSLI). Since that time, a priority of NGAMA has been to amend the Welcome Home Bill to allow members of the Massachusetts National Guard the option of choosing SSLI.

A key benefit of the SSLI is that unlike other life insurance options, SSLI rates do not go up just because you separate from the National Guard. You are able to keep your coverage when you separate. If you want more information about SSLI, go to the Insurance page of this web site.

NGAMA’s Executive Board has made this legislative change a priority for action before the Massachusetts State Legislature. We have met with State Legislative leaders and we continue to push for passage of the legislative amendment.

We hope that the Legislature will shortly address this issue. When legislative action may be forthcoming, we will send Legislative Alerts to our members. We ask when you receive this Alert that you contact your local State Representative and State Senator.

Thanks To You NGB Chief Gets Seat on Joint Chiefs

Thanks to the legislative efforts of NGAMA and the other members of NGAUS, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau is now a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley became a member of the Joint Chiefs on December 31, when President Barack Obama signed into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act which included this language.

The language that gives the Chief the boost in status in the Pentagon was the primary focus of the NGAUS and NGAMA legislative efforts in 2011. NGAMA members responded to Legislative Alerts and contacted their members of Congress urging the passage of the legislation.  The victory was hard fought. Every member of the Joint Chief s testified against the change before the Senate Armed Services Committee. But our coordinated effort prevailed.

“The Guard finally has a seat at the table,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of NGAUS. “This does not mean the Pentagon culture with all of its historic biases against the Guard will evolve overnight. After all, this is a move every member of the Joint Chiefs opposed.

“But at least now, the Guard will have a voice among the president’s military advisors, one that can’t be ignored or excluded from the discussion. It’s a huge victory for the Guard. More importantly, it could be a catalyst for the type of change needed to defend the nation in the tough fiscal environment ahead.”

The legislation also requires that National Guard general officers be considered for command of the Army North and Air Force North.

Thank you to all our members who responded to the Legislative Alert. Your efforts proves the strength of our organizations and our ability to get things done in Congress. Happy New Year!

Legislation Filed to Update Chapter 33, State Militia Law

The State Militia Law, Chapter 33 has not been updated since before the Korean War. As a result the law is outdated and does not reflect the actual missions of the Massachusetts National Guard. Representative Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) has filed House Bill 2817 as a comprehensive re-write of the State Militia law. The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

NGAMA’s Executive Committee as well as the Legislative Committee will keep the NGAMA membership informed of the progress of this legislative proposal.

The proposed legislation addresses some of the significant shortcomings of the current version of Chapter 33 including:

  • Provisions for the use of appropriate powers of action if called to support times of emergency by the Governor.
  • Prevention of significant financial hardship to Guard members called to active duty through differential pay equivalencies.
  • Elimination of public employee double pay.
  • Protection of employment rights under State Law for activation in State Status through incorporation of the Uniform Service Member’s Employment and Re-Employment Rights and Service Member’s Civil Relief Acts.
  • Health insurance coverage for Service members called to state active duty.
  • Providing disciplinary systems for Commanders through the adoption of the National Guard Bureau’s Uniform State Code of Military Justice.

Additionally, by revision and adoption to currently overriding Federal Laws, the proposed legislation streamlines chapter 33 from 137 to 55 sections.

Look for Legislative Alerts as well as more information regarding this significant state legislation.