McMorris Rodgers Secures Eastern Washington Interests in Defense Authorization

Washington, DC – Eastern Washington troops, military spouses, and military families with special needs will benefit from legislation the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed today.  The 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) for Fiscal Year 2011.  Committee member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers successfully pushed key provisions in the bill that:

Studies the progress of the Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs.  Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ amendment directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the progress of the Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs.  In last year’s 2010 NDAA, Congress asked the Secretary of Defense to create a new office to better support military families with special needs.  “DOD reveals that not much has been done because they need more money, but we all know that they can find a way to make this a priority,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.  “This Committee has the responsibility to ensure that service members and their families receive the support and service they deserve.”

Directs GAO to evaluate what each military service is doing to help the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP): This study would look at all aspects and implementation of the EFMP programs, policies, strategic planning, and best practices and make recommendations to improve and standardize the progress across all services.  “All too often, I hear from military families who have children with special needs.  They say the type of support you receive depends on the service you are in,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.  “This should not be the norm; the EFMP program should be standardized across the board and applicable to all services.”

Directs DOD to provide a report back to Congress offering insight on how the Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is using virtual technology to reach out to service members and their families.  “Last year, we inserted report language that asked DOD to evaluate the potential use of virtual agents to help disseminate health-related information to service members,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.  “We know that individuals are simply more comfortable asking difficult questions of a virtual agent because it is anonymous and the virtual agent is never judgmental.  And I think it is important for this Committee to know exactly what DOD is doing to utilize this technology.”

Expresses support for the concept that local schools should recognize and adhere to one Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for military families with special needs as they move from one base to another.  “I know firsthand that an IEP process can be daunting, and if a new IEP is needed every military move, families can become especially frustrated and discouraged with the process,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.  “This amendment supports the concept that military families should have a sense of security in one IEP that works best for their child.”

The 2011 NDAA includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for service members, which is above the Obama Administration’s request of 1.4 percent.

To watch the Congresswoman’s opening statement at today’s HASC mark-up, please click on the image below.

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