Informational for Veterans and families


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July22,2015

Department of Defense Issues Final Military Lending Act Rule

After nearly three years of study, the Department of Defense today issued the final Military Lending Act (MLA) rule.

The MLA better protects our service men and women from predatory credit practices by expanding financial protections provided to service members, and helping ensure military families receive the consumer protections they deserve. These actions build on the president’s announcement during a speech at the Pittsburgh chapter of the VFW of a voluntary partnership with financial lenders across the country to help deliver important financial and home loan-related protections to our military community.

“With this action, the department takes an important stand against companies that can prey on our men and women in uniform. This new rule addresses a range of credit products that previously escaped the scope of the regulation, compromising the financial readiness of our troops. Today, with our regulatory and enforcement partners, we stand united in support of our service members and their families,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

This rule applies the protections of the Military Lending Act to all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit, and credit cards. The implementing regulation provides several significant protections extended to active duty service members and their families, including:

• A 36 percent Annual Percentage Rate limit. This cap, which is referred to as the Military Annual Percentage Rate or MAPR, covers all interest and fees associated with the loan. This limit now includes charges for most ancillary “add-on” products such as credit default insurance and debt suspension plans.

• The MLA prohibits creditors from requiring service members to: submit to mandatory arbitration and onerous legal notice requirements; waive their rights under the service members’ Civil Relief Act; provide a payroll allotment as a condition of obtaining credit (other than from relief societies); be able to refinance a payday loan; or be able to secure credit using a post-dated check, access to a bank account (other than at an interest rate of less than 36 percent MAPR), or a car title (other than with a bank, savings association or credit union).

• The changes to definitions of credit in the final rule bring any closed or open-end loan within the scope of the regulation, except for loans secured by real estate or a purchase-money loan, including a loan to finance the purchase of a vehicle.

The process and the rule considered carefully input from many sources, and takes a balanced approach that preserves access to credit and allows for effective industry compliance. To assist industry in complying with the MLA, the new rule will go into effect Oct. 1, 2015, and have a staggered compliance dates.

This rule will help protect all active duty service members and their families from committing to loans with excessive fees and charges. Additionally, service members will still have access to no-interest loans, grants, and scholarships from the four military relief societies, and not all credit products will be affected by the regulation; notably residential mortgages and purchase-money loans (to buy items like cars) are excluded from the MLA’s definition of “consumer credit.”

Congress passed the Military Lending Act (MLA) in 2006 with bipartisan support to provide specific protections for active duty service members and their dependents in consumer credit transactions. The MLA caps the interest rate on covered loans to active duty service members at 36 percent; requires disclosures to alert service members to their rights; and, it prohibits creditors from requiring a service member to submit to arbitration in the event of a dispute, among many other protections. Congress took these steps to protect service members and their families from predatory lending which negatively impacts military readiness and can make transitioning from the military service significantly more challenging.

The department asked the public for their perspective on changing the existing rule in June 2013, and published the proposed rule in the Federal Register for public comment Sept. 29, 2014.

In developing this rule, the department consulted with the Federal Trade Commission, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Treasury Department to develop the responsible protections found in the revised rule that preserve access to credit for service members and their families and protect their financial future.

The final rule was published at 12 p.m. in the Federal Register today.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

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January 8, 2015

DoD Announces European Infrastructure Consolidation Actions and F-35 Basing in Europe

The Department of Defense announced today the consolidation of some U.S. infrastructure in Europe, including the return of 15 sites to their host nations. These actions, taken as part of the European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) process, will save the U.S. government approximately $500 million annually. The DoD also announced the first F-35 basing in Europe at RAF Lakenheath, UK, which will bring new opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and UK air forces.

These actions will result in a slight decrease in our force levels, but will also ensure they are most effectively positioned to enable the U.S. and our NATO allies to respond quickly to crises worldwide. Additionally, these actions will result in the greater efficiency and effectiveness of our presence in Europe by reducing the U.S. footprint while ensuring that the infrastructure in place will continue now and into the future to sustain U.S. interests and support our partners in the region.

“As part of an overall restructuring of our basing in Europe, we have been working with our allies to reposition thousands of our military and civilian personnel within the region,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. “I know that this will result in a reduction in size of our local host nation workforces at some locations; I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades and continue to provide today. In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships, so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region.”

The administration asked for, and received, congressional approval for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), a total of $985 million for DoD, which will: enhance a U.S. rotational presence in Europe for training, exercises, and other NATO activities; implement infrastructure improvement projects to support the increase military presence by the U.S. and other allies in eastern Europe; pre-position U.S. assets in Europe; and enable the United States to build the capacity of our newer allies as well as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

The Air Force will permanently base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Europe. After a considered and deliberative process, RAF Lakenheath, UK, was selected as the first location in Europe to host the F-35. This decision reflects the closeness of the U.S.-UK defense relationship and the military value of basing in the UK. The first aircraft are scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in 2020.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act required the DoD to use the EIC process to validate the Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal streamline efforts, previously approved and announced in 2012. The DoD has concluded the Lajes streamlining process should continue, and is expected to complete by the fall of 2015. The Air Force originally chose to streamline U.S. operations on Lajes as the current presence exceeds requirements to support transiting aircraft. The Air Force will adjust the size of the unit to reflect the level of support required while keeping forces at the installation.

The EIC and F-35 basing decisions will result in a net decrease of approximately 2,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel in the UK over the next several years. This loss is primarily due to the removal of about 3,200 U.S. personnel from RAF Mildenhall, which will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 U.S. military personnel who will be permanently stationed alongside the two F-35 squadrons going to RAF Lakenheath. The presence of U.S. F-35s at RAF Lakenheath will deepen our already close partnership and offer new opportunities for collaboration between the U.S. and UK. In Germany, various U.S. units will come and go during the next several years, with a final anticipated increase of several hundred U.S. military personnel assigned there, as the DoD consolidate forces so they are best positioned for future needs. In Italy, the DoD will add approximately 200 military positions, after the 606th Air Control Squadron relocates there from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. In Portugal, there will be a decrease of approximately 500 U.S. military and civilian personnel at Lajes Field in the Azores, necessary for our consolidation efforts in Europe.

The 15 site returns are part of U.S. European Command’s continued effort to remove non-enduring sites from its real-property inventory, and allow more resources to be focused on other U.S. European Command mission requirements. These infrastructure adjustments represent the culmination of the EIC review.

Based on the EIC conclusions, the following sites are scheduled to be consolidated or returned to the host nation over the next several years:

United Kingdom
Divest RAF Mildenhall – Returns the installation and four supported sites to the United Kingdom. DoD intends to relocate the operational units at RAF Mildenhall within Europe – the assigned KC-135s and the 352nd Special Operations Wing to Germany, and the assigned RC-135s within the U.K. This consolidation paves the way for the stationing of two squadrons of F-35s at RAF Lakenheath, starting in 2020.

Divest RAF Alconbury/RAF Molesworth Consolidation of missions allows the permanent return of RAF Alconbury, RAF Molesworth and supporting sites to the United Kingdom. The majority of U.S. personnel, and many of the U.S.-funded host nation positions assigned to these bases will be transferred to RAF Croughton.

Germany
Close Mainz Kastel Station Fully returns the site to Germany.

Close Barton Barracks Fully returns the site to Germany, and relocates the Department of Defense Dependents Schools district office to Sembach.

Partially close Pulaski Barracks in the Kaiserslautern area Returns part of the site to Germany.

Close Weilimdorf Warehouse Site Returns the site to German control.

Close two Baumholder Waterworks Returns control to Germany.

Relocate HQs DISA-Europe from Stuttgart to Kaiserslautern.

Close Amelia Earhart hotel in Wiesbaden.

Partially close Artillery Kaserne in Garmisch Returns two-thirds of the site to Germany.

Restructure the Army Air Force Exchange Services bakery and water distribution operations at Gruenstadt.

Close Husterhoeh Kaserne in Pirmasens Returns the site to Germany.

Relocate mail sorting/distribution from German Aerial Mail Terminal in Frankfurt to Germersheim Army Depot – Efficiencies and personnel moves only.

Create a distribution center of excellence at Germersheim Army Depot.

Consolidate various communication data centers across EUCOM.

Close commissaries at Illesheim and Sembach, as well as the four commissaries in Stuttgart at Kelley Barracks, Patch Barracks, Panzer Barracks and Robinson Barracks, once a new replacement store on Panzer is constructed.

Consolidate Defense Media Activity operations across Europe.

Consolidate communications, postal services and personnel management that support the U.S. mission to NATO and the U.S. military delegation to the NATO Military Committee.

Belgium
Divest Leased Site in Brussels Consolidation of U.S. facilities in Brussels to Sterrebeek.

The Netherlands
Divest Shinnen Emma Mine Leased Site, Netherlands and consolidate U.S. facilities at Brunssum.

Italy
Place a portion of the Pisa Ammo Storage Area, near Livorno, into caretaker status.

Partially close Camp Darby near Livorno. Returns about half of the installation to Italy.

Convert the Vicenza Health Center to outpatient and specialty care only.

Portugal
Streamline operations and property at Lajes Field Reduces active duty, civilian personnel and contract providers by two-thirds. A number of the buildings at Lajes will also be returned to Portugal.

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IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. NR-629-14
December 25, 2014
_______________________________________
Readout of Secretary Hagel’s Calls to Service Members on Christmas

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby provided the following readout:

This morning, Secretary Hagel called service members taking part in U.S. operations around the world to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Secretary Hagel expressed his appreciation for their service in defending the United States, and supporting our allies and partners. In each of the calls, Secretary Hagel noted that he knows how difficult it is to be away from home on this holiday and thanked the service members and their families for their sacrifice for the nation.

Secretary Hagel spoke with representatives from each military service including the following service members:

Specialist Randolph A. Priest, U.S. Army, of Barren Springs, Virginia. Specialist Priest is a communications specialist serving in Afghanistan who is responsible for ensuring reliable communications between the headquarters and soldiers.

Captain Laura A. Klepper, U.S. Air Force, of Palmdale, California. Capt. Klepper is an F-15E weapon system officer deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility, providing combat airpower in support of regional missions. She was selected as her squadron’s flight commander of the year.

Corporal Thomas A. Vasko, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, of Medina, Ohio. Cpl. Vasko is an infantry advisor in Afghanistan, training allies in how to conduct patrols to prevent enemy freedom of movement and indirect fire attacks. He is also an assistant patrol leader.

Petty Officer First Class Taylor A. Porter, U.S. Navy, of Dayton, Washington. Petty Officer Porter is deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility and leads an 11-person team in ensuring aviation equipment is maintained and safe for flight. She was selected as her squadron’s maintainer of the year and led the stand-up of a unit supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

The secretary was delighted to be able to reach these service members, forward deployed as they are, and to wish them his best for the holiday. He asked that each pass on his best wishes to their units as well. The secretary was very grateful for the time these young leaders gave him.

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IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. NR-627-14
December 22, 2014

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DoD Releases 2015 Military Pay and Compensation Rates

Today, the Department of Defense announced the 2015 military pay and compensation rates for service members.

The new rates for basic pay, basic allowance for housing (BAH), basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), and the cost of living allowance (COLA) rates for the contiguous United States will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Basic pay for service members will increase one percent, except for general and flag officers who will not see an increase in 2015. For example, an E-4 with three years of service will see an increase in basic pay of $22.20 per month, while an O-3 with six years of service will increase basic pay increase $54.30 per month in 2015.

BAH rates for service members in 2015 will increase on average $17 per month, or 0.5 percent. Rates are calculated using median current market rent and average utilities (including electricity, heat, and water/sewer) for each pay grade, both with and without dependents. Two changes were made to BAH rate computations for 2015: renter’s insurance, which contributed an average of one percent to rates was eliminated, and the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act reduced housing rates on average one percent for service members.

However, individual rate protection for service members remains an integral part of the BAH program. This means that even if BAH rates decline including through the elimination of renter’s insurance and the reduction in the calculated rate a service member who maintains uninterrupted BAH eligibility in a given location will not see a rate decrease. This ensures that service members who have made long-term commitments in the form of a lease or contract are not penalized if local housing costs decrease.

Service members can calculate their BAH payment by using the basic allowance for Housing calculator at: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm.

The 2015 BAS rates for military members will increase by 2.9 percent over last year. The new rates are:

$367.92 per month for enlisted members
$253.38 per month for officers

The annual adjustments to BASa monthly non-taxable cash payment to military members intended to be used to buy food?are linked to changes in food prices as measured by the annual change in the U.S. Department of Agriculture cost of food at home index. From the beginning of October 2013 through the end of September 2014, the index rose by 2.9 percent, forming the basis for the increased BAS rates.

The Defense Department also released its 2015 contiguous United States (CONUS) cost of living allowance (COLA) rates. While roughly 12,000 members will see a decrease in their CONUS COLA payments, some 7,000 members will see an increase or no change. 4,000 members will no longer receive a CONUS COLA payment.

CONUS COLA is a taxable supplemental allowance designed to help offset higher prices in high-cost locations, and rates vary based on location, pay grade, years of service and dependent status. Rates can increase or decrease depending on the prices in a specific duty location compared to prices in an average CONUS location. Service members can calculate their CONUS COLA rate at: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/conusCalc.cfm.

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Today I received the following information that I felt may be of importance to some of those of you who frequent my blog.

Hope you have a nice weekend and are in a nice, safe and warm place.
Federal Agencies Partner to Protect Veterans, Service Members and Their Families Using GI Bill Education Benefits, Launch New Online Complaint System

New Online Complaint System Empowers Students, Strengthens Enforcement

The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education and Justice, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission announced today the launch of a new online complaint system designed to collect feedback from veterans, service members and their families who are experiencing problems with educational institutions receiving funding from federal military and veterans educational benefits programs, including benefits programs provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the DOD Military Tuition Assistance Program.

The centralized online reporting system is designed for veterans, service members and eligible dependents to report negative experiences with educational institutions; and gives the federal government the information needed to identify and address unfair, deceptive, and misleading practices and ensure high quality academic and student support services are available for veterans, service members, and their families.

“The online complaint system empowers veterans and their dependents and provides them a direct line to VA and our partner agencies,” said Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs. “The feedback we receive from veterans, service members and their families will help us strengthen enforcement of the ‘Principles of Excellence’ for institutions of higher learning serving veterans and their families to ensure students are receiving the education benefits they have earned and deserve.”

“Our service members and their families now have an easier and efficient way to provide feedback on their civilian educational experiences, which will ensure we have the right information to identify and address any negative practices,” said Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright.

Students can submit a complaint if they believe their school is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence, (i.e. unfair recruiting practices, credit transfer or change in degree requirements) through the centralized online reporting system accessed via the Department of Defense and GI Bill websites. When feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution. Complaints and their resolution will be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network, accessible by over 650 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for use in enhancing and coordinating law enforcement investigations.

Executive Order 13607, signed April 27, 2012, addresses reports of unfair, deceptive or misleading behavior toward veterans, service members and their families pursuing higher education and directs agencies to establish, implement and promote compliance with “Principles of Excellence” for educational institutions receiving funding from federal military and veterans educational benefits programs for America’s veterans, service members and eligible dependents, including preventing abusive and deceptive recruiting practices. The new online complaint system is one of a range of tools being implemented by the federal government to ensure that service members, veterans and eligible dependents have access to meaningful information about the cost and quality of educational institutions.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)


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