Washington, D.C. -- On Wednesday, the House passed the Conference Report for the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a bipartisan 377-48 vote. The bill included numerous provisions authored by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, that will achieve justice for victims of military medical malpractice, equality for women enlisting in the Marines, and make it easier to find child care on military installations, among other accomplishments.
“The NDAA will give federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave, end the injustice of the widows’ tax, and ensure that our servicemembers can receive compensation for medical malpractice suffered at the hands of military providers. Crucial reforms related to the Feres doctrine, Marine bootcamp gender integration, access to child care, and more will help ensure a more just and equitable military and strengthen recruitment and retention,” Rep. Speier said. “Though compromises had to be made, and many important provisions were excluded, this is an important step in the right direction and I am committed to building on this progress.”
Highlights of provisions authored by Rep. Speier and included in the NDAA Conference Report include:
1. Feres Doctrine Fix: After nearly 70 years of the Feres Doctrine, servicemembers and their families will finally have a path forward in seeking compensation for medical malpractice committed by military health care providers in noncombat settings by filing a claim under the Military Claims Act. This legislation secures $400 million over the next 10 years to payout malpractice claims.
2. Integrating Marine Corps Basic Training: Requires the Marine Corps to gender-integrate its boot camps over the next several years. This reform will promote gender equity within the Corps by showing that women and men are equal from the day they join the Marine Corps.
3. Preventing Price Gouging of DOD: Creates new safeguards to empower DOD contracting officers to receive accurate pricing information from contractors so that companies like TransDigm have a harder time overcharging the DOD. TransDigm has agreed to return $16 million to American taxpayers.
4. Appeals for Discharge Reviews: Instructs the Secretary of Defense to create an entity that can field appeals from servicemembers seeking to have the characterizations of their discharges or dismissals changed when those servicemembers have not received satisfactory decisions from the service-specific review boards. Creating a DOD-wide appellate body will promote uniformity among the service-specific review boards and help numerous servicemembers and veterans, including sexual assault survivors and those with post-traumatic stress syndrome, receive earned benefits more quickly.
5. Expanding Special Victims Counsels: Requires the services to assess sexual assault special victims counsel (SVC) shortages and increase the number of lawyers available to ensure sexual assault survivors receive adequate help throughout the legal process.
6. Legal Counsel for Domestic Violence: Creates program modeled on sexual assault SVCs to give legal assistance to military domestic violence survivors. This will help survivors understand and navigate the complex legal process that follows domestic violence incidents, empowering survivors to ensure their interests are respected.
7. Deployment Deferral for New Mothers: Prevents the DOD from deploying new mothers within twelve months of the births of their children, unless the mother chooses to deploy, or national security interests require her deployment. This change will ensure mothers can bond with their children during the critical first year of life.
8. Child Care Access: Increases child care availability for military families by requiring the services to increase capacity and making it easier to hire child care workers. Waiting periods presently exceed one year at many bases. With these reforms, military couples will find it easier to balance professional and familial demands, allowing the services to retain their most valuable asset: servicemembers.
9. Breast Cancer Research: Reauthorizes the breast cancer research stamp that was slated to expire in December 2019. More than one billion stamps have been sold in the United States raising over $89 million for breast cancer research at the NIH and DOD at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The NDAA Conference Report was passed by the Senate on December 17, 2019 and signed into law by the President on December 20, 2019. For a list of all of Rep. Speier's provisions included in the final conference report, see below.
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