May 21, 2014

Kaine Discusses Commissaries, Credentialing During Defense Bill Markup

Kaine Discusses Amendments on Military Credentialing & Surveying Servicemembers’ Benefit Preferences Included in Mark

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) markup in the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine applauded the inclusion of an amendment mirroring the Servicemembers’ Compensation Empowerment Act, a bill Kaine recently introduced with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to ensure military servicemembers’ preferences on pay & benefits are considered by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Kaine also expressed support for deferring decisions about changes to commissary benefits until the Commission issues a comprehensive report in February 2015.

Kaine praised the inclusion of an amendment he introduced with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) requiring the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to create a program for active duty servicemembers to obtain professional credentials while serving. However, Kaine noted that his other amendment allowing Tuition Assistance funds to be used by active duty military for credentialing or licensing exams was not included in the amendment package, expressing concern that the military – and our society as a whole - does not value career and technical education as an equivalent to higher education.

Both amendments mirrored provisions included in the Credentialing Improvement for Troop Talent (CREDIT) Act, which Kaine introduced last week.

Full transcript of Kaine’s remarks:

“I’m proud to support a number of important measures, but I also am happy that in this mark we will be deferring some important questions, and Madam Chairwoman addressed one already. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will issue a comprehensive report in February 2015, and one of the things I’m glad you were deferring is any decision about commissaries – they’re essential to the wellbeing of servicemembers and their families, and I’m glad we’re deferring that so we can look at recommendations about commissaries in a comprehensive way.

“I'm pleased that the manager's package accepted Amendment 23, also connected to the Commission, which I introduced together with Senator John Cornyn – the Servicemembers Compensation Empowerment Act, to encourage the Commission to formally take survey preferences of military members of different grades, different service branches, different times in service, into account before making recommendations to us.

“The Manager’s Package includes Amendment 166 that I cosponsored with Senator Inhofe, which requires the Secretary of Defense and Homeland Security to create a program for active duty servicemembers to obtain professional credentials while serving. 

“And Madam Chairwoman, and finally – I’ll put an asterisk by one. I filed an amendment which was not accepted in the Manager’s Package, Amendment 181, because of back and forth dialogue that I’m still having with the Department of Defense. Basically it would have taken the Military Tuition Assistance program, which allows active duty military to draw down up to $4,500 a year in Tuition Assistance and allow that program to be used for credentialing or licensing exams, which often cost $300. The Department of Defense has some concerns about it, and I think the concerns as we go back and forth reflect sort of a broader issue in our society about whether we value career and technical education as an equivalent to higher education. We should but we don’t, but this is one that we’re going to continue to work on because I think the day will come when we’ll see career and technical education as equivalent to other forms of post-secondary education.”

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