Are you confused by the many changes being made each year by the military? The budget comes out each year, but how does it affect you as a veteran and any compensation due to you? Each year the military and Department of Defense create a new budget called the National Defense Authorization Act. But how can you know what is in it?
The amount of paperwork alone is enough to make even the most hardened and determined soldier want to retreat! Each time you search for answers, it seems harder and harder to understand.
If you are looking for a simple explanation to the 2020 National Defense Act, and more specifically, how it affects you as a veteran, then read and share this article. We are committed to bringing you the best information and explaining it the best we can.
In this article about the 2020 NDA:
- What Is the National Defense Act?
- Who Is in Charge of Spending It?
- How Much Money Will They Get?
- How Can They Spend It?
- Changes Made in 2020
- How Does This Affect Veterans?
- The 2020 NDA Repealed the “Widow’s Tax”
- Document Harmful Events and Exposures
- Sharing Documentation for Disabilities
- 2020 VA Disability Rate Changes
- You Fought for Us, Now We’ll Fight for You
What Is the National Defense Act?
Every year Congress decides a budget that the Department of Defense (DoD) has for the next year. This law is called the National Defense Act, and it has two parts. One bill is called the National Appropriations Act which determines where the money will be spent and how much will be spent.
The other part of the bill is called the National Defense Authorization Act and is what we will focus on in this article. The National Defense Authorization Act determines three main components: who will be in charge of defense, how much money they will get, and what are the parameters for how they can spend their money. Just like you or I would create our monthly budget and then decide who in your household will be in charge of paying the electric bill and who will be responsible for the grocery shopping, so too does the Federal government.
Who Is in Charge of Spending It?
Similar to our example of the family budget, the first part of the National Defense Act determines which agency in the Defense Department will be responsible for budget spending in particular areas.
So, say you sit down to figure out your budget and you decide you will spend money next month on your mortgage, car payment, car insurance, cable and internet, and your cell phones. You haven’t yet decided how much will be spent in each area but you have decided these are the areas in which you are willing to spend your money.
Next, you need to decide who will be responsible for the bills, from negotiating their amounts to paying them. Just as with your family budget where some payments don’t change, such as a mortgage that is fixed, a portion of the defense spending also doesn’t change from year to year.
Just as you know you will always pay the electric bill, the DoD always includes certain items. One example is military personnel salaries. The NDA doesn’t necessarily decide if you get paid, but it does outline if you will get a raise this year.
How Much Money Will They Get?
Back to our family budget example, in the first step, you determined what areas you will fund in your budget from housing to transportation to entertainment. And then you decided who would be responsible for paying the bills. Now, you need to decide how much of your overall budget you are willing to devote each month.
So you decide that housing will stay the same due to having a fixed mortgage but you decide that you are willing to increase your grocery budget due to inflation. Similarly, the NDA decides that they will again pay military personnel a small raise to keep up with the cost of living.
Specifically, on January 1, 2020, basic military pay received a 3.1% increase over last year. Likewise, veterans receiving disability will see their compensation increase by 1.6% in 2020. This section doesn’t specify exactly how much will be spent, which is determined in the appropriations bill and subsequent committees.
How to apply for VA disability for burn pit related disabilities.
How Can They Spend It?
Lastly, once the Appropriation act determines who is responsible for the budget and how much money they will get next year, they need to set parameters for how they can spend their money.
As an example from our family budget, let’s say you determined that one spouse will do the grocery shopping and the other one will pay the bills each month. Then both will get a certain amount of money for discretionary funds.
However, within that fund, there are stipulations that the money can only be spent on improving the house or something for the kids. Outside of that, it needs to come back to the budget meeting for approval. So too does Congress have to set rules and boundaries for their spending or else come back to committee for approval.
Changes Made in 2020
While there are parts of the NDA that are simply re-authorizations of the previous year’s spending, there were some changes. It is important to note those changes and if they affect you as a veteran.
Here is a list of some changes and additions to the budget in 2020:
- Repeal the widow’s tax
- Modify the workplace survey to include checking for racist or supremacist activity
- Expansion of spousal education program
- Expansion of the domestic violence and prevention program
- Medical documentation of servicemen exposure
- Prohibition of gender-segregation during Marine Corps recruit training
- More transparency in medical records for medical malpractice
- Limiting the number of medical personnel that can be reduced
The entirety of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act is 1,119 pages long, but these changes are the main changes to be highlighted. Of these changes, a few do affect veterans.
How Does This Affect Veterans?
As mentioned above, a large part of the annual budget is simply re-authorizing past spending. For veterans specifically, any disability or retirement payments are authorized again, with a small cost of living increase.
Some of the changes made above affect veterans’ monthly payments. Some other changes affect how your medical information is shared and how any adverse exposures or events during your service is shared with your medical records.
Namely, the changes with the biggest effects on veterans and their families are the repeal of the widow’s tax, the medical documentation of exposure to harmful events and environments during service, as well as the sharing of medical information and documentation for compensation from the VA for disabilities.
By sharing military information with medical documentation decisions regarding VA disability eligibility should be expedited. And hopefully, now that the disability claims will have more complete information, veterans will have a better chance at approval for their claims.
The 2020 NDA Repealed the “Widow’s Tax”
Before 2020, if you qualified for either the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or the Survivor’s Benefit Plan you couldn’t collect from both. Whatever you collected from one was taken from the other.
Now, after the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in future years this “widow’s tax” will be removed in a rolling phase-out. This rolling phase-out will take place over the next three years.
Now spouses and surviving dependents of military personnel receiving SBP benefits will not see a reduction in their benefit should they become eligible for the DIC payments as well.
Document Harmful Events and Exposures
As we have seen in recent years, many military personnel are being exposed to harmful events or environmental concerns while they are serving in the military. The two biggest changes seen in the 2020 NDA are for TBI victims and those exposed to burn pits.
Repeated exposure to blasts has been shown to cause long-term damage to our bodies and brains. Due to the abundant use of IEDs by foreign enemies, military troops are being exposed to repeated injury to the brain. It could be a single blow to the head or repeated blasts, the NDA has now tasked the Pentagon to track exposure to blasts for all troops.
Unfortunately, when troops are stationed overseas, there isn’t an easy way to get rid of the waste created by your base. Historically, burn pits were used to incinerate all of the waste created, whether medical, human or simply trash. It was all burned.
We now know this exposure to burn pits has turned out to be harmful to our troops. Again, this new change in the 2020 NDA now requires the military to track and document which troops were exposed to burn pits while serving.
If you think you were exposed to a burn pit and now have disabilities that could be related, talk to your doctor or a specialist. It will now be required for your military personnel records to not only document that you were exposed, but it will also be required for this information to be shared with your medical electronic records.
Now with the changes in the 2020 NDA, the military will begin tracking and documenting exposure to military personnel to both blast exposures which could cause traumatic brain injuries and exposure to burn pits near wartime military bases overseas.
Sharing Documentation for Disabilities
Another provision from the 2020 NDA includes the sharing of information and electronic health records between medical personnel and VA claims. Namely, concerning the burn pits mentioned above, medical records in the past did not indicate whether or not veterans had served in a location with a burn pit.
Due to that inability to share information with medical records many disability claims were denied when disabilities were filed because of exposure to burn pits. Now this information will be retroactively included in military records and shared with their electronic health records.
Sharing of information between your personnel records and your health records should expedite any claims made on your behalf. Too many previous claims were denied due to a lack of information. Thankfully, these changes to documentation must be done now and retroactively included.
2020 VA Disability Rate Changes
As you can see there are several compensation and disability rate changes that happened with the 2020 authorization act. For help with calculating your possible compensation or increase in current payments, use this interactive calculator to see what you could be receiving.
As you know, VA disability rates are rarely straightforward. Using our calculator can show you exactly what your combined rating might be. Of course, talking to a lawyer or specialist will confirm what your combined rating is.
When you work through the calculator pay attention to whether each factor is bilateral or only affects one side of your body. You can see a full explanation of our calculator in our YouTube video here.
There are many different compensation programs, from disabilities to dependents to survivors. For a list of all current 2020 veterans disability compensation rates, check out these charts on the VA website or call us at 1-866-232-5777.
How to use our VA Disability Calculator from one of our VA disability lawyers.
You Fought for Us, Now We’ll Fight for You
We know this is a lot of information. It can be hard to navigate the waters of veterans’ claims and disabilities by yourself. That is why we are here to help veterans like you or your loved ones.
Reach out to us and let us take a look at your claim. Even if you have lost your claim already or been denied several times. We are committed to helping veterans get the compensation they deserve.
You earned your battle scars, the government needs to take care of you and your family. And that is what we do, make sure that you and your family members are taken care of. Many helpful changes happened in the 2020 National Defense Act, but the legalese can be confusing. Call us today.