Number: 110-19
Date: February 21, 2008

President Signs Public Law 110-181, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law H.R. 4986, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008” (P.L. 110-181). The provisions of interest to SSA in this law are similar to provisions previously described in Legislative Bulletin 110-17 on H.R. 1585, which was passed by Congress and later vetoed by President Bush because of language in the bill that would allow plaintiffs in lawsuits against Iraq 's former regime to freeze assets needed for the current Iraqi government.

The Public Law provides requirements for acquisition policy and management, special immigration status for certain Iraqi aliens, additional protections for Federal employees and families caring for injured service members, service improvements to recovering veterans, and a requirement for the Department of Defense, in consultation with SSA, to develop a comprehensive handbook on benefits available to seriously injured service members.

Following are provisions of interest to SSA:

Protection for Families Caring for Injured Service Members

•  Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to provide up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to employees who are caring for family members who have been injured or become ill in the line of active military service. Eligible employees can elect (or employers can require) that accrued paid leave be substituted for unpaid leave. For civil service employees, annual or sick leave could be substituted for unpaid leave. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Use of Leave Transfer Program by Wounded Veterans Who Are Federal Employees

•  Exempts wounded veterans who are Federal employees from exhausting annual and sick leave before receiving and using transferred leave if they:

•  Sustained a combat-related disability while a member of the armed forces, including a reserve component of the armed forces; and

•  Are undergoing medical treatment for that disability.

The exemption applies so long as such individuals continue the medical treatment for the disability, but for no longer than 5 years from the start of the treatment. For qualifying individuals who are already being treated upon the enactment date of this provision, their 5-year period of exemption begins on the date of enactment. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Handbook for Members of the Armed Forces on Compensation and Benefits Available for Serious Injuries and Illnesses

•  Requires the Department of Defense to develop and maintain, no later than October 1, 2008, a comprehensive description of the compensation and other benefits to which a service member and that member's family would be entitled upon the member's separation or retirement from the Armed Forces as a result of a serious injury or illness.

In developing and maintaining this handbook, the Department of Defense is required to consult with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Comprehensive Policy on Improvements to Care, Management and Transition of Recovering Service Members

•  Requires the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to jointly develop and implement a comprehensive policy on improvements to the care, management, and transition of recovering service members. Among the areas covered by this policy are the medical and disability evaluations of service members.

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs must develop the policy no later than July 1, 2008. In developing the policy, those departments must consult with other Federal departments, Federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations that have expertise in matters related to the policy.

The policy assigns recovery care coordinators to recovering service members. The recovery care coordinator's duties include overseeing and assisting the service member in the service member's course through the entire spectrum of care, management, transition, and rehabilitation services available from the Federal Government, including assistance and services provided by the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, and the Social Security Administration. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Bid Protests by Federal Employees in Actions under Office of Management and Budget Circular A–76

•  Gives all Federal employees or their representatives the same rights to appeal the outcome of a public private competition that other private contractors competing against them already have. (Public-private competition refers to competitions for contractual services between commercial sources and Government in-house facilities and personnel [OMB Circular A-76]). This provision is effective upon enactment.

Public-Private Competition Required Before Conversion to Contractor Performance

•  Requires public-private competition provisions to be followed before an executive agency transfers a Federal employee civilian function to a contractor. These competition provisions currently exist for the Defense Department. A head of Agency must submit a report to Congress if the Agency commences a public-private competition under this section. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Public Disclosure of Justification and Approval Documents for Noncompetitive Contracts

•  Requires the head of each Federal Agency to publicly disclose the justification and approval documents for the procurement of noncompetitive contracts. The disclosure must occur within 14 days after award of the contract or, in unusual or compelling circumstances, within 30 days. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Disclosure of Government Contractor Audit Findings

•  Requires the head of each Federal Agency to report semiannually to the chairmen and ranking members of specific Congressional committees on significant findings in audits of contractors completed by Agency's Inspectors General. The term “significant” includes improper costs in excess of $10 million, or findings that Inspector General determines to be significant. This provision is effective upon enactment.

Special Immigrant Status for Certain Iraqis

•  Provides certain Iraqi aliens who have provided service to the United States with special immigrant status, as described in section 101(a)(27) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. As special immigrants, these Iraqis are eligible for resettlement assistance, entitlement programs, and other benefits available to refugees admitted under section 207 of such Act (admission of refugees in emergency situations) for a period not to exceed 8 months.