In the latest incarnation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), recently approved by the Senate, awaiting final approval from the House-Senate conference committee, before it will be sent on to the President for either approval or veto, Fort Leonard Wood is allocated $250 million for General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital (GLWACH).
If the President signs this as the final version of NDAA, GLWACH will see an upgrade that advocates in the region, such as Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) and the Leonard Wood Institute, have been hoping for.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently spoke at SOP's annual meeting about the hospital and other funding that would benefit active-duty military, veterans, and civilian employees. McCaskill discussed efforts to expand the mission at Fort Leonard Wood, as well as hopes to fund improvements to GLWACH.
The Daily Guide reached out to McCaskill and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's offices to ask about the possible allocation of $250 million for GLWACH.
McCaskill said, "I'm thrilled we'll be able to bring these resources to the Fort Leonard Wood hospital—a move many years in the making that'll enable the facility to serve the medical needs of Soldiers, retirees, and civilians at the fort for generations to come. As the only hospital in the county, the hospital at Fort Leonard Wood is critical to the installation and the region, and the Department of Defense has heard us and taken its importance to heart with a $250 million expansion that’ll reduce costs and help our Soldiers get the highest quality care."
McCaskill told the Daily Guide that she had recently invited President Trump's Secretary of the Army nominee, Mark Esper, to visit Fort Leonard Wood "to see firsthand the incredible work and training being done."
Hartzler's press secretary, Steve Walsh said, "Congresswoman Hartzler is supportive of defense funding for Fort Leonard Wood and, additionally, strongly backs funding for our veterans who pursue other career options once they have retired from active service."
Fort Leonard Wood won't be the only one to benefit from NDAA this time around, if it makes it through to final approval, because there are several things added in that will benefit National Guard and Reserve soldiers, as well as those transitioning out of the military.
According to McCaskill, there are provisions to extend care and benefits coverage to veterans for the National Guard and the Reserves in sexual assault cases. Previously, according to McCaskill, coverage for National Guard and Reserve members who experienced trauma after a sexual assault were only covered if the assault happened on their weekend training. Under NDAA, awaiting final approval, that coverage will be extended.
National Guard and Reserve members could also see the expansion of childcare services to help them when they are engaged in their regular weekend or annual training.
McCaskill said this provision "directs the Department of Defense to explore ways of expanding childcare benefits available to active duty servicemembers, including on-post Child Development centers, to accommodate the needs of Missouri Guardsmen and Reservists while conducting regular weekend or annual training."
Another provision in NDAA, that will benefit the military locally, is a program for soldiers transitioning out of the military to civilian life that are interested in becoming farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would participate in the the Transition Assistance Program.
The Transition Assistance Program is a program that is meant to ensure that soldiers leaving the service are prepared to transition into civilian life. Under the provision being proposed, the Department of Agriculture would provide assistance to veterans interested in starting careers in farming, ranching, or other types of rural businesses.
NDAA isn't law yet, it still has a step to go through before being sent on to the President for approval and the President has to sign off on it. The Daily Guide will continue to follow this story as it develops.