Starting 2023 off Strong for Our Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

By: US Senator James Lankford

As a new Congress begins, I am prioritizing the key issues that are important to our service members, veterans, and their families. I introduced four bills to address these issues that are real solutions that can pass Congress and get signed by the President.

Did you know almost half of active-duty families surveyed recently said spousal unemployment is an issue for them, and almost half of spouses reported they’re not working but want a career? If you are in the military, you move around at the orders of Uncle Sam, which makes careers difficult for spouses. We need to fix this for our military families. My Military Spouse Employment Act gives spouses the option of fully remote federal careers with almost any federal agency. That means a spouse at Altus, Vance, Tinker, MCAAP, or Ft. Sill can have a career at a federal agency and take it with them when their military spouse is relocated.

Here is another practical idea, most custodial, cafeteria, and other services at our military installations are done through government contracts. But since 1965, if your contract exceeds $2,500 you have to provide extra fringe benefits. That amount might have been a reasonable threshold 60 years ago when it was created, but it’s very low in 2023. My Service Contract Modernization Act adjusts that amount for inflation up to $21,000 so DOD can pursue contracts they need and taxpayers are protected.

The military is hiring for thousands of civilian jobs, but the hiring process can take months. That is a real problem. My bill, the DOD Hiring Act, takes the current temporary authority for Oklahoma military installations to directly hire new employees and makes it permanent. Our military often needs people to fill critical positions that can’t wait on our long federal hiring process, so for those specific in-demand positions, shortening the long process makes more sense.

Even military retirees face a huge hurdle if they want to keep serving their country as a civilian, a six-month wait time to get hired. We need my Retain Skilled Veterans Act to eliminate that barrier. Our military deserves the best and brightest civilian workforce, and those candidates are getting scooped up by the private sector more and more. Making a military retiree wait six months before they can serve their country means we lose great people and experience.  

In addition to these important bills, I supported the National Defense bill, which included a 4.6 percent pay raise for our military, funding for the new Tulsa VA hospital, and funding for all missions at Oklahoma’s military installations.

I also made sure service members who requested a religious accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine and who have been waiting on a response, will now get answers and be allowed to return to their duties. I successfully stopped Biden’s “dishonorable discharges” for military members who didn’t want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

I pursued the TRICARE network changes that cut beneficiary access to thousands of rural pharmacies late last year and pushed to get those pharmacies a second chance to serve our Veterans. Several rural Oklahoma pharmacies were reinstated to the TRICARE network, and I am working to reinstate even more. 

Thank you to our veterans and their families. My team and I are working to get real solutions for the real issues you face. There’s more to be done.