From: Director, RAO Baguio [raoemo@sbcglobal.net]

Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 8:25 PM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 15 April 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

15 April 2006

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== Tricare User Fee [11] ------------------- (Amendment rejected)

== Tricare User Fee [12] ------------------- (S.2617 introduced)

== SBP DIC Offset [09] -------------------- (Still alive)

== Medicare Subvention [01] ------------- (HR 4992 introduced)

== GWOT Medal Update [03] ------------ (Eligibility expanded)

== Mobilized Reserve 5 APR 06 --------- (8,830 decrease)

== VA Medical Center Cuts --------------- (18 to be leased out)

== Pennsylvania Survivor Education Bill (Free dependent tuition)

== VA Regs Change Proposal ------------- (Claim process tweak)

== VA Compensation & Pensions [01] -- (HR 4843 increase proposal)

== Tricare Uniform Formulary [10] ------ (More tier 3 moves)

== VA Health Benefits Fund --------------  (Taxpayer donations)

== Bugles Across America ----------------- (Available for funerals)

== Military Records/DD-214 [01] -------- (Quicker access)

== VA COLA 2007 ------------------------- (S.2563 introduced)

== SBP SSA Offset [07] -------------------- (45% effective 1 Apr)

== Foreign Medical Program [01] -------- (Dental care clarification)

== Space A Travel Reduction [01] ------- (Pacific route elimination)

== Reebok Sneakers Alert ----------------- (Bonus gift dangerous)

== Veterans’ Preference [03] -------------- (Designer RIF)

== Military Savings Deposit Program ---- (10% interest)

== DeployMed ResearchLINK ------------ (Info on health research)

== DFAS myPay System [03] ------------- (Electronic 1099R )

== AFRH Gulfport [01] --------------------  (Options for future)

== TMOP [03] -------------------------------  (Underutilized)

== VA Cemeteries --------------------------- (Demand increase)

== Reserve GI Bill [02] --------------------- (Shortcomings)

== 109th Congress Senate ------------------ (Pending Vet Bills)

== 109th Congress House ------------------ (Pending Vet Bills)

 

TRICARE USER FEES UPDATE 11:  Ignoring the intimidating props - boxes of angry letters from thousands of military retirees - senior Defense Department officials and military leaders appeared before a contentious House subcommittee to make their case for hiking Tricare fees sharply for under-65 retirees and their families. In the verbal sparring that ensued, Pentagon leaders gave as good as they got.  But no lawmaker took the role of referee. All threw punches on behalf of retirees, and treated with kid gloves a second panel of witnesses representing dozens of pro-retiree military associations and veterans groups. The Pentagon’s plan to boost out-of-pocket Tricare costs for 3 million beneficiaries, to include a tripling of managed care enrollment fees for retired officers and a doubling for senior enlisted retirees, seemed to shatter some traditional alliances and form new ones.  Republicans and Democrats together questioned the realism of projected cost savings from raising Tricare fees and the wisdom of doing so in wartime. The active duty four-star officers in the room spoke in support of the increases.  Retired officers led the opposition. David Chu, undersecretary of defense, and William Winkenwerder, the Pentagon’s health affairs chief, reminded the armed services subcommittee on military personnel that, since 1995, Tricare benefits and the beneficiary population have grown, program costs have soared, yet Tricare fees have remained the same.

 

     Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR) the ranking Democrat on the panel questioned DoD hand-wringing over the widening disparity between Tricare fees and private health insurance premiums. He noted there should be a disparity because that’s part of what the government gives service personnel for turning their life’s over to them 24 hours a day.  He said, “…We're going to pay for health care for our men and women in uniform, and retirees. We're going to sustain the program. The question is how... and right now there's not a lot of enthusiasm for the method you all have proposed".  Snyder asked if the firestorm over Tricare fees could have been avoided if officials pushed for a more modest change, perhaps to adjust retiree Tricare fees in the future by the percentage rise in military retired pay each year.

 

     Retired Navy Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, Jr., testifying on behalf of the Military Coalition, a consortium of service associations, called the planned fees “disproportional and inappropriate. Chu countered by saying another way to look at the increased fees is that for 11 years, the beneficiary population has enjoyed a relief from indexing. Defense officials estimate the higher fees will help save $11 billion by 2011 but only about one-third of that would come from the fee increases. The bulk of the savings is based on the notion that many retirees and their families would drop Tricare if beneficiary costs rose.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) chastised Dr. David Chu, for statements that "Congress has gone too far in adding benefits." In effect, Jones said, the Pentagon is proposing to balance the budget on the backs of beneficiaries. "It's not really your responsibility," Jones added. "It's our responsibility in Congress to find the funds to pay for this care."

 

     Former DoD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim, testified that the Administration is skirting FY2005 Defense Authorization Act (which shifted responsibility for all TFL trust fund deposits to the Treasury Department) by continuing to charge TFL fund deposits against the defense budget. Zakheim argued that these deposits should not be counted, as a matter of law or policy, against the defense budget. Zakheim also said he was struck by the difference in the positions being taken by today's military leaders and those of five years ago. Back then, he noted, the Joint Chiefs urged Congress to increase retiree health benefits because broken promises to retirees were hurting active duty retention. At this hearing, all four Service Vice Chiefs of Staff supported charging retirees higher fees.

 

     On a 22-15 party-line vote, the House Budget committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) which would have blocked Pentagon plans to double and triple Tricare premiums for working-age military retirees. The bill now moves to the floor of the House. The budget resolution is just a blueprint for spending in the fiscal year. The Appropriations Committees have the final say of how the money is actually spent. In the interim the Military Retirees' Health Care Protection Act H.R.4949 has gained 19 cosponsors for a total of 138.  This bill would in effect prohibit the DoD from increasing the Tricare rates and fees effective 31 DEC 05.  Retirees are encouraged to write their Representatives and express their feelings about the proposed changes.  At  http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=8591236&type=CO can be found a proposed letter, the current list of cosponsors, and the text of the bill.  [Source: Military Update Tom Philpott article 1 Apr & USDR Action Alert 5 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

TRICARE USER FEES UPDATE 12:  Although the Defense Department has pledged to work with Congress on its plan for steep hikes in Tricare fees for military retirees, a top DoD health official says the department has full authority to jack up the enrollment fees for Tricare Prime and raise pharmacy copayments for all Tricare users except active-duty members. On the other hand, the Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs said the plan to establish a first-time-ever enrollment fee for Tricare Standard would require a change in the law. On 14 MAR, the Military Officers Association of America proposed a list of 16 options to make Tricare more cost-effective. MOAA’s president, retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr., said that implementing only three or four of the cost-cutting items would fully eliminate the need to hit military retirees with a $11.2 billion fee increase over five years.

 

     On 7 APR the "Military Retirees' Health Care Protection Act." (S.2617) was introduced in the Senate.  Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced the bipartisan legislation to protect military retirees and their families from DoD's proposed increase in health care fees. S. 2617 contains many of the provisions contained in H.R. 4949, which was introduced recently in the House by Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX).  Both the House and Senate are in recess for the two week Easter break.  Members of Congress will return to the Capitol on April 24.  Perhaps, after getting an earful from their veteran constitutes, more in Congress will sign on as cosponsors to these two bills to defeat DoD’s attempt to levy Tricare user fees and increase copays.  [Source: Armed Forces News 7 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

SBP DIC OFFSET UPDATE 09: The inclusion of amendment 3001 in the Senate FY 2007 Budget Resolution overcame one hurdle in the quest to eliminate the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). The amendment provides for the budget authority needed to enable survivors to collect both the SBP and DIC in full. The amendment reads: “To provide funds ensuring Survivor Benefit Plan annuities are not reduced by the amount of dependency and indemnity compensation that military families receive, and to provide funds for "paid-up" SBP, offset by closing abusive corporate tax loopholes.” The amount provided is $95 million for the first year. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) for sponsored this amendment, which reflects his bill S.185. Unless similar budget headroom is included in the House Budget Resolution, which has not yet passed, the status of the issue remains tenuous. Even if authority is included in the final budget resolution, the elimination of the offset must still be authorized in the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). [Source: NMFA eNews 11 Apr 06]

 

 

VA MEDICARE SUBVENTION UPDATE 01: Under current law, Medicare-eligible veterans are not allowed to use Medicare coverage at local VA hospitals. Instead, they are forced to decide between receiving medical care at a VA hospital without being able to use Medicare to help them make their bill payments, or using Medicare at a non-VA hospital and losing the personalized veterans’ care of a VA hospital.  Rep. Sue Kelly (NY) 16 Mar 06 introduced HR 4992, the Veterans Medicare Assistance Act, that would provide Medicare eligible veterans with Medicare Subvention.  This would give vets the right to use Medicare benefits to help pay their bills at local VA hospitals.  Kelly pointed out that veterans pay into Medicare for most of their lives, yet the law prohibits them from using Medicare benefits at a VA hospital later in life. Since VA hospitals specialize in treating veterans’ needs, veterans should not be forced to choose between cost and comfort. Veterans should be eligible for the same Medicare benefits at a VA hospital that they would have at any other hospital. [Source: USDR Action Alert 11 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

GWOT MEDAL UPDATE 03:  The Navy has added the following designated geographical locations for eligibility for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal: Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chad, Georgia, Hungary, Kosovo (only specified GWOT operations not associated with operations qualifying for the Kosovo Campaign Medal), Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Turkey, Uganda, the Mediterranean Sea (when conducting boarding and searching vessel operations), Colombia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Initially eligibility only extended to:

 

1. LAND AREAS: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Crete, Cyprus, Diego Garcia, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey (East of 35 degrees east longitude), Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

 

2. OFFSHORE: Arabian Sea (north of 10 degrees north latitude and west of 68 degrees east longitude), Bab el Mandeb Strait, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Aqaba, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Suez, Mediterranean Sea (east of 28 degrees east longitude), Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Strait of Hormuz, and Suez Canal.

 

Vets must have served 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days in the above areas. Proof of service can consist of travel orders, letters of evaluation, or flight logs. Eligibility for the award meets the Veteran of Foreign Wars criteria for membership. [Source: Armed Forces News 7 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

MOBILIZED RESERVE 5 APR 06:   Army National Guard and Army Reserve on active duty in support of the present partial mobilization is now 90,034.  In addition the other services have mobilized 5,589 Navy Reserve; 7,840 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve; 6,725 Marine Corps Reserve; and 407 Coast Guard Reserve.  As of 5 APR this brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel, who have been mobilized to 110,595, including both units and individual augmentees.  This is a decrease of 8,830 from last month’s 8 MAR total mobilization announcement.   At any given time, services may mobilize some units and individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. A cumulative roster of all Reserve contingent personnel can be found at  www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr2006/d20060405ngr.pdf  for those now mobilized. [Source: DoD News Release No. 198-06 5 Apr 06]

 

 

VA MEDICAL CENTER CUTS:  VA’s stock of hospitals and clinics was built up in the 1920s after World War I and again in the 1950s after World War II, but few changes to the system have been made since then, despite significant demographic changes among veterans. For example, dozens of VA facilities still operate in the Northeast, but there are fewer in the South and Southwest, even though those areas are now home to many veterans.  Medical technology also has affected the way treatment is delivered to VA’s patients. Now, more treatment is delivered on an outpatient basis than in the past. This year, VA expects to see 5.4 million people of which only 600,000 are expected to require inpatient services.  That means VA doesn’t necessarily need a medical center in a location where a clinic might suffice. Since replacing older obsolete facilities is expensive and replacement at the same locations will not deal with the changing demographics of veterans combined with a lack of government funding to build new medical facilities on these properties, they are turning 18 of their obsolete VAMC’s into veteran and non-veteran independent, assisted living and geriatric care housing projects.  Sometime back in the 1990s, the VA decided to start a process of determining which prime VA real estate locations could be leased out to housing developers, supposedly, so that the VA could attain more funding for VA medical use while making the transition.  The first VA property to be leased out is the Ft. Howard, Maryland (Perry Point) VAMC. The other 17 are located at

-     Big Spring, TX

-     Boston, MA

-     Brooklyn-Manhattan, NY

-     Canandaiga, NY

-     Gulfport, MS

-     Lexington. KY

-     Livermore, CA

-     Louisville, KY

-     Montgomery, AL

-     Montrose/Castle Point, NY

-     Muskogee, OK

-     Poplar Bluff, MO

-     St. Albans, NY

-     Waco, TX

-     Walla Walla, WA

-     West Los Angeles, CA

-     White City, OR

 

The VA Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) web site www.va.gov/cares/ has information on and links to documented public meetings, proposals, community input, plans, etc. for each VAMC listed. It is the government’s version of some things that are relevant to the issues surrounding these upcoming changes.  Of concern to veterans is whether CARES income will provide funds to enhance existing veterans medical care capabilities or if it will be used as an excuse for Congress to cut future VA funding. [Source: Magic City Morning Star article 27 Mar 06++]

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA SURVIVOR EDUCATION BILL:  The children and spouses of Pennsylvania National Guard members who die on active military duty would receive free tuition at all state-owned colleges and universities under legislation approved 29 MAR 06 by the state Senate. The legislation, which passed 47-0, was sent to the House. The free tuition benefit would cover eight semesters or four years, whichever is greater. The slain Guardsman must have been a Pennsylvania resident and the family member applying for tuition must still live in the state to qualify. Current law extends a 50% tuition benefit to the children of a Guardsman who is slain during state duty, but not federal duty. The legislation would increase that benefit to 100%, extend it to spouses and include federal duty. The spouse would be eligible for the benefit for up to 10 years after the guardsman died, or until remarriage. [Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer 30 Mar 06]

 

 

VA REGS CHANGE PROPOSAL:  The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing a complete overhaul of its compensation and pension regulations, hoping the rewrite will make it easier for people filing claims to understand the process. The proposed new regulations would regroup provisions to make it easier to find information about specific problems. For example, one leadoff section would describe general provisions, a second section would cover eligibility rules governing military service and a third would explain the claims process, including what kind of evidence is needed and how to appeal decisions. Additional sections would cover service-connected disability pay, pensions for low-income veterans, survivor benefits and burial benefits. One goal of the rewrite is to redefine words and phrases used in benefits claims so they have the same meaning under every part of the regulations. For example, “active military service” would be used in place of the longer “active military, naval and air service” that is now a definition in permanent law.  Similarly, the word “benefit” would replace the awkward phrase “payment, service, commodity, function or status entitlement” in current regulations. Public comment on the rewrite, which appeared in the 31 MAR Federal Register, will be accepted until 30May, with plans to put the revised regulations into effect 30 to 60 days later. [Source: Times staff writer Rick Maze 4 Apr 06]

 

VA COMPENSATION & PENSIONS UPDATE 01:  Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) recently introduced legislation (H.R. 4843) that would increase the rates of disability compensation for vets with service-connected disabilities and also raise dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) payments for survivors of certain veterans with service-related disabilities.  The measure, which presently has 17 cosponsors, would increase both forms of payment effective 1 DEC 06.  Reps. Steve Buyer (R-IN) and Lane Evans (D-IL) chair and ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, endorsed the bill.  [Source: FRA NewsBytes 7 Apr 06]

 

 

TRICARE UNIFORM FORMULARY UPDATE 10:  On 30 MAR the DoD Beneficiary Advisory Panel (BAP) met to review proposals to move certain medications for overactive bladder, hypertension, and neuropathic pain from the $9 copayment category to the list of $22 “third tier” drugs. The BAP concurred with the pharmacy panel’s recommendation to move Detrol, Oxytrol, and Sanctura, used for treatment of overactive bladders, to the third tier. Several other equally effective but less costly drugs would remain available for the $9 copay. The beneficiary panel recommended a 120-day implementation delay, rather than the recommended 60 days by the pharmacy panel, to ensure notification of beneficiaries taking those drugs. 

 

     In a separate family of drugs the BAP concurred with moving Lexxel and Tarka to the third tier over the objections of some panel members. These are combination drugs used to treat high blood pressure.  That change would leave Lotrel as the only $9 combination drug for high blood pressure. When a combination of drugs is needed for this purpose, doctors usually prescribe the two pills separately until a patient’s dose is properly regulated and then switch them to the combination drug, so they only have to take one pill. Unfortunately, one of the component drugs in Lotrel is not in the DoD formulary, so physicians will be discouraged from prescribing it. The practical effect of the approved plan would be to remove all three combination drugs from the formulary.  The panel also recommended moving Lyrica (for neuropathic pain) to the third tier. Two similar drugs (Gabapentin and Gabitril) will remain on the formulary.  The panel’s recommendations will be submitted to Dr.  Winkenwerder, Director of the TRICARE Management Activity, for a final decision. The changes are expected to be approved. [Source: MOAA Update 8 Apr 06

 

 

VA HEALTH BENEFITS FUND: Rep. Jo Ann Davis (D-VA) introduced the Veterans Health Benefits Voluntary Option Act of 2006 (HR 5044) on 20 MAR 06. Enactment of the bill would allow the Treasury of the United States to establish an account to be known as the “Department of Veterans Affairs Health Benefits Fund”. Once established it would allow taxpayers to designate income tax overpayments to be transferred to pay for VA healthcare benefits.  Amounts of one dollar or more could be entered on their income tax form to be transferred to the fund by the IRS vice being forwarded to the taxpayer as a refund. [Source: TREA Leg Up 7 Apr 06]

 

 

BUGLES ACROSS AMERICA:  At www.buglesacrossamerica.org can be found the Bugles Across America organization.  It is a non-profit network of 5,000 musician, drill team and color guard member volunteers who support about 1,000 funerals a month throughout the United States.  In addition to playing “Taps” at veterans’ funerals they also play at other military events, including Veterans Day and Memorial Day observances. Participation in the organization is free and open to anyone able to play "Taps" with dignity and willing to volunteer their time.  Families or organizations in need of such services should complete an online request form at www.buglesacrossamerica.org/volunteer.php to locate a volunteer to play taps.  You will be required to indicate on what date a bugler is needed, the state, city, and funeral home location where needed at plus your contact information. At present about 1800 veterans die daily. [Source:  Military 14 Nov 05 ++] 

 

 

MILITARY RECORDS/DD-214 UPDATE 01:  All retirees and veterans need copies of their Report of Separation (DD Form 214 or equivalent) available and stored in a secure place known by their next of kin. The retained documents should be either the original or government certified true copies. If you do not have these they can be obtained from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) using a Request Pertaining to Military Records Standard Form 180 (Rev-2/02) which can be downloaded at 

www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html.  The mailing address is listed on the form.  Your family will need at least three copies in the event of your demise to pursue their requests for benefits.

 

     To expedite the process NPRC has made it easier for military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents through their website vetrecs.archives.gov.   The next of kin can be a surviving spouse that has not remarried, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother. Because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized. The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center's mailroom processing time.  Users will be guided through a four step process and then will be required to print, sign and date the signature verification area of their customized form. This is necessary because the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing and each request must be signed and dated by the veteran or next of kin. If you don't have a printer, have a pen and paper handy and NPRC will guide you through the process. Upon completion the signature verification form must be mailed or faxed to NPRC for processing within the first 20 days of entering the data, or the request will be removed from their system. [Source: e-Florida News 0 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

VA COLA 2007:  On 6 APR Senators Craig (R-ID) and Akaka (D-HI) introduced the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2006 (S.2562).  The bill would increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.  The percentage of increase would match the COLA payable under title II of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 401 et seq.) increase scheduled for 1 DEC 06.  The bill was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  Those estimated to receive the increase to their compensation are 5 World War I veterans; 335,180 World War II veterans; 160,889 Korean conflict veterans; 992,360 Vietnam era veterans; and 762,230 veterans of the Persian Gulf war era. The COLA legislation will also benefit an estimated 348,479 survivors. [Source: New Mexico e-Veterans News 12 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

SBP SSA OFFSET UPDATE 07: SBP annuitants who are not already receiving 45% of their deceased spouse’s SBP base amount will see their annuity increase soon. The increase, which went into effect 1 APR, will appear in annuitants’ May 06 deposit.  The increase is the result of the 2005 NDAA provisions that phase out the SBP “widows tax” over 3 ½ years.  As written it will continue to raise the minimum SBP annuity for survivors age 62 and older to 50% on 1 APR 07 and to 55% on 1 APR 08. [Source: MOAA News Exchange 13 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

FOREIGN MEDICAL PROGRAM UPDATE 01: The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is a healthcare benefits program for US veterans with VA-rated service-connected conditions who are residing or traveling abroad (Philippines excluded). Under FMP, VA assumes payment responsibility for certain necessary medical services associated with the treatment of those service-connected conditions. In a VA memorandum dated 18 MAY 04 it appeared the VA’s Foreign Medial Program had been changed regarding dental care guidance for Class 3 & 4 veterans residing overseas who are enrolled FMP. Class 3 are veterans having a dental condition determined to be currently aggravating a service connected medical condition. They are eligible for dental care to resolve dental conditions having a direct and material detrimental effect upon associated basic condition or disability. Class 4 are those veterans whose service connected disabilities have been rated at 100% or, who are receiving 100% rate by reason of individual unemployability.  The memorandum directed a number of modifications to the FMA policy manual one of which included a change that modified or removed limitations on dental care for these veterans and extended eligibility for any needed dental care including repeat care.  This was in error. Accordingly, Class 4 veterans remain ineligible for dental care and future claim submissions will be denied.

 

     Normally veterans who feel they are not receiving proper service from the VA can refer to the Patient’s Advocacy Program provided at VA medical facilities for assistance. The Foreign Medical Program currently does not have a veteran’s advocate.  In lieu of this the FMP program itself takes on this responsibility.  Veterans who want to contact an advocate regarding anything related to the FMP program should email hac.fmp@med.va.gov , call (303) 331-7590 or FAX (303) 331-7803.

 

     Vets planning to work for an extended time or permanently reside overseas should enroll in the FMP as soon as they have a permanent foreign address.  To enroll send your full name, SSN, VA claim number, permanent mailing address and/or overseas residence address, and a copy of the VA rating decision letter(s) to HAC, PO Box 65021, Denver CO 80206-9021.  If you do not have a copy of the VA rating decision letter(s) you may authorize FMP to obtain copies from your servicing VARO. After eligibility is verified you should get a benefits authorization letter and an FMP Handbook. The Handbook has detailed explanations of covered benefits, advice on selecting overseas health-care providers, and where and how to submit claims. Further info on FMP can be found at www.va.gov/hac/aboutus/programs/fmp.asp or by sending an email to hac.fmp@med.va.gov . With the exception of medical services received in Philippines, all foreign provided services are under the jurisdiction our Foreign Medical Program (FMP) Office in Denver, Colorado. In the Philippines, write to or visit the VA Outpatient Clinic (358/00), 2201 Roxas Blvd., Pasay City 1300, Republic of Philippines or FAX 011-632-838-4566 or send an email to manlvaro.inqry@vba.va.gov.  [Source:  VA FMP Director ltr dtd 24 Mar 04 ++]

 

 

SPACE A TRAVEL REDUCTION UPDATE 01:  Patriot Express is the AMC-managed, military-chartered commercial air service for transporting DoD customers to and from overseas locations.  Members of the retiree community also use the service for space available travel. According to the Air Mobility Command’s Air Transportation Division the reengineering process to significantly scale down Patriot Express is on track. Since the 1960s, Patriot Express or a similar program has provided regular passenger service from the United States to 27 locations in the European Command, Central Command and Pacific Command areas of operation. At one time, the system handled more than 340,000 passengers a year with more than two-thirds of the seats on the contracted aircraft filled by passengers on permanent change-of-station orders.  In DEC 01 AMC saw the need to recapture declining passenger movement to avert substantial financial losses. Numerous improvements were made in an effort to attract DOD passengers back to its use. These included price reductions, free headphones, meal upgrades and reconfigured aircraft that offer passengers more leg room. In spite of these, DOD customers continued to book commercial flights, leaving empty seats on Patriot Express flights.

 

     With commercial flights the preferred mode of travel, AMC directed reengineering of Patriot Express. As part of that process, all routes—except for those into locations with no commercial airline service or those with force protection considerations—would be phased out over a three-year period. By fiscal 2008, the command will eliminate all but a handful of Patriot Express missions. As part of the reengineering process, the Defense Department approved the closure of AMC passenger gateways at Los Angeles International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and all overseas passenger reservation centers.  Although the Seattle-Tacoma gateway closed on 30 SEP 05, AMC is maintaining a limited Patriot Express route supporting weekly missions to Japan, including Misawa and Yokota air bases and Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.  Additionally, following the Los Angeles and Seattle closures, a Pacific Command request was approved to extend Patriot Express service from Seattle to Kadena AB, Japan. AMC is continuing to monitor usage but initial duty passenger numbers are not encouraging.  Unless these increase significantly in the next few months, operations cannot continue simply to support Space A travel.  Accordingly, Patriot Express reengineering will continue as planned with the elimination of all Pacific routes on 30 SEP 06. [Source: Air Force Retiree News Service 5 Apr 06]

 

 

REEBOK SNEAKERS ALERT:  Stars and Stripes reports that a heart-shaped charm bracelet given away with various styles of children's Reebok sneakers and sold through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service was recalled by the manufacturer due to high levels of lead.  AAFES sold the shoes with the free bracelet from May 04 until this MAR 06. Consumers should immediately throw the bracelet away. For more information, contact Reebok at 1(800) 994-6260, or log on to www.reebok.com.  [Source: Military.com Military Report 3 Apr 06]

 

 

VETERANS’ PREFERENCE UPDATE 03:  At a hearing 30 MAR before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) the ranking member and subcommittee chairman George Voinovich (R-OH) voiced concern over loopholes in policies giving veterans preference for federal jobs.  By law, veterans are given a leg up when competing in federal agencies for open jobs and for keeping their jobs during reductions in force. The senators are concerned that some agencies may be employing a type of “designer RIF,” where managers target certain employees for layoffs outside the civil service’s merit rules by forcing them to move locations, or to quit their jobs. Richard Weidman, director of government relations for Vietnam Veterans of America, told the panel that there are numerous incidents in which veterans inappropriately lose their jobs through involuntary repositioning, such as taking somebody who has family ties for four generations in the state of Ohio and repositioning them to another state, knowing they will not move. Government officials, however, said they do not think the practice is a major problem. Dan Blair, deputy director of OPM, told the subcommittee that he was not aware of any widespread use of involuntary repositioning, and that such a move would likely be a prohibited personnel practice. Sen. Akaka requested that a meeting of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council be held to discuss the problem.

 

      Sen. Akaka and Voinovich also asked how the Outstanding Scholar program, a hiring authority that allows agencies to give students with a 3.5 grade point average an advantage in applying for jobs, affects veterans’ preference. Weidman and representatives from the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans expressed their strong dislike of the program. The Merit Systems Protection Board, a quasi-judicial body that handles federal workplace disputes, ruled in the fall of 2005 that hiring an employee through the Outstanding Scholar program over a veteran violates veterans’ preference rules. OPM, however, asked MSPB to reconsider its ruling, and the board’s decision is pending.  Blair said he could not fully comment on the program because of the ongoing litigation, but asked the senators to consider the numbers: for every one person hired through the Outstanding Scholar program, 43 are hired as a result of veterans’ preference. Despite criticism over this and the involuntary repositioning, both senators commended the representation of veterans in the government. Veterans make up about a quarter of the federal workforce.

 

     Sen. Voinovich offered a suggestion for increasing compliance with veterans’ preference rules: include observance of veterans’ preference as a category for ratings under the Defense and Homeland Security departments’ new pay-for-performance systems. He feels vets should be measured on performance and if they don’t meet the standard, they should get docked.   Voinovich and Akaka said they will write a letter to OPM Director Linda Springer to follow up on their concerns. [Source: GovExec.com Today 3 Apr 06]

 

 

MILITARY SAVINGS DEPOSIT PROGRAM:  Don't confuse this with the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). which is available to everyone in the military. The Savings Deposit Program is available only to those serving in designated combat zones. Under this program military members deployed in combat zones, qualified hazardous duty areas, or certain contingency operations may deposit all or part of their unallotted pay into a DOD savings account up to $10,000 during a single deployment.  Interest accrues on the account at an annual rate of 10% and compounds quarterly. Although federal income earned in hazardous duty zones is tax-free, interest accrued on earnings deposited into the SDP is taxable.    

 

     To be eligible service member must be receiving Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay (HFP/IDP) and serving in a designated combat zone or in direct support of a combat zone for more than 30 consecutive days or for at least one day for each of three consecutive months. Designated SDP areas remain designated until the Undersecretary of Defense withdraws the designation or until the areas’ designation for Imminent Danger Pay terminates, whichever is first.  Effective dates are:

-     2 AUG 90: Members serving in the Persian Gulf Conflict to include the Arabian Peninsula to include the Persian Gulf (as defined by the Arabian Peninsula, the Strait of Hormuz, and that part of the Gulf of Oman which lies north of 25 degrees north latitude and 057-30 degrees east longitude), Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

-     1 JAN 96: Members serving in Operation Joint Endeavor to include the Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, Hungary, and the air space thereof, or the waters of the Adriatic Sea of North of 40 degrees North, plus forces operational control/tactical control to Supreme Allied Commander, EUROPE for the purpose of executing Operation Joint Endeavor.

-     1 JAN 97: Members serving in Operation Joint Guard.

-     20 JUN 98: Members serving in Operation Joint Forge to include the total land area of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia, Hungary, and the airspace thereof, or the waters of the Adriatic Sea north of 40 degrees North.

-     1 NOV 01: Members serving in Operation Enduring Freedom to include the total land area of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan. The waters of the red sea, the gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea (portion north of 10 degrees North latitude and 68 degrees East longitude) or in the airspace thereof.

-     1 FEB 03, members serving in Operation Enduring Freedom\Iraqi Freedom to include the total land area of the Arabian Peninsula to include the Persian Gulf (as defined by the Arabian Peninsula, the Strait of Hormuz, and that part of the Gulf of Oman which lies north of 25 degrees north latitude and 057-30 degrees east longitude), Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

 

     Service members can begin making deposits on their 31st consecutive day in the designated area. Deposits may be discontinued at any time. Eligibility to make deposits terminates on the date of departure from theater. Account balances are usually paid out within 90 days after the member leaves the eligible region.  To receive funds, mail or fax a written request to DFAS- Cleveland Center (DFAS-CL) ATTN: Code FMAA, 1240 East 9th Street, Cleveland, OH 44199-2055.  The savings program is not new. Deposit programs date back to the Civil War, but the program has been in its current form since 1966. It provided Vietnam veterans a way to earn extra money while on their Southeast Asia tours. It was discontinued due to lack of participation in 1972, but was reinstated during the Gulf War.  Service members wishing to sign up for the savings deposit program or seeking more information should visit their local finance office. [Source: Your guide to US Military Apr 06]

 

 

DEPLOYMED RESEARCHLINK:  The DeployMed ResearchLINK debuted 3 APR 06.  The site contains information that is very difficult to locate elsewhere about what’s happening in research within DoD, VA and Health and Human Services regarding the health aspects of military deployments. It features government-funded scientific studies of medical issues experienced by military members during their deployments.  The site at www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/deploymed/ will initially contain 1991 Gulf War-related medical research that’s been compiled by government researchers.  Around June, additional medical information gathered from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom will be added.  By clicking on the geographic area of the site’s world map, users can see the major deployments to that area, medical research topics associated to those deployments, and reports/publications resulting from that research. 

 

     The link eventually will offer a cornucopia of medical research drawn from military deployments inclusive of servicemembers’ exposure to leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis, a curable parasitic infection caused by sand fly bites, is brought on by one-celled creatures that enter the human blood stream. It is usually evidenced by skin sores. The disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, and if left untreated the infection eventually will heal on its own accord.  U.S. servicemembers during the Gulf War experienced about 32 cases of leishmaniasis and more than 1,000 U.S. military members who’ve served in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern theaters of operation have contracted it over the past few years. The disease is much more common in Iraq than it is in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. [Source: American Forces Press Service 31 MAR 06]

 

 

DFAS myPay SYSTEM UPDATE 03:  All current myPay military retired users who request or already have a myPay Personal Identification Number (PIN) and access myPay are consenting to receive ONLY an electronic 1099R. Information concerning myPay can be found on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) homepage at https://mypay.dfas.mil. The consent to receive an electronic 1099R (i.e. view and download our online) will remain in effect each year unless an election is made to receive a hard copy by mail. Retirees may opt out of this election electronically through myPay or submit a written request to Defense Finance and Accounting Service, U.S. Military Retirement Pay, P.O. Box 7130, London, KY  40742-7130. Electronic 1099R will be available yearly on myPay and will be available for the entire year. The electronic 1099R will discontinue upon the death of a retired member or when the retiree enters into a non-pay or tax exempt status for an entire calendar year. Retirees and annuitants with questions and concerns regarding incorrect tax information can call the Cleveland Contact Center at 1(800) 321-1080 or write:

-     For Retirees: Defense Finance and Accounting Service, U.S. Military Retirement Pay, P.O. Box 7130  London, KY 40742-7130

-     For Annuitants: Defense Finance and Accounting Service,  U.S. Military Annuitant Pay,  P.O. Box 7131,  London, KY 40742-7131

[Source: Fort Gordon Retiree E-Notes Apr 06]

 

 

AFRH GULFPORT UPDATE 01:  The Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) in Gulfport MS was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina last year and many residents were relocated to the Washington, D.C, AFRH campus (formerly the Soldiers & Airmen’s Home).  During a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs hearing, Timothy Cox, chief operating officer of the AFRH, outlined five options for the future of the Gulfport facility:

1.   Renovate the existing structure:  A seven-phase plan involves moving all electrical and hydraulic systems off the first floor, enlarging room size and eliminating structural problems that create barriers for residents.  The process would take 13 years and cost an estimated $589 million.

2.   Tear down and construct new:  The estimated cost is $383 million and would take about two years.

 

The remaining three options involve aligning/combining the Gulfport and DC facilities and not returning residents to Gulfport. These would use the property for other purposes, reposition and relocate the homes as non-profit entities, or sell the property.  Congressional approval is required to move ahead with any of the five proposals, which are outlined in a special report that was recently sent to Congress.  Reconstruction of the Gulfport facility is a high priority of military community whose fraternal organizations are tracking the issue with members of Congress and others to ensure timely action on the Gulfport Home. FRA’s National Executive Secretary Joe Barnes raised the issue of rebuilding the Home during a recent meeting with Command SGTMAJ William Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor, whose congressional district includes Gulfport, and Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott are also concerned about the status of the facility and are urging DoD officials to expedite the decision-making process.  [Source: FRA Newsbytes 1 Apr 06]

 

 

VA CEMETERIES:  In a speech given by Secretary Nicholson at the National Press Club on 27 MAR he noted that in 2007, “Taps” will sound for more than 107,000 veterans or approximately 300 a day. This is a sharp increase from just two years ago. In response to this growing need, VA is conducting one of the most ambitious expansions of national cemeteries since the Civil War. Three new cemeteries will soon be added to the 122 existing cemeteries, and six more are in the planning stages. By 2009, the capacity will have nearly doubled. Burial benefits for veterans include a gravesite in any of our 122 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains. Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the veteran's headstone, at no cost to the family. [Source:  American Forces Press Service 29 MAR 06 ++]

 

 

TMOP UPDATE 03: Last year, only 6% of 6.6 million military beneficiaries with prescriptions to fill used the Tricare Mail Order Program (TMOP). By contrast, 51% had at least one prescription filled through Tricare’s more costly retail network. That means that most beneficiaries pay more than necessary for medicines. It also means the DoD pays many millions of dollars more than it should for drugs. Every prescription filled in Tricare retail outlets, which reached 50 million last year, costs the government 30% to 40% more than mail order. In an effort to reverse this trend the first-ever campaign by Tricare to increase mail order use is being initiated.

 

     It will begin with an effort to educate beneficiaries on the convenience and cost-savings of prescriptions filled by mail. Beneficiaries need to know that mail order users already save 66% on co-payments because prescriptions filled by mail provide a 90-day supply versus 30 days in the retail network. Second, the government saves on each prescription not filled in the retail network. The reason is that drug stocks on base and for mail order are purchased at federally negotiated price discounts. A third factor to consider, is the convenience of mail order. Generic drugs also lower costs. Tricare has a mandatory generic substitution policy. Any prescription for a brand name drug must be filled by generic medicine of identical ingredients and strength, if available.

     Then, unless Congress intercedes, Tricare will restructure pharmacy co-payments so mail order usage becomes more attractive, and retail less so. Tricare officials hope to use the change in co-payments not only to encourage more beneficiaries to use mail order but also generic drugs. The plan would end the $3 co-payment on mail order generics. At the same time, co-pay for the retail network would rise from $3 up to $5 for generic and from $9 up to $15 for brand name drugs. The company Express-Scripts runs the TMOP. To reach it beneficiaries can  email TMOP.customer.relations@express-scripts.com; call (866) 363-8667, or (866) 275-4732 from overseas; or write to Express Scripts Inc., P.O. Box 52150, Phoenix, AZ 85072.  [Source:  Honolulu Advertiser article by Tom Philpott 27 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

RESERVE GI BILL UPDATE 02: Hearings held in the nation’s capital and in Arkansas on March 15 and 22, respectively, offered contrasting perspectives on a proposal to modernize educational benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).  The Partnership for Veterans Education, which is a broad-based group of military, veterans and higher education associations, is urging Congress to combine the reserve and active duty MGIB programs.  At present they are overseen by different committees under different laws.  The partnership believes that synchronizing benefits to the length and type of service performed will better support military recruiting, reenlistment, and readjustment objectives. Reserve MGIB benefit value has fallen far behind its original relationship to active duty benefits.  Many Reservists say they really can’t use the benefit because they deploy too much to be able to use it while serving, and their eligibility under current law ends when they get out. Unfortunately, senior DoD officials who testified before the full House Veterans Affairs Committee on 15 MAR do not share those concerns.  They told the Committee they see no significant shortcomings in the Reserve GI Bill program.  Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR) noted the disconnect between DoD’s input and the statements of National Guard and Reserve commanders at the same hearing.  Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) and Snyder were skeptical of DoD’s argument that it would hurt retention to let Guard and Reserve members use their benefits after leaving service.

 

     A week later, Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), Chairman of the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee held a field hearing in Rogers, Arkansas which is in his home district.  A panel of Army and Air National Guard Iraq War veterans recommended starting Transition Assistance Program (TAP) briefings before redeployment.  Asked by Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD) for their comments on a new program that provides increased benefits for mobilized members, they told her they’d never heard of it.  It’s extremely disappointing that these returning veterans were unaware of new benefits designed specifically for them.  They can hardly use them if they’re not being told about them. A second panel testified on problems in administering MGIB benefits, including lengthy delays in processing Reserve benefits.  MOAA Deputy Director Bob Norton, USA (Ret) urged the Subcommittee to work with the House Armed Services Committee to forge a total force MGIB that scales benefits in proportion to service performed and allows a post-service use by reservists who earn mobilization upgrades to their MGIB benefits.  Norton noted that failure to raise Reserve benefits along with active duty benefits has cost Reservists to date about $200 a month.  Rather than the current $297 monthly maximum, they’d have been eligible for $500 a month.  As for barring use post-service use, he noted that current law will make the earlier Guard witnesses forfeit the $22,300 benefit they earned during mobilization.  Norton’s statement can be viewed on MOAA’s Web site at http://moaaonline.org/ct/i1ziiuF1ezWz/ .  [Source: MOAA Update 24 Mar 06]

 

 

109TH CONGRESS SENATE PENDING VET BILLS:  The following veteran related legislation is pending in the second session of the 109th Congress’ Senate.  To be enacted most need a sufficient number of cosponsors to bring them to the floor for a vote.  Your congressional representatives will not sign on as cosponsors unless they receive input from a sufficient number of their voting constituents that the changes are desired.  To find out if you are affected by any of these bills refer to http://thomas.loc.gov and/or http://www.govtrack.us which are searchable by topic or bill number.  If in doubt as to who your legislator is, he/she can be found at www.congress.org/congressorg/home/.  Let your Senator’s office know what you want.  This is an election year and they want your vote:

 

-     S.0013 To provide for population shifts and inflation, PTSD treatment, full CRDP, seamless transition to vet status, and vet education in VA funding

-     S.0484 To allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for TRICARE supplemental premiums.

-     S.0614 to permit Medicare-eligible veterans to receive an out-patient medication benefit, to provide that certain veterans who receive such benefit are not otherwise eligible for medical care and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

-     S.0633 To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of veterans who became disabled for life while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.

-     S.0716 To enhance services provided by vet centers, to clarify and improve the provision of bereavement counseling by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

-     S.0909 to expand eligibility for governmental markers for marked graves of veterans at private cemeteries.

-     S.0996 to improve the Veterans Beneficiary Travel Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

-     S.1162 to repeal the 10-year limits on use of Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance benefits, and for other purposes.

-     S.1177 To improve mental health services at all facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

-     S.1180 To reauthorize various programs servicing the needs of homeless veterans for fiscal years 2007 through 2011, and for other purposes.

-     S.1182 Veterans Health Care Act of 2005

-     S.1190 To provide sufficient blind rehabilitation outpatient specialists at medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs

-     S.1191 To establish a grant program to provide innovative transportation options to veterans in remote rural areas.

-     S.1252 to increase the amount of supplemental insurance available for totally disabled veterans

-     S.1271 To provide improved benefits for veterans who are former prisoners of war. (Provisions of measure incorporated into S. 1235, as amended, the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2005)

-     S.1272 to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.

-     S.1537 To provide for the establishment of Parkinson's Disease Research Education and Clinical Centers in the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence.

-     S.1571 To establish a comprehensive program for testing and treatment of veterans for the Hepatitis C virus.

-     S.1751 to expand the State sentences for which burial in National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery are prohibited to include any sentence of life imprisonment for a State capital crime.

-     S.1947 to enhance adaptive housing assistance for disabled veterans.

-     S.1990 To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

-     S.1991 to establish a financial assistance program to facilitate the provision of supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing, and for other purposes.

-     S.2014 to expand and enhance educational assistance for survivors and dependents of veterans.

-     S.2091 to provide for certain servicemembers to become eligible for educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill.

-     S.2147 To extend the period of time during which a veteran’s multiple sclerosis is to be considered to have been incurred in, or aggravated by, military service during a period of war.

-     S.2351 to provide additional funding for mental health care for veterans, and for other purposes.

-     S.2358 To establish a Hospital Quality Report Card Initiative to report on health care quality in Veterans Affairs hospitals.

-     S.2361 to increase and index educational benefits for veterans under the Montgomery GI bill to ensure adequate and equitable benefits for active duty members and members of the selected Reserve, and to include certain servicemembers previously excluded from such benefits.

-     S.2415 To increase burial benefits for veterans, and for other purposes.

-     S.2416 To expand the scope of programs of education for which accelerated payments of educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill may be used, and for other purposes.

-     S.2500 To enhance the counseling and readjustment services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

-     S.2563 To increase, effective as of December 1, 2006, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.

-     S.2617 To protect military retirees and their families from DoD's proposed increase in health care fees. Refer to H.E. 4949

  [Source: DAV Mid-Year Workshop & http://thomas.loc.gov Apr 06 ++]

 

 

109TH CONGRESS HOUSE PENDING VET LEGISLATION:  The following veteran related legislation is pending in the second session of the 109th Congress’ House of Representatives.  To be enacted most need a sufficient number of cosponsors to bring them to the floor for a vote.  Your congressional representatives will not sign on as cosponsors unless they receive input from a sufficient number of their voting constituents that the changes are desired.  To find out if you are affected by any of these bills refer to http://thomas.loc.gov and/or http://www.govtrack.us which are searchable by topic or bill number.  If in doubt as to who your legislator is, he/she can be found at www.congress.org/congressorg/home/.  Let your representative’s office know what you want.  This is an election year and they want your vote:

 

-     H.R. 0023 To provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during WWII.

-     H.R. 0076 To improve access to medical services for veterans seeking treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics with exceptionally long waiting periods.

-     H.R. 0079 To establish the Medicare Eligible Military Retiree Health Care Consensus Task Force.

-     H.R. 0090 To establish a comprehensive program for testing and treatment of veterans for the Hepatitis C virus

-     H.R. 0202 To provide for identification of members of the Armed Forces exposed during military service to depleted uranium, to provide for health testing of such members, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 0303 To permit certain additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the VA for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and to eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.  (Refer to S.558)

-     H.R. 0322 To allow refunding the Part B premium paid by military retirees.

-     H.R. 0601 To provide for the eligibility of Indian tribal organizations for grants for the establishment of veterans cemeteries on trust lands.

-     H.R. 0590 To provide for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a pilot program to determine the effectiveness of contracting for the use of private memory care facilities for veterans with Alzheimer’s Disease

-     H.R. 0922 To improve treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans of service in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terrorism.

-     H.R. 0994 To allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for TRICARE supplemental premiums.

-     H.R. 1588 To allow a six-year extension of eligibility for readjustment counseling services for Vietnam-era veterans.

-     H.R. 2188 To authorize the placement in a national cemetery of memorial markers for the purpose of commemorating servicemembers or other persons whose remains are interred in an American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery.

-     H.R. 2959 To provide for the establishment of Parkinson’s Disease Research Education and Clinical Centers in the Veterans Health Administration of the VA (Provisions of this measure incorporated in Section 6 of HR. 1220, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2005.)

-     H.R. 2962 To revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 2963 To improve compensation benefits for veterans in certain cases of impairment of vision involving both eyes.

-     H.R. 3082 To require that 9% of procurement contracts entered into by the VA be awarded to small business concerns owned by veterans, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 3209 To add nasopharyngeal cancer to the statutorily prescribed presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during military service in Vietnam.

-     H.R. 3279 To reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program through 2009, at $50 million annually

-     H.R. 3434 To establish a presumption of service connection for certain veterans with Hepatitis C, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 3457 To provide for WWII veterans to be in the same priority category for health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs as WWI veterans.

-     H.R. 3579 To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide sufficient blind rehabilitation outpatient specialists at medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

-     H.R. 3665 To authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide adaptive housing assistance to disabled veterans residing temporarily in housing owned by a family member and to make direct housing loans to Native American veterans, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 3948 To eliminate the deductible and change the method of determining the mileage reimbursement rate for the beneficiary travel program administered by the VA 29 SEP 05

-     H.R. 4025 To eliminate the deductible and change the method of determining the mileage reimbursement rate under the beneficiary travel program administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes 7 OCT 05

-     H.R. 4259 To establish the Veterans' Right to Know Commission

-     H.R. 4843 To increase, effective as of December 1, 2006, the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 4949 To prohibit increases in fees for military health care.

-     H.R. 4983 To recognize the exemplary service of the National Guard in Iraq and to direct the President to begin the redeployment of United States military forces from Iraq, starting with National Guard units.

-     H.R. 4992 To provide for Medicare reimbursement for health care services provided to Medicare-eligible veterans in facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs

-     H.R. 5037 To prohibit certain demonstrations at cemeteries under the control of the National Cemetery Administration and at Arlington National Cemetery, and for other purposes.

-     H.R. 5044 To allow taxpayers to designate that income tax overpayments be paid over for veterans' health benefits

[Source: DAV Mid-Year Workshop & http://thomas.loc.gov Apr 06 ++]

 

 

Lt. James "EMO" Tichacek, USN (Ret)

Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & VITA Baguio City RP

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

Tel: (760) 839-9003 or FAX 1(801) 760-2430; When in RP: (74) 442-7135 or FAX 1(801) 760-2430

Email: raoemo@sbcglobal.net.  When in Philippines raoemo@mozcom.com

Web: http://post_119_gulfport_ms.tripod.com/rao1.html

AL/AMVETS/CORMV/DAV/FRA/NAUS/NCOA/MOAA/USDR/VFW/VVA/CG33/DD890/AD37 member

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