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

Sent: Friday, March 31, 2006 9:51 PM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 1 April 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

1 April 2006

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== Military Funeral Conduct [03] --------- (New bill in Congress)

== SBP DIC Offset [08] -------------------- (Senate amendment passed)

== VA Registries Update 02 --------------- (How to sign on)

== Estate Tax (U.S.): ----------------------- (Tax exclusion increase)

== TSP Scam --------------------------------- (Where to call)

== Tricare User Fee [10] ------------------- (HR 4949 blocking bill)

== Fraudulent Internet Coupons ----------- (How to spot)

== Military Recruiting (Feb 06) ----------- (Figures are up)

== CAR Eligibility -------------------------- (Clarified)

== Veteran Diabetes & Obesity ----------- (VA action)

== Women’s Service Memorial ----------- (Opening 20 Oct 07)

== Atomic Vets [02] ------------------------ (HR 4183 & 4184 status)

== VA Budget 2006 [14] ------------------- (Increase sought)

== VA Budget 2007 [02] ------------------- (Fees & Copays)

== VA Help Lines [01] --------------------- (House hearings)

== TFL Claim Processing ------------------ (Procedure used)

== Military Tattoo Criteria ----------------- (Revised policy)

== DFAS myPay Look Alikes ------------- (Not affiliated)

== ID Card w/o Sponsor Present ---------- (How to obtain)

== VA Medical Records -------------------- (Ask to see)

== Diabetes [01] ----------------------------- (Safety alert)

== VA Homeless Vets ---------------------- (Senate hearing)

== VA Health Care Funding [05] --------- (Voted down)

== Virgina Survivor Education Bill ------- (Submitted for signature)

== Tricare Uniform Formulary [09] ------  (3rd tier list)

== Disputing Credit Reports ---------------  (How to dispute)

 

MILITARY FUNERAL DISORDERLY CONDUCT UPDATE 03:  H.R. 5037, the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, was introduced in the Congress on 29 MAR by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), along with 46 co-sponsors from both parties. If signed into law, H.R. 5037 would complement similar legislation that has been proposed or passed in almost two dozen states that creates buffer zones around state cemeteries. Specifically, H.R. 5037 would ban all demonstrations one hour before, during, and one hour after a military funeral at a national cemetery.  It would impose a 500-foot separation restriction, and would allow for fines and/or jail time for violations. It also encourages the states to enact similar bans for public and private cemeteries, as well for funeral home services. Both federal and state legislators are specifically targeting Rev. Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Phelps, who says the military deaths are due to their service to a nation that tolerates homosexuality, has sent his small group of followers to spread anti-gay messages at more than 100 military funerals across the country. [Source: VFW VSO Bob Morris msg. 29 Mar 06]

 

 

SBP DIC OFFSET UPDATE 08:  In a voice vote, the Senate passed an amendment by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to the fiscal 2007 budget resolution that would fix two inequities in the Survivor Benefit Plan. First, the amendment would eliminate the dollar-for-dollar reduction of SBP annuities incurred by some 61,000 surviving military spouses who receive Dependents Indemnity Compensation. Second it would end SBP premium payments on 1OCT 06, for military retirees age 70 or older who have paid the premiums for 30 or more years. Although current law stops those payments at 30 years, it doesn’t take effect until 1 OCT 08, which will require 198,000 retirees to pay premiums for as many as 36 years. The budget resolution is only an internal congressional document that itself is never enacted into law; however, Senate support on the proposals at this stage of the budget process is an indicator of its intent for action later on bills that could become law. The corresponding House bill to end the SBP offset is Rep. Henry Brown’s (R-SC) HR-808. The paid-up SBP bill is Rep. Jim Saxton’s (R-NJ) HR-968. [Source: Armed Forces News 24 Mar 04]

 

 

VA REGISTRIES UPDATE 02:  There are several Registers for qualified Veterans at VA Medical Centers (IRR-Ioinizing Radiation Exposure, AO-Agent Orange, SHAD, Gulf I, & Others). Generally, these Registers are administered in the VAMC Environmental Agents Office (some refer to it as “Occupational & Safety Hazards”) and not the Clinics.  Administration of these Registers is governed within designated VA Handbooks (IRR-Handbook 1301.1, AO-Handbook 1303.1, & Others). VA Handbooks relating to the various Registers can be observed & downloaded from the VA at www.va.gov/EnvironAgents. Various Register Newsletters can be received, as published, by going to the same Site. To be placed on one or more of these Registers (as eligible) the veteran must fill in a Request Form. Proof must be included per Register requirements from acceptable source documents such as Orders, Certificates, etc.

 

     There are many occasions where veterans have attempted to be placed on a Register and were informed that there is no such Register, etc.. These answers are either a result of misinformed VA personnel, the veteran is inquiring at the wrong location within the VAMC, or other misunderstandings. Many of the older, more familiar employees, have either retired or are in process of doing so. Many of the newer replacements are in the process of getting up to speed regarding the rules. If no Register exists for the particular activity the veteran was involved in the Environmental Agents Office can in many cases place the veteran into an applicable Program for treatment.  Being on a Register and receiving treatment(s) for listed diseases can assist the veteran in a related claim or claims. Generally, treatment and applicable medications for recognized diseases by the specific Register is free. By being on a Register your priority level may also be elevated. 

 

    In instances where a request is not honored or difficulty is encountered with a request to be placed on a Register  assistance is available from Dick Conant at RUCON1@comcast.net which could remedy the situation.  Your email request should include the veteran’s name, address, telephone number, SSN, and email addee (if available).  Also the VAMC & Location. This information is kept Confidential within the initial communication.  It will be forwarded to a VA source in Washington, DC who usually contacts the Registry Coordinator at the VAMC in question within 48 hours (normal work day) directing that Office to make contact with the Veteran and initiate the Registry process. The local VMAC Registry Coordinator will then contact the Veteran to setup the necessary appointment(s).  These services are available to every veteran eligible for being placed on a Register and receive the applicable treatments.  [Source: New Mexico e-Veterans News 25 Mar 05 ++]

 

 

ESTATE TAX (U.S.):. As of 1 JAN 06 the Federal Estate Tax Exclusion increased to $2 million per person (up from $1.5 million in 2005) and the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion increased to $12,000 per donor per donee (up from $11,000 in 2005). The $2 million exclusion amount provides a credit of $780,800 to offset taxes owed by an estate. These changes mean fewer estates will be subject to taxation at the federal level and will allow for greater annual giving opportunities. In computing the tax owed your gross taxable federal estate includes:

1)  Assets owned at death, such as brokerage, IRA, and 401(k) accounts;

2)  50% of jointly held assets;

3)  Face value of life insurance policies you own and are the insured of;

4)  Value of certain assets transferred within three years of death;

5 ) Present value of certain annuities; and

6)  Assets in certain types of trusts you exercise control over.

The projected changes in estate tax exemption levels and tax brackets over the next several years are:

-     Exemption: 2006 thru 2008 $2 million; 2009 $3.5 million; 2010 Not taxed; 2011 $1 million

-     Top Estate tax bracket: 2006 46%, 2007 thru 2009 45%; 2010 N/A; 2011 55%.

 

     Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have retained their estate taxes after the federal changes. Of these Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin and the District of Columbia retained their tax by decoupling from the federal changes. Two states (Nebraska & Washington) retained their tax by enacting similar but separate estate taxes.

 

     An inheritance tax is an assessment made on the portion of an estate received by an individual. It differs from an estate tax which is a tax levied on an entire estate before it is distributed to individuals. It is strictly a state tax. Eleven states still collect an inheritance tax. They are: Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Connecticut will be phased out after 2005. In all states, transfers of assets to a spouse are exempt from the tax. In some states, transfers to children and close relatives are also exempt. [Source: MOAA 2006 Tax Guide Mar 06 www.moaa.org/serv/serv_financial/index.htm]

 

 

TSP SCAM: Users of the government’s Thrift Savings Plan are the latest group to be targeted by a phishing scam.  However, TSP officials said 20 MAR that they think few people were taken in by an e-mail hoax targeting participants in the 401(k)-style retirement plan for federal employees. The scam first came to plan administrators' attention 16 MAR, when calls began arriving around 2 p.m. regarding a suspicious e-mail. The message guided recipients to a TSP look-alike Web site and sought personal data, including Social Security numbers and TSP personal identification numbers. Visitors then were prompted for credit card, ATM and account information.  About 500 people called TSP about the suspicious e-mails, and officials responded around 6 that evening by suspending online transactions on the legitimate Web site. The FBI was alerted, and users of the TSP site were warned of the scam. By the next morning, the link to the fraudulent site no longer worked and online access to the official link was restored that afternoon.

 

     Online withdrawals and loans initiated since 16 MAR are being reviewed internally before being processed, with a delay of up to two days expected. Plan officials said this is the first known "phishing" scam -- in which perpetrators entice users to divulge confidential data by impersonating a legitimate online business -- to target the TSP. They did not know how the perpetrators developed their e-mail distribution list, which included both TSP members and non-members, some of whom had no connection to government employment. Plan officials emphasized that individuals should never divulge personal, credit or banking information in response to unsolicited e-mails, and noted that the plan does not store participant e-mail addresses. TSP uses e-mail to communicate with members only in limited circumstances in which the member requests one-time e-mail notification and would never request credit card information or an ATM number. Plan participants should have been suspicious to receive an unsolicited message regarding their account. The page where users were directed to enter their Social Security number closely resembled a legitimate TSP Web page but grammatical errors on the second page, where credit card information was solicited, should have been a red flag. TSP call center staff members are prepared to assist those who did fall the scam. Affected plan members should call 1(877) 968-3778. [Source: GovExec.com newsletter 21 Mar 06]

 

 

TRICARE USER FEE UPDATE 10:  With the backing of 13 military associations, a bill blocking the Bush administration’s planned Tricare free increases for military retirees was introduced 15 MAR 06.   The Military Retirees' Healthcare Protection Act, H.R. 4949, would prevent that could affect 3 million military retirees and their families unless and until Congress approved changes that would then have to be signed into law. The bill would block the Pentagon from dramatically raising health care fees on military retirees by removing the Secretary of Defense’s current authority to make virtually unlimited increases in four specific areas:

1)   Enrollment fees for retired members and survivors in TRICARE Prime

2)   Pharmacy co-payments

3)   Enrollment fees for the new TRICARE Reserve Select program that was implemented last year to maintain health coverage continuity for Guard and Reserve families

4)   Retiree and survivor co-payments for inpatient care

The bill which currently has 118 cosponsors was referred to the House Armed Services Committee, where sentiment already is running strongly against the Pentagon plan that would double or triple fees for enrolling in Tricare for military retirees under age 65. The chief sponsor of the bill Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) Texas commented that he wondered how people would react if a bill was introduced that created a tax of $1,000 for retired officers and $490 for retired enlisted people and had that money go to cover the cost of the war? That is, essentially, what the Bush administration is doing by asking for retirees to be charged to cover military expenses with Tricare user fees. 

 

     After a two-hour hearing on the subject 14 MAR, the Senate Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, "There is no way a 115% increase in co-pays and enrollment fees in the TRICARE health insurance program is going to happen in the next two years”. Graham did not rule out the possibility that Congress might go along with some small bump-ups in the price of the popular coverage for both active-duty members and retirees and their families.  But he insisted that any steep increases were off the table until GAO or some other independent analyst studied the problem and made recommendations for curbing program costs.  All of the witnesses at the hearing insisted there are other cost-saving options and all laid out several recommendations for consideration by the subcommittee. Graham cautioned the groups that "an erosion of benefits is inevitable" over time as the cost of the program competes with the Pentagon's other needs for military housing, pay increases, new weapons, and peacekeeping operations.

 

      The president of the Military Officers Association of America commented that defense leaders pushing to triple or quadruple health fees for military retirees seem to forget that career service members already paid their premiums up-front, through two or three decades of service and sacrifice. Sydney Hickey of the National Military Family Association, another group supporting the bill, said she is particularly opposed to Pentagon plans to establish an enrollment fee for Tricare Standard health insurance coverage, which has no such fee today. It would change the earned access of military health care into the opportunity to buy access to military health care, in essence changing the earned benefit into an insurance plan. Following the strong bipartisan support for the blocking legislation, DoD announced that they would halt the proposed increases for now and has told Tricare contractors to cancel plans for an 1 OCT rate hike.

 

    On 29 MAR, representatives from DoD faced boxes full of 40,000 letters when testifying before the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. Subcommittee Chairman John W. McHugh (R-NY) said that these were the letters received by members of Congress since the Administration proposed severe increases in TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard costs for Military Retirees under the age of 65. The dramatic display shows how effective communicating your concerns are to members of Congress. Representative McHugh said, “These are the voices of beneficiaries that we cannot ignore.” This shows how important it is for you to contact your Senators and Congress members to tell them of your opinions and concerns. They do listen to you. At the hearing representatives of both The Military Coalition and the National Military and Veterans Alliance testified against the proposed increases. [Source: NavyTimes.com Rick Maze & CongressDaily David Hess articles 15 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

FRAUDULENT INTERNET COUPONS:  Defense Commissary Agency officials who are alerting customers about a recent rise in the use of fraudulent Internet or home-printed coupons and steps the agency has taken to address the issue. Commissaries gladly accept Internet or home-printed coupons provided they meet these requirements:

-     The coupons must have "dot-scan" bars below expiration dates or bar codes with Product Identification Numbers (PINs), and

-     They coupon cannot be for free products.

This is an expansion of acceptance criteria for home-printed coupons because counterfeit coupons have shown up recently in commissaries and other supermarkets nationwide. Officials are pointing to Internet trading as the source of the counterfeit coupons. Counterfeit coupons are circulating on the Internet through auction services, message boards, e-mails and other means causing millions of dollars in losses to the grocery industry.  Fraudulent coupons presented recently at commissaries were for products ranging from laundry detergents, air fresheners and deli meats to sodas, chips and over-the-counter medications. Defining more stringent requirements for stores to accept home-printed coupons is one phase of action the agency is taking to combat the problem. Educating customers about how to avoid getting taken by counterfeit coupons is the other phase, and it's been described as the best line of defense against possible fraud.

 

     People who purchase or trade coupons are inherently at risk of receiving counterfeit coupons, therefore customers shouldn't buy or trade for coupons. The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers' coupon redemption policies, according to the Coupon Information Center, a coupon industry watchdog. These policies are printed on the coupons.  Customers can be assured they are not obtaining counterfeits if they get their coupons directly from newspapers or magazines, directly from a manufacturer or from some other legitimate coupon channel, including Internet sites. Legitimate Internet coupons are featuring new dot-scan bars below their expiration dates. The dot-scan bars look like bar codes with broken bar patterns. Internet coupons also usually have PINs and bar codes, and they are not for free products. Here are some tips to avoid possible counterfeit coupons:

 

-     Look for the dot-scan bar below the expiration date on Internet coupons. If they don't have a dot-scan bar, look for a PIN and bar code.  Many now have both a dot-scan bar along with a PIN and bar code.

-     Look out for coupons printed on photocopy, plain white, photographic or card stock and coupons with fuzzy images or misspelled words.

-     Look out for unusually long expiration dates.

-     Look out for coupons sent to you in electronic format by someone other than a manufacturer or its authorized representative.

-     Look out for coupons with printing on only one side.

-     Look out for multiple coupons for the same product with identical PINs.

[Source: DECA News Release 13 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

MILITARY RECRUITING (FEB 06): DoD has announced its recruiting and retention statistics by the active and reserve components for the month of February.

Active duty recruiting. All services exceeded their recruiting goals in February. The Navy’s recruiting goal was 2,593, and it enlisted 2,696 (104 percent). The Marine Corps’ goal was 1,661, and it recruited 1,734 (104 percent). The Air Force goal was 2,353, and it recruited 2,375 (101 percent). The Army's goal was 6,000, and it recruited 6,114 (102 percent).

Active duty retention. All services are projected to meet their retention (reenlistment) goals for the current fiscal year.

Reserve forces recruiting. Only two of the six reserve components met or exceeded their recruiting goals in FEB as noted below:

     Army National Guard: Goal: 6,536 Recruited: 6,583 (101%)

     Army Reserves: Goal: 2,359 Recruited: 2,279 (97%)

     Air National Guard: Goal: 772 Recruited: 680 (88%)

     Air Force Reserves: Goal: 490 Recruited: 573 (117%)

     Navy Reserves: Goal: 874 Recruited: 710 (81%)

     Marine Corps Reserves: Goal: 546 Recruited: 469 (86%)

For FEB, Army National Guard retention was 106% of the cumulative goal of 13,478, and Air National Guard retention was 95% of its cumulative goal of 4,046. The Army Guard is at 336,183 of the approved and funded end strength of 350,000, while the Air Guard is at 105,321 of an authorized 106,800. Three factors are contributing to the success, say officials. First, Guard members who have returned from Iraq are networking with friends, neighbors and co-workers. Second, the Guard has established a rotation cycle designed to keep members home five years for every year of deployment. And third, the Guard has launched a nationwide program in which 31,000 members (to be expanded to 65,000) are recruiting assistants, who earn $2,000 for each member they enlist.  Losses in all reserve components for JAN 06 are well within acceptable limits. Indications are that trend will continue into FEB. Enlisted recruiting for Fiscal 2006 from 1 OCT 05 to 28 FEB 06 is:

 

Componant    Accessions    Goal    Percent

Army   25,973      25,100      103%

Navy    12,454      12,236      102%

Marine Corps      11,572      11,050      105%

Air Force  12,064      11,994      101%

Army National Guard      20,487      18,991      108%

Army Reserve      11,063      11,247      98%

Navy Reserve      3,415  4,021  85%

Marine Corps Reserve   2,937  3,004  98%

Air National Guard    3,179  4,064  78%

Air Force Reserve    4,748  4,647  102%

 

[Source: Your Guide to U.S.Military 10 Mar & Armed Forces News 17 Mar 06]

 

 

CAR ELIGIBILITY: The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. M. W. Hagee, has clarified the eligibility requirements for the Marine’s Combat Action Ribbon to authorize issuance in connection with improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. To be eligible, an individual must participate in a “bona fide” ground or surface combat fire-fight or action while under enemy fire, and the performance while under fire must be satisfactory. Hagee wrote in a Marine directive (ALMAR 010-06) that the use of the word “or” in the phrase “fire-fight or action” clearly allows a commander considerable leeway in determining eligibility beyond the scope of just a fire-fight engagement. He stated, “I consider exposure to a detonated IED as being under enemy fire. Therefore, Marines who take appropriate actions during such an engagement meet both CAR eligibility requirements.” The guidance is retroactive to 7 OCT 01. [Source: Armed Forces News 3 Mar 06]

 

 

VETERAN DIABETES & OBESITY: In a 27 FEB news conference the Secretaries of the VA and HHS along with the Surgeon General announced the start of a campaign called “HealthierUS Veterans” - a multi-pronged educational effort to spawn healthy eating and physical activity among veterans, their families and members of their communities.  Obesity and deadly diabetes are at significantly higher levels among America’s veterans. Veterans are more likely than the general population to have diabetes, one of the major complications associated with being overweight.  According to the American Diabetes Association, 7% of the U.S.  population has diabetes, and the rate increases with age.  Among veterans receiving VA health care, who are on average older than the general population, the rate is 20%

 

     VA medical centers will promote nutrition and exercise with local groups in 40 communities that receive grants from HHS in a program called “Steps to a HealthierUS.” Overweight patients receiving VA health care may participate in weight loss programs tailored to their needs.  They may also receive pedometers, diet advisories and “prescriptions” suggesting how much to walk—or, in the case of wheelchair users, how much to roll.  The two secretaries also plan to kick off regional educational campaigns this spring in four cities where VA and HHS Steps programs collaborate.  Local celebrities and members of veterans service organizations will be invited to participate. In May, the “HealthierUS Veterans” program will participate with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness during the council’s annual rally in Washington. [Source: VA News Release 27 Feb 06]

 

 

WOMEN IN MILITARY SERVICE MEMORIAL:  The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is located in Washington DC at the entrance to Arlington Cemetery. With the exception of federal grants to restore the existing structure and to complete the Memorial, it has been financed solely through private donations to its governing Foundation. Proceeds from the sale of a commemorative coin are a continuing resource as well as donations needed to operate and maintain the Memorial Education Center. The Memorial officially opened to the public on 20 OCT 97. It reflects the history of women in the armed forces which began more than 220 years ago with the women who served during the American Revolution and continues through the present day. 

 

     The Memorial site is the 4.2-acre Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. A 30-foot high curved neoclassical retaining wall stands at the entrance. Its design places the 33,000 square-foot Education Center in the Arlington cemetery hillside behind the existing retaining wall. The Memorial incorporates a reflecting pool on the plaza in front of the curved gateway, or hemicycle, with an arc of glass tablets on the upper terrace. The roof is an arc of glass tablets, 250 feet in diameter, inscribed with quotations by and about women who have served in defense of their country. Sunlight passing over these quotes creates changing shadows of the texts on the walls of the gallery below and brings natural light into the interior of the Education Center. The glass tablets illuminate the cemetery hillside at night and during the day, serve as skylights to the interior of the Education Center, which houses the Hall of Honor, exhibits and artifacts of women's military service, a 196-seat theater, a gift shop and the Memorial's computerized Register. Four staircases pass through the hemicycle wall, allowing visitors access to a panoramic view of Washington, DC, from the terrace.  A floor plan can be viewed at www.womensmemorial.org/Visit/floorplan.html.

 

   The Register, which serves as the heart of the Women's Memorial, is a computerized database of information about the women who are registered. Visitors can access the photographs, military histories, and individual stories of registrants by simply typing names into a computer terminal. The Register serves as an active resource, creating an on-going record of history as it is made. The Foundation is actively seeking to register as many veterans, Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve servicewomen as possible. Women from service organizations, who served overseas during time of war, as well as Cadet Nurses, are also eligible to register. To check if you or someone else is registered you can contact the Registration Department at (703) 533-1155, (800)222-2294 or at regdept@womensmemorial.org.  Registration can be done online. Approximately 250,000 of the two million women eligible have been registered thus far.

 

     The Memorial is open every day except Christmas between 08-1700 OCT 1 thru MAR 31 and 08-1900 Apr 1 thru SEP30.  Admission is free.  Parking is available for a modest fee at the Visitor's Center at Arlington National Cemetery about 2 city blocks away. You can also come by Metro using the Blue Line—Arlington Cemetery stop. It is handicap accessible; including elevators to the upper terrace. The entrance to Arlington National Cemetery extends across the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial at the eastern edge of Memorial Bridge. Memorial Bridge was intended as a symbolic link, binding together what had been the Civil War's North and South into one Union. The bridge design extends along an axis joining the Lincoln Memorial and the Robert E. Lee Memorial at Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery. Connecting the bridge to the cemetery gates is a parkway known as Memorial Drive. Along this parkway is a traffic circle intersection with the George Washington Memorial Parkway. At night, as visitors approach Arlington Cemetery along Memorial Drive, the eternal flame that marks President John F. Kennedy's grave is visible on the hillside. There are monuments located along Memorial Drive that are not formally part of Arlington National Cemetery. These include the Seabees Memorial, the United Spanish War Veterans Memorial, the monument to Admiral Richard Byrd, the 101st Airborne Division Memorial, the Mechanized Armor Memorial and the 4th Infantry Division Memorial. [Source: www.womensmemorial.org Mar 06]    

 

 

ATOMIC VETS UPDATE 02:  The Recognition of Forgotten Atomic Veterans and their Surviving Spouses Act of 2005 (HR 4183) was introduced in the house by Rep Bob Filner (D-CA) in NOV 05.  Its purpose is to improve the availability of benefits for veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans who were exposed while in military service to ionizing radiation, and for other purposes.   It directs the Attorney General to:

(1) Obtain from the files of the Operations Office of the Department of Energy in Nevada records showing the identity of all atomic veterans;

(2)  To use the service serial number of those veterans identified to obtain the veteran's social security number;

(3) Use that veteran's social security number to locate the veteran and, if living, advise that veteran of the provisions of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, including the right of the veteran to file a claim under that Act;

(4) Use that veteran's social security number to locate the surviving spouse of the veteran (if any) and advise the surviving spouse of the provisions of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, including the right of the surviving spouse to file a claim under that Act.

 

     Rep Filner also introduced the You Were There, You Get Care Act of 2005 (HR 4184) to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include radiation exposure presumptions for veterans who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent conflicts. It further requires that medical research be done on the depleted uranium (DU) problem by organizations not connected with the DOD or DVA to determine cures for DU exposure and any diseases caused by DU exposure.

 

     Both bills were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs for action in their respective areas for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker.  As of MAR 06 HR 4183 has only 2 cosponsors and HR 4184 has 4 cosponsors.  Action on these two bills is doubtful unless veterans and other concerned parties contact their representatives to encourage them to cosponsor the bills. [Source: New Mexico e-Veterans News 25 Mar 05 ++]

 

 

VA BUDGET 2006 UPDATE 14:  Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) secured approval in the House Appropriations Committee of an amendment to an emergency supplemental bill. His amendment frees up an additional $275 million for health care to help pay for an increase in patients from the current war. The number of veterans from the war accessing the system is far above what VA had projected. The bill cleared the House Appropriations Committee and is expected to pass on the House floor next week. [Source: VFW Washington Weekly 18 Mar 06]

 

VA BUDGET 2007 UPDATE 02: Both the House of Representative’s and the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committees have rejected the Administration’s proposals to charge a $250 yearly enrollment for veterans in Categories 7 and 8 (those who have higher incomes and no service-connected disabilities)  and increasing their pharmacy co-pay from the present $8 co-pay to $15 prescription.  Additionally, the Senate voted 100-0 to support an amendment to thir budget recommendations that would eliminate the need to enact an annual enrollment fee and higher prescription co-pays. The amendment, offered by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) adds $823 million to the approximately $80 billion DVA budget proposed by the Administration for FY2007. Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) chairman of the Senate VA Committee, voted with his colleagues to endorse the amendment, but called it a tough decision.  Without enactment of the fees and increased co-pays, the VA system needs additional funding, which will have to come from other federal programs.  [Source: FRA NewsBytes 18 Mar & http://thomas.loc.gov  & TREA 24 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

VA HELP LINES UPDATE 01:  VA officials told a congressional committee 16 MAR Thursday that they’re working to better inform veterans of potential pension benefits, as well as to boost the accuracy of the help lines that veterans from around the country call for assistance. Speaking before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, VA officials admitted that their outreach efforts had failed to reach certain people who could benefit from its pension program. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said in testimony that VA workers face many challenges in their jobs, including a growing number of complex claims, staff attrition and intense productivity pressures, including the three-minute rule. The rule, the union said, requires a caller to spend no more than three minutes on hold waiting for a VA employee to answer, and for the discussion itself to last no longer than an additional three minutes. Witnesses testified that although phone inquiries are typically not very case-specific, the responses often last more than a few minutes, especially if corrective action is needed or specialized information needs to be retrieved. The subcommittee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) Miller and ranking Democrat Rep. Shelly Berkley (NV) said they would continue to investigate the union’s complaint.

 

     Rep. Berkley said she has been told the VA has assigned people to answer phones as punishment for poor performance. Jack McCoy, the VA’s associate deputy undersecretary for policy and program management, said mistakes have been made, but denied there is a three-minute rule. He said there are daily performance standards requiring 64 calls to be answered, but said there is no specific time limit on any one call. He also defended VA employees answering the calls.  The Committee also said that they were disappointed in a recent study detailing the bad information that veterans received when they called the agency for help. In a VA mystery caller program investigators pretending to be veterans called to ask questions.  It was found that up to 50% of the information provided was wrong and that callers often were treated rudely. It was reported on 30 DEC 05 that an estimated 2 million people were missing out on VA pensions aimed at helping low-income veterans or their widows.  VA help lines are one of the primary means to alleviate that situation and people calling them were more likely to receive completely wrong answers than completely right ones. The disability subcommittee hearing was held in response to those reports. Rep. Berkley and the subcommittee chairman Rep. Miller said the VA must do better.

 

    VA told the committee it is working to improve communications between its benefits division and its health system. Starting 1 MAY the department will include in enrollment letters to certain new VA health-system patients information that lets them know that they might be eligible for pension benefits. On the help-line issue, the agency is expanding training for and oversight of the people who answer questions from veterans or their family members.  In January, the VA notified its offices nationwide of the training and oversight increases and told the top official in each regional office to be directly involved in improving help-line performance. A new online reference system for VA phone workers is scheduled to be available by the end of the year. [Source: Times staff writer Rick Maze & Knight Ridder Newspapers Chris Adams articles 16 Mar 06]

 

 

TFL CLAIM PROCESSING:    Tricare and Medicare have an agreement to share claims and eligibility data electronically on a daily basis. Under this methodology, when Tricare detects a Medicare claim paid to a particular physician or other provider for a Tricare For Life beneficiary, Tricare automatically process' a payment to the same physician or provider to cover the Medicare deductible and co-payment.  The patient will subsequently receive an Explanation of Benefits [EOB], showing what Medicare paid and what Tricare paid with a zero balance for the beneficiary.  Tricare will accept Medicare adjudication in the vast majority of cases...i.e., when Medicare pays, so will Tricare. There are some exceptions; e.g. physical therapists, where Tricare and Medicare adjudication standards are different, but Tricare will accept Medicare adjudication for physicians, hospitals, psychologists, etc. The sequence of payers is:

-     For Medicare and Tricare covered services, Medicare pays first and the remaining beneficiary liability may be paid by TFL.

-     For services covered by Tricare but not by Medicare, such as care received overseas, TFL pays first and Medicare pays nothing.  Beneficiaries are responsible for the Tricare fiscal year deductible and cost shares.

-     For services covered by Medicare but not by Tricare, such as chiropractic services, Medicare is the first payer and TFL pays nothing.  Beneficiaries are responsible for Medicare deductibles and coinsurance.

-     For services not covered by Medicare or Tricare such as cosmetic surgery, Medicare and Tricare pay nothing.  Beneficiaries are responsible for the entire bill.

 

     Beneficiaries with other health insurance (OHI), such as a Medicare supplement or employer-sponsored medical coverage may use TFL. Anyone desiring to cancel their OHI must contact their OHI administrator directly and upon receipt of the termination notice mail a copy to WPS TFL, P.O. Box 7890, Madison WI 53707-7890. By law, Tricare pays claims only after all OHIs have paid. Typically, after Medicare processes a claim (either approving or denying it) the claim is automatically forwarded to the beneficiary's OHI.  Once the OHI processes the claim, the beneficiary needs to file a paper claim with Tricare for any out-of-pocket expenses.  Tricare may reimburse the beneficiary if the services provided are covered by Tricare.   Paper claims must be submitted to WPS using a DD Form 2642, www.tricare.osd.mil/claims/Dd_2642.pdf, along with a copy of the provider's itemized bill, the Medicare summary notice and EOBs from all OHIs.  TFL claims must be filed within one year from the date the care is received.  For claims status, information and OHI updates, beneficiaries can:

        Call WPS TFL Beneficiary Services at 1-866-773-0404 (TDD users should call 1-866-773-0405);

        Contact a local Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator by using the locator at www.tricare.osd.mil/bcacdcao/; or

        Visit the TRICARE Claims Web site, www.tricare.osd.mil/claims/default.htm.

[Source: Tricare Help E-mail Service Office of the Surgeon General msg 20 Mar 06]

 

 

MILITARY TATTOO CRITERIA: The Army has revised its policy on tattoos in an effort to bolster recruitment of highly-qualified individuals who might otherwise have been excluded from joining.  Tattoos are now permitted on the hands and back of the neck if they are not “extremist, indecent, sexist or racist.” Army Regulation 670-1, which was modified via a message released 25 JAN06, also now specifies: “Any tattoo or brand anywhere on the head or face is prohibited except for permanent make-up.” If a soldier's current command has no issue with his/her tattoos, the soldier should have personnel files so annotated that the soldier is in line with AR 670-1. Though not mandatory, having the notation entered serves as back-up documentation at a follow-on command, which might feel the soldier's tattoos do not meet Army regulations.

 

     The Navy tattoo policy was last modified JAN 03 by NAVADMIN 021-03. It specified no tattoos/body art/brands on the head, face, neck, or scalp. Tattoos/body art/brands elsewhere on the body that are prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale or are of a nature to bring discredit upon the Navy are prohibited. For example, tattoos/body art/brands that are excessive, obscene, sexually explicit or advocate or symbolize sex, gender, racial, religious, ethnic or national origin discrimination are prohibited. In addition, tattoos/body art/brands that advocate or symbolize gang affiliation, supremacist or extremist groups, or drug use are prohibited. Tattoos/body art/brands cannot be visible through uniform clothing.  The use of gold, platinum or other veneers or caps for purposes of ornamentation are prohibited. Teeth, whether natural, capped or veneer, cannot be ornamented with designs, jewels, initials, etc.

 

     Also prohibited are intentional body mutilation, piercing, branding/intentional scarring that are excessive or eccentric. Some examples are:

(1) A split or forked tongue;

(2) Foreign objects inserted under the skin to create a design or pattern;

(3) Enlarged or stretched out holes in the ears (other than a normal piercing).

(4) Intentional scarring that appears on the neck, face, or scalp.

Waivers can be requested for prior service and existing body modifications from the Chief of Naval Operations.  [Source: http://usmilitary.about.com Mar 06]

 

 

DFAS myPay LOOK ALIKES:  The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is cautioning members of the military community to be aware that several look-alike myPay Web sites now can be found on the Internet. While these Web site contain the word “myPay” and may be legitimate business concerns, they are not in any way affiliated with DFAS’s official myPay Web site.  Examples of Web sites that contain the word “myPay” in their Web address include:

• http://www.mypay.com  

• http://www.mypaysolutions.com  

• http://www.mypayloanservices.com.

 

The official myPay Web site is located at https://mypay.dfas.mil. Servicemembers and their families are advised to make sure they are at the official myPay Web site before they share any personal information, which potentially could be used for unscrupulous purposes. The Air Force has mandated the use of myPay for receipt of payroll products, such as leave and earnings statements, net pay advices, etc. The myPay Web site also allows users to update certain segments of their pay, including changing the number of federal withholding exemptions they claim. Many servicemembers currently receive their information via myPay, which has helped save on postage and other operating expenses. Military members and their families are encouraged to continue using myPay and simply take a moment to verify they are at the official myPay Web site.  [Source: MOAA News Exchange 17 Mar 06]

 

 

ID CARD w/o SPONSOR PRESENT:  Issuance of a military dependent’s ID card without the sponsor bring present can be done under the following circumstances:

1)   Deceased:  Obtainable if the surviving spouse or eligible child presents a death certificate along with their other documentation proving their association to the deceased sponsor.

2)   Abandoned:  Obtainable if efforts on the part of the spouse or eligible child to get the sponsor to provide a signed DD Form 1172 have gone without response.   Also, if the sponsor provides a response telling the spouse that he/she will not provide or sign a DD 1172.   In these cases an official attempt is made by the ID card issuing office to contact the sponsor. If the member refuses then the ID card office can, once the official association is established by marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc., issue a card to the beneficiary.

3)   Deployed:  A temporary card can issued to cover the time that it takes to obtain the DD 1172 if dependents cannot easily obtain it in a timely manner due to their sponsor being deployed.  If the spouse has a power of attorney a card can be issued for a full four year period. 

 

     Once Children are registered in DEERS they are eligible until their 21st birthday even though they may never obtain an ID card.  If they marry or join the military the sponsor should report the change of status of the child and return the dependent ID card. If sponsor for whatever reason takes away the ID card and sends the card to the Service Personnel office and tells them to remove a child’s privileges they cannot comply with the request. Under the law dependent children are entitled to the benefits associated with having an ID once they have been enrolled in the Realtime Automated Personell ID System (RAPIDS).  Marriage or joining the military removes that dependency status.   Spouses will remain eligible for benefits even if their ID card expires as long as she/he was initially enrolled in RAPIDS unless there is a divorce or change in status.  [Source: DMDC msg 9 Mar 06]

 

 

VA MEDICAL RECORDS:  While visiting your local VA medical care provider you are entitled to view any and all medical records concerning your care. You can ask to view the home page of your computerized medical record during your appointments with Primary Care and/or Specialty Physicians. This is the page that first comes up with all of your basic information. It should show your allergies, your disabilities & percentages, and special notations such as radiation exposure, agent orange, etc. This information should also be present on any appointment print outs. If you believe there are errors or omissions contact the VA Eligibility Office and have them corrected or added. During VA medical appointments the veteran is entitled to ask questions and receive satisfactory answers and explanations. If the Veteran has impairments such as hearing, vision, etc. that may result in misunderstandings the veteran is entitled to have a person along during the visit who can understand such as a spouse, family member, etc.

 

     In instances where the explanations are not satisfactory go to the “Patient Representative” to clear things up.  The Patient Representative is the veteran’s go between in the VAMC. In most instances the Patient Representative should be able to resolve the problem. Oft times the problems are from misunderstandings. If the problem is not resolved by the Patient Representative the veteran is entitled to file a written grievance and explanation to the VAMC Administrator. If this communication does not satisfy the grievance the veteran is entitled to take it to VA in Washington, DC.  Additionally, the veteran is entitled to:

 

1.)  Furnish copies of medical papers from sources other than VA and have those entered into the VA Medical Records File by their Primary Care provider. These copies should also be filed in the Medical Record hard copy file in the Facility Archives. 

2.)  Visit the Archives and review the contents of his/her file at any time

3.)  Obtain Second Opinions from other than VAMC Facilities.

4.)  Copies of pertinent VA treatments to take to private sector medical facilities.

5.)  Check out copies of X-ray’s, ultrasounds, and other tests to take to other Medical Facilities for review by other Physicians connected with the veteran’s health or for second opinions.  These copies must be returned to the VAMC. 

[Source: Dalene Renfroe VA VIST Mar 06]

 

 

DIABETES UPDATE 01:  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issue a safety alert on Blood Glucose Meters.  These meters help people with diabetes check their blood sugar which is a critical step in managing diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 20 million people in the United States, or 7% of the population, have the condition. The VA reports that 20% of vets have it. Diabetes that is not well-controlled by those afflicted can lead to severe complications inclusive of kidney failure, blindness, and amputations. Recent problems reported to the FDA indicate that some people who use certain blood glucose meters may have problems properly setting the units of measurement on their meters or may inadvertently switch them. Also, in some cases, jarring or dropping the meter can cause the units to switch without the user being aware. These actions can lead to misinterpretation of glucose test results and to dosage errors in insulin or in oral diabetes medication. The problem meters are designed to report blood glucose levels in two different measurements.  The U.S. standard of milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and a standard used in Europe and elsewhere of millimoles per liter (mmol/L). 

 

     According to reports, users have accidentally changed one unit of measure to the other while setting their meter’s date and time, or while changing the battery.  There also have been reports of the unit of measure changing after a meter was jarred or dropped.  To date, at least three companies have reported this problem. Manufacturers are not instructing users to return their meters. Instead, the firms have issued worldwide notifications to all health care professionals and users, when known, about the problem. In addition to verifying the correct unit of measure and code number each time it is used patients should take the time to review their glucose meters with their diabetes health care providers and read the information that accompanies the device. People who think they may have been using the wrong readout on their meters for a long period of time, and who are now worried about their health, should contact their doctors immediately. To a problem with affected Blood glucose meters with problems should be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Program www.fda.gov/medwatch.  As an added safety measure newer models of meters should have the correct unit of measure locked in place. [Source: FDA Consumer magazine March-April 2006]

 

 

VA HOMELESS VETS:  The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine homeless veterans programs within VA. Federal officials estimate that on any given night, approximately 250,000 veterans go homeless, which is about one percent of the nation's 24.5 million veterans. But veterans represent a disproportionate number within the homeless population of America - one of every three homeless adult males has served in the U.S. Armed Forces.  To address this problem, the VA and other federal agencies offer a wide variety of programs to help provide shelter and employment for homeless veterans.  VA spends around $221 million on grants, housing, and treatment of underlying conditions that often lead to homelessness. Legislation enacted in December 2001 (P.L. 107-95) which funds many mental health and homeless programs is set to expire.  Witnesses provided statistics on the number of homeless veterans dealing with a host of issues and asked Congress to fully fund all programs which assist homeless veterans. Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) noted that 45% of homeless veterans have mental illnesses or suffer from alcohol/substance abuse disorders. Two bills have recently been offered to address the homeless veteran situation: S. 1180, the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act, offered by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), and S. 1991, the Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act, offered by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). [Source: VFW Washington Weekly 17 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

VA HEALTH CARE FUNDING UPDATE 05:   Annual funding for VA health care has again been shot down.  On 16 MAR a vote was taken in the Senate on Sen Stabenow’s (D-MI) Amendment No. 3141 to an original concurrent resolution setting forth the Government’s congressional budget for fiscal year 2007 and including the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2006 and 2008 through 2011.  The purpose of  S.Amdt. 3141 to S.Con.Res. 83 was to provide an assured stream of funding for veteran's health care that would take into account the annual changes in the veteran's population and inflation to be paid for by restoring the pre-2001 top rate for income over $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy.  The amendment was defeated by a vote of 54 (53 Rep + 1 Dem) to 47 (44 Dem + 2 Rep). Following is the roll call vote which vets should remember come the next election:

YEAs for VA annual health care funding -  NAYs opposed to annual VA health care funding

Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Nay Shelby (R-AL), Nay

Alaska: Murkowski (R-AK), Nay Stevens (R-AK), Nay

Arizona: Kyl (R-AZ), Nay McCain (R-AZ), Nay

Arkansas: Lincoln (D-AR), Yea Pryor (D-AR), Yea

California: Boxer (D-CA), Yea Feinstein (D-CA), Yea

Colorado: Allard (R-CO), Nay Salazar (D-CO), Yea

Connecticut: Dodd (D-CT), Yea Lieberman (D-CT), Yea

Delaware: Biden (D-DE), Yea Carper (D-DE), Yea

Florida: Martinez (R-FL), Nay Nelson (D-FL), Yea

Georgia: Chambliss (R-GA), Nay Isakson (R-GA), Nay

Hawaii: Akaka (D-HI), Yea Inouye (D-HI), Yea

Idaho: Craig (R-ID), Nay Crapo (R-ID), Nay

Illinois: Durbin (D-IL), Yea Obama (D-IL), Yea

Indiana: Bayh (D-IN), Yea Lugar (R-IN), Nay

Iowa: Grassley (R-IA), Nay Harkin (D-IA), Yea

Kansas: Brownback (R-KS), Nay Roberts (R-KS), Nay

Kentucky: Bunning (R-KY), Nay McConnell (R-KY), Nay

Louisiana: Landrieu (D-LA), Yea Vitter (R-LA), Nay

Maine: Collins (R-ME), Nay Snowe (R-ME), Yea

Maryland: Mikulski (D-MD), Yea Sarbanes (D-MD), Yea

Massachusetts: Kennedy (D-MA), Yea Kerry (D-MA), Yea

Michigan: Levin (D-MI), Yea Stabenow (D-MI), Yea

Minnesota: Coleman (R-MN), Nay Dayton (D-MN), Yea

Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay Lott (R-MS), Nay

Missouri: Bond (R-MO), Nay Talent (R-MO), Nay

Montana: Baucus (D-MT), Yea Burns (R-MT), Nay

Nebraska: Hagel (R-NE), Nay Nelson (D-NE), Nay

Nevada: Ensign (R-NV), Nay Reid (D-NV), Yea

New Hampshire: Gregg (R-NH), Nay Sununu (R-NH), Nay

New Jersey: Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea Menendez (D-NJ), Yea

New Mexico: Bingaman (D-NM), Yea Domenici (R-NM), Nay

New York: Clinton (D-NY), Yea Schumer (D-NY), Yea

North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Nay Dole (R-NC), Nay

North Dakota: Conrad (D-ND), Yea Dorgan (D-ND), Yea

Ohio: DeWine (R-OH), Nay Voinovich (R-OH), Nay

Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Nay Inhofe (R-OK), Nay

Oregon: Smith (R-OR), Nay Wyden (D-OR), Yea

Pennsylvania: Santorum (R-PA), Nay Specter (R-PA), Yea

Rhode Island: Cha! fee (R-R I), Nay Reed (D-RI), Yea

South Carolina: DeMint (R-SC), Nay Graham (R-SC), Nay

South Dakota: Johnson (D-SD), Yea Thune (R-SD), Nay

Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay Frist (R-TN), Nay

Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Nay Hutchison (R-TX), Nay

Utah: Bennett (R-UT), Nay Hatch (R-UT), Nay

Vermont: Jeffords (I-VT), Yea Leahy (D-VT), Yea

Virginia: Allen (R-VA), Nay Warner (R-VA), Nay

Washington: Cantwell (D-WA), Yea Murray (D-WA), Yea

West Virginia: Byrd (D-WV), Yea Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea

Wisconsin: Feingold (D-WI), Yea Kohl (D-WI), Yea

Wyoming: Enzi (R-WY), Nay Thomas (R-WY), Nay

[Source: FRA NewsBytes & http://thomas.loc.gov 18 Mar 06 ++]

 

 

VIRGINA SURVIVOR EDUCATION BILL:  Virginia legislation has approved the Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program which has been submitted to their Governor for signature. It will provide undergraduate or other postsecondary education to qualified survivors and dependents of active duty servicemembers, POWs, or veterans with honorable discharges rated at or above 90% disability by the VA.  Servicemember must have died as a result of military operations against terrorism, on a peace-keeping mission, as a result of a terrorist act, or in any armed conflict subsequent to December 6, 1941.  Survivor is defined as spouse or children age 16 to 29.  To be eligible the military service member who was killed, is missing in action, is a prisoner of war, or is disabled must meet the following criteria:

(i)   A citizen of Virginia at the time of entering such active military service or called to active duty as a member of the Armed Forces Reserves or Virginia National Guard Reserve;

(ii)  Is and has been a citizen of Virginia for at least five years immediately prior to the date on which the admission application is submitted by or on behalf of a qualified survivor or dependent for admission.

(iii) If deceased, was a citizen of Virginia on the date of death and had been a citizen of Virginia for at least five years immediately prior to death;

(iv) In the case of a qualified child, is deceased and the surviving parent had been, at some time previous to marrying the deceased parent, a citizen of Virginia for at least five years or is and has been a citizen of Virginia for at least five years immediately prior to the date on which the admission application is submitted by or on behalf of such child; or,

(v)  In the case of a qualified spouse, is deceased and the surviving spouse had been, at some time previous to marrying the deceased spouse, a citizen of Virginia for at least five years or is and has been a citizen of Virginia for at least five years prior to the date on which the admission application was submitted by such qualified spouse.

(vi) Death must have been the result of service as an active duty member in the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserves, the Virginia National Guard, or Virginia National Guard Reserve.

 

Education benefit can be obtained at any Virginia public institution of higher education or other public accredited postsecondary institution granting a degree, diploma, or certificate.  Those eligible for this benefit will be free of tuition and all required fees, institutional charges; general or college fees, any charges by whatever term referred to as general/college fees, board and room rent, and books/supplies. Application can be obtained from Deputy Commissioners Office, Virginia Department of Veterans Service, Poff Federal Building, 270 Franklin RD, SW, Roanoke VA 24011-2215 Tel: 540-857-7101/7573 Fax or downloaded at www.dvs.virginia.gov. [Source: Legislative information system http://leg1.state.va.us Mar 06]

 

 

TRICARE UNIFORM FORMULARY UPDATE 09:  On 19 JAN 06 the assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs & TMA director made the decision to place additional medications on the TRICARE Uniform Formulary and to designate others as nonformulary (or third tier). The following chart shows the medications alphabetically by category, their formulary status [i.e. tier-one generics ($3), tier-two brand name ($9), or third tier ($22)] and the date the decision will be implemented for 30 day supply at network retail pharmacies and $22 for a 90 day supply through the mail order pharmacy. Third tier drugs are not available at military treatment facility (MTF) pharmacies unless the prescription has been written by an MTF provider and medical necessity is established:

 

Alzheimer's Disease Drugs       

Aricept(r)         2         **       

Cognex(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

Exelon(r)         2         **       

Namenda(r)         2         **       

Razadyne(r)         2         **       

 

Nasal Corticosteroids       

Beconase AQ(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

Flonase(r)         2         **       

Nasacort AQ(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

Nasarel(r)         2         **       

Nasonex(r)         2         **       

Rhinocort AQ(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

Vancenase AQ(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

Vancenase AQ DS(r)         3         Apr. 19, 2006       

 

Macrolide/Ketolide Antibiotics       

Azithromycin         1         **       

Biaxin XL(r)         2         **       

Clarithromycin         1         **       

Erythromycin (Various formulations)         1         **       

Ketek(r)         3         Mar. 22, 2006       

Pediazole(r) (Generic)         1         **       

Zmax(r)         3         Mar. 22, 2006       

 

Antidepressants       

Buproprion         1         **       

Buproprion SR         1         **       

Citalopram         1         **       

Cymbalta(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Effexor (r)         2         **       

Effexor XR(r)         2         **       

Fluoxetine         1         **       

Fluvoxamine         1         **       

Lexapro(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Mirtazapine         1         **       

Nefazadone         1         **       

Paroxetine         1         **       

Paxil CR(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Pexeva(r)         2         **       

Prozac Weekly(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Sarafem(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Trazadone         1         **       

Wellbutrin XL(r)         3         July 19, 2006       

Zoloft(r)         2         **       

** Doesn't apply       

[Source: TMA News Release 10 Feb 06]

 

 

DISPUTING CREDIT REPORTS: After you have obtained and reviewed a free copy of your credit report you should take action if you find something you disagree with. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider. Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items in question (usually within 30 days) unless they consider your dispute frivolous.  They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

 

     When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act..   If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the dispute information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item.  Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct, that is if the information is found to be inaccurate, the information provider may not report it again.

 

     If the consumer reporting company or information provider won’t correct the information you dispute you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service. If you tell the information provider that you

dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.  Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

 

     The Fair Credit Reporting Act specifies who can access your credit report. Creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use the information in your report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home are among those that have a legal right to access your report. Your employer can get a copy of your credit report only if you agree. A consumer reporting company may not provide information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without

your written consent. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To learn more about credit issues and protecting your personal information, visit www.ftc.gov/credit. To file a complaint or to get free information on other consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1(877) 382 4357; TTY: 1(866) 653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. [Source: FTC Facts for Consumers Mar 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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