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

Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 7:33 AM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 15 December 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

15 December 2006

 

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== Tricare/CHAMPUS Fraud [04] ------------ (HVC Pleads Guilty)

== VA Budget 2007 [09] ----------------------- (Agreement Reached)

== Long-Term Care [01] ----------------------- (Something to consider)

== VA Compensation Rates (Disability) ----- (2007 Monthly Payments)

== Medicare Rates 2007 [04] -------- (Federal Subsidy Reduction)

== Overseas Troop Gift Giving ---------------- (How To)

== Call Home Act S.2653------------------------(Passed)

== North Central Federal Clinic San Antonio -- (Joint VA/DoD Venture)

== Pearl Harbor 65th Anniversary ------------- (Memorial Ceremony)

== VA Insurance Dividends 2007------------- ($369 million to be Paid)

== TSP 08] ----------------------------- (Contribution Limits Raised)

== Military Funeral Disorderly Conduct [07] -- (S.4202 Passed)

== VA Medical Center Waco ------------------ (Will Remain Open)

== DoD Mental Health Task Force [01] ------ (18 Dec Meeting)

== National Guard Birthday -------------------- (370 Years Old)

== Libel Protection Weakened ----------------- (Internet Newsletters)

== Money Recognition by Blind --------------- (Currency Change Ordered)

== VA My Health eVet [01---------------------- (Health Records Online)

== Vet Cemetery Xmas Wreaths --------------- (Annual Ceremony)

== Stolen Valor Act ------------------------------ (Fraudulent Claims)

== Medicare Part D [13] ------------- (Vet Enrollment Claims)

== Medicare Reimbursement Rates [04] ------ (Cuts Imminent)

== Medicare Reimbursement Rates [05] ------ (11th Hour Fix)

== Philippine Deers Registration --------------- (ID Cards Available)

== PTSD [09] ----------- (Propranolol Treatment Study)

== DFAS 1099-R for 2006---------------------- (Download from myPay)

== E-mail Petitions ------------------------------ (Ineffective)

== National Guard Memorial Museum -------- (Dedication 6 Dec)

== 110th Congress Schedule -------------------- (Senate 1st Session)

== WRAMC Donations ------------------------- (Returning Troops Needs)

== WRAMC Donations [01] ------------------- (Put on Hold)

== Air Force News Delivery ------------------- (Changing Methods)

== Vet Benefits Florida [02] -------------------- (Expansion Continues)

== GI Bill Inequities [01]:  --------- (Total Force Proposal)

== VA Claim Doctor Letter -------------------- (Do it yourself)

== VA Claim Doctor Letter [01] -------------- (Sample Letter)

== Spinal Decompression Claims ------------- (Rarely Honored)

== SSA Benefits at Death ---------------------- (What & how to get)

== Military Legislation Status ----------------- (Where we stand)

 

 

TRICARE/CHAMPUS FRAUD UPDATE 04: Erik C. Peterson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Thomas Arthur Lutz, DOB 04/24/1967, of Olongapo City, Republic of the Philippines, pleaded guilty 11 DEC in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin to defrauding the federal TRICARE program. The charges were brought in the Western District of V because Wisconsin Physicians Service, the fiscal intermediary which processed and paid these alleged fraudulent claims, is located in Madison, WI which is in the Western District of Wisconsin. Lutz pleaded guilty to Count 33 of an Indictment that charged him with participating in a conspiracy with Health Visions Corporation (HVC) and a physician in the Philippines to double bill Tricare and kickback the inflated payments to HVC. As part of today plea hearing, Lutz stipulated, under oath, to a statement of facts that indicated, among other things, the following:

 

1.  In August 1998, defendant THOMAS Lutz, in his capacity as the Administrator of HVC, met with representatives at a medical center in Olongapo City. During that meeting defendant Thomas Lutz offered to refer HVC patients to the medical center if HVC would receive a 50% discount. When the representatives balked at the size of the discount, defendant Thomas Lutz instructed the medical center representatives to inflate their bills by 100% and pay the inflated amount to HVC. Defendant Thomas Lutz wrote out on a piece of paper how two bills Should be prepared for every HVC patient; one bill should be the real bill, the second bill should be the inflated bill with every line item doubled in price. In exchange for this arrangement, defendant Thomas Lutz promised that the medical center would become a preferred provider for HVC patients and would receive immediate payment for services provided to HVC patients.

 

2.  On or about October 1, 1998, defendant Thomas Lutz had another meeting with the same representatives at the medical center. At this meeting, defendant Thomas Lutz produced a letter on HVC letterhead dated October 1, 1998 to the medical center. The letter detailed an agreement between HVC and the medical center where HVC agreed to refer its patients to the medical center in exchange for “a rebate of 50% back to Health Visions Corp.... The rebate will be paid to Health Visions Corp. immediately after payment received by the[medical center.” The letter is signed by Thomas Lutz as the Administrator for HVC.

 

3.  The arrangement between HVC and the medical center lasted from October 1, 1998 to June 20, 2000. During this time frame, HVC submitted to Wisconsin Physicians Service (WPS), a TRICARE subcontractor in Madison, Wisconsin, approximately 105 claims involving HVC patients who received medical care at the medical center;

 

4.  HVC employed billers who prepared the claims submitted to Tricare.  HVC instructed its billers to inflate the amounts listed on the hospital bills by at least 233% when entering the numbers on the TRICARE claim.

 

5.  HVC also instructed its billers to hide denied medications on a hospital bill by moving those costs to “professional fees” on the Tricare claim.

 

6.  HVC also instructed its billers to create false documentation to backup fake medical diagnoses that were not on the hospital bills, but would be added to the Tricare claims. This false documentation included fake letters with pasted on letterhead and doctor signatures.

 

7.  HVC directed WPS to send the payments for all the Tricare claims to a lockbox account in the name of HVC at Bank of America in Columbia MO. When the account reached over $1,000,000, defendant Thomas Lutz’s brother directed Bank of America in Missouri to wire transfer funds from the HVC account at Bank of America to an HVC bank account at United Cocoa Planters Bank in Manila, in $1,000,000 increments.

 

8.  During the years 1998 through 2004, WPS paid over $163,380,648 in total Tricare claims submitted by HVC. Of this amount, approximately $144,618,061 came from third-party billing by HVC, and $18,762,587 came from direct billing from HVC-owned hospitals.

 

     Chief United States District Judge Barbara B. Crabb scheduled sentencing for 13 MAR 07. Lutz faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release after serving his prison term. The charges against Lutz were the result of an investigation conducted by the

Defense Office of Inspector General Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Also assisting were agents in the Philippines with the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigation Service, and Regional Security Officers with the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service. Prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Peter M. Jarosz and Daniel J. Graber. [Source: Office of the U.S. Attorney Western District of Wisconsin Press Release 11 Jan 06]

 

 

VA BUDGET 2007 UPDATE 09:  Before its adjournment on 8 DEC, the 109th Congress reached agreement on critical veterans’ legislation. The $3.2 billion Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 (S. 3421) is an collection of House and Senate initiatives that had been in limbo for months while lawmakers tried to reach a compromise. The bill includes an historic provision allowing veterans to hire an agent or attorney to represent them after a notice of disagreement has been filed. The attorney representation provision, opposed by some veterans’ groups and endorsed by others, allows—but does not require—veterans to be represented by an attorney or some other agent when filing claims. Under current law, an attorney cannot be paid for representation until a claim has made its way through the entire administrative process, but the provision’s primary sponsor, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, argued claims today are so complex today that veterans should not be precluded from getting additional help.

 

    The bill also includes a provision to expand eligibility for Dependents Education Assistance to the spouse or child of a service member hospitalized or receiving outpatient care before the service member’s discharge for a total and permanent service-connected disability. The provision’s intent is to help enhance the spouse’s earning power as early as possible before discharge of the service member.  Additionally, the bill: 

  Provides increased support for service members returning from the war on terror through improved VA outreach and $65 million to increase the number of clinicians treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and improve their training. It authorizes the hiring of marriage and family therapists to expand counseling resources.

  Expands tele-health initiatives to improve health care to rural veterans, and expands the number of community-based outpatient clinics able to treat mental illnesses. 

  Authorizes spending for collaboration in PTSD diagnosis and treatment between VA and the Department of Defense (DoD). 

  Authorizes increased access to bereavement counseling for surviving family members at Vet Centers.

  Boosts VA health care construction by authorizing more than $600 million for repair or replacement of flood-damaged facilities in New Orleans and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast; $36.8 million for advance planning of a collaboration project between the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston SC and the adjacent Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) [i.e. the primary issue that had held up the bill for weeks]; $98 million for the replacement of the VA medical center in Denver as well as 22 other major construction projects in 15 states. Several leases for outpatient clinics are also included.

  Authorizes $2 million for additional blind rehabilitation specialists and increases the number of facilities where these specialists will be located.

  Authorizes VA to designate six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers of Excellence, and at least two Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence, and strengthens VA’s homeless grant and per diem programs.

  Creates a VA office of rural health and improves outreach for rural veterans.

  Provides for reimbursement by the VA to state veterans homes for the costs of care provided to veterans with a 70 percent or higher service-connected condition; further, veterans in these homes with service-connected conditions rated at least 50 percent would get their medications free of charge.

  Directs the VA to provide breach notification to individuals, reports to Congress, fraud alerts, data breach analysis, credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance.

  Provides for an Information Security Education Assistance program, an incentive to allow the VA the ability to recruit personnel with the information skills necessary to meet department requirements.

  Expands the veterans’ home loan guarantee program to include buying into cooperative housing units where a person owns membership or a share of a building instead of a unit.

  Directs the Labor Department to issue rules clarifying the priority of preference for veterans and dependents seeking help in federal job placement programs.

  Allows families to begin receiving educational assistance before the service member’s discharge for a total and permanent disability.

  Restores certain educational benefits for those who discontinued their education programs because of a National Guard call-up.

  Extends provision that allows family members to receive marker or headstones at marked graves in private cemeteries.

[Source: http://veterans.house.gov/news/109/12-8-06.html & NMFA E-News 12 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

LONG-TERM CARE UPDATE 01:  During this time of year, many insurance plans offer open season for long-term care insurance. More than 70% of us who live to retirement age will need long term care at some time in our lives.  While Tricare covers medically-necessary skilled nursing care, it does not cover beneficiaries' long-term care needs. Medicare pays limited amounts for skilled care following a hospital stay; Medicare does not cover most long term care services which assist people with the activities of daily living over a long period of time.  Medicare will only cover the first 100 days of care in a nursing home per Benefit Period if you are receiving skilled care, and have a qualifying hospital stay of at least three days and enter the nursing home within 30 days of that hospital discharge. There are also some deductibles and co-pays .you have to pay. In addition, Medicare covers limited home visits for skilled care and incidental homemaker services.

 

     Beneficiaries may want to consider other coverage options, such as: (1) Commercial Long-Term Care Insurance, which lets beneficiaries choose coverage; or (2) The Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) available to active duty and National Guard activated for more than 30 days, retired uniformed servicemembers and Selected Reserve members. FLTCIP is designed specifically for members of the Federal Family. It is sponsored by the Federal Government and backed by two of the country's top insurance companies. FLTCIP is designed to help protect enrollees against the high costs of long term care. Personal access to registered nurse care coordinators, and home care provisions are just a few of the reasons why the Federal Program may be the smart choice for you.

 

     Long term care is care that you need if you can no longer perform everyday tasks such as eating, dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, moving back and forth from a bed to a chair, and continence (i.e. the ability of the body to control urination or bowel movements or both) by yourself due to a chronic illness, injury, disability or the aging process. Long term care includes the supervision you might need due to a severe cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s disease). It is not intended to cure you. It is chronic care that you might need for the rest of your life. This care can span years and can be expensive depending on the type of care you need and location where that care is received. The cost of long term care varies greatly, depending on the type of care, the place provided, and the region where you receive your care. For instance, the average hourly cost of home care ranges from $13 per hour in Montgomery AL to $20 per hour in Hartford CT. Nursing home care costs vary from $104 per day in Shreveport LA to $333 in New York City for a semi-private room. Home care — which most people prefer — is generally more affordable than nursing home care, but still can be expensive. When averaged nationally, the cost of a five-hour visit by a home health aide is $95.30. That’s well over $24,000 per year for a home health aide visiting five hours per day, five days a week. These costs rise significantly if around-the-clock care is needed.

 

     FLTCIP calculates the initial cost of your plan, known as premium, based on your age on the date they receive your application and the benefit options you select. Your premiums do not change because you get older or your health changes after your coverage becomes effective.  If interested, at www.ltcfeds.com/ltcWeb/do/assessing_your_needs/ratecalc you can determine how much the monthly premium for you would be based on the options you choose.  For instance a 67 year old retiree born OCT 1939 electing a comprehensive 5 year coverage plan for $100 a day with an automatic compound inflation option would pay a monthly premium of $167.96 for a maximum lifetime benefit of $182,500. For more information, refer to the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program Website www.ltcfeds.com or call 1(800) 582-3337.  [Source: Military.com 11 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

VA COMPENSATION RATES (DISABILITY):  This benefit program evaluates disability resulting from all types of diseases and injuries encountered as a result of military service. The degree of disability as determined by VA represents (as far as can practicably be determined) the average loss in wages resulting from such diseases and injuries and their complications in civil occupations.  Generally, the degrees of disability specified are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from exacerbations or illnesses. By law, payment of VA compensation and military disability severance pay for the same medical condition or disability is prohibited. VA compensation will be withheld on a monthly basis until the total amount of military severance pay has been recovered. As required by the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2007 the DVA has given notice of adjustments in certain benefit rates. These adjustments effective 1 DEC 06 affect the compensation program as indicated below:

 

10% - 20% Without Dependents:   $115 $225

*****************************************************

30% - 100% Without Children

Veteran Alone: $348 $501 $712 $901 $1,135 $1,319 $1,483 $2,471

Veteran w/Spouse Only $389 $556 $781 $984 $1,232 $1,430 $1,608 $2,610

Veteran w/Spouse + One Parent $422 $600 $837 $1051 $1,310 $1,519 $1,708 $2,722

Veteran w/Spouse + Two Parents $455 $644 $893 $1118 $1,388 $1,608 $1,808 $2,834

Veteran w/One Parent $381 $545 $768 $968 $1,213 $1,408 $1,583 $2,583

Veteran w/Two Parents $414 $589 $824 $1035 $1,291 $1,497 $1,683 $2,695

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b) $38 $51 $63 $76$88 $101 $113 $126

****************************************************

30% - 100% With Children

Veteran w/Spouse + Child $420 $597 $832 $1045 $1,303 $1,511 $1,699 $2,711

Veteran w/Child Only $376 $538 $759 $957 $1,200 $1,394 $1,567 $2,565

Veteran w/Spouse +  One Parent + Child $453 $641 $888 $1112 $1,381 $1,600 $1,799 $2,823

Veteran w/Spouse + Two Parents + Child $486 $685 $944 $1,179 $1,459 $1,689 $1,899 $2,935

Veteran w/One Parent + Child $409 $582 $815 $1024 $1,278 $1,483 $1,667 $2,677

Veteran w/Two Parents + Child $442 $626 $871 $1091 $1,356 $1,572 $1,767 $2,789

Add for Each Additional Child Under Age 18 $21 $28 $35 $42 $49 $56 $63 $70

Each Additional Schoolchild Over Age 18 (see footnote a) $66 $88 $111 $133 $155 $177 $199 $222

Additional for A/A spouse (see footnote b) $38 $51 $63 $76$88 $101 $113 $126

************

 

FOOTNOTES:

(a)   Rates for each school child are shown separately. They are not included with any other compensation rates. All other entries on this chart reflecting a rate for children show the rate payable for children under 18 or helpless. To find the amount payable to a 70% disabled veteran with a spouse and four children, one of whom is over 18 and attending school, take the 70% rate for a veteran with a spouse and 3 children, $ 1,401, and add the rate for one school child, $155. The total amount payable is $1,556.

(b)   Where the veteran has a spouse who is determined to require A/A, add the figure shown as "additional for A/A spouse" to the amount shown for the proper dependency code. For example, veteran has A/A spouse and 2 minor children and is 70% disabled. Add $88, additional for A/A spouse, to the rate for a 70% veteran with dependency code 12, $1,352. The total amount payable is $ 1,440.

[Source: www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/ Dec 06 ++]

 

 

MEDICARE RATES UPDATE 04:  Medicare means-testing was enacted by Congress as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA). Its effects will be felt next month, as wealthier Americans begin to pay a greater percentage of the cost of their Medicare coverage than in the past. Retirees with Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI) of at least $80,000 and couples with incomes of at least $160,000 are affected. AGI generally includes all wages, pensions, Social Security benefits, capital gains, and interest income before deductions are taken. Income levels are determined by a review of the past several years of tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Some seniors already have received written notification from the Social Security Administration stating how much they will pay, based on a review of those tax returns. If you receive Social Security benefits, new rates are sent each year with the December cost-of-living adjustment notice.

 

     The MMA change reduces the government Part B subsidy from its current 7% for all beneficiaries to 65% or less for wealthier seniors. The federal subsidy reduction will be phased in over three years. By 2009, wealthier seniors will pay between 35% and 80% of the cost of their Medicare Part B coverage instead of the current 25%. Following is the percentage of Medicare Part B costs seniors will pay based upon their income by 2009along with their 2007 first installment premium:

-      25% of Medicare Part B costs for individuals with incomes of less than $80,000 w/ monthly premium of $93.50 in 2007;

-      35% of Medicare Part B costs for individuals with incomes of $80,000 or more ($160,000 or more for a married couple) w/ monthly premium of $105.80 in 2007;

-      50% for those with incomes of $100,000 or more ($200,000 for a couple) w/ monthly premium of $124.50 in 2007;

-      65% for those with incomes of $150,000 or more ($300,000 for a couple) w/ monthly premium of $142.90 in 2007; and

-      80% for those with incomes above of $200,000 or more ($400,000 for a couple) w/ monthly premium of $161.40 in 2007.

 

     Future annual income thresholds will be indexed to inflation. Retirees affected by the reduction of government subsidy will see significant increases as the government share of costs is reduced and the costs of Medicare Part B rise. About 4% of the Medicare-eligible population is affected by the increases resulting from the federal subsidy reduction.  [Source: MOAA News Exchange 6 Dec 07 ++]

 

 

OVERSEAS TROOP GIFT GIVING:  If you would like to share a holiday greeting or send a goodie package to a loved one or “any soldier” overseas, here are a few of the many places that could help:

  Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES): Friends and family of military overseas can sent a gift certificate from the one-shop shops for military personnel worldwide that stock all sort of goods, from licorice sticks to digital cameras to “bug-out” bags. A “bug out” bag is a backpack that service members pack in anticipation of having to change locations at a moment’s notice. Service members can buy anything they want with the gift certificate, but CDs and DVDs have been the most popular, say AAFES officials. Sold in denominations of $10 and $20, gift certificates can be redeemed at any AAFES PX (Postage Exchange) or BX (Base Exchange) throughout the world. AAFES currently operates 51 stores in the “SW Asian theater” or the countries involved in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OEF/OIF), including 29 in Iraq, 10 in Kuwait, five in Afghanistan, four in Qatar/UAE/Djibouti, one in Pakistan, one  in Kyrgyzstan and one in Uzbekistan. http://www.aafes.com/index.html 

  United Service Organizations (USO): Every donation of $25 covers the cost of delivering a package to members of the U.S. Armed Forces deployed around the world. Each package contains a pre-paid worldwide phone card, sunscreen, travel size toiletries, a disposable camera and more. http://www.usocares.org/src/uso_home.htm

  Gifts From the Homefront: Anyone can send a gift certificate to a service member or an organization assisting families by making a donation to one of the organizations listed at the AAFES website: http://www.aafes.com/. Among the organizations currently on the list are the American Red Cross national headquarters, the Air Force Aid Society, The Fisher House and the USO. You can make a donation for a Gift of Groceries through some of the same organizations by going to: http://www.commissaries.com/certificheck/index.cfm.

  America Supports You: A nationwide program launched by the Department of Defense, recognizes citizens' support for military men and women and communicates that support to members of the Armed Forces at home and abroad. All events and information is highlighted on the America Supports You website www.americasupportsyou.mil/.  This site allows participants to register and be recognized, share their stories of support with the nation and the troops, and download program materials for distribution and dissemination. Americans can find support efforts in their state in which they might participate by clicking on the U.S. map on the site. Military members can also access the web and learn about America's support for their service.

[NMFA E-News 12 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

CALL HOME ACT S.2653:   In late action on December 9th, the House passed the Call Home Act of 2006. The measure had earlier passed the Senate and President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law within the next few days. The bill introduced by Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI), directs the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), in coordination with the Department of Defense, to seek to reduce phone rates for Armed Forces personnel deployed overseas.  The legislation authorizes the FCC to take actions necessary to reduce phone bills for troops deployed overseas, including waiver of government fees, assessments, or other charges. The legislation also directs that new technologies, such as Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP), be evaluated and means to reduce surcharges imposed by foreign governments be implemented. [Source: AFA Update 12 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

NORTH CENTRAL FEDERAL CLINIC SAN ANTONIO:  The new North Central Federal Clinic (NCFC), the first Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense venture using joint leadership and staffing, was scheduled to open 4 DEC 06 on the north side of San Antonio.  The clinic will provide pharmacy, radiology, laboratory and optometry services for those enrolled.  It is designed to improve access to medial care for VA and DOD beneficiaries living on the north side of San Antonio. Currently those Air Force beneficiaries must drive across town to Wilford Hall Medical Center on the south side of the city on Lackland Air Force Base.  Approximately 5,600 Wilford Hall patients have been identified and notified as those who would benefit the most from being seen at the NCFC. Officials looked at active duty dependents, retirees and retiree family members, enrolled in Tricare Prime, who live in the north central San Antonio area. These individuals were then assessed by their medical needs and the level of services available at the NCFC. 

 

     The NCFC currently won't be open to active duty personnel. Active duty personnel will continue to be seen at their current care locations.   NCFC enrollment has already been maximized. However, officials will be looking at demand in the area and considering options over the next six months, such as active duty sick call, to increase access if demand warrants.  The congressionally approved facility was chosen after a federal competition, and is a test bed receiving national recognition.  There are several other facilities in the U.S.  that are working toward the same goal achieved in the San Antonio.  Hospital officials, along with congressional and federal leaders, will be following the success of the clinic closely for consideration for other joint facilities to begin using joint leadership and staffing.  [Source: Air Force Retiree News Service 8 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

PEARL HARBOR 65TH ANNIVERSARY:   The National Park Service and the U.S. Navy hosted a joint memorial ceremony at Naval Station Pearl Harbor 7 DEC commemorating the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  More than 1,500 Pearl Harbor survivors and their families and friends from around the nation joined 2,000 distinguished guests and the general public for the annual observance of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor on the Kilo Pier venue, which looks directly out to the USS Arizona Memorial approximately half a mile away.  The theme of this year’s historic commemoration, “A Nation Remembers,” reflected on how the remembrance of Pearl Harbor has evolved throughout the years since World War II.  At 7:55 a.m., the exact moment the Japanese attack began 65 years ago, a moment of silence was observed. Sailors aboard USS Russell (DDG 59) rendered honors to USS Arizona (BB 39), as the Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 Eagles performed a missing man formation fly-over above the memorial.

 

     Highlights of the ceremony included the observance of morning colors, music by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, a Hawaiian blessing, a rifle salute by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, wreath presentations, echo taps and recognition of the men and women who survived Dec. 7, 1941, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  Guest speakers included the governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle; Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne; Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Ronald Sugar, chairman and chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman. Tom Brokaw, former NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor, served as the keynote speaker for the commemoration. He spoke of the “greatest generation” and how during the war years, “Remember Pearl Harbor” became a battle cry for the nation, uniting the country to defend democracy and freedom.  Today, according to Brokaw, “Remember Pearl Harbor” has taken on a different definition and provides an opportunity for reflection, a study of lessons learned, and gratitude toward the Pearl Harbor veterans who served and those of their comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice. This anniversary was the last official reunion of Pearl Harbor survivors and many attended the commemoration events with their families.  [Source: Navy News Service 8 Dec 07 ++]

 

 

VA INSURANCE DIVIDENDS IN 2007:   More than a million veterans are in line to share $369 million in annual insurance dividends during 2007, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). VA operates one of the nation’s largest life insurance programs, providing more than $1 trillion in coverage to 4.5 million service members, spouses and children. The dividend payments will be sent to an estimated 1.2 million holders of VA insurance policies on the anniversary date of their policies.  Sent automatically through different payment plans, the amounts will vary based on the age of the veteran, the type of insurance, and the length of time the policy has been in force.  The dividends come from the earnings of a trust fund into which veterans have paid insurance premiums over the years, and are linked to returns on investments in U.S. government securities. VA officials caution veterans about a long-running scam in which various groups charge fees to locate veterans who are eligible for the dividends. 

 

     Veterans eligible for the dividends have had VA life insurance policies in effect since they left the military and have received annual notifications from VA about the policies.  Dividends are paid each year to veterans holding certain government life insurance policies and who served between 1917 and 1956.  World War II veterans holding National Service Life Insurance (“V”) policies comprise the largest group receiving 2007 insurance dividend payments.  They are expected to receive total payments of $286.3 million. An additional group of World War II era veterans, those who have Veterans Reopened Insurance (“J”, “JR” and “JS”) policies, will in total receive dividends of $10.1 million. Korean War era veterans who have maintained Veterans Special Life Insurance (“RS” and “W”) policies can expect to receive dividends totaling $71.6 million. Dividends totaling $1million will be paid to veterans who served between World War I and 1940 and who hold U.S. Government Life Insurance (“K”) policies. Veterans who have questions about their policies may contact the VA insurance number at 1(800) 669-8477 or send an e-mail to VAinsurance@va.gov.  For additional info refer to www.insurance.va.gov.  [Source:  VA News Release 8 Dec 06]

 

 

TSP UPDATE 08:  The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has announced a $500 increase in regular Thrift Savings Plan contributions to $15,500 for 2007 elective deferral maximum contributions. Catch-up contributions will remain at the $5,000 limit set in 2006. TSP offers investors the chance for lower taxes each year they contribute with taxes deferred until they withdraw the account after retirement.  TSP is a long-term retirement savings plan, which is an ideal supplement to military and civilian retirement plans. Investment money is deposited directly from each paycheck which makes it easy to ‘pay yourself first' while only investing what you deem appropriate. [Source: Armed Forces News Issue 8 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

MILITARY FUNERAL DISORDERLY CONDUCT UPDATE 07:  On 7 DEC the Senate passed, by voice vote, a bill that would bar protests at any funeral.  Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s (D-IL) bill S.4042 extends the present prohibition of demonstrations at funerals held at federal cemeteries which became law on Memorial Day when President Bush signed H.R. 5037. That bill was only applicable to national cemeteries. Senate bill S.4202 would make would make it a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or up to one year in jail, to intentionally disrupt a funeral or protest within 150 feet of such a service. This is in response to the demonstrations that members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, have been conducting at military funerals. They have been alleging that U.S. troops are being killed as retribution for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.  [Source: TREA Washington Update 8 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

VA MEDICAL CENTER WACO:   After a comprehensive review of the Waco Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, its mission and veterans' needs, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, recently announced his decision to keep the Medical Center open. Waco's recent designation as a Center for Excellence in outpatient post-traumatic stress disorder services also builds upon the services to be provided by Waco. Nicholson noted that the facility's inpatient and outpatient services are important to residential care homes in the Waco area that care for veterans who do not need to be in an institution, but require outpatient services and periodically inpatient care. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 8 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

DOD MENTAL HEALTH TASK FORCE UPDATE 01:  The Department of Defense (DoD) Task Force on Mental Health (MHTF) will host open meetings 18-20 DEC, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel, 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia. The public and media are invited to attend the open sessions. The open meetings provide an opportunity for attendees to hear briefings on mental health related topics.  Additionally, time will be set aside one day for Task Force members to hear statements from veterans, DoD beneficiaries, their families, the public, and from veteran and military service organizations.  Testimony to the Task Force during the open meeting should be in the form of a statement rather than a briefing or presentation, and should be no longer than 10 minutes.  However, written statements of any length may be submitted to the Task Force at www.ha.osd.mil/DHB/mhtf/submission.cfm.  Beneficiaries who may not wish to speak publicly or who are unable to attend the meeting may submit their statements at this link.  For more info refer to www.ha.osd.mil/dhb/mhtf/meeting/2006-12.cfm. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 8 Dec 06]

 

 

NATIONAL GUARD BIRTHDAY:  Known originally as the militia, the National Guard on 13 DEC  turns 370 years of age. It all started in 1636 when the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which functioned as the colony's legislature, ordered existing militia companies from the towns surrounding Boston to form into three regiments: North, South and East. While other English colonies, such as  Virginia and Spanish colonies like Florida and Puerto Rico, had individual towns with militia companies before 1636, Massachusetts was the first place in the New World where the population was large enough to justify organizing companies into regiments for command and control. Although their names have been changed and individual companies have come and gone, the three regiments still exist in the Massachusetts Guard. In retrospect, a string of 20-year career enlistments divides the Guard's life span into more than 18 generations. The differences between generation one and 18 are countless. Yet, even as the National Guard has transformed many times, it remains in line with its first role as the citizens' Army. In addition, the Air Guard has served as the citizens' Air Force for the last three generations. Now, a force of more than 450,000 men and women serve voluntarily and can be deployed anywhere in the world [Source: NGAUS Notes 8 Dec 06]

 

 

LIBEL PROTECTION WEAKENED:  The California Supreme Court has ruled that Internet users who republish false and defamatory statements that were written by others are not liable for their content. The case arose after Ilena Rosenthal falsely stated to a newsgroup that a police report had said that a Canadian physician, had stalked several women. Rosenthal was informed that the statement was false and that the police had found no evidence of wrongdoing. She refused to retract the message and has continued to this day to falsely suggest that the doctor had actually stalked someone. The original libel was created by Tim Bolen, a professional character assassin who was hired to attack critics of Hulda Clark, an unlicensed naturopath who claims that herbs and a low-voltage electrical device can cure cancer and other serious ailments. When a libel suit was filed against Bolen and Clark, Rosenthal was included as a defendant. However, her attorney asserted that the Internet Decency Act protected her. This law was passed to protect operators of bulletin boards and other interactive sites from the impossible task of monitoring and regulating everything posted to their sites.

 

    The trial judge dismissed Rosenthal from the case. The 1st District Court of Appeal put her back in, ruling that Internet discussion group operators who ignore notices that something is defamatory can be liable as a "distributor," in the same way a bookseller who knowingly sells a defamatory book would be. The Supreme Court acknowledged that "blanket immunity for those who intentionally redistribute defamatory statements on the Internet has disturbing implications," but it ruled that the "plain language" of the law exempted Internet intermediaries from defamation liability for republication. In other words, the court ruled that until Congress chooses to revise the law in this area, plaintiffs who contend they were defamed in an Internet posting may seek recovery only from the original source of the statement. Refer to  www.casewatch.org/civil/rosenthal/supreme_court.pdf on this ruling. The suit against Clark and Bolen has been on hold but will resume when the Rosenthal appeal is final. Quackwatch has comprehensive information about the libel campaign at  www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/bolen.html and Clark's activities at www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/clark.html.  [Source: Consumer Health Digest 4 Dec 04 ++]

 

 

MONEY RECOGNITION BY BLIND:  A federal judge said 28 NOV in a ruling that could change the face of American currency that the government discriminates against blind people by printing money that all looks and feels the same.   U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn't tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it. The American Council of the Blind has proposed several options; including printing bills of differing sizes, adding embossed dots or foil to the paper or using raised ink. "Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations," Robertson wrote. "More than 100 of the other issuers vary their bills in size according to denomination, and every other issuer includes at least some features that help the visually impaired."

 

     Government attorneys argued that forcing the Treasury Department to change the size of the bills or add texture would make it harder to prevent counterfeiting. Robertson was not swayed. "The fact that each of these features is currently used in other currencies suggests that, at least on the face of things, such accommodations are reasonable," he wrote. He said the government was violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government programs. The opinion came after a four-year legal fight.  Electronic devices are available to help blind people differentiate between bills, but many complain that they are slow, expensive and unreliable. Visually impaired shoppers frequently rely on store clerks to help them. "It's just frankly unfair that blind people should have to rely on the good faith of people they have never met in knowing whether they've been given the correct change," said Jeffrey A. Lovitky, attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Others have developed ways to cope with the similarly shaped bills. Melanie Brunson, a member of the American Council of the Blind, told the court that she folds her bills into different shapes: $1 bills stay straight, $5 bills are folded in half left to right, $10 bills in half top to bottom and $20 in quarters.  The Treasury Department had no comment on the ruling. The government has 10 days to decide whether to appeal.

 

     U.S. bills have not always been the same size. In 1929, the government standardized the size and shrank all bills by about 30% to lower manufacturing costs and help distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes. Since then, the Treasury Department has worked to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Security threads and microprinting were introduced, the portraits were enlarged in 1996, and an infrared feature was added to encourage the development of electronic readers for the blind. The latest redesign is under way. New $10 bills, featuring splashes of orange, yellow and red, hit the market this year, following similar changes to the $20 bill in 2003 and the $50 bill in 2004. The $5 facelift is due in 2008.

 

     In court documents, government attorneys said changing the way money feels would be expensive. Cost estimates ranged from $75 million in equipment upgrades and $9 million annual expenses for punching holes in bills to $178 million in one-time charges and $50 million annual expenses for printing bills of varying sizes. Any change to the dollar's design could ripple into the vending machine industry, which participated in discussions regarding previous redesigns. The American Council of the Blind is not seeking changes to the $1 bill, according to court documents. The Treasury Department spent $4.2 billion on printing over the past decade, Robertson said. Adding a raised number to the bills would have increased costs less than 5% over that period, he said. "If additional savings could be gained by incorporating the new feature into a larger redesign, such as those that took place in 1996 or 2004, the total burden of adding such a feature would be even smaller” Robertson wrote.  [Source: AP Matt Apuzzo article 28 Nov 06]

 

 

VA MY HEALTH eVET UPDATE 01:  The VA continues to improve their My Health eVet web site ww.myhealth.va.gov.  My Health eVet gives veterans easy access to their health information while protecting their privacy.  A feature on the site allows veterans to record their personal information and medical data - including emergency contacts, health care providers and insurance, prescriptions, tests and allergies - in a private, secure Internet environment.  The web site’s new features significantly expand the information veterans can record and share with medical professionals, family members and others of their choice.  Also included is a “Learn About” tab, which leads veterans to a variety of topics in health education. My Health eVet establishes a veteran-clinician partnership that should result in better-informed decision making and move veterans toward more proactive management of their health care. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for veterans to take good care of themselves. 

 

     Beginning 2007, the site will release features and functions for veterans to view online copies of their VA health records. More and more sections of the VA health record will be made available as electronic copies over the next year. These parts of your VA health information will be added to your the Personal Health Record, along with whatever information you enter yourself. The system is being prepared to gather your health information from all VA Medical Centers for inclusion in your electronic Personal Health Record for access whenever and wherever you have web access.

 

     Presently veterans nationwide are able to complete a process called “In-Person Authentication” online, and then be able to view additional prescription information and order refills. For security and privacy of your health records veterans will only be able to access their Personal Health Record after they have completed In-Person Authentication in person.  Veterans must go to the VA, present a valid form of identification, view an instructional video, and sign an agreement. Once an authorized VA employee has verified the identity of the veteran, My HealtheVet will allow this new access to their Personal Health Record.  More parts of the Personal Health Record will become available over time. When My HealtheVet launches delegation functionality later in 2007 you will also be able to choose who else will be able to view or manage your Personal Health Record.   [Source: e-Veterans News 8 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

VET CEMETERY XMAS WREATHS:   On 14 DEC Christmas wreaths were placed on nearly 8,000 graves of veterans in ceremonies at cemeteries around the country. About 5,000 wreaths were placed at Arlington National Cemetery VA and another 1,500 at Togus National Cemetery in Maine, home state of the wreath company sponsoring the event. In its 15th year of operation, the Arlington Wreath Project has expanded to the 230 other state and national veterans’ cemeteries across the country, becoming Wreaths Across America.  This year at Arlington, the wreaths were laid in Section 3 and Section 11.  The superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery chooses a different area for the wreaths to be laid each year. The two sections chosen this year are in older areas, which receive fewer and fewer visitors each year. The idea is that eventually every grave will have had a wreath on it at some point.  Some 60,000 wreaths have been laid since the project began in 1992. A list of the 208 cemeteries where arrangements were made for wreath-laying ceremonies is on the project’s Web site www.wreathsacrossamerica.com.

 

   Culmination of wreath placement at all cemeteries occurred at noon Eastern Time on 14 DEC, the same time wreaths were being laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. Wreaths are laid only on graves marked with the Christian cross, or those that are non-denominational. Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington ME donates the wreaths made with simple, lush evergreens featuring a large, red, hand-tied bow, a stark contrast against the bleached white headstones.  The Maine wing of the Civil Air Patrol has participated in the event over the last several years, and Worcester Wreath enlisted the group’s help in expanding its reach to other veterans’ cemeteries around the country. Veterans’ groups also helped. The project began in 1992, when Morrill Worcester, president of the wreath company, had too many wreaths left as the holiday season was ending. Remembering his trip to Washington as a 12-year-old, when Arlington Cemetery left an indelible impression on him, he decided to do something special with the wreaths. With the help of Sen. Olympia Snow (R-ME) he made arrangements to have the wreaths placed in one of the older sections of Arlington. For the annual ceremony the organization encourages members of the local communities to attend the ceremonies. If that is not possible, they ask for a moment of silence at noon.  [Source:  NavyTimes Karen Jowers article 5 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

STOLEN VALOR ACT:  The House of Representatives passed a Senate-approved bill 6 DEC that would make it a felony to claim unearned military decorations. The bill would close a loophole in current law that allows phony recipients to escape prosecution as long as they do not physically wear the awards they claim. If signed into law by the president, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 would impose up to six months imprisonment and a maximum $5,000 fine for any false verbal, written or physical claim to an

award or decoration authorized for military members.  Penalties would be doubled for fraudulent claims to decorations specifically awarded for combat valor, such as the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Medal of Honor. During floor debate on the Senate bill, which was passed unanimously on 7 SEP, House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) referenced recent cases in Illinois and Missouri of men who have never served a day in uniform each claiming to be Marine officers and recipients of the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

 

     Rep. John Salazar (D-CO) who introduced H.R. 3352, the House version of the legislation in the summer of 2005, said the bill re-introduces a precedent set by George Washington in 1782. When he established the Badge of Military Merit, the nation’s only military award at the time, Washington wrote, (… should anyone who is not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished”.  The House’s approval of the Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) on 10 NOV 05, was the result of a last-minute bi-partisan effort to put the legislation to a vote before the end of the current session. Salazar agreed on 3 DEC to set aside his own bill, which has been hung up in the judiciary committee since he introduced it, in order to support Conrad’s nearly identical legislation on the Senate side. Salazar spokesman Tate Rosenbusch said, “We don’t care if our name is on it. We don’t care if we are 30th on the list of co-sponsors. We just want something done”.  [Source: NavyTimes John Hoellwarth article 6 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

MEDICARE PART D UPDATE 13:  Medicare officials are touting the success of their new drug benefit by pointing to defections from the VA’s drug program. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told reporters recently that about a third of those who are on the Veterans Affairs Department (DVA) plan chose to enroll in a Part D plan. In a recent letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said as many as 40% of Medicare-eligible veterans enrolled in the VA drug plan have opted for a Medicare plan.  However, the DVA says there have been no signs, large or small, of folks leaving. Mike Valentino, the VA’s pharmacy director said he has seen some of those comments about a million veterans leaving VA for Part D but his data does not support that. He said about 4.3 million got medicines through the VA this year, up from 4.1 million in 2005 and 3.8 million in 2006.  It is possible both government departments are correct in their assessment, but that would mean that nearly 2 million veterans are enrolled in both programs. Jeff Nelligan, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency believes nearly 1.8 million veterans with prior VA coverage have enrolled in private plans offered through Medicare or get medicine from a plan administered by a former employer. Those employers get a tax break for providing drug coverage, and the workers are counted in the program’s overall enrollment. About half of the veterans in Medicare plans were automatically enrolled because their incomes made them eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

 

    The VA serves veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as those with low incomes.

For some veterans, medicine is free. For others, the only cost is an $8 co-pay per prescription. They pay no monthly premium or other costs. The government subsidizes health care for Medicare beneficiaries to a lesser degree. Under the standard Medicare plan, beneficiaries pay the first $250 in drug costs, then the government pays for 75% of a beneficiary’s medicine until total drug costs reach $2,250. At that point, beneficiaries pay for all of their medicine until out-of-pocket costs reach $3,600. After a beneficiary reaches $5,100 in covered expenses during the year, Medicare will pay for 95% of the remaining covered costs for the rest of that year.  The poor get extra help. The very poor make only nominal co-payments of up to $2 for a generic medicine and $5 for a brand-name drug. The trade association representing drug manufacturers has adopted a similar strategy as the HHS Department when it comes to touting Medicare’s program.

 

     With Democrats focusing on letting the government negotiate drug prices, people are taking note of

the advantages and disadvantages of the VA’s drug coverage. Under the VA’s program, drug makers negotiate with the government on the price of medicine. If they don’t, the manufacturers can’t participate in programs such as Medicaid. The Democrats’ fight for government negotiations on drug prices is focused on the lower prices the VA pays for its medicine when compared with what private insurers pay. But there are other important aspects of the VA’s health care program that often go unmentioned in the calls for government negotiations. For example, Veterans who get VA health care don’t see the family doctor when they get sick or undergo an exam. Nor do they drive down to the local drugstore when they need medicine. The veterans with VA coverage see the doctors who work at the VA’s clinics and hospitals. A treatment plan is developed for them. If that plan includes medication, those drugs must be picked up at a VA pharmacy or through home delivery.

 

     There are also differences in the list of drugs the VA covers compared with the list of drugs a typical Medicare plan covers.  The VA’s formulary is said to be among the most restrictive in the marketplace. In Medicare, slightly more than half of enrollees are in plans that cover 1,000 to 1,500 medications. Another 35% are in plans that cover more than 1,500 drugs.  According to Valentino the VA plan covers about 1,300 drugs.  However, he calls the number of drugs on a formulary almost irrelevant. He said if a plan covers the top 200 selling drugs, then it is basically covering everyone’s needs. When asked if the VA covers the top drugs used by seniors, Valentino said he was confident that it does. They are either on VA’s formulary or they have an equally safe and effective drug in that class on their formulary.  [Source: NavyTimes.com AP article 5 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENT RATES UPDATE 04:  As things stand, unless Congress takes action before then end of the 109th session, users of Medicare and Tricare will found it much more difficult in 2007 to find a physician that will treat them.  Effective 1 JAN 07 the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula will cut payments to physicians and health care professionals by 5.1% which will cause many providers to drop their participation in the program.  Following is an extract from Congressman Bart Stupa’s (D-MI-01) letter to one of his constituents on the subject that elaborates on Congress’ failure to enact a permanent fix to the problem:

December 4, 2006

Mrs Joann Muchow

xxx East Tawas, Michigan 48730

 

Dear Mrs Muchow:

     Thank you for contacting me about physician reimbursement under Medicare.  I appreciate hearing from you. Congress passed a budget reconciliation bill in February 2006 that canceled a scheduled reduction in the Medicare physician reimbursement rate.   As you know, without this adjustment, physician payments would have been cut by 4.4% in 2006.  Those cuts would have meant payment reductions of $109 million in Michigan alone. The formula was created as a way to control Medicare cost growth.  However, the system is punishing physicians for providing quality medical care.  Under the formula, as physician costs rise, payment rates drop.  The challenge before Congress is to create a permanent fix to the formula.  The cost estimates to permanently replace the current formula range from $90 billion to $126 billion over 10 years.  While the cost is high, the cost of doing nothing is higher.  The way the formula is written now, every yearly adjustment Congress enacts leads to larger cuts to reimbursement in the future.

 

     I have consistently supported short-term updates and long-term efforts to reform the physician payment.  I voted for an amendment in the House Energy and Commerce Committee offered by Congressman John Dingell in October 2005 to add a short-term fix to the reconciliation bill.  The amendment would have provided a 2.7% update in 2006 and a similar update in 2007.  The amendment would have also protected beneficiaries from having their premiums increase as a result of the payment increase.  Unfortunately, the amendment failed on a near party-line vote. I voted against reporting the reconciliation bill out of committee because it failed to address the physician payment formula and because it also cut Medicaid by $10 billion and Michigan Medicaid by an average of $280 million per year. While the reconciliation bill that ultimately was signed into law included a short-term fix to the physician payment, it also included the $10 billion cuts to Medicaid.   I cannot in good conscious vote to cut Medicaid for Michigan’s children, seniors, and persons with disabilities; and I therefore opposed final passage of the bill. Rest assured, I will continue to fight for short-term and long-term solutions to this problem to ensure you are able to continue to provide quality health care to Michigan’s 1.4 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Sincerely,

BAKRT STUPA

Member of Congress

[Source: Joann Muchow msg 4 Dec 04 ++]

 

 

MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENT RATES UPDATE 05:  One of the last acts of the 109th Congress was an attempt to enact Rep. William Thomas’ [CA-22] Tax Relief and Health Care Act of  2006 (H.R. 6408) to stave off the 5.1% cut in Medicare and Tricare payments to doctors scheduled for January 2007.  On 7 DEC House and Senate negotiators agreed on a package of actions that will freeze payments at the 2006 level - which is really the 2005 level, since Congress took a similar action at the end of last year. A vote was scheduled for 8 DEC. One new difference is that doctors who agree to report their compliance with a specific set of quality standards would receive a 1.5% payment increase in 2007. This is a big deal for Tricare beneficiaries as well as Medicare-eligibles, since Tricare payment rates are tied to Medicare's.  Concern has been that cutting payments to doctors can only deter more of them from accepting Medicare and Tricare patients. Under the new agreement, they'll at least have some opportunity to see a modest increase.  The new legislation also will extend for one more year a waiver of the $1,740 annual cap on Medicare payments for outpatient speech and physical therapy that was scheduled for implementation in January.  Under the waiver, the cap won't apply to therapy that's considered medically necessary (as almost all therapy is).

 

    A change in the law that sets such unrealistically low Medicare and Tricare payments is required for a long term fix.  The current statutory formula will require cuts of more than 30% over the next seven years, which everyone in government acknowledges is inappropriate.  The problem is that Congress so far hasn't been willing to put up the money required for a longer-term fix.  For the last several years, they've found it easier simply to wait for each end-of-year funding crisis and then find a way at the very last minute to kick the can on the cuts for one more year.  Not a very good way to run the Medicare and Tricare programs that 80 million people depend on to cover their health care needs.  [Source: MOAA Update 12 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

PHILIPPINE DEERS REGISTRATION:  Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) is now operational in the Philippines.  ID cards and DEERS registration can now be obtained at the U.S. Embassy Manila. Their office is located between the VA office and SSA window 3.  No walkins. They will only do appointments.  To obtain one call 528-6300 Ext. 6327.  The process of obtaining a new ID Card also registers the applicant in DEERS.  This is necessary to receive medical care coverage under Tricare.  New or replacement cards and updated DEERS registration is necessary to retain Tricare coverage whenever:

1. Retiree or dependent reaches age 65.

2. Child turns age 21

3. Applicant becomes a widow(er)

4. Every 4 years for spouse.

5. Marriage or divorce.

6. Birth or adoption of a child

7. Retirement

.  [Source: Various ++]

 

 

PTSD UPDATE 09:  The Army has agreed to fund research to see if a drug used to treat high blood pressure might be able to lessen the emotional impact of memories associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.  CBS 60 Minutes first reported 26 NOV that the Army was looking at whether the drug Propranolol could be used to treat PTSD. Psychologist Dr. Scott P. Orr, who works at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Manchester N.H. said, researchers hope to recruit several dozen veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from the greater Boston area for the study who will help conduct the research. The study will look at whether Propranolol can reduce veterans’ emotional responses to certain memories by cutting down on the accompanying surge of adrenaline. In initial tests people given the drug were observed to have reduced physiological responses such as heart rates to certain memories said Orr who is also part of the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Orr stressed that the drug would not erase veterans’ memories. It isn’t that the memory’s being changed - the memory is still there. It’s that the emotional response that is attached to the memory is being reduced.

 

    In an e-mail to Stars and Stripes Dr. Judith Broder, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist who is the founder of a nonprofit organization that provides free mental health services to veterans said she has some reservations and is worried about several things: 

-  She believes our soldiers often feel dehumanized by their time in the service. To then treat them with a drug that potentially numbs them may further alienate them.

-  She fears that the VA under funded and facing an increasing number of veterans returning with PTSD might resort to cost-effective solutions such as giving veterans with PTSD a pill rather than the therapy they need.

-  She is concerned about the issue of concern of informed consent.  Soldiers are used to following orders. These soldiers are now suffering from a disorder and of course want relief from their suffering. Is it really possible to give informed consent to an experimental procedure under these conditions?”

 

     Orr said in response that, “The research is not intended to see if Propranolol can produce emotional numbing. If anything what it does is reduces the intensity of the emotion such that the emotional reaction may become more manageable for the person. It is not a replacement for psychotherapy. Rather it becomes an adjunct; it becomes a useful tool for psychotherapy. As for the issue of informed consent researchers generally bend over backwards to give people participating in research all the information they need on the potential risks and benefits they would face.” The upcoming research will be headed by one of his colleagues Dr. Roger Pittman at Harvard University. The Army and Pittman are still negotiating how much his grant will be and how the study will unfold said Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick MD. Pittman could be awarded up to $625,000 a year for four years to conduct the research. [Source: Stars & Stripes Jeff Schogol article 3 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

DFAS 1099-R FOR 2006:  Your electronic 1099R for 2006 is or will be available on myPay at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx?flps=99R~APS.   The projected distribution dates for DFAS customers' tax statements are:

-- Retiree Annual Statement: Available on myPay Dec. 9, mailed via U.S. Postal Service Dec. 16-31;

-- Retiree 1099R: Available on myPay Dec. 15, mailed Dec. 16-31;

-- Annuitant Account Statement: Available on myPay Dec. 18, mailed Dec. 19-31;

-- Annuitant 1099R: Available on myPay Dec. 18, mailed Dec. 19-31;

-- VSI/SSB W-2: Not available on myPay, mailed Jan. 4-5;

-- Active Duty Air Force, Army, Navy W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 22, mailed Jan. 23-29;

-- Reserve Air Force, Army, Navy W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 2, mailed Jan. 5-8;

-- Marine Corps active and reserve W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 5, mailed Jan. 9-10;

-- Civilian employee W-2: Available on myPay Jan. 9, mailed Jan. 11-18;

-- Savings Deposit Program 1099INT: Available on myPay Jan. 19, mailed Jan. 19-20; and

-- Vendor Pay 1099: Not available on myPay, mailed Jan. 27-31.

 

     The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) implemented the myPay web-based system in March 2000.  myPay delivers pay information and lets you process pay-related transactions timely, safely and securely. The Web-based system reduces the risks of identity theft associated with postal delivery by allowing members to access electronic 1099R, RAS and other financial information. Those individuals who have in the past received a myPay personal identification number and accessed myPay will not receive printed documents unless they notified DFAS by 31 OCT that they wanted printed versions. myPay matches industry standards for the highest level of encryption and security to protect myPay users.  If you do not have a PIN for accessing myPay, you can obtain one via email by clicking on the New PIN button on the myPay website at the web address shown above.  A temporary PIN will be emailed to your official email address. Users with military e-mail addresses in the .mil domain or a pre-registered personal e-mail address can receive their new PIN via e-mail. All others will receive their new PIN via mail in about 10 working days from the date of request.  Customers who already had obtained a PIN but have forgotten it can apply for a new one at the myPay site. If you have any questions concerning myPay, call the DFAS contact center at 1(888) 332-7411. If you have any questions regarding the information on your 1099R, call 1(800)321-1080.  [Source: DFAS msg 3 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

E-MAIL PETITIONS:  Has anyone ever forwarded you an e-mail that has a petition attached to it? Well, these are called e-petitions and they usually deal with something that may be going wrong in the world. For instance, a few of the more recent ones have been for lowering gas prices and for our troops. So, when you get them, you probably feel compelled to sign your name to it and send it along to all your friends. That's all good, but do they really help at all? The truthful answer is no. The e-petitions really make no difference in the end. Often times, the petitions have no information about who will collect the signatures after the petition ends. Without that, no action will take place and basically, nothing will change. Even if the petition does have a designated recipient, most of the time, the e-mail doesn't make it back to them. Also, who even knows if that person is able to influence the matters at all? E-petitions also come with no assurance that the cause they're talking about is real. It's easy enough for one person to type out a bunch of names and send it off. Yes, petitions are a good way to relieve some anger about certain situations, but you really just can't trust that the petition will do what it says. If signing an e-petition and forwarding it to others makes you feel better about some things, then do so, but otherwise, just delete them. They're not really worth your time! www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/p/petitions.htm.  [Source: Tips n' Topics 2 Dec 06]

 

 

NATIONAL GUARD MEMORIAL MUSEUM:  The National Guard Memorial Museum’s mission is to educate the public about the history and legacy of the National Guard. It takes visitors through 5,600 square feet of images, artifacts and interactive exhibits to tell the story of ordinary men and women who made extraordinary contributions to their communities and their country. Six core exhibit areas immerse visitors in the Guard of yesterday and today. From colonial times, through the World Wars, to the modern era - timelines, photographs, artifacts, light and sound, place visitors in the context of the day while enabling them to interact with exhibits. The museum covers the early Militia Era, the National Guard coming of age, World War II, the Cold War and the Modern Era.  The museum’s official dedication ceremony was 6 DEC during NGAUS Industry Day. The National Guard Memorial Museum is the only national museum dedicated to the National Guard.  Admission is free. It is located  on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (corner of Massachusetts and North Capitol Streets) and is within a short walking distance from Union Station, the U.S. Capitol building and the Smithsonian. It is open 10-1600 M-F excluding holidays.  For more information refer to www.ngef.org or call the National Guard Education foundation at (888) 226-4287 or (202) 408-5887. [Source: NGAUS Legislative Update 1 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

110TH CONGRESS SCHEDULE:  The House and Senate members cast the last votes of the 109th Congress and the Republicans’ congressional majority prior to their adjournment 9 DEC 06.  Neither the House nor the Senate had the appetite to finish outstanding appropriations measures this year, and both chambers have agreed to punt them to the new Democratic majority next year. A tentative 2007 Senate schedule for the 110th Congress, 1st Session is as follow:

 

-  January 4: Senate Reconvenes; Senators sworn in

-  January 5: Senate not in session

-  January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

-  February 19-23: Senate not in session

-  February 19: President’s Day

-  April 2-9: Senate not in session

-  April 8: Easter

-  May 28-June 1: Senate not in session

-  May 28: Memorial Day (observed)

-  July 2-July 6: Senate not in session

-  July 4: Independence Day

-  August 6 to September 4: Senate not in session 

-  August Recess

-  September 3: Labor Day

-  September 4: Senate Reconvenes

[Source: NGAUS Legislative Update 1 Dec 06]

 

 

WRAMC DONATIONS:  Officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are seeking donations for wounded troops who are forced to leave behind personal belongings when medically evacuated from war zones. Many of the troops "arrive with nothing," said officials from the hospital's Family Assistance Center. Because of the speed with which the most serious wounded are evacuated from Iraq or Afghanistan, their belongings are often left behind and don't catch up. So the center is looking for everything from shoes, gloves and winter jackets to postage stamps, prepaid phone cards and razors. Among some of the more specialized needs are weightlifting gloves (for use by wheelchair patients); breakaway trousers with snaps or zips along the legs; umbrellas; and prepaid gas or grocery cards.  The following items are wish list items that are specifically needed by patients and their families at WRAMC. This is not a charity so please no used items, and please do not send any monetary donations to the hospital’s Family Assistance Center:

 

Pre-packaged candy, cookies, and crackers (No Homemade)

Electric Razors

Squishy Pillows

Stamps, Stationery and Envelopes

Carry-on Luggage (Any size, Preferably Solid Black and on Wheels)

DVD's (use your discretion, action to comedy)

Shoes/Winter Boots - Children of Soldiers (Male/Female), Sizes 5-12

Coats - Children of Soldiers (Male/Female), Sizes 5-16

Portable DVD Players

IPODS

Business Card Organizers

Adult Raincoats for (Female Soldiers)

Phone Cards

Breakaway Pants (Snaps along the legs)

Flannel PJ's (Male and Female Sizes 5, M, and L)

Hats, Gloves and Scarves for (Soldiers' Children/ Sizes 5-16)

Hats, Gloves and Scarves for (Soldiers, Adult Male/Female)

Winter Boots for Female Soldiers (Sizes 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5 & 10)

All Black Back-Packs with either a single strap for amputees or regular double-

straps)

Zippered Hooded Sweatshirt Jackets (M, L, X-Large)

Winter Coats for Female Soldiers   (M, L, X-Large, XX-Large)

Prepaid Gift Cards

 

Donations can be sent to:  Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Medical Family Assistance Center, Bldg. 2, 3rd Floor, Room 3E01, 6900 Georgia Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 2001. Items may be mailed or dropped off M-F 07-1900 & Sa-Su 07-1600. The center also helps patients file claims for personal belongings that were left behind during a medical evacuation. Loss or damage to items can be reimbursed through the system. Monetary donations are accepted by the following organizations:

-  The Walter Reed Society, Post Office Box 59611, Walter Reed Station, Washington, DC 20012-6607

-  WRAMC Chaplains' Fund , Operation helping Hand,  Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care,  Room 3C07,  Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307.

-  WRAMC Fisher House at Walter Reed AMC ATTN: Vivian Wilson, Building 56, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307

 

Information on the donation programs and the medical center can be found at: http://wramc.army.mil/Soldiers/MedFac1/index2.htm.  [Source: Stars and Stripes Mideast edition 1 DEC 06 ++]

 

 

WRAMC DONATIONS UPDATE 01:  Officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) have stopped accepting anonymous holiday gifts and cards for wounded patients there, citing administrative costs and security concerns. All packages and cards delivered to “any wounded soldier” at the medical campus will be returned to their senders with a note explaining the program change and suggesting other charities. The change was enacted in the past week. Packages sent to specific patients won’t be affected. Officials have expressed appreciation for the donations, but state staff simply cannot handle the distribution and monitoring of the packages. Last December, the hospital received more than 500,000 holiday packages and cards. Officials believe donors will understand the security and logistical reasons behind the decision, and hope it will not affect their generosity. Program administrators are speaking with local charities about receiving some holiday donations for the wounded patients, but no decisions have been made. The center’s medical family assistance center will still distribute some donations both with patients in Washington and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Meanwhile, officials have offered the following list of websites of other charities where donors can send their gifts:

**  America Supports You charities: http://www.americasupportsyou.mil/

**  The USO: www.usocares.org/src/uso_donate.htm

**  To Our Soldiers: www4.army.mil/ocpa/tooursoldiers

**  The Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/

 

     Monetary donations sent to the following are still being accepted:

-  The Walter Reed Society, Post Office Box 59611, Walter Reed Station, Washington, DC 20012-6607

-  WRAMC Chaplains' Fund , Operation helping Hand,  Department of Ministry and Pastoral Care,  Room 3C07,  Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307.

-  WRAMC Fisher House at Walter Reed AMC ATTN: Vivian Wilson, Building 56, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307

[Source: NMFA E-News 12 Dec 06 ++]

 

 

AIR FORCE NEWS DELIVERY:  Ongoing reductions in the number of active duty Air Force personnel means changes in the way people get Air Force news.  Public affairs staff members who produce newspapers at most Air Force installations are now shifting their focus for news delivery to the World Wide Web. Printed newspapers will still be published at most bases, but responsibility will move to civilian publishers.  Public Affairs staffers and other news producers will instantly post stories, photographs and artwork to their unit’s public Website rather than waiting for a weekly publication to hit the streets.  The new policy will be put into place over the next month. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 22 Nov 06]

 

 

VET BENEFITS FLORIDA UPDATE 02:   Florida voters on 7 NOV agreed to Constitutional Amendment 7.  This is an additive veteran’s benefit which gives the states over 20,000 combat-wounded veterans over age 65 a discount on their property tax that's equal to the percentage of their service-connected disability. For example, a veteran with a 50% disability would receive a 50% discount.  Prerequisites are the veteran must have been a Florida resident at the time of entry into service and who received an honorable discharge.  The new discount will cost the state about $20.1 million annually.   Amendment 7 does not remove any of the state’s existing vet tax benefits which are:

-  Exemption from all homestead taxes for vets rated 100% service connected permanent and total disability.

-  Exemption of $5000 homestead property tax for vets of all ages with a VA certified service connected disability of 10% or greater.

 

     The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) has expanded its services to the state’s 1.8 million veterans exponentially during the past eight years. Strong support from Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature, the Florida Congressional Delegation, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has helped build a solid reputation for Florida as one of the most veteran-friendly states in the Nation.  Since 1999, FDVA has tripled the number of state veterans’ homes in Florida from two to six. The state’s Veterans’ Domiciliary Home in Lake City is scheduled to complete a two-part major renovation next year that will significantly upgrade the 17-year-old facility.  In addition, the 2006 Florida Legislature funded the state’s share for a seventh state veterans’ home near St. Augustine. A federal grant request has been submitted to the VA for the remainder of the funding. The department forecasts construction to begin in 2007. This home will provide skilled nursing and dementia care for eligible veterans in the area.  FDVA has supported legislation to bring additional benefits to Florida veterans including certain property tax and fee waivers, education benefits for select veterans and family members, the Florida World War II and Korean War Veterans’ Memorials, and much more.  [Source: eFlorida News 17 Nov 06 ++]

 

 

GI BILL INEQUITIES UPDATE 01:  The Partnership for Veterans Education which is a consortium of military and veterans' service organizations and the higher education organizations is pushing the 110th Congress to create a "total force" Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB).  Active duty MGIB benefits have increased 65% since the late 90s, but reserve benefits have not kept pace.  And unlike active duty members, Guard/Reserve personnel can't use their MGIB after leaving service – even though frequent mobilizations prevent many from using their earned benefits while serving.   MOAA President VADM Norb Ryan, Jr., USN (Ret) testified before congress for the Partnership in late SEP 08.  He told Congress a total force approach is needed to help recruiting, and should match benefits to service performed plus allow all veterans equal access to earned benefits.  The Partnership proposal would:

-  Combine active duty and reserve programs under the same law, to ensure they are adjusted in tandem.

-  Scale benefits to the length and type of duty performed.

-  Restore Reserve benefits to about half the active duty level (since first enacted the Reserve benefit has dropped to only 29% of the active duty level).

-  Authorize Guard and Reserve members the same 10 years of post-service eligibility available to active duty separates.

 

MOAA also believes that Congress should consider a one-time MGIB enrollment opportunity for all members who weren't eligible for or initially declined enrollment.  Officers commissioned through service academies or ROTC scholarships should be eligible in return for an extension of their service commitments. The Partnership will work with sponsors to introduce bipartisan bills early next year.  For additional information on the "total force MGIB" refer to:  www.moaa.org/lac/lac_factsheets/lac_factsheets_ad_gr/lac_issues_guard_reserve_tfmgib.htm   [Source: MOAA Update 12 DEC 06 ++]

 

 

VA CLAIM DOCTOR LETTER:  Contrary to popular belief and consistent rumors to the contrary, physicians are allowed to assess or report their opinions about your disability. VA employees have been known to discourage their physicians from becoming involved in writing lengthy letters because it could put them behind schedule and may cause extra work for the employees that have to support the providers. VA physicians often do not have access to transcriptions and typing pools and dictation stations so if they are to provide you a letter it could deprive them of time needed to treat other patients. One way for them to do it with a minimum of fuss is if you do the letter yourself for them. You then ask your provider to review it with you and sign it if he/she concurs. Most providers are happy to sign a well written, truthful and to the point document. This is legal, it assists you in gaining benefits, and saves the VA some tight budget. A winner all around. A few of the basics to get a good document written are:

 

a.)  Produce a neatly typed, spell checked document that looks as professional as you can get it.

b.)  Don’t play with fancy fonts or scripts, no attempts at letterhead designs are necessary or desirable.

c.)  Brevity is best, keep it all short and sweet and direct. Stick with basic business style formats and it will be received a lot better.

d.)  You will be writing this from the perspective of the provider. This can get a bit tricky so pay close attention to your work and have a friend or family member proof it for you.

e.)  The opening does not have to be addressed to VA but should identify the date, subject, physicians address, and reference number (i.e. C-File # and/or SSN)  

f.)  The first paragraph or two are routine and serve to establish credentials and knowledge. The body contains some details and the end brings us to the provider’s conclusions.

 

The points you should remember are that:

1.)   You do not want to exaggerate your condition/s.  The doctor who affixes a signature to this will want it to be point-on to your condition and is not likely to sign it if you have over-inflated your problems. At the same time, do not leave out the smallest detail.

2.)   Your pain is very important and you should describe it in very certain terms. Is it aching, stabbing, deep, all the time or burning?  Does pain cause you to lose sleep? Are you angry or losing your temper because of the level of pain? How does pain affect your family or your ability to get along at work?

Not all physicians will welcome you providing them a letter. A lot depends on your relationship with your provider. They are human too, if you have been a good patient (i.e. on time for appointments, compliant with medications and treatments and friendly with the doc and the staff) you are much more likely to succeed here than if you are one of the complainers and fault finders. On reflection, if you cannot honestly say you are good patient, you may be working against yourself.  [Source: Veteran Advocate Carl Young msg 21 Nov 06 ++]

 

 

VA CLAIM DOCTOR LETTER UPDATE 01:  Below is guideline to write a letter for your physician to submit with your initial disability claim or a request to increase a current disability rating.  You have to modify the above to fit your personal situation but the outline as you see it is effective. Get it signed, make some copies and submit it as evidence to support your claim:

 

Date:      01/01/2007

Subject: Medical history of John or Jane Doe

Physician's Address

Reference: C-File # and/or SSN

 

To who it may concern:

I am the primary care provider for John Doe. In my capacity as a primary care provider at the Eastern Regional Central Western Veterans Administration Clinic, I have cared for Mr. Doe since 01/01/2001.

While I have provided care for Mr. Doe, I have become familiar with his medical history, past and present ailments and I have reviewed pertinent parts of his military record that document his injury, disease and clinical conditions related to the events that occurred.

 

I am aware that Mr. Doe was (injured, got ill, sustained harm) during his active duty military service on or about 01/01/1976. The results of this (injury, illness) have been long lasting and his condition has worsened as he has gotten older.

 

For the past (state a period of time your condition has worsened) Mr.  Doe has suffered (increasing pain, inability to walk, shortness of breath, name your symptoms here) and continues to undergo treatment by me and specialty clinic (ortho, neuro, podiatry) physicians.

 

Mr. Doe’s treatments and medications are as follows;

Name a treatment (Example; Physical Therapy, how often, etc.)

Name a medication (Side Effect)

Repeat until you have it all listed.

 

I have observed that Mr. Doe has challenges with functions of daily living and requires assistance in grooming and hygiene such as combing his hair or bathing. Mr. Doe is not able to prepare meals for himself although he is able to feed himself. He is unable to participate in housecleaning activities and requires someone to do his laundry and dishes and generally keep his environment clean for him. Mr. Doe is sometimes able to complete bladder and bowel activity unaided but there has been an increasing frequency of soiling accidents.

 

Mr. Doe has chronic pain due to his injury and requires (name medicine) which often has a side effect of dizziness and nausea. His pain level is often quite high with reports of 8 on a scale of ten.

 

Mr. Doe has hypertension that requires (name medicine) and this medicine can have the side effects of a slower heart rate or dizziness as well as frequent and urgent urination. Mr. Doe must always be near a restroom in case of an urgent need to use that facility.

 

Mr. Doe gets very fatigued because of the pain that is caused by any strenuous activity. Mr. Doe is unable to lift more than 5 pounds consistently and can not push or pull more than 10 pounds consistently.  Standing for long periods of time (more than 10 minutes) will make him become weak and dizzy. He is unable to reach overhead or to bend at the waist to retrieve fallen items. Either action will upset his equilibrium and may cause him to become dizzy and fall.

 

I have examined Mr. Doe’s chart and medical record and it is my opinion that there is a medical nexus between Mr. Doe’s active duty service connected injuries and his disability of today. It is also my opinion that Mr. Doe is totally and permanently disabled, can not hold gainful employment and is not a likely candidate to be rehabilitated.

Signature Block Date

Address of Clinic/Hospital

[Source: Veteran Advocate Carl Young msg 21 Nov 06 ++]

 

 

SPINAL DECOMPRESSION CLAIMS:  The Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners in a 17 NOV 06 press release  www.chirobase.org/06DD/vaxd/oregon_board.html is questioning advertising claims that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) found that treatment with a spinal decompression table is highly effective against back pain. About 1,000 spinal decompression machines are in use in the United States. They provide an expensive high-tech form of mechanical traction that can relieve some cases of back pain but are widely promoted with unsubstantiated claims that they can correct degenerated and herniated discs without surgery. However, there are good reasons to believe that manual treatment can usually accomplish the same thing more quickly, safely, and less expensively. Medicare and most private insurers consider spinal decompression treatment experimental and either do not cover it or consider it a simple form of traction for which they pay only a fraction of the usual fee. In DEC 05 the Anesthesia & Pain Coder's Pink Sheet published a devastating report about the marketing of four such devices www.ucg.com/images/APP0512_SpecialReport_001.pdf. The report noted that miscoding of claims is common and that many of the payments should not have been made.  [Source: Consumer Health Digest 28 Nov 06 ++]

 

 

SSA BENEFITS AT DEATH:  Social Security should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. In most cases, the funeral director will report the person’s death to Social Security. You will need to furnish the funeral director with the deceased’s Social Security number so he or she can make the report. Or, you can report the death to a service representative by calling SSA at 1(800) 772-1213, between 0700 & 1900 on business days. Whenever you call, have the deceased person's Social Security number handy. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the TTY number 1(800) 325-0778. Some of the deceased’s family members may be able to receive Social Security benefits if the deceased person worked long enough under Social Security to quality for benefits. You should get in touch with Social Security as soon as you can to make sure the family receives all of the benefits to which it may be entitled. At death:

1. A one-time payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased; or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record. If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death.

2. Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, including:

-  A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled);

-  A surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child under age 16 or disabled;

-  An unmarried child of the deceased who is: Younger than age 18 (or age 18 or 19 if he or she is a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22;

-  Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support; and

-  A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death or any later months. For example, if the person dies in July, you must return the benefit paid in August. If benefits were paid by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution. Request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to Social Security. If the benefits were paid by check, do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later. Return the checks to Social Security as soon as possible. However, eligible family members may be able to receive death benefits for the month in which the beneficiary died. If you are getting benefits on your own record, you can apply for survivor’s benefits. Call or visit SSA to find out whether you can get more money as a widow or widower. Upon receipt of the report of death SSA will take the following action:

-  If you are getting benefits on your spouse's record when he or she dies, SSA will change your payments to survivor’s benefits.

-  Current benefits for children will automatically change to survivors benefits after the death is reported.

For more information and to find copies of SSA publications, refer to www.socialsecurity.gov or call the above numbers. If overseas contact the nearest U.S. Embassy. SSA will answer specific questions and provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.  A Social Security representative can tell you what benefits may be payable and set up an appointment, if necessary, to file a claim. All calls are treated with confidentially. [Source: SSA Publication No. 05-10008 Sep 04]

 

 

MILITARY LEGISLATION STATUS UPDATE:  Following are bills of interest to the military community that were introduced but not passed in the 109th Congress.  At http://thomas.loc.gov you can determine the last status of each bill and if your legislator was a sponsor or cosponsor of the bill you are concerned with.  Legislation not passed will died with the end of the 109th Congress. Veterans concerned with legislation that was not passed need to encourage their representative to reintroduce the bills in the 110th Congress which will convene in JAN 07.  [Source: http://thomas.loc.gov & USDR Action Alerts 15-30 Nov 06 ++]

 

H.R.303:  The ‘Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005’ To amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs 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. 

 

 H.R.602:  The ‘Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act’ to restore health care coverage to retired members of the uniformed services and their eligible dependents. House version of  S.407.

 

H.R.808:  The ‘Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the offset from surviving spouse annuities under the military Survivor Benefit Plan for amounts paid by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC). 

 

H.R.916: The ‘Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2005’ To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to repeal the Medicare outpatient rehabilitation therapy caps.

 

H.R.968: To amend title 10, United States Code, to change the effective date for paid-up coverage under the military Survivor Benefit Plan from October 1, 2008, to October 1, 2005.

 

H.R.994:  To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 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.995: The ‘Combat Military Medically Retired Veteran's Fairness Act of 2005’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the payment of Combat-Related Special Compensation under that title to members of the Armed Forces retired for disability with less than 20 years of active military service who were awarded the Purple Heart.

 

H.R.1364:  The ‘Equal Justice for Our Military Act’ to amend title 28, United States Code, to enable the Supreme Court to review decisions in which the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces denied relief.

 

H.R.1366:  The ‘Combat-Related Special Compensation Act of 2005’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to expand eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation paid by the uniformed services in order to permit certain additional retired members who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for that disability and Combat-Related Special Compensation by reason of that disability. 

 

H.R.2076: The ‘Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005’ To amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation. 

 

H.R.2356:  The ‘Preserving Patient Access to Physicians Act of 2005’ to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to reform the Medicare physician payment update system through repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment update system.

 

H.R.2962: The ‘Atomic Veterans Relief Act’ to amend title 38, United States Code, 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.4259: The ‘Veterans right to Know Act’ to establish a Commission to investigate chemical or biological warfare tests or projects, especially such projects carried out between 1954 and 1973, placing particular emphasis on actions or conditions associated with such projects that could have contributed to health risks or been harmful to any United States civilian personnel or member of the United States Armed Forces who participated in such a project or who was otherwise potentially exposed to any biological or chemical agent, simulant, tracer, decontaminant, or herbicide as a result of such projects; and to submit a report to Congress of its findings and recommendations.

 

H.R.4949: The ‘Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to prohibit increases in fees for military health care.  Last major action was referral to the House Committee on Armed Services 14 MAR 06.

 

H.R.4992: The ‘Veterans Medicare Assistance Act of 2006’ to provide for Medicare reimbursement for health care services provided to Medicare-eligible veterans in facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

 

H.R.5881: The ‘Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to eliminate the offset between military retired pay and veterans service-connected disability compensation for certain retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability, and for other purposes.

 

H.R.6100: introduced the ‘Military Education Enhancement Opportunities Act of 2006’ to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for certain servicemembers to become eligible for educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill.

 

S.185:  The ‘Military Retiree Survivor Benefit Equity Act of 2005’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the requirement for the reduction of certain Survivor Benefit Plan annuities by the amount of dependency and indemnity compensation and to modify the effective date for paid-up coverage under the Survivor Benefit Plan.

 

S.407:  The ‘Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act’ to restore health care coverage to retired members of the uniformed services and their eligible dependents.

 

S.484: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 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. A related bill is H.R.994.

 

S.2147: The ‘Multiple Sclerosis’ bill to extend the 7 year time period 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.2617: The ‘Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to limit increases in the costs to retired members of the Armed Forces of health care services under the TRICARE program, and for other purposes. 

 

S.2658:  The ‘National Defense Enhancement and National Guard Empowerment Act of 2006’ to amend title 10, United States Code, to enhance the national defense through empowerment of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the enhancement of the functions of the National Guard Bureau, and for other purposes.

[Source: http://thomas.loc.gov Dec 15 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@mozcom.com. When in states raoemo@sbcglobal.net. 

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

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

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