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

Sent: Friday, July 14, 2006 3:56 AM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 15 July 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

15 July 2006

 

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== VA Data Privacy Breach [18] ------------- (CISO resigns)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [19] --------------(Lawsuits & Protection)

== Tricare Uniform Formulary [13] ---------- (More 3x moves)

== Health Care Broken Promise [02] --------- (Not a cure-all)

== Amerasians ----------------------------------- (Location assistance)

== Marriage Abroad ---------------------------- (Guidelines)

== VA Hiring Practices ------------------------  (Sex Offenders)

== Coronary Artery Disease ------------------- (Symptoms)

== USN Normandy Monument --------------- (Recognition oversight)

== VA Medical Centers [01] ------------------ (New Louisville Center)

== DFAS Profile 2006 ------------------------- (Stats & POC)

== California Veteran Homes ----------------- (New VA grant)

== Connecticut Veterans’ Home ------------- (New VA grant)

== TRDP Reserve Eligibility [01] ------------ (Prerequisites)

== VA CBOC Openings ----------------------- (25 new Clinics)

== TSP [04] --------------------------------- (Data security review)

== Special Operations Forces Retirement -- (Retirement pay increase)

== Communicating With Congress [01] ---- (Making it harder)

== PTSD Reevaluation [05] ------------------ (Study conclusions)

== College Financial Plan -------------------- (Future costs)

== Ozone Air Cleaners ------------------------ (ARB warning)

== DoD VA Record Transition [01] --------- (Not going well)

== Green Burial -------------------------------- (A better way)

== GI Bill Transferability --------------------- (In development)

== SSN Security ------------------------------- (What to do)

== National Vietnam Vet Art Museum ----- (Permanent home)

== Deployment Aid Library ------------------ (Information source)

== Phishing Alert IRS ------------------------- (99 Scams Identified)

== VA Survivors Website --------------------- (What it provides)

== Mobilized Reserve 6 July 06 -------------- (Net Increase 4978)

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

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I WILL BE SHIFTING TO THE PHILIPPINES 16 JULY.  THIS COULD CAUSE A FEW DAYS DELAY IN RESPONDING TO YOUR MESSAGES.

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 18:  The chief information security officer for the VA, who resigned 29 JUN and was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave for his final two weeks of employment, said that he had been prevented from fixing the department's information security weaknesses.  CISO Pedro Cadenas said that the department's recently crafted IT policy changes placed the responsibility for fixing years of neglect directly on his shoulders. However, in three years and seven months working to change the department's IT security policies and procedures, he was never given authority to implement any improvements.  He commented that the VA department has no interest in doing the right thing. If these agencies want to hire security people they need to let them do their job. Last month's data theft incident only exacerbated his frustration with being cut out of the decision-making process. He added that during his tenure at the department, he met VA Secretary James Nicholson only once, at a social event. After Cadenas introduced himself, Nicholson reportedly said that he heard that his job was important. House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) said he could not blame Cadenas for resigning.

 

     A 28 JUN directive from Nicholson gives additional powers to the VA's chief information officer, in addition to the authority granted in the department's IT reorganization. It delegates complete responsibility and complete authority, including that for establishing system access standards, ordering departmentwide compliance and reporting any failures to comply. Nicholson said that the department is really making some changes to the system of information security and the handling of information in response to last month's catastrophic data breach and it's not going to surprise him if there are other people that choose to resign because their lifestyle or habits of work are going to change.  Cadenas' hasty departure comes amid questions regarding VA's attempt to fire the employee responsible for the data breach last month that exposed sensitive personal information on 26.5 million veterans. Lawmakers on Thursday largely approved of the VA's efforts to resolve long-standing information security weaknesses, but questioned the wisdom and legal authority of the department to dismiss the 34-year GS-14 data analyst. They expressed concern that the employee is being unfairly blamed for the incident by VA political appointees and said the attempt to dismiss him for "gross negligence" and the unauthorized removal of agency equipment will create a chilling effect on other employees' willingness to come forward with information on future data breaches.

 

     Amid the news that the stolen equipment had been recovered came the revelation that two additional security breaches at the VA had occurred. Nicholson told lawmakers that two veterans' identifications were misused after data on 66 veterans was stolen from an auditor's car in Minneapolis in 2005. The auditor locked a laptop and paper files in a trunk, and the car was stolen. Then on 5 MAY, a tape containing information on 16,500 legal cases went missing from an Indianapolis regional counsel's office. Nicholson assured lawmakers that the veterans involved in the cases have been notified and will be eligible for credit monitoring and insurance.  Buyer asked VA officials if anyone else knew of other data breaches that had not been brought to the attention of Congress. Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield said yes, and CIO Howard brought a list to the witness table. Buyer asked how many incidents, and when it became clear Mansfield could not calculate that, he asked how many pages of potential incidents VA is investigating. Mansfield responded 10 pages.

 

     In response to the data breach, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent letters to all Cabinet agencies as well as the Office of Personnel Management and the Social Security Administration, asking for information on any "loss or compromise of sensitive personal information" since 1 JAN 03.  A 78 page report reviewing the circumstances of the 3 MAY theft was issued by the VA Inspector General’s office 11 JUL. In summary it noted that senior Veterans Affairs officials failed to understand the significance of the department's data breach and responded with "indifference and little sense of urgency".  Additionally, infighting between two senior executives at the VA, one a career civil servant and the other a political appointee, hindered the response.  House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) said in a statement that the report reiterates what was learned in a series of committee hearings, specifically that "weak information security policies and a lack of central authority over information management left the department vulnerable to massive breaches." [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefings 30 Jun thru 13 Jul 06 ++]

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 19:  Since recovery of the stolen laptop and hard drive, the number of concerned veterans calling the special 1-800 service (1-800 FED-INFO) set up to answer questions has diminished significantly.  In response to this reduced demand, effective Monday, 10 JUL Saturday service will be discontinued, and the special call center services will be available Monday through Friday from 0800 to 2100 EST. VA will make a determination once it receives information on the results of the F.B.I.'s more thorough forensic examination of the recovered computer equipment.  According to the F.B.I., a preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic experts determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen.

 

     An individual who chooses to sign up for the credit monitoring service, including the insurance, will not be asked or required to relinquish any legal claim that he or she might have against VA in order to receive the credit monitoring and insurance the VA will offer. VA does not intend to, and will not solicit releases of claims from veterans as a precondition for their participation in credit monitoring and insurance.  Several lawsuits have been filed against VA pertaining to the data theft. All of these lawsuits have been filed as class actions. VA is currently aware of the following suits filed in U.S. district courts:

Paul Hackett, et al., v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, et al., Civil Action No. 2:06-cv-114 (WOB) (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky) (Lead plaintiffs' counsel-Marc D. Mezibov, Esq., Mezibov & Jenkins, Co. L.P.A., 401 East Court Street, Suite 600, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202;

Michael Rosato, et al., v. R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, et al., Civil Action No. 06-3086 (United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York) (Lead plaintiffs' counsel-Joseph H. Weiss, Esq.; Mark D. Smilow, Esq.; and Richard A. Acocelli, Esq., Weiss & Lurie, 551 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10176;

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., et al., v. R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, et al., Civil Action No. 1:06-cv-01038 (JR) (United States District Court for the District of Columbia) (Lead plaintiffs' counsel-L. Gray Geddie, Esq., and Douglas J. Rosinski, Esq., Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., 1320 Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201-3266.

 

     According to Javelin research, it takes an average of nearly nine months for victims of this kind of Identity theft to find out about the crime. More than 25% don't find out for two years or more. The VA’sproposed credit monitoring service will only be able to identify if someone is using your identity after the theft has occurred.  An alternative is the personal use of services from companies like LifeLock www.lifelock.com. These prevent access to your identity from thieves for fraudulent purposes.  In the case of LifeLock the services they provide are backed with a million dollar guarantee that their user’s identities are safe by blocking their credit in a manner that only the user can access it.   If one of their subscribers should suffer a loss related to identity theft they will reimburse lost wages, attorney's fees, costs, and actual losses plus fix whatever impact it may have had on their credit rating.  Upon registering:

- Your locks will be set within 24 hours with the major credit bureaus.

- The four major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and ChexSystems will send you a letter stating that your fraud alerts have been set. They will also be sending you a copy of your credit report in a separate envelope.

- You will receive a letter stating that you have been removed from the pre-approved credit card mailing list.

- You will receive another letter stating that you have been removed from most junk mail lists.

In light of the recent compromise of veteran’s identities and the general laxity of all government agencies in maintaining security on their data files, LifeLock is offering to all veterans 90 days of no cost service and a 25% life discount thereafter. This amounts to $7.50 per month after the discount for individuals or $15 per month for couples.. [Source: FirstGov.gov Team 11 Jul & Military.com 10 Jul 06 ++]

 

 

TRICARE UNIFORM FORMULARY UPDATE 13:  On 29 JUN the DoD Beneficiary Advisory Panel (BAP) met to review the recent recommendations of the DoD Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee (P&T) to move some contraceptive and nausea medications to the third tier, or $22 copay level. The BAP concurred with the P&T recommendation to move Anzamet, used for treatment of nausea and vomiting, to the third tier.  The BAP also concurred with the 60-day implementation timeline recommendation of the P&T due to the very small usage rate and the fact that Anzamet is usually written with no refills.

 

     The P&T also recommended the following contraceptives be moved to the third tier: Seasonale, Ovcon-35, Ovcon-50, and Estrostep FE. There are 31 other contraceptive medications that will remain on the formulary at the lower copay levels of $3 and $9 for generic and brand name drugs, respectively.  The BAP concurred with P&T’s recommendations and implementation timeline of 180 days. The recommendations will now be submitted to Dr. William Winkenwerder, Asst. Sec. of Defense for Health Affairs, for final decision. Third tier drugs may not be stocked in Military Treatment Facility (MTF) pharmacies, but may be special-ordered if prescribed by an MTF physician after a medical necessity determination is granted and may be special-ordered if prescribed by a non-MTF physician to whom the patient was referred after medical necessity is determined to be warranted.

 

     For information, you may contact the Tricare retail pharmacy (TRRx) customer service line at (866) 363-8779, or visit: www.tricare.osd.mil/pharmacy/trrx_contact.cfm. For the Tricare mail order pharmacy (TMOP) go to www.tricare.osd.mil/pharmacy/tmop_contact.cfm or call (866) 363-8667. For additional information, go to the Formulary Search Tool for additional information about medications, their availability and cost at: www.tricareformularysearch.org/.A chart of drugs already approved for the third tier can be found at: www.tricare.osd.mil/pharmacy/medical-nonformulary.cfm.  [Source: MOAA Leg Up 7 Jul 06]

 

 

HEALTH CARE BROKEN PROMISE UPDATE 02:  Following is an email response from Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA-11) on his position on this issue that explains a lot on what is holding up H.R.602 legislation:

 

Dear Mr. Baird:

     Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 602 “The Keep Our Promise to America’s Military Retirees Act”.  I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.  Thousands of military retirees and dependents share your concerns with this issue, and my colleagues and I are well aware of the challenges that remain in obtaining health care for all our constituents, including military retirees. H.R. 602 seeks to expand the benefits available to these retirees by authorizing the enrollment of military retirees and their eligible dependents in the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP).  As you know, military retirees currently have access to DOD medical facilities, VA medical facilities, civilian providers under the Tricare Program as well as Tricare-for-Life (which supplements Medicare for those retirees over age 65). Through this network of care, we can and must provide timely access to quality care for the men and women who have served their nation in uniform.

 

     I recognize that at first glance, the option to allow military retirees to enroll in FEHBP seems like a very attractive solution to the problems we have encountered in providing them with quality health care over the years. In fact, the title of H.R. 602, “The Keep Our Promise to America’s Military Retirees Act,” suggests that supporting this bill will fulfill a broken promise. The fact of the matter, however, is that H.R. 602 is not a cure-all for the ailments of the military retiree network of care. First and foremost, whereas Tricare is less expensive (and TFL only requires enrollment in Medicare Part B), FEHBP would require military retirees to pay larger premiums and co-payments for medical services. Thus, offering FEHBP enrollment does not represent a monetary improvement for military retirees. In addition, recent history has shown that even military retirees themselves do not prefer the FEHBP option. Specifically, in 1998 Congress mandated a three-year pilot project sponsored by DOD and the OPM that allowed Medicare-eligible military retirees and their families to enroll in the FEHBP. Although about 120,000 retirees were eligible to participate, enrollment in the pilot program peaked at 7,521 enrollees, or 5.5%. By 2002, enrollment dropped to 3.2%. A recent General Accounting Office survey of enrollees and eligible non-enrollees found that most retirees who chose not to enroll said they were satisfied with their current coverage, which had better benefits and lower costs than the coverage they could obtain through the FEHBP.

 

     Finally, there is the matter of the Medicare Part B Waiver. Even though H.R. 602 seeks to waive payments to Medicare Part B, the savings realized would most likely be offset by the increases in premiums and co-payments that a military retiree would have to pay were he or she to enroll in FEHBP. I do, however, recognize that regardless of the FEHBP provisions of the bill, there may be individuals who support this legislation for the Medicare Part B waiver alone, as it would provide savings to military retirees who did not switch their coverage. Medicare Part B is indeed an important issue and my colleagues and I have been working hard to address it in recent years. For example, Section 625 of the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003, recently signed into law, provided a special enrollment period between 1 JAN 01 and 31 DEC 04 for military retirees and their spouses to sign up for Medicare Part B, thus relieving them of any late penalties that may have been applicable under prior existing law. In addition, there are currently proposals under consideration to address Medicare Part B premiums for military retirees. Specifically, H.R. 322 in the 109th Congress would amended the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a refundable tax credit to military retirees for premiums paid for coverage under Medicare part B.

 

     Please be assured that Congress has recently expanded military health care benefits. In so doing, Congress has created a benefit structure that is arguably superior to that afforded other Federal employees. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that our efforts should remain focused on refining the Tricare program to ensure increased provider participation. This, I believe remains the better option in seeking to fulfill our promise to America’s military retirees. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 109th Congress as we continue to work to do just that.  Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this important issue. I hope you will continue to let me know your thoughts on matters of importance to you.

Sincerely,

Tom Davis, Member of Congress <va11ima.pub@mail.house.gov>

[Source: MRGRG Floyd Baird 6 Jul 06 email pass along]

 

 

AMERASIANS:  Wherever the U.S. military goes children seem to be a byproduct of their presence.  In the Pacific these children are referred to as Amerasians.  Most have no are only limited knowledge of their parentage and many fathers are not aware they exist.  There is assistance available for anyone who might be in this situation and wants to locate the Amerasian child or American parent.  Once located and contacted it is usually up to those found whether or not they want there identity given to whoever made the inquiry.  About 5% choose not to.  The following links can assist you if you want to pursue locating a father or child:

 

ACFN www.amerasian-childfind.org:  The Amerasian Child Find Network is not aligned with any group, governmental agency or cause. Its only function is the reunification of families. Their primary focus is Vietnamese Amerasians; however, they will assist any child fathered by a member of the United States Armed Services, or a person working for the U.S. Government outside of the United States. Services are free to principals searching for lost family. Donations are accepted for use in direct support of the activities of the Network. ACFN is run by a group of non-governmental volunteers both in and outside the United States. Those seeking contact can register online with appropriate info to assist in the search. The organization will make every effort to protect the confidentiality of those for whom they are searching, and on behalf of those they are searching for. They will only talk to those who are the subject of a search about the nature of their inquiry in order not to cause discord for anyone. If a subject is not interested in reuniting with the person who is searching for them, he will be asked to think about his decision and they will check back in seven days. If they still are not interested in contacting the person, then they will not be contacted again. No information on the individual’s location will be provided to the person who was searching. However, the child or father will be informed that contact was made and there is no interest reuniting. They can be contacted at: ACFN INC. 2091 PEACH ST., Medford OR 97501-0120 Tel: (541) 779-6767 or info@amerasian-childfind.org

 

USA Bound, Inc www.usabound.org: This is a privately owned non-profit organization.  Services are free of charge to help Amerasians find their American fathers, and also to help American fathers search for their son(s)/daughter(s) in the Philippines.  USA Bound does not receive any financial assistance from the US government or other groups.  Their website provides registration forms, father & child photo galleries on those who have registered, citizenship info, downloadable U.S. and Philippines documents and forms necessary to travel to and from the U.S., an index of available links for use in searching for people, phonebooks with addresses for countries outside the Philippines, , impact of  Public Law 97-359 on Amerasians, etc. They can be  contacted at:  USA Bound, Inc, PO Box 1496, Cornelius, NC 28031, USA or MTeresaUSA@MSN.Com. 

[Source: Various Jul 06++]

 

 

MARRIAGE ABROAD:  American diplomatic and consular officers are not permitted to perform marriages (Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations 52.1). Marriages abroad are almost always performed by local (foreign) civil or religious officials.  As a rule, marriages are not performed on the premises of an American embassy or consulate. The validity of marriages abroad is not dependent upon the presence of an American diplomatic or consular officer, but upon adherence to the laws of the country where the marriage is performed. Consular officers may authenticate foreign marriage documents. The fee for authentication of a document is $32.00. In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. Inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to the attorney general of the state in the United States where the parties to the marriage live.

 

     The embassy or tourist information bureau of the country in which the marriage is to be performed is the best source of information about marriage in that country. Some general information on marriage in a limited number of countries can be obtained from Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520. In addition, American embassies and consulates abroad frequently have information about marriage in the country in which they are located.  Marriages abroad are subject to the residency requirements of the country in which the marriage is to be performed. There is almost always a lengthy waiting period.  Most countries require that a valid U.S. passport be presented. In addition, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and death certificates are frequently required. Some countries require that the documents presented to the marriage registrar first be authenticated in the United States by a consular official of that country. This process can be time consuming and expensive.  The age of majority for marriage varies from one country to another. Persons under the age of 18 must, as a general rule, present a written statement of consent executed by their parents before a notary public. Some countries require the parental consent statement to be authenticated by a consular official of that foreign country in the United States.

 

     All civil law countries require proof of legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract in the form of certification by competent authority that no impediment exists to the marriage. No such document exists in the United States. Unless the foreign authorities will allow such a statement to be executed before one of their consular officials in the United States, it will be necessary for the parties to a prospective marriage abroad to execute an affidavit at the American embassy or consulate in the country in which the marriage will occur stating that they are free to marry. This is called an affidavit of eligibility to marry and the fee for the American consular officer’s certification of the affidavit is $55.00, subject to change. Some countries also require witnesses who will execute affidavits to the effect that the parties are free to marry.

Many countries, like the United States, require blood tests. Some countries require that documents presented to the marriage registrar be translated into the native language of that country.

 

     In some countries, marriage to a national of that country will automatically make the spouse either a citizen of that country or eligible to become naturalized in that country expeditiously. The automatic acquisition of a second nationality will not affect U.S. citizenship. However, naturalization in a foreign country on one’s own application or the application of a duly authorized agent may cause the loss of American citizenship. Persons planning to apply for a foreign nationality should contact an American embassy or consulate for further information.  Information on obtaining a visa for a foreign spouse may be obtained from any office of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, or the Department of State Visa Office, Washington, DC 20520-0113. General information regarding visas may be obtained by calling the Visa Office on 202-663-1225.  [Source: http://travel.state.gov/family/family_issues/marriage/marriage_589.html Jul 06]

 

 

VA HIRING PRACTICES:  Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL-48) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, to look into the VA’s hiring practices. The VA is our federal government’s second-largest agency with more than 218, 000 employees. Bilirakis, who chairs a House subcommittee on VA oversight and investigations, ordered the VA to produce the identity and location of all convicted sex offenders on the agency payroll. His concern was a report that Bay Pines VA Medical Center in his district employs convicted sex offenders. During the summer, the hospital also runs a volunteer program for scores of teenage students. But in a 9 JUN letter to the subcommittee, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said the agency does not have such lists. When hiring ex-offenders the VA follows suitability guidelines established by the Office of Personnel Management. The guidelines address the nature and severity of the offense, age when offense was committed, length of time since conviction and evidence of rehabilitation or treatment. Suitability means fitness or eligibility for employment and refers to identifiable character traits and past conduct which are sufficient to determine whether a given individual is likely or not to be able to carry out the duties of a federal job with appropriate efficiency and effectiveness. Nicholson said federal employment policy does not envision agencies establishing separate policies governing the employment of individuals who have engaged in criminal acts. In response to recent queries, the VA has insisted it conducts criminal background checks of all job applicants. But previous GAO studies dispute that, saying the lack of stringent hiring policies could endanger patients. In an earlier JUN hearing held by Bilirakis, GAO officials testified that the VA had made some improvements but that gaps remained.  In requesting a GAO inquiry, Bilirakis said his subcommittee will continue to conduct oversight of VA’s lackluster personnel policies. [Source: St. Petersburg Times article 4 Jul 06]

 

 

CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE:  People can have remarkably severe coronary artery disease (CAD) without experiencing a heart attack or chest pain (also known as angina). And if they have chest pain or a heart attack, the outward symptoms can vary considerably from person to person. Still, those having symptoms, even if only occasionally, need to seek medical advice. Symptoms of CAD are: Chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations (an irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest), fast or racing heartbeat, weakness or dizziness, nausea, and sweating.  Angina is the most common symptom. It is an uncomfortable feeling that usually is felt in the chest just beneath the breastbone, but other possible sites include the left shoulder, arms, neck, throat, jaw, or back. Those who have experienced angina typically describe as a heaviness or pressure ("an elephant on my chest"), aching, burning, fullness, squeezing, and pain. It can be mistaken for indigestion. Angina episodes usually stop in a minute or so. But if one lasts more than a few minutes (no more than five), you should seek emergency treatment. There are three types of angina:

- Stable angina is brought on by an imbalance between the heart's need for oxygen-rich blood and the amount available. It is "stable" in the sense that the same activities bring it on; it feels the same way each time; and it is relieved by rest and/or oral medications. Stable angina is a warning of heart disease and should be evaluated by a doctor. If the pattern of angina changes, it may progress to unstable angina.

- Unstable angina may be a new symptom or a change from stable angina. The angina may occur more frequently, occur more easily at rest, feel more severe, or last longer. Although this angina can often be relieved with oral medications, it is unstable and may progress to a heart attack. Usually more intense medical treatment or a procedure is required. Unstable angina is an acute coronary syndrome and should be treated as an emergency.

- Variant angina (also called Prinzmetal's angina or coronary spasm) occurs when a coronary artery goes into spasm, disrupting blood flow to the heart muscle (ischemia). It can occur in people without significant coronary artery disease. However, two thirds of people with variant angina have severe disease in at least one vessel, and the spasm occurs at the site of blockage. This type of angina is uncommon and almost always occurs when a person is at rest, especially while asleep. You are at increased risk for coronary spasm if you: have underlying coronary artery disease, smoke, or use stimulants or illicit drugs (such as cocaine). If a coronary artery spasm is severe and occurs for a long period of time, a heart attack can occur.

 

     Women seem to be protected against heart disease in their childbearing years. Thus, on average they tend to develop coronary artery disease about 10 years later than men, have heart attacks about 20 years later, and often have different symptoms. A heart attack may be felt as chest pain, or it may feel like a general discomfort in the chest or other parts of the body, shortness of breath, or nausea. Not all physicians are familiar with these male-female differences and are less likely to diagnose a heart attack in a woman than in a man. Making the problem worse is the fact that women tend to associate heart attacks with men and are less likely to recognize the symptoms in themselves and seek treatment.

 

     If you have possible CAD symptoms:

1. Learn to recognize your symptoms and the situations that cause them. Call your doctor if you have new symptoms or if they increase in frequency or intensity.

2. If angina occurs, stop what you are doing and rest. If your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin to relieve the symptoms, take one tablet and let it dissolve under your tongue (if using the spray form, spray it under your tongue). Wait five minutes. If the symptoms persist, take another dose. If you still have angina after resting and taking two doses of nitroglycerin, or 10 minutes, call for emergency help or have someone take you to the local emergency room.

3. If you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 for emergency help. Do not delay-quick treatment is critical to minimize the damage to your heart. To help break up a possible clot, emergency personnel may tell you to chew an aspirin, if there is not a medical reason for you to refrain from doing so.

[Source: www.usnews.com/usnews/ Jul 06 ++]

 

 

USN NORMANDY MONUMENT:  Sixty-one years following the largest naval operation in world history, the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the only service not recognized by any monument or memorial at Normandy is the United States Navy.  Hundreds of ships and thousands of men were involved in transporting allied forces from England to Normandy in the largest armada ever assembled, in constructing and operating artificial harbors and in supplying the forces once they were ashore. Eight of these ships were sunk and over a thousand Sailors were killed. Walking the beaches of Normandy today and observing the many plaques and monuments there will give little clue that the U.S. Navy ever was there. The Naval Order of the United States (NOUS), one of the oldest, if not the oldest, associations of Merchant Marine and Sea Service veterans in the United States discovered this oversight.  This lack of recognition is enormous when considering that the naval component of the operation comprised 1,213 allied warships, the preponderance of which was American.  Allied forces, again primarily American, also provided 4,126 amphibious craft, including a variety of specialized landing craft, such as LSTs, LCIs, and LCTs.

 

     NOUS has begun a campaign to erect a monument on UTAH Beach to rectify this omission.  The final full-scale monument which can be seen at www.navalorder.org will be placed at a location on Utah Beach, which already has been designated by the French authorities. It will be composed of three realistic figures, each representative of an element of the operation, planning and execution, implementation, and aftermath. The total project is estimated to cost $500,000. The target date for unveiling the monument is the sixty-fourth anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2008. The Naval Order is seeking donations across the board from individuals, Associations and Corporations. The Monument will be entirely privately funded with no government involvement.  Senator Bob Dole, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and leader of the national campaign that erected the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and Senator John McCain among other dignitaries have endorsed this effort.   Anyone wanting to participate in this effort can find additional information on the monument and how to proceed at www.navalorder.org, by calling (866) 794-3329, or by emailing the chairman of the Monument Committee at gstreetr@bellsouth.net.  Contributions are tax deductible and can be mailed to Naval Order Foundation, P.O. Box 583, Glenview, IL 60025-0583.  [Source: www.navalorder.org Jul 06 ++]

 

 

VA MEDICAL CENTERS UPDATE 01: Veterans in the Louisville KY area will be receiving a new, state-of-the-art medical center from the VA to replace the existing facility.  VA Secretary Nicholson is directing that a technical analysis for the new facility begin as soon as possible, followed by establishment of a site selection board to evaluate potential locations for a new hospital.  The Louisville decision was made after a study was completed that has been in progress since 2004 to upgrade health care facilities across the country that serve veterans.  Nicholson concluded that VA has enough information to end the analysis phase of the project and move into the site selection process.  Once a preferred site in Louisville is selected, VA will conduct the necessary due diligence for property acquisition and request congressional approval before the new facility can be built.  VA will also seek to improve women’s health services in the process and is examining whether to collocate VA’s regional office for veterans financial benefits processing at the site.  The current Louisville VA Medical Center has a main hospital building and 15 outbuildings on a 47-acre hilltop near downtown Louisville.  The buildings, parking and related facilities were constructed around 1950. [Source: VA News Release 30 Jun 06]

 

 

DFAS PROFILE 2006: The mission of Defense Finance and Accounting Service is to deliver pay products and services, accurately and timely, to the military community in a customer focused environment.  Annuitants by service total USA 42%, USAF 31%, USN 23% & USMC 4%.  DFAS is not responsible for servicing USCG personnel. The largest number of retirees receiving compensation fall in the 63 to 67 age group. For annuitants it is the 74 to 78 age group. As of 10 MAY 06 the number of retirees and dependents receiving $3,558,592,000 monthly compensation was:

- USAF retirees 701,816 totaling $1,153,593,000.  The oldest born 17 Jul 1901 is 104.8 yrs

- USA retirees 723,350 totaling $1,005,100,000. The oldest born 15 Apr 1899 is 107.0 yrs

- USMC retirees 120,584 totaling $183,124,000.  The oldest born 1 Jan 1898 is 108.3 yrs

- USN retirees 528,868 totaling $790,593,000. The oldest born 21 Nov 1899 is 106.4 yrs

- Annuitants 339,367 totaling $200,897,000

- Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI) 18,115 totaling $165,565,000

- Former Spouse 82,875 totaling $58,044,000

- Reserve Special Separation Payment (RSSP) 803 totaling $1,654,000

- Victims of Abuse (VOA) 25 totaling $22,000

 

Participants in other DFAS monitored programs from all services total:

- Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) 46,018

- Concurrent Receipt Disability Pay (CRDP) 180,422

- SBP Open Season 1 OCT 05 thru 30 SEP 06 to date is only 653

 

Communications with DFAS can be made as follows:

- Retired Pay, PO Box 7130, London, KY  40742-7130

- Annuity Pay, PO Box 7131, London, KY  40742-7131

- Retired & Annuitant Customer Service call 800-321-1080 0700 - 1930 (M-F) except on Federal Holidays.  Interactive Voice Response System Available 24/7

- RAO/RSO Direct Line DSN 580-5770

- Casualty Reporting 800-269-5170

- Retired Pay Facsimile 800-469-6559

- Annuity Pay Facsimile 800-982-8459

- Web www.dod.mil/dfas  & myPay https://myPay.dfas.mil

 

     For issues or problems that cannot be resolved at the above communication avenues contact Program Director Robert Cook (Contractor) robert.t.cook@dfas.mil Tel: (216) 522-6652.  If unable to resolve contact Director, Finance Karl Bernhardt at karl.h.bernhardt@dfas.mil Tel:  (216) 522-6072 or Director, Retired & Annuity Pay Bill Tyminski at william.tyminski@dfas.mil Tel: (216) 204-3770.  [Source: DFAS Air Force Council Briefing 10 May 06 ++]

 

 

CALIFORNIA VETERAN HOMES:  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is targeting more than $807,000 in grant money for improvements to the state home in Yountville CA.  The grant will pay up to 65% of the cost for general renovations at the home, including a new chiller for the facility’s air conditioning system.  The overall cost of the project is approximately $1.24 million. The home provides skilled nursing care to about 1,110 veterans offering Residential Care (assisted living) capacity and three levels of inpatient health care: Intermediate Care, Skilled Nursing Care, and General Acute Care. General acute care is also provided at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, St. Helena Hospital in St. Helena, and the VA Medical Center in San Francisco.  In addition to Yountville, the California Department of Veteran Affairs (CDVA) operates in conjunction with the VA Veterans Homes with campuses at Barstow, San Bernardino County and Chula Vista, San Diego County. Each has a 400 bed capacity for long term care.  Barstow has the capability to care for 400 elderly or disabled vets in two levels of care: Domiciliary (Independent Living) and Intermediate Care. Chula Vista is a 400-bed long-term care facility providing options for Domiciliary - Independent Living, Licensed Residential, and Skilled Nursing Care.

 

     CDVA is acquiring land, planning, and designing five new veterans homes in West Los Angeles,  Lancaster (Los Angeles County) , Saticoy, (Ventura County), Fresno, and  Redding (Shasta County). In fiscal year 2005, VA spent nearly $6 billion in California to serve more than 2.3 million veterans.  In California, VA operates 3 regional offices, 10 major medical centers, 49 outpatient clinics, 21Vet Centers and six national cemeteries.  The location of these facilities along with driving directions can be found at www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isFlash=1. Vets desiring to be considered for membership in the veterans’ homes must be residents of California, age 62 or older (or younger if disabled), and have served honorably.  Veterans seeking admission should call or write to:

1. Veterans Home of California, Attn: Admissions, 180 California Drive, P.O. Box 1200, Yountville, CA 94599 Tel: 1(800) 404-8387

2. Veterans Home of California, Barstow, Attn: Admissions, 100 E. Veterans Parkway, Barstow, CA 92311 Tel: 1(800) 746-0606

3. Veterans Home of California, Chula Vista, Attn: Admissions, 700 East Naples Court, Chula Vista, CA 91911

[Source: VA News Release 15 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

CONNECTICUT VETERANS’ HOME:  The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a grant of $2,990,000 for renovations of the State Veterans Home located at 287 West St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067.  The grant will pay up to 65% of the cost to replace the main water supply system at the state facility.  The overall cost of the project is about $4.6 million. For domiciliary care at Rocky Hills applicants must be ambulatory; require no nursing or attendant care; must be able to take own medication; be able to go some distance to the dining room without help; dress without assistance; make own bed and participate in an assigned therapeutic activity.  Each veteran will be charged for care furnished if able to pay for care. The domicile facility has approximately 483 beds.  The Health Care Facility at the Veterans’ Home with 180 beds provides long term care to veterans with chronic and disabling medical conditions. These conditions include but are not limited to heart and lung disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The program also provides Hospice care, Palliative care and Respite care.  There are no facilities for care of mentally ill patients. Application forms can be downloaded at www.ct.gov/ctva/cwp/view.asp?A=2089&Q=292948. To qualify for admission to the Health Care Facility a veteran must:

- Submit an application in advance with a copy of your DD-214

- Submit a report of medical history and physical examination

- Pass an eligibility check

- Have a chronic medical condition or need which requires skilled nursing care or requires 24 hour assistance or supervision with activities of daily living

 

 In fiscal year 2005, VA spent about $605 million in Connecticut to serve more than 260,000 veterans who live in the state.  VA operates major medical centers in Newington and West Haven, with outpatient clinics and Vet Centers across the state.  Connecticut's veterans’ homes are available to veterans who served on active duty for 181 days or more.  Veterans must be Connecticut residents, have honorable discharges and demonstrate a medical need.  Some spouses of eligible veterans may also be eligible.  [Source: VA News Release 15 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

TRDP RESERVE ELIGIBILITY UPDATE 01:  National Guard and Reserve personnel electing to enroll in the Tricare Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) within 120 days after "gray area" retirement or until age 60 at their retirement with pay if remaining in a drill status, are eligible to skip the 12-month waiting period normally required for certain TRDP benefits including crowns, bridges, and braces. All new enrollees seeking to obtain the waiver should submit a copy of their retirement orders along with their enrollment application. It is important to note that, as with all new retirees, the 120-day period during which a "gray area" retired Reservist or Guard member can enroll in the TRDP to qualify for the 12-month waiting period waiver begins with his/her retirement effective date. It does not begin on the date the Guard and Reserve member reaches age 60 unless he or she remained in a drill status until age 60. While in a drill status, Guard and Reserve members are eligible for the same benefit as active duty members, which is the Tricare Dental Benefit (TDP). Members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) are eligible for unsubsidized TDP.  Eligible retirees and their family members can find answers to their questions about the program and enroll by calling (888) 838-8737 or using Delta Dental's dedicated TRDP Web site www.trdp.org. [Source: MOAA News Exchange 21 Jun 06]

 

 

VA CBOC OPENINGS:  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs 23 JUN announced plans to open 25 new community-based clinics (CBOCs) in 17 states and American Samoa. With 156 hospitals and more than 700 community-based clinics, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates the largest integrated health care system in the country.  VA’s health care budget of nearly $30 billion this year will provide health care to about 5.4 million people during nearly 600,000 hospitalizations and 55 million outpatient visits. The new facilities will start becoming operational this year.  Local VA officials will keep communities and their veterans informed of milestones in the creation of the CBOCs. Following is a list of the CBOC proposed sites:

 

AlabamaBessemer

American Samoa

Arizona - Miami-Globe, northwest Tucson, southeast Tucson

California - S. Orange County

Delaware - Dover

Georgia - Athens

Idaho - Canyon County

Iowa - Spirit Lake

Kentucky - Hazard, Florence

Minnesota - Bemidji

Nebraska—Holdrege

Nevada—Fallon

North Carolina - Franklin, Hamlet, Hickory

Ohio - Cambridge, Newark

Tennessee - Hamblen

TexasConroe

Virginia - Lynchburg, Norfolk

Wisconsin - Rice Lake

[Source:  VA News Releases 23 Jun 06]

 

 

TSP UPDATE 04:  In light of the well publicized VA data breach last month another government agency the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is concentrating on information security.  The TSP houses Social Security numbers, names, addresses and more than $180 billion in retirement savings for about 3.6 million current and former federal employees. Mark Hagerty, the plan's chief information officer, told the TSP Board 20 JUN he is comfortable with the security measures in place but is looking to expand them. Participants will switch to using account numbers, rather than Social Security numbers, to access their TSP accounts online. That change will come in the next few months.  Hagerty, who came to the TSP from the National Security Agency, would not disclose all of the efforts that the TSP is taking to enhance its data security, so as to avoid giving some young kid a challenge, but he did say that the agency is working on a program to trace laptops and destroy data remotely if needed.

 

    Current TSP policy is that any data in transit is encrypted and password-protected. Employees must carry information, such as that stored on a CD, separately from a company laptop, and the TSP does periodic physical audits of employees to ensure adherence to that policy.  The TSP also uses a number of advanced firewalls to protect its data. It is more secure than that held by many private sector companies because it is kept in house. In MAR 06 an email hoax targeted TSP participants via a message that guided recipients to a TSP look-alike Web site and sought personal data including Social Security numbers.  Subsequently, the agency entered into a working relationship with the Secret Service, which Hagerty said is very helpful and supportive of the retirement plan's information security efforts.  A "three-letter agency" (referring to the acronym) also conducts an annual review of the TSP's security measures, but Hagerty declined in an interview to specify which one for security reasons.  The TSP Board indicated that additional funding could be obtained upon request if more are needed to pursue security matters. [Source:  GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing 21 Jun 06++]

 

 

SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES RETIREMENT: The Special Operations Forces Retention Improvement Act (HR.5584) was introduced in the House on 12 JUN by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC-08). The bill is designed to help the Pentagon reach its goal of increasing the special operations troop levels by 15% by amending title 10, United States Code, to provide for the inclusion of certain special and incentive pays in the computation of military retired pay for members of the Armed Forces who have a special operations forces designation.  The amount by which retired pay is increased under this bill will not be considered to be retired pay for SBP purposes.  If enacted it will give special operations servicemembers a 30% increase in their retirement pay. To be eligible servicemembers must receive at least 18 months of hazardous duty pay and serve in a special operations unit for at least five years.

 

    Special forces (colloquially) or special operations forces (general term) are military units which are formed and trained to conduct missions involving unconventional warfare, Counter-Terrorism, reconnaissance, direct action and foreign internal defense. Special Forces typically comprise relatively small groups of highly-trained personnel who are armed and supplied with specialized equipment, and operate on principles of self-sufficiency, stealth, speed and close teamwork. In the U.S. military, the term special operations forces refer to all components of USSOCOM, such as Army Rangers, Special Forces, Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, and the 160th SOAR; Navy Seals and Special Boat Units; Air Force Special Operations and USMC Special Operations. These units have unique capabilities and do not fight by conventional means, hence the designation as "special". The term “Special Forces" refers exclusively to the United States Army Special Forces, commonly known as the Green Berets. [Source: Military Report 20 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

COMMUNICATING WITH CONGRESS UPDATE 01:  Veterans organizations and other interest groups who send large numbers of emails to lawmakers in behalf of their members will find it more difficult to do so in the future.  In late MAY 06 the House commenced offering congressmen the chance to add an extra obstacle for their constituents to overcome to communicate with them.  The House quietly began to add the completion of a math problem to their already difficult-to-penetrate email systems.  Officials said the purpose was to cut down on the deluge of messages they receive.  Even with many impediments, lawmakers still complain that the torrent of emails they get every day is more than their staffs can handle.  According to a recent study, electronic messages to the House doubled to 99 million from 2000 to 2004. In the Senate, the number of e-mails more than tripled to 83 million during the same period.  The math problem idea is to ensure that only actual people and not mass-mailing computers of the kind often used by interest groups will send e-mails to the House from now on.  [Source: Washington Post 12 Jun 06 article]

 

 

PTSD REEVALUATION UPDATE 05:  At the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Institute of Medicine conducted a study on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The committee reviewed and commented on the diagnosis and assessment of PTSD and known risk factors for its development.  They found that PTSD is a well characterized medical disorder and that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria for diagnosing PTSD are evidence-based, widely accepted, and widely used.  This committee said the only validated screening tools under DSM-IV were:

CAPS – Clinician Administered PTSD Scale

SCID – Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV

DIS-IV – Diagnostic Interview Schedule for DSM-IV

PSS-I – PTSD Symptom Scale – Interview Version

SIP – Structured Interview for PTSD

 

     According to the committee’s report, PTSD should be diagnosed and assessed by a health professional with experience in diagnosing psychiatric disorders (e.g., primary care physicians, nurses, social workers) using the DSM-IV criteria. Ideally, this diagnosis should take place in a private setting with a face-to-face interview that can last an hour or more.  Additionally, while screening and diagnostic instruments might help in the diagnosis and assessment of PTSD, these tools cannot substitute for an evaluation by an experienced professional.  At present the way DoD screens for PTSD is the DD Form 2796 or Post Deployment Health Assessment. This form is administered by clerks, admin staff and persons who do not possess the skill to interpret the results because they are non-mental health personnel. The committee wrote that because all veterans deployed to a war zone are at risk for the development of PTSD, it would be prudent for health professionals to query veterans about their wartime experiences and their symptoms, when presenting themselves at primary care and other health facilities (inpatient or outpatient).

 

     The Chairman of the committee, when asked if he believed a veteran could game the system by memorizing the DSM-IV to present false answers to a mental health care provider, responded emphatically that it would be almost impossible because the DSM-IV has built in tools to detect deception and only a minute fraction of society had the ability to pull it off.  This and the aforementioned findings of the committee should end once and for all any claims that veterans were filing fraudulent claims. For additional information refer to www.iom.edu/?id=32410. [Source: IOM PTSD Review Report 16 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

COLLEGE FINANCIAL PLAN:  According to the College Board study 2002 Trends in College Pricing, the average cost of a 4-year public college education is expected to be $128,000 by 2022 making the cost of a 4-year private college education $304,000. In recent years, college costs have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation, and many experts agree that the trend is likely to continue. Saving for your children or grandchildren’s education requires a long-term plan. And, like saving for retirement, the earlier you start your plan the better. A college savings calculator that can be used to help develop or fine-tune your education savings plan to meet the projected needs of your dependents is available at www.moaa.org/financialcenter/calculators/CollegeSavings.html. Plugging in your child’s age and what you have saved to date will tell you what you can expect to have on hand at the point you child starts college and how much additional you need to save to meet the child’s projected college cost.  

 

     Section 529 plans are rapidly becoming a popular way for many parents and grandparents to help fund these increasing college expenses. However, some recent problems — an embezzlement scandal with one top-rated plan, the high fee structure of some plans, and some brokers recommending plans that pay them commissions instead of plans giving investors a state income tax break — have increased scrutiny on 529 plans by the SEC and other regulatory groups. Managed at the state level, 529 plans are structured much like Roth IRAs, in that contributions are made with post-tax dollars, earnings grow tax-deferred, and provided the proceeds are used for “qualified education expenses” distributions are free from federal and most state income taxes. Qualified education expenses cover tuition, room and board, books and other supplies, uniforms, and transportation. Given the benefits and potential pitfalls, consider these three issues before investing:

 

1. Does the plan offer a state income tax deduction? Some states do, which can provide a nice state tax break. However, just because you get a state income tax break, don’t assume your state’s plan makes the most sense. High fees or poor investment results can wipe out any tax benefit.

2. What are the fees and expenses? These can reduce your investment returns significantly, so pay close attention to them. A 1% difference in fees may not seem like much, but suppose Plan A has fees and expenses totaling 2% annually, and Plan B charges 1%. With an initial $10,000 contribution and both plans averaging 10% annually for 18 years, Plan B will accumulate about $7,200 more than Plan A ($47,171 versus $39,960).

3. Is the plan direct or broker-sold? Many states offer several 529 plan options, including some purchased directly from the state and some sold through brokers. Using a broker-sold plan can add up to 2 percent to your annual expenses, so weigh any advice against the higher fees carefully.

 

Anyone can contribute up to the gift tax exclusion amount (currently $12,000 per donor, per donee annually), and most 529 plans allow total lifetime contributions of $250,000 or more per beneficiary. Also, a special rule allows up to 5 years of contributions ($60,000) to be made per donor in one calendar year. Therefore, a married couple could give $120,000 to a single beneficiary in one year. Currently, the law providing for income tax free 529 plan withdrawals expires in 2010. Congress is expected to renew or extend the provision, but there is no guarantee. Be sure to consider the advantages and disadvantages of 529 plans before committing to one. [Source: MOAA Financial Forum Mar 06]

 

 

OZONE AIR CLEANERS:  The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has concluded that many devices marketed as air cleaners or air purifiers are not good for people’s health.  In a recent press release, it noted:

 

** Air cleaners of all types are being more aggressively marketed than ever before.

** Some devices intentionally generate ozone, a key component of smog, resulting in indoor ozone concentrations well above health-based state and federal ambient air quality standards.

** Four devices that were tested according to manufacturer instructions in a small furnished room under common residential temperature and humidity conditions emitted ozone at levels that exceed health-based standards and can pose a serious health risk.

** One model produced room concentrations more than 4.5 times the health-based state ambient air quality standard for ozone.

** At elevated levels, ozone can exacerbate asthma, cause lung damage and lead to difficulty in breathing.

** Some manufacturers falsely claim that their products produce “safe” levels of ozone that remove indoor air pollutants such as particles, gases, allergens, viruses, odorous compounds, mold, and bacteria. In fact, ozone reacts with other gases to produce significant increases in other pollutants, such as formaldehyde and ultra fine particles, which are also harmful to health, all the while deadening one’s sense of smell.

** At the levels produced by ozone generators, their emissions could hurt humans without affecting pathogens.

** Currently, no government agency has full authority to regulate ozone generators.

 

[Source: California Air Resources Board www.devicewatch.org/reports/aircleaners/arbnews.shtml news release 31 May 06]

 

 

DOD VA RECORD TRANSITION UPDATE 01:  Director of information management issues Linda Koontz at the Government Accountability Office in written testimony said 22 JUN that efforts to standardize the sharing of health information across the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments lack a clear integration plan. Despite some progress made on two demonstration projects to exchange laboratory results and patient health information, the agencies have failed to develop a clearly defined management plan.  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management said in prepared remarks, "I don't want to criticize the services that our veterans receive. ... I think we can do a better job serving those veterans and the rest of America's taxpayers by better managing our resources and investments.  Defense and the VA have been working for the past eight years to develop the capability to exchange e-health information. 

 

    The two-way exchange project, which enables the real-time sharing of allergy, laboratory, outpatient and radiology information, is being tested by Defense and all VA treatment facilities. The chief information officer for the military health system at Defense said the second project, which facilitates the sharing of lab order entries and results, is being tested at several Defense and VA sites. However, GAO reported the departments have incurred delays to share patient data and have not yet fully populated repositories to store the data for future e-health systems. Even though a DEC 04 Defense/VA report said the Federal Health Information Exchange program is fully functional, not all of that data was captured in Defense's system as of SEP 05. Two deadlines have been missed to develop an interface to connect each department's databases but the ability to exchange pharmacy medication and allergy data between repositories should be complete by the end of fiscal 2006.  Progress at the VA to modernize its delivery of benefits via VETSNET has been discouraging.  After a $300 million investment and numerous false starts the VA re-launched its efforts in 1996. [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing 22 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

GREEN BURIAL:  Green burial has a much smaller impact on the environment than traditional casket burial, and is intended to provide environmental and ecological benefits over time.  One example of a green burial involves preparing the body for burial without embalming fluid or other ecologically harmful chemicals, using a biodegradable casket made from natural materials like willow, bamboo, or paper, and burying the casket in a land preservation site. Trees, shrubs and flowers are planted nearby and over time the body becomes part of the green environment. Another green burial option is offered by a company called Eternal Reefs (www.eternalreefs.com) which creates living memorials that also help to restore fragile reef ecosystems.  A person’s cremated remains are mixed with the reef material and then placed in the ocean. This artificial reef attracts marine life and becomes a new reef over time, as well as a “permanent living memorial” to the deceased.

 

     Green burial was common among U.S. pioneers, who were often buried directly into the ground when caskets weren't available, but green burial is not common in the U.S. today.  The new, ecologically motivated practice of green burial is more popular in Britain than the United States. Currently there are approximately 215 green burial sites in Britain, and more are planned.   In the United States:

Caring for your own dead and creating a home or family-directed funeral is completely legal in most states.  Embalming is not required.

A family member, agent holding a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) or designated agent can act in lieu of a funeral director to orchestrate all arrangements, carry out all decisions, fill out and file end-of-life documentation, and transport deceased in any type of vehicle to a home, the funeral celebration location, or the place of final disposition (crematory or cemetery)

Retail casket businesses exist in many areas and offer caskets for less than you would pay through a funeral home

A loved one can lie-in-honor in the home of family or friends (1 to 3 days is usual)

Anyone can build and/or decorate a wooden casket or cardboard cremation casket.  Friends and family can create an atmosphere that reflects cultural and personal beliefs, including ritual, storytelling and casket decoration.

Non-profit consumer advocacy funeral and memorial societies exist throughout the United States. Contact FAMSA, Funeral and Memorial Society of America .

The average cost of a funeral nationwide is about $5000 to $8000 - you do not need to spend a lot of money to honor your dead meaningfully

 

For information on Green burial in the United States refer to www.naturaldeathcare.org or email info@finalpassages.org.  [Source: About Senior Living 6 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

GI BILL TRANSFERABILITY:  The Defense Department has notified congressional leaders that the Army is developing a plan to transfer GI Bill benefits to spouses as a retention tool. The plan reportedly would kick off with a pilot program for soldiers in the active component. The GI Bill transfers would be offered in lieu of Selective Re-enlistment Bonuses. Existing law authorizes GI Bill transfers of up to 18 months for service members with critical skills who have completed at least six years of service and who re-enlist for four to six years. [Source: Armed Forces News 2 Jun 06]

 

 

SSN SECURITY:  Unlike credit bureaus the Social Security Administration cannot put a flag or security alert on your social security account if you suspect your social security number been stolen or is being used by someone else.  To report that someone is using your Social Security number take the following steps:

 

Step 1 – Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus:

- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013

- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Step 2 – Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Step 3 – File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

Step 4 – File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by using the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline:

- By telephone: 1-877-438-4338

- Online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft

- By mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580.

 

The Social Security Administration will not issue you a new Social Security number as a precaution, if you are concerned or think your number may have been stolen. SSA assigns a new SSN in rare cases, and only if the number holder provides evidence that the old number has been used with criminal or harmful intent and that the misuse has caused the number holder to be subjected to recent economic or personal hardship. The FTC has produced a booklet to citizens remedy the effects of an identity theft. It describes what steps to take, your legal rights, how to handle specific problems you may encounter on the way to clearing your name, and what to watch for in the future. The contents of the booklet, Taking Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, are available on-line at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm.

[Source: FirstGov.gov Jun 06 ++]

 

 

NATIONAL VIETNAM VETERANS ART MUSEUM:  In 1981, a few Vietnam combat veterans created an artistic and historical collection that would become a timeless, humanistic statement of war on behalf of all veterans for future generations. The exhibit toured the United States and later found a permanent home with the help of Mayor Richard Daley, at 1801 S. Indiana, Chicago IL 60616 Tel: (312) 326-0270; Today, the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum (NVVAM) is still located in Chicago’s South Loop and houses over 700 works of art, including paintings, photography, sculpture, poetry and music.  An installation suspended from the ceiling, Above & Beyond, comprises more than 58,000 dog tags with the names of the men and women who died in the war -- it creates an emotional effect similar to that of the Wall in Washington, D.C. The complex also houses a small theater, a cafe open for breakfast and lunch, a gift shop, and an outdoor plaza with a flagpole that has deliberately been left leaning because that's how veterans saw them in combat. Special exhibits and educational programs including evening and weekend painting classes are offered year-round.  It is the only museum in the world that has a permanent collection of art that focuses on war from the first-person point of view. All the works in the Museum’s permanent collection were created and comprised by 125 artists, who chronicled their individual experiences from the Vietnam War. The artwork presented at the Museum provides a unique viewpoint on war for all visitors. The collection is born from the sheer sentiment of those who personally experienced the immediate suffering and realities of war. It’s clear the artists have experienced the creative and spontaneous insight, and intuition, that comes from witnessing the magnitude of human combat first-hand.  The NVVAM carries a five star user rating. General admission is $10 and student $7. [Source: www.nvvam.org Feb 06 ++]

 

 

DEPLOYMENT AID LIBRARY:  The Defense Department’s Deployment Health Risk Communication Working Group and the Joint Task Force for Family Readiness Education on Deployments have joined together to create the Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library. The online library offers service members, families and health-care providers a quick and easy way to find information about deployment health and family readiness. The library includes fact sheets, guides and other products on a wide variety of health topics. Information will be added to the site as new topics and areas of concern emerge. It is intended for this site to be the authoritative source for deployment health and family readiness information. Refer to http://deploymenthealthlibrary.fhp.osd.mil/listing.jsp. [Source: Armed Forces News 26 AUG 05]

 

 

PHISHING ALERT IRS:  Following a recent increase in scam e-mails, the Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers to be on the lookout for bogus e-mails claiming to be from the tax agency. The IRS saw an increase in complaints in recent weeks about these e-mails, which are designed to trick the recipients into disclosing personal and financial information that could be used to steal the recipients’ identity and financial assets. More than 7,000 bogus emails have been forwarded to the IRS, with nearly 1,300 forwarded in June alone.  Since NOV 05, 99 different scams have been identified, with 20 of those coming in June – the most since 40 were identified in MAR 06 during the height of the filing season.

Many of these schemes originate outside the United States. To date, investigations by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have identified sites hosting more than two dozen IRS-related phishing scams. These scam Web sites have been located in many different countries, including Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, England, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Singapore and Slovakia, as well as the United States.

 

     The current scams claim to come from the IRS, tell recipients that they are due a federal tax refund, and direct them to a Web site that appears to be a genuine IRS site. The bogus sites contain forms or interactive Web pages similar to IRS forms or Web pages but which have been modified to request detailed personal and financial information from the e-mail recipients. In addition, e-mail addresses ending with “.edu” involving users in the education community currently seem to be heavily targeted. The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal information via e-mail. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts. When the IRS learns of new schemes involving use of the IRS name or logo, it issues consumer alerts warning taxpayers about the schemes.

 

     The IRS also has established an electronic mailbox for taxpayers to send information about suspicious e-mails they receive which claim to come from the IRS. Taxpayers should send the information to: phishing@irs.gov.  The IRS’s mail box allows taxpayers to send copies of possibly fraudulent e-mails involving misuse of the IRS name and logo to the IRS for investigation. Instructions on how to properly submit one of these communications to the IRS may be found on www.irs.gov.  Due to the volume the mailbox receives, the IRS cannot acknowledge receipt or reply to taxpayers who submit their bogus e-mails. For information on preventing or handling the aftermath of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer and OnGuardOnLine Web sites. Click on "Topics" to find the identity theft and phishing areas on OnGuardOnLine. For information on identity theft prevention and victim assistance in relation to tax administration, visit IRS Web page www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=136324,00.html.  [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing Fedblog 11 Jul 06]

 

 

VA SURVIVORS WEBSITE:  The Veterans Benefits Administration has created a “Survivors” Web site www.vba.va.gov/survivors for spouses and dependents of military personnel who died on active duty and for the survivors and dependents of veterans who died after leaving the military. The Web site is organized into two broad categories – death in service and death after service. It provides visitors with information about a wide range of benefits for the surviving spouse, dependent children, and dependent parents of deceased veterans and active-duty personnel. The site also has information from -- and links to -- other federal agencies and organizations that offer benefits and services to survivors and dependents plus online download of all forms needed to apply for benefits.. The Web site can be reached by clicking the “Survivors Benefits” button on the left of the www.vba.va.gov page.  [Source: Bob Lazzell 238AWC input 9 Jul 06]

 

 

MOBILIZED RESERVE 6 JULY 06:  The Army, Navy, and Marine Corp announced a increase in the number of reservists on active duty in support of the partial mobilization while the Air force and Coast guard had slight decreases.  The net collective result is 4,978 more reservists mobilized than last reported for 1 June but a net decrease of 40,736 since 10 DEC 05. Total number currently on active duty in support of the partial mobilization for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 84,128; Navy Reserve, 4,916; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 7,132; Marine Corps Reserve, 7,456; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 320.  This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel, who have been mobilized, to 103,952, including both units and individual augmentees. At any given time, services may mobilize4978 some units and individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel, who are currently mobilized, can be found at www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2006/d20060706ngr.pdf.  [Source: DoD News Release 6 Jul 06]

 

 

MILITARY LEGISLATION STATUS UPDATE:  Congress was in recess for the first part of July and did not reconvene until 10 JUL.  Thus, there is not much new information regarding legislative updates to veteran related bills.   The only action to report is the addition of two sponsors Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH-16) & Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA-3) to HR 994. This is the bill 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.  This brings the total number of sponsors to HR 994 to 335. With the July 4th Congressional recess barely behind it and the approach of the month long August recess, House and Senate leaders are already focusing on the endgame for the rest of the legislative year.   Each year, the leadership offices of the House and Senate publish their “targeted” dates for adjournment, typically 1 OCT.  By factoring the next recess, targeted adjournment and weekends, both chambers are looking at a grand total of 44 days in which to complete their work.   And with the mid-term elections on the minds of many members, it is Congress’ intent to stick to the 1 OCT date.  As such, House and Senate leaders are already discussing a lame duck session to complete its work after the 7 NOV elections.  Regardless of the election outcomes, expect to see members of Congress back at work after the election, with some aides predicting that their schedules will be booked until Christmas. [Source: NGAUS Leg Up 4 Jul 06 ++]

 

 

Lt. James “EMO” Tichacek, USN (Ret)

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

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

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

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

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

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

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