From: Director, RAO Baguio [email@example.com]
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  ------------- (CISO resigns)
== VA Data Privacy Breach  --------------(Lawsuits & Protection)
== Tricare Uniform Formulary  ---------- (More 3x moves)
== Health Care Broken Promise  --------- (Not a cure-all)
== Amerasians ----------------------------------- (Location assistance)
== Marriage Abroad ---------------------------- (Guidelines)
== VA Hiring Practices ------------------------ (Sex Offenders)
== Coronary Artery Disease ------------------- (Symptoms)
== VA Medical Centers 
== DFAS Profile 2006 ------------------------- (Stats & POC)
== California Veteran
Homes ----------------- (
== Connecticut Veterans’
Home ------------- (
== TRDP Reserve Eligibility  ------------ (Prerequisites)
== VA CBOC Openings ----------------------- (25 new Clinics)
== TSP  --------------------------------- (Data security review)
== Special Operations Forces Retirement -- (Retirement pay increase)
== Communicating With Congress  ---- (Making it harder)
== PTSD Reevaluation  ------------------ (Study conclusions)
== College Financial Plan -------------------- (Future costs)
== Ozone Air Cleaners ------------------------ (ARB warning)
== DoD VA Record Transition  --------- (Not going well)
== Green Burial -------------------------------- (A better way)
== GI Bill Transferability --------------------- (In development)
== SSN Security ------------------------------- (What to do)
== 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
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
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
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
• 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
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
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
Tom Davis, Member of Congress <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[Source: MRGRG Floyd Baird 6 Jul 06 email pass along]
AMERASIANS: Wherever the
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
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
[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
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
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
Many countries, like the
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
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:
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 ++]
NOUS has begun a campaign to erect a
VA MEDICAL CENTERS UPDATE
01: Veterans in the
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
- USAF retirees 701,816 totaling $1,153,593,000. The oldest born 17 Jul 1901 is 104.8 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,
- Annuity Pay,
- 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) email@example.com Tel: (216) 522-6652. If unable to resolve contact Director, Finance Karl Bernhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (216) 522-6072 or Director, Retired & Annuity Pay Bill Tyminski at email@example.com Tel: (216) 204-3770. [Source: DFAS Air Force Council Briefing 10 May 06 ++]
HOMES: The Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) is targeting more than $807,000 in grant money for improvements to
the state home in
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
1. Veterans Home of
2. Veterans Home of
3. Veterans Home of
[Source: VA News Release 15 Jun 06 ++]
HOME: The Department of Veterans Affairs
announced a grant of $2,990,000 for renovations of the State Veterans Home
- 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
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
[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 ++]
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.
PTSD REEVALUATION UPDATE
05: At the request of the Department of
Veterans Affairs, the
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.
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
• 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
• 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
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;
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com;
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;
www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division,
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,
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 ++]
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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)
Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & VITA
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
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