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

Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 7:15 PM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 15 June 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

15 June 2006

 

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== VA Data Privacy Breach [06] ------------- ($50k reward)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [07] --------------(Teleworking)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [08] ------------- (Vets affected expands)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [09] ------------- (Lawsuit initiated)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [10] ------------- (Other data breaches)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [11] ------------- (Police reports)

== NDAA 2007 [04] ---------------------------  (Debate begins )

== VA QTC Contract Questioned [01] ------ (Principi cleared)

== VA Claim Representation  [01] ----------- (Bill impact questioned)

== VA Cemeteries [02] ------------------------ (Parity for Tribal vets)

== Health Care Broken Promise [01] -------- (Ltr writing campaign)

== Congress Vet Voting Record -------------- (Check out your rep)

== Retiree Enlistment Bonus ------------------ ($1000  for referrals)

== USFSPA & Divorce [01] -----------------  (10-year-rule proposal)

== VA "IU"Growth [01] ---------------------- (Criticized by GAO)

== USAF Early Retirements ------------------ (Applications by 1 SEP)

== Divine Strake ------------------------------- (Test on hold )

== Keesler AFB Medical Program ----------- (1 JUL 07 takeover)

== Mobilized Reserve 1 JUN 06-------------- (1310 decrease)

== Military Related Job Fairs ----------------- (June schedule)

== Military Funeral Conduct [ 06] ----------- (Federal law signed)

== Retiree Mobilization [04] -----------------  (Army cat 1&2)

== Health Search Engine ---------------------- (Quick & Easy to use)

== Commissary Savings Tip ------------------ (Plan ahead)

== Cervical Cancer ---------------------------- (Preventable & curable)

== Tricare Fact Sheets ------------------------- (What’s available)

== Tricare TOP TFL --------------------------- (Overseas use)

== Military Legislation Status ---------------- (15 JUN Update)

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 06: The investigation to find the records of 26.4 million veterans, who stole them, discover how the theft occurred and how it was handled is moving forward. A reward of $50,000 for locating the records was offered but no takers to date. The FBI has set up a staffed 24-hour tip line to further the investigation into the stolen laptop and external media drive which contain data on veterans and active duty military: 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324).  Detectives released a model number for the stolen laptop. It is a Hewlett Packard (HP) Pavilion Notebook Laptop. It could be identified as either model number zv5360us or 5300 series. The external hard drive is a HP External Personal Media Drive. Investigators believe that it is possible these items could have been separated. Anyone who purchased a second-hand or used laptop and/or external hard drive with these model numbers after 3 MAY 06 is asked to call either the FBI tip line. The emphasis of the investigation is on the recovery of the items stolen.  Anyone who is in possession of this stolen property can turn it in anonymously and become eligible for the reward.

 

     Heads have started to roll. The 60 year old civil servant who took home the electronic files that were then stolen from his home has been terminated. (His name has still not yet been released.) His supervisor, Michael H. McLendon, a political appointee has submitted his resignation and his superior, Dennis M. Duffy, Acting Assistant for Policy and Planning has been placed on administrative leave. Secretary Nicholson then named Paul Hutter, the VA’s present Assistant General Counsel for Management and Operations, to temporarily lead the Office of Policy and Operations while the nominee for the position, Patrick W. Dunne is considered by the Senate. The Secretary has also brought in a special advisor on IT Security, Richard M. Romley, to advise on how to improve the VA’s information security. Romley served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam until he was injured. He has received numerous commendations for his service plus the Presidential Unsung Hero Award and Disabled American Veteran of the Year Award from Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Press Releases are appearing almost daily to try and reassure the nation’s veterans that needed improvements are being made. However it seems likely that other moves may be made as is being called for by many members of Congress.

 

     On the Hill, Representative John T. Salazar’s (D-CO) HR5455 has 91 co-sponsors after just one week. It would provide one year of free credit monitoring for affected veterans and two annual free crediting reports after the monitoring. It also authorizes $1.25 billion in emergency funds to pay for the program. Senator John F. Kerry’s (D-MA) similar bill in the Senate, S2970 has 9 co-sponsors, and yet another bill S3176 introduced by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) has 1 co-sponsor. Action on legislation was suspended until congress returned from its Memorial Day recess. During that period field hearings were held throughout the country.  Upon return of Congress a House Hearing was held 7 JUN on research initiatives and a Hearing on 8 JUN examined the VBA implementation of fiduciary activities, the Veterans Benefits Act of 2004 and an overview of field activities. On the Senate side there was a Hearing of the Government Reform Committee on the IT security practices of the VA which means, “Why did they lose 24.4 million records?”. [Source: TREA Leg Up 2 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 07:  Proponents of policies allowing federal employees to work away from the office are fighting recent claims that teleworking puts sensitive agency data at an unnecessary risk for theft or loss.  In an attempt to avert future security breaches and to lessen the intensity of lawmakers' concerns, Veterans Affairs officials have said they are reviewing the department's guidelines on remote use and access to agency information, following the theft of personal data on more than 26 million veterans from an employee's home. In addition to names and SSNs reports now indicate that the data also included many addresses and phone numbers and some could have included numerical disability ratings and the diagnostic codes identifying disabilities being compensated. Also, the data is on all service personnel who have served since 1975, even if they have not registered with the VA or filed claims for benefits.

 

     VA Secretary James Nicholson told House lawmakers Thursday that he is attempting to determine how many agency employees telecommute because of the potential damage they could do, not mischievously, but because they are negligent. He acknowledged this is an enormously troubling situation since people are telecommuting all over this country. Steps he has taken to date to address the situation include:

-  Directing the VA Office of Information and Technology to publish revisions to the document governing security guidelines for remote access.

-  Directing the agency to review employee access to sensitive data, which includes telework, and;

-  Requiring new background checks.

-  Requiring VA employees to complete electronic security awareness training and general privacy awareness courses by June 30.

  

     Government officials and telework advocates say the data breach is not a telework issue. Rather, it stems from the mishandling of sensitive materials and the failure of an employee to follow basic security procedures.  Agency officials acknowledged that the employee had been taking sensitive data home for work purposes since 2003 even though he was not authorized to do so. The data also was not encrypted per agency policy. The agency has started the process of dismissing the GS-14 employee, and is replacing the leadership of the division in which he worked. Chris Mihm, managing director of strategic issues at the Government Accountability Office, said if agencies have not established solid policies and procedures for data security and access, employees should not be allowed to telework. But Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, said agencies should not respond to this incident by "hunkering down into a brick and mortar mentality … sensitive data can easily be encrypted, but a better option is requiring employees to access that data over secure Internet connections.”

 

     Data access and security policies long have been listed among the best practices for agency telework policies. A 2003 OPM report cited information security as the most frequently identified problem related to telework. In response to questions regarding the security of teleworking in the aftermath of the VA breach, the Office of Management and Budget asked the General Services Administration to post a link on their www.gsa.gov Telework page to access the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommendations published in the AUG 2002 Pub 800-46 on the special security needs for teleworking.

 

     A July 2003 GAO report on teleworking (GAO-03-679) in federal agencies found that the VA had fully addressed issues relating to remote access to agency systems and data.  But the basic violation of agency policies, such as taking sensitive data out of the office and failing to encrypt the information, goes beyond telework policies and into the realm of fundamental security practices.  William Mularie, chief executive officer of the Telework Consortium of Herndon VA said, “Placing the blame on teleworking smells like an excuse for a lack of strong policies.  They are linking portability with security and it's not linked. If the data on the stolen VA computer had been encrypted, it would have been no more useful than a brick." Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of the Telework Coalition, said the incident helps emphasize the need for agencies to establish a formal telework program and oversee and ensure adherence to policies, particularly dealing with data security. [Source: GOV.EXEC.com Daily Briefing 1 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 08:  The names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of up to 50,000 active-duty military personnel were included in the data stolen from a Veterans Affairs Department employee's home last month, the department announced Saturday.  Among the 26.5 million people with records affected by the security breach were 10,000 to 20,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel on at least their second active-duty call-up. The compromised information may also include personal details on 25,000 to 30,000 active duty Navy personnel who completed their first enlistment term prior to 1991. VA said they currently had no evidence that suggests full-time active duty personnel from the other military branches of service are affected. VA said that it learned of this through its ongoing analysis of the data.

 

      VA officials subsequently reported that as the department shared information with the Defense Department; they discovered that data on up to 1.1 million active-duty members, 430,000 National Guard members, and 645,000 military reservists was among the information potentially compromised by the theft.  Active-duty military personnel may be included because the individuals were issued notifications from the Pentagon, known as a DD-214s, or separation from active service notices, once they completed their first enlistment.  This paperwork triggers an automatic notification to VA that the individual is no longer on active duty, but in these cases the people re-enlisted. VA believes the information could still be in the agency's data files.  There is no evidence yet suggesting that full-time active-duty personnel from other branches of the military are affected. The department is working with the Defense Department to match the data and verify those potentially affected. Individual notification letters are being sent to those who could be affected by the stolen data, according to the statement.

 

     VA Secretary James Nicholson has said a data analyst in the department's Office of Policy violated agency policy by taking home a digital copy of unencrypted records containing the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for veterans discharged since 1975 and some of their spouses. Also at risk are veterans discharged before 1975 who filed for disability compensation.  The department has initiated the process for firing the career data analyst, who will be afforded the same rights other career federal employees receive in such situations.  The employee has worked at the agency for more than 34 years and had been taking sensitive data home since 2003.  He hah not had a background check in 32 years. The Veterans Affairs Department has suspended use of employee-owned computers for official agency business and has limited telework at one of three major divisions, in an effort to prevent security breaches. The agency also is issuing a directive reminding employees that failure to comply with department policy regarding the protection of personal data could result in administrative, civil or criminal penalties. To assist in the department's efforts to determine what information was in the database, VA has hired data forensic experts to analyze the original data. 

 

     Law enforcement authorities have apprehended a few people who have committed burglaries similar to the one at the employee's home, but the equipment recovered did not match that containing the data. Clay Johnson, deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget, testified that he believes the administration has enough authority to prevent future breaches across the government, but a review will be conducted to see if "extra teeth" are needed. Johnson said it is the administration's policy that all sensitive data on laptops be encrypted, but it's not always enforced. In the VA case, the information on the employee's stolen laptop and external hard drive was not encrypted, leaving it vulnerable to identity thieves.  A House Veterans Affairs Committee official said the panel will have at least five hearings on the incident between now and July 13. A final report from the VA Inspector General is expected July 10.  [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing 6 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 09:  Five veterans’ groups have instituted a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over the theft of a database containing personal data of 26.5 million veterans that an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs took home.  The suit seeks damages for up to all of the 26.5 million at-risk veterans, possibly amounting to $26.5 billion. The plaintiffs blame VA Secretary R. James Nicholson and other officials because the VA’s inspector general had been warning annually for five years that security of VA’s electronic records was inadequate. The suit also faults the VA for failure to publicize the theft promptly. The plaintiffs are National Gulf War Resource Center, Radiated Veterans of America, Citizen Soldier, Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans of America. The veterans’ complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks:

 

-  A declaratory judgment that the VA’s loss of these records violated and continues to violate both the Privacy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

-  A court order that the VA disclose the exact nature of its compromised records system and that it individually inform veterans of every record it maintains on them. 

-  An injunction preventing the VA from altering any data storage system and prohibiting any further use of these data until a court-appointed panel of experts determines how best to implement safeguards to prevent any further breaches.

-  A judgment awarding $1,000 to each veteran who has been harmed by the VA’s violation of the Privacy Act.

 

 As the scope of the Veterans Affairs Department’s data breach continues to expand, former agency information technology officials say the catastrophe possibly could have been avoided with a better IT management structure. This setup, in which the department’s IT systems and databases are dispersed across its three divisions, is on schedule to be changed, though that won’t happen overnight. [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing 6 & 7 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 10:  In two unrelated incidents, laptop computers containing the personal information -- including Social Security numbers, birthdates and names -- of about 200 employees at the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service were recently lost. The Energy Department disclosed to Congress on 9 JUN that it suffered a security breach from a hacker in SEP 05 that compromised 1,500 personnel records. The VA incident is the third in the last nine months impacting on military personnel privacy. The Air Force disclosed in AUG 05 that personnel records in the Air Force's Assignment Management System (AMS) for about half of the service's officer corps were accessed by an unidentified person.  About 33,000 Air Force personnel, almost all of them officers, were exposed to potential identity theft after a security breach involving an online personnel system.  DoD disclosed in APR 06 that hackers stole personal data from a Tricare Management Activity server containing information on more than 14,000 individuals, including service members. They discovered the theft 5 APR when the server indicated suspicious activity. Public announcement of the incident by the Pentagon did not occur until 28 APR. The data had been collected from participants of a Tricare Healthcare Fraud Conference AUG 01 in San Diego and included names, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, partial credit card numbers, some private employer information and some personal health information. DoD notified affected individuals by letter, and advised those who are suspicious of identity theft to call the Defense Criminal Investigative Service at (703) 604-8410.   

 

     Security experts and former government officials started pointing fingers at alleged weaknesses in the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) earlier this year. In spite of the above mentioned security breaches, OMB when questioned gave no indication that changes to FISMA are being considered. They contend that sound standards and policies are in place, and OMB works with agencies to make sure practices match these policies.  Anytime you suspect your personal identify data has been compromised you should request a fraud alert from one (each company passes its fraud alerts to the others) of the three major credit reporting agencies. There have been some reports of attempts to "phish" personal data from veterans. The contacts are to "confirm" their personal data to assist in the recovery of their information, or that the contacting activity needs their DOB and SSN to see if they were in data base that was stolen." Vets should be aware that:

-  The VA will NOT call you and ask for personal information.

-  The VA will NOT email you and ask for personal information.

-  Do NOT give anyone personal information who claims to be from the VA or anyone who is claiming to help you prevent identity theft. A better effort would be to report these requests to the real organization that is being misrepresented by these scam artists.

 

All active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen can check the Air Force Personnel Center Web site at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil to see if their personal data was compromised in the Veterans Administration data theft. AFPC officials stress, however, the data base contains only active, Guard and Reserve members.  Any retired members or dependents who enter their Social Security number in the search block will receive the notice "You have not been identified as an affected member".  This statement means it can not be determined from this data base whether or not you are affected because the file does not include those categories. [Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefing 6 & 7 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 11:  Individuals who are victims of actual identity theft should not have a problem filing a local police report about the incident. In order to file a police report, you must show you have suffered an actual identity theft or harm due to fraudulent activity or misuse of account information. If you have experienced identity theft or harm, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests providing as much documentation as you can to prove your case, including debt collection reports, credit reports, or other evidence of fraudulent activity. Victims of identity theft need a copy of the police report or at the very least, the number of the report. It will help them deal with creditors who need proof of the crime. If the police are reluctant to take your report, ask to file a “Miscellaneous Incidents” report, or try another jurisdiction, like your county or state police. You also can check with your state Attorney General’s office to find out if state law requires the police to take reports for identity theft. To locate their office check the Blue Pages of your telephone directory for the phone number or www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General. Information about steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft is available online at www.consumer.gov or by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 1(877)438-4338.  Copies of police reports or any other investigative reports filed by the VA as a result of this incident are not available to veterans at this time. The investigations by the police, VA’s Inspector General, and the FBI are still ongoing. [Source: www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml 13 Jun 06]

 

 

NDAA 2007 UPDATE 04:  In a striking reversal from last year's delays and contrary to speculation in recent weeks that it could be delayed again, Senate leaders now plan prompt action on the FY2007 Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2766).  Last year, the Senate didn't get serious on the defense bill until November, and it wasn't passed until almost three months into the fiscal year.  This year debate is scheduled to begin 12  JUN with votes on amendments following through the rest of the week, and maybe longer. Key among these amendments are:

 

-  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).amendment to authorize combat-related special compensation for disabled members whose combat wounds forced them into medical retirement before attaining 20 years of service.  Under current law, a 10% combat-disabled retiree with 20 years of service can receive combat disability compensation in addition to retired pay, but a 100% disabled member forced out of service by combat wounds at 19 years, 11 months has his full VA disability compensation deducted from his earned, service-based retired pay.  Veteran advocates and organizations believe strongly that combat-disabled servicemembers whose wounds force them from service should be "vested" in their service-earned retired pay (2.5% of pay times years of service).

-  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).amendment to end the "disabled veterans tax" on military retirees deemed "unemployable" by the VA.  These members are certified as being unable to work because of their service-related disabilities and compensated by the VA at the 100% disabled rate.  But unlike all other 100% disabled retirees, they still have a large share of their VA disability compensation deducted from their service-earned retired pay.  Last year, Congress agreed to end this unfair practice - but not until 2009.

-  Sen. Saxby Chambliss' (R-GA) amendment to reduce the Reserve retirement age (age 60) by three months for each 90 days a member has been mobilized since the start of the current war in Afghanistan/Iraq.  This is proper recognition that the extensive and repeated mobilization of our Guard and Reserve forces is hurting their civilian careers and ability to build a civilian retirement.

-    Sen. Blanche Lincoln's (D-AR) amendment to let Guard and Reserve members use their GI Bill educational benefits after they complete their service and separate.  Current law (which never envisioned the extent of active duty service being required of today's Guard/Reserve forces), terminates their GI Bill benefits if they leave Guard/Reserve service.  So their ability to use the benefits while serving is curtailed because of repeated deployments, and denied entirely once they finish their service.  This is grossly unfair treatment for members who have seen more combat than most GI Bill-eligible veterans in previous years. 

 

Veterans can send a message to their legislators encouraging them to support these amendments via the MOAA Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/moaa/home. Once assessed all one need do is enter their zip code and use a preformatted message or write their own. [Source: MOAA LEG Up 9 Jun 06]

 

 

VA QTC CONTRACT QUESTIONED UPDATE 01:  On 25 APR 06 Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30) wrote a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson regarding the appearance of impropriety in contracts awarded to QTC Management Inc. under the former Secretary Anthony Principi’s tenure. Principi was president of QTC before joining the Bush Cabinet in JAN 01, and returned to the firm in DEC 05 as chairman of its board.  Stemming from this the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep Steve Buyer (R-IN 04) on 27 APR initiated a bipartisan preliminary inquiry into contracts the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded to QTC Management, Inc., and the role of former Principi in QTC and any of its contracts with VA. The Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conducted the preliminary inquiry. During the course of the inquiry, the Subcommittee interviewed 24 witnesses, including the former Secretary and key VA employees, and reviewed 85 documents relating to the QTC contracts, and to the former Secretary. Also, as part of the inquiry, the VA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) conducted a technical review of the QTC contracts awarded on 23 FEB 98 and 1 MAY 03. The review by the IG’s General Counsel concluded that:

 

-  The documentation in the contract files indicates that the award and the administration of the contracts were in the best interest of VA.

-  The files evidence good acquisition planning, that both procurements met the requirements for full and open competition, the technical evaluations were complete and thorough, and that the specific performance measures identified in the contracts have been effectively implemented and monitored.

-  There is no evidence in the files to suggest any involvement or influence by former Secretary Anthony Principi in the award or administration of the 2003 contract. 

 

The bipartisan inquiry by the Subcommittee did not find any evidence of conflict of interest or improper influence by the former Secretary in VA’s contracts with QTC for compensation and pension medical examinations.  This should remove any stigma on Principe’s performance as VA Secretary resulting from Rep. Waxman’s concerns.  A complete summary of the Committee’s report can be seen at http://veterans.house.gov/news/109/05-18-06.html [Source: Anthony Principi msg dtd 9 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

VA CLAIM REPRESENTATION UPDATE 01:  Bills are moving forward in both chambers of Congress that would reverse a long-standing prohibition on veterans hiring legal counsel to navigate the Veterans Affairs Department benefits system. But the department opposes the proposed change.  One Senate bill and two House bills have been introduced since March, each allowing veterans to hire lawyers early on in the process of pursuing benefits from VA. Current law prevents veterans from using legal counsel until they have exhausted the administrative processes within VA, which can take several years. Following a Thursday hearing on the Senate bill S.2694, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Larry Craig, (R-ID) described the existing laws as paternalistic, citing their origin in Civil War-era distrust of the then-under regulated legal profession.  He stated, “These highly trained, highly skilled veterans have the ability -- and should have the right -- to decide for themselves whether to hire a lawyer".  Craig's bill would allow veterans to hire counsel anytime during the benefits process, requiring VA to develop a registration process for lawyers with minimum standards and allowing the department to charge them a registration fee to offset associated costs.

 

     One aspect of those standards would be conforming to the current "non-adversarial" nature of the benefits process. Under the current benefits application process, veterans and groups that serve them navigate the system relying on good faith efforts by both sides.  In testimony 8 JUN VA officials argued that the legislation is unnecessary and involvement of lawyers would increase costs to veterans and to the department without significantly improving the process.  The VA deputy undersecretary for benefits Ronald Aument cited fiscal 2005 statistics showing that during the appeals stage in which lawyers were allowed, claimants represented by an attorney won one or more of the benefits sought in 21.3% of cases, while claimants represented by a veteran service organization actually got slightly better results of 22.3%.

Aument cited a Supreme Court decision that stated: "As might be expected in a system which processes such a large number of claims each year, the process prescribed by Congress for obtaining disability benefits does not contemplate the adversary mode of dispute resolution." Aument said, "Congress should not enact this bill unless it becomes convinced veterans would gain more in terms of increased benefits than they would lose to their attorneys … available evidence shows that is unlikely, hence we cannot support the bill's enactment."

 

     A House bill H.R.5549 introduced by the chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), is almost identical to the Senate measure.  House Democrats presented a slightly different bill HR.4914 that would allow attorneys only after a veteran had presented initial documentation and had been turned down for benefits. Sponsored by Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL) the bill does not impose additional requirements on lawyers or include language on non-adversarial behavior.  At least 24 organizations, including veterans groups, state bar associations and a group representing judges from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, have expressed their support for changing the current law, according to a listing provided by Craig's office. Three veterans groups have joined the department in opposing a change. [Source:  GOVEXEC.com 9 Jun 06]

 

VA CEMETERIES UPDATE 02:  Rep Tom Udall (NM-3) introduced the Native American Veterans Cemetery Act of 2005 in FEB 05 which was referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  This bill would allow VA to provide grants to assist Native American tribal organizations in establishing, expanding, or improving veterans' cemeteries on trust land owned by, or held in trust for, the tribal organization.  Native Americans have the highest record of service in the armed forces per capita of any one ethic group, yet they lack the opportunity to be buried close to home in a veterans' cemetery because tribes are not eligible to apply for state cemetery grant funds.  Under H.R.601, tribal governments would be put on the same footing as states - consistent with tribal sovereignty - allowing them to apply for VA grants.  On 8 JUN 06, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held an oversight hearing on changes made to VA’s Fiduciary program under Public Law 108-454. Following the hearing, the subcommittee passed H.R. 601 by voice vote allowing it to move to the full House Committee on Veterans' Affairs for action. Udall’s cemetery grants measure likely will become part of a larger benefits package that the committee hopes to send to the full House before the August recess.  While Udall’s bill has the support of the Bush administration, it was introduced in the last Congress without success. At present this bill has 47 cosponsors. In addition, the state legislatures in New Mexico and Arizona have passed resolutions in favor of allowing tribal governments to apply for national veterans' cemeteries funding. [Source: VFW Washington Weekly 12 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

HEALTH CARE BROKEN PROMISE UPDATE 01:  The courts sympathized with the goal of the pre-JUN 56 retiree claimant’s class action suit to get their health benefits restored but ruled it was a congressional vice judicial issue that could only be rectified by Congress. Accordingly, retirees through their legislators obtained the introduction of H.R.602 and S.407 Keep Our Promise to America’s Military Retirees Act in Congress in Feb 05. Despite alleged support by lawmakers over the last 15 months the bills do not seem to be moving forward. In pursuit of their goal claimants have initiated a letter writing campaign to get the attention of their legislators.  Following is one of those letters that is indicative of the feelings of those affected.  I have done some editing to make the letter apolitical:

 

Dear Congressman;

My question will DEFINITELY be a campaign issue! Why is HR 602, Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act being held up in committee when there are 245 cosponsors? … Being a cosponsor does not relieve a person of the responsibility to get this passed. …. The leadership has left me no option but to change my vote to the other party of any representative that votes against HR 602. The reason follows.

 

     During my tour of duty from 1954 through 1975 in the US Air force I was promised if I would continue to re-enlist and stay for 20 or more years I and my dependent would receive no-cost medical care for the rest of my life. This would make up for the low pay, separation from family, harsh conditions at time, and being on duty 24/7. That promise has been reneged on and to add insult to injury the price of this so called no-cost health care continues to be raised. I have already paid the price for this care. Would you please help me and push out of committee HR 602 for an up or down vote. Certainly you care about ALL military and not just those in your district.

 

     I would like to explain the difference between a retired veteran and a veteran. The retired veteran is one

who has served 20 or more years with the promise of benefits to make up for the low pay, separation, and very dangerous duty. The veteran is one who has served a tour of duty with only a promise of VA care. SUPPORT OUR TROOPS is an empty statement when there is no action. On behalf of the troops, spouses, and especially, widows…I request you join the 247 cosponsors and push this bill out of Committee … Issues you chose to act or not act on do affect me. This is a national issue. Not just a single state. I appeal to your conscience. It seems that many in our government have lost theirs. I did use one of your zip codes in order to get my message through. THERE WOULD BE NO UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IF IT WAS NOT FOR THE SACRIFICES OF THE MILITARY MEN AND WOMEN.

 

David Buffington

Msgt USAF Ret. Served 22 Years

901 Gracie Ln

Burleson, TX 76028-4151

 

[Source: MRGRG-MS Record Book at www.efreeguestbooks.com/mg/multi.pl?27625:9:0 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

CONGRESS VET VOTING RECORD:  With the current shenanigans in the House of Representatives and Senate it is obvious that many of those currently in office are drastically out of touch with the real world and have become part of the status quo as career politicians forgetting those who elected them. Too many Representatives and Senators appear to have lost touch with their constituent’s interests.  Several have already been recently convicted for crimes. Others are suspect in several independent investigations. The forthcoming November elections give opportunity to replace many who have not been supporting the veteran community. By so doing, perhaps new legislators not engulfed in the business as usual scheme’s can produce some worth while legislation for the general population instead of special interests. 

 

     A major consideration in who should stay and who should go is a review of voting records in support of veteran legislation.  At http://www.vote-smart.org/issue_rating_detail.php?sig_id=004044M veterans can review their representative’s voting record on legislation of interest to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization.  Generally, whatever DAV endorses is in support of veterans.  Legislators are listed by state, district, name, and party and a percentage is given on the number of veteran issues they supported vs. opposed.   The list show that 186 voted against every legislation issue that would benefit veterans’ while164 voted for every legislation issue that would benefit. The remainder were somewhere in between. It is understandable that legislators must appraise each issue on its own merits while balancing them against their constituents’ interests and the national good.  Thus, it is surprising their there were so many zero and 100% listings.  However, the percentages listed are a good indicator of what to expect if your present legislator remains in office. For those who have low percentages maybe “new persons” should be given a chance in November to perform better. Note: 153 days until Election Day.  Make your vote count.  Be sure you are registered to vote. [Source: NM e-Veterans News 12 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

RETIREE ENLISTMENT BONUS:  Effective 1 JUN Army retirees can earn a $1,000 bonus for referring someone with no prior military service (not an immediate family member) to an Army recruiter if that referral results in enlistment in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard. Under this program, referrals will be made via the Sergeant Major of the Army Recruiting Team (SMART) process. To receive a bonus, the retired Soldier making the referral must provide the name of the potential recruit before that person's interview with an Army recruiter.  The Smart program encourages Soldiers to provide referrals interested in the Army and Army Reserve. The United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) developed this referral system for all Soldiers (Regular Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard) and civilians on all Army installations and in all Reserve units to have the ability to provide referrals interested in the opportunities of the Army and Army Reserve. Referring Soldiers or civilians must either submit their referral(s) via www.usarec.army.mil/smart or through the USAREC line 1(800) 223-3735 extension 6-0473) dedicated to this program.  For referrals to the Army National Guard referees should call 1(800) 464-8273) or go to www.1800goguard.com/esar. Civilians, whether affiliated with the army establishment or not, and members of the military community from branches other than the Army who make referrals to an Army recruiter or via SMART are not eligible to receive the bonus.  The term “Army Retirees” includes:

(1)   Active Army Retirees, which includes retired officers and enlisted members of the Regular Army; and

(2)   Army Reserve Component Retirees, which includes reserve members receiving retired pay, reserve members who have transferred to the Retired Reserve after completing the requisite qualifying years credible for retired pay, but who have not yet reached 60 years of age, and retired members of the National Guard.

 

The retired soldier referring may not be serving in a recruiting or retention assignment or as a Junior ROTC instructor. The bonus payments to Army Retirees that participate in this pilot program will not be offset against those members retired/retainer pay.  Once contact is made with the referral the referring Soldier will receive a letter by mail of the referrals current status. If the referral becomes unqualified, does not enlist and ship to IET, or fails to complete IET the referring Soldier will also receive a letter by mail on the referrals status. Due to privacy requirements the exact reasons for disqualification or failure to complete training will not be disclosed. Any questions regarding the Referral Bonus Program should be directed to the USAREC telephone number.  At the end of each fiscal year, the Soldier or civilian with the highest number of referrals resulting enlistments will be invited to the Annual Chief of Staff of the Army, Recruiter of Excellence Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C. to be personally recognized for their achievement.  [Source: Operation SMART website www.usarec.army.mil/smart 5 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

USFSPA & DIVORCE UPDATE 01:  The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to end the "10-year rule" used by the government for more than two decades to screen court orders seeking automatic payment of retired pay to former military spouses. The change is one of three adjustments to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) in the Senate’s version of the 2007 defense authorization bill (S.2766).  All three are intended to streamline administration of the controversial 1982 law. If approved the changes would be the first made to the military ex-spouse law in 14 years. They would ease how future court orders are handled for former spouses. The 10-year rule has required DFAS to turn away requests for automatic payment of retired pay to ex-spouses unless the couple had been married at least 10 years during which the service member completed 10 years of creditable service. Marsha Warthen, board president of Ex-POSE, a military former spouse support group believes the rule’s elimination would solve a lot of problems.  Their organization contacted regularly by spouses who just missed the 10-year requirement. S.2766 proposed changes include:

 

-  The 10-year rule would end 120 days after the bill is signed. Retroactive sharing of benefits based on the change would be prohibited.

-  Directing DFAS to comply with all court requests for making cost-of-living adjustments to ex-spouse shares of retirement. DFAS now applies COLAs only to ex-spouse shares set as a percentage of a retiree’s annuity. COLAs are not applied to ex-spouse shares that courts state in dollar amounts. This change would apply to court orders that take affect 90 days after the bill is enacted.

-  Ending a requirement that DFAS notify retirees and provide them copy when DFAS receives a court order directing division of retired pay.  The Senate would shave that paperwork burden by forwarding court orders only to retirees who had told DFAS they want to be notified.

 

When DFAS is barred from assisting with automatic payments, courts order retirees to make payments directly to ex-spouses. However, many former spouses cannot locate retirees without expending funds they can ill afford. The 10-year rule also has been an irritant to retirees. If DFAS can’t accommodate a court order, it continues to withhold taxes on full annuities, including whatever portion the retiree pays directly to an ex-spouse. This can complicate retiree plans to have ex-spouses share the tax burden. The 10-year rule also can confuse lawyers, judges, retirees and spouses. The term suggests that retired pay can’t be divided unless a marriage lasts a decade. In fact, the 10-year rule impacts only on automatic payments by DFAS. As many retirees will attest, divorce court judges can, and do, divide retirement as property for marriages of any length.

 

     Frank W. Ault, executive director an advocacy group for divorced military retirees, said they support the Senate changes.  Ault said one concern with the 10-year rule has been that without DFAS handling all court orders to divide retired pay it has never been known what the USFSPA population is.  Knowing that would be advantageous in pushing Congress to make more substantive changes. DFAS says it now divides with ex-spouses the retired pay of 82,887 military retirees. That number includes 4,046 court orders received in 2005 that satisfied the 10-year rule. 

 

The House and Senate continue to approach the USFSPA with caution, avoiding changes perceived as tipping the law in favor of either retirees or of ex-spouses. The rationale for the Senate bill changes are taken from a comprehensive review of USFSPA that Defense officials completed in 2001. The committee’s own report mimics the DoD study in finding overwhelming justification for abolishing the 10-year rule. It notes that no other known retirement system or plan carries such a restriction. It says repeal would prevent courts, lawyers, retirees and spouses from mistakenly interpreting this rule as a prerequisite to allocation of retired pay. Still not addressed by Congress, said Ault, are the major problems that military people have with the USFSPA which are:

-  Resentment in having their pay called property. 

-  Resentment in having to give it to a spouse for life for a marriage of minutes.

-  Resentment of the windfall benefit to ex-spouses when courts divide retired pay without taking into account the affect of promotions and pay raises earned after the marriage dissolved.

-  Resentment of court orders that force them to share retired pay before they actually retire. Both the House and Senate again this year have ignored a Defense Department request to ban court orders that involve such “imputation of retired pay."

[Source: Military.com Tom Phillpott article 26 May 06]

 

 

VA "UNEMPLOYABILITY" GROWTH UPDATE 01:  A May 30 Government Accountability Office (GAO) released report criticizes the VA's award and management of Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits.  The report, which can be viewed at www.gao.gov/new.items/d06309.pdf, continues the GAO's long-standing reviews of VA and other federal disability programs. It says the VA needs to improve criteria, guidance, and procedures concerning award and verification of IU determinations.  Specifically, the report takes issue with what it says are the VA's:

 

   *Inconsistent awarding of IU benefits on the basis of information the GAO considers not well supported;

   *Inefficient and ineffective process to ensure the continuing eligibility for IU status;   

   *Outdated compensation programs that don't reflect the current state of science, technology, medicine, and the labor market;

   *Management practices that lag behind those of other disability programs such as those for Social Security Disability Insurance; and

   *Awards to older veterans – the GAO reported that 79% of new IU beneficiaries were awarded IU benefits at the age of 60 or older, and 19% were 75 or older.

 

     Many of these issues have been raised at public hearings of the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission (www.vetscommission.org) and are expected to be addressed in the Commission's report, which is due to Congress in the fall of 2007. MOAA believes the IU system should be able to stand up to scrutiny.  Where there are problems, they should be corrected.  But they are also are concerned about the potential for misinterpreting/overreacting to such reports and using them as an excuse to tar the entire IU system and block benefit fixes that are fully justifiable and appropriate – such as the need to provide consistent treatment of IU ratings for purposes of concurrent receipt and combat-related special compensation.  In that particular case, the GAO acknowledges that the numbers are relatively small at only about 8% of the IU eligible population. As for the age issue it should not be oversimplified by thinking awards for disabled members who have attained some arbitrary age threshold should be bared. Thousands, in fact, share the reality faced by millions of other aging Americans who are compelled to stay in or rejoin the work force in their later years out of financial necessity. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of fixing and validating the process rather than simply assuming that all IU ratings are suspect and that all who are rated as too disabled to work are somehow "beating the system." It's just plain wrong to cite a flawed process as a reason to deny the existence of a clear inequity – and then refuse to fix either one.  [Source: MOAA Leg Up 2 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

USAF EARLY RETIREMENTS:  As a result of the Fiscal 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force is offering voluntary retirements to officers with at least eight years total active federal commissioned service and 20 years total active federal military service. The force will waive active duty service commitments (except aviation continuation pay, judge advocate continuation pay and critical skills retention bonus) and allow officers meeting these criteria to apply for voluntary retirement on 1 SEP 06, or earlier.  Some force shaping initiatives are still offered such as the “Blue to Green” option for officers and the waiver for lieutenant colonels and colonels to retire with two years time in grade through 2007. The Air Force is also authorizing officers to establish a voluntary retirement date up to 15 months in advance. If not enough volunteers choose voluntary retirement, a selective early retirement board could convene in 2007. [Source: Armed Forces News 9 Jun 06]

 

 

DIVINE STRAKE:  The Department of Energy (DOE) is readying the Nevada Test Site for a large-scale, open-air, high explosive detonation on a tunnel complex. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the DOE customer which is conducting the test, is stressing that the test is not a nuclear blast and the Russian government reportedly has been notified to avoid misunderstanding about the event. The test is aimed at determining how well a massive conventional bomb would perform against fortified underground targets.  It will be a detonation of a pile of chemical explosives to simulate a low-yield nuclear weapon ground shock effect to improve the warfighter’s confidence in selecting the smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage.  Divine Strake approved in 2002 is an integral part of STRATCOM's new Global Strike mission, which is otherwise said to provide mainly non-nuclear means of defeating time-critical targets. It is the first nuclear effects simulation of this kind against underground targets since President George W. Bush in Summer 2004 directed STRATCOM to extend Global Strike to counter all HDBTs (Hard and Deeply Buried Targets) to include both tactical and strategic adversarial targets.

 

     The National Nuclear Security Administration in late May withdrew its Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) related to the environmental assessment for the non-nuclear, open air test.  The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) had set the test for 2 JUN but then postponed it for three weeks following questions from Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-02) and other members of Congress about the purpose and possible health risks. Over 900 open air and underground nuclear tests were carried out in areas surrounding the location selected for the upcoming blast.  Because of this, Nevada environmental officials have refused to issue air quality permits required before its detonation, saying it has not finished analyzing the information provided by DTRA. They plan to use the delay to clarify and provide further information regarding background levels of radiation from global fallout in the vicinity of the Divine Strake experiment.  With the explosion of 700 tons of conventional explosives there is concern about possible radioactive dust being placed in the atmosphere.  Further details of the proposed test can be found at www.nukestrat.com/us/stratcom/gs-divinestrake.htm [Source: NM e-Veterans News 12 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

KEESLER AFB MEDICAL PROGRAM:  The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson Miss will take over the medical training program at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. on 1 JUL 07.  The 100 Air Force doctors currently at Keesler will still run the program, but they will become faculty members of the medical center. The Base Realignment and Closure commission plan called for a “community hospital” at Keesler, which would have eliminated the training program for young doctors just out of medical school. However, Air Force officials said after Hurricane Katrina that the base would be restored to its pre-storm condition, including the training program. Keesler sustained about $915 million of damage during the storm. Air Force doctors will continue to get training at Keesler, and medical students from UMMC will also do rotations at the hospital and at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. This is a win-win situation for both the state and the military retiree community. [Source AP Gulfport MS article from the Biloxi Sun Herald 7 Jun 06]

 

 

MOBILIZED RESERVE 1 JUNE 06:   Army National Guard and Army Reserve on active duty in support of the present partial mobilization is now 79,715.  In addition the other services have mobilized 4,832 Navy Reserve; 7,234 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve; 6,685 Marine Corps Reserve; and 367 Coast Guard Reserve.  As of 10 MAY this brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel, who have been mobilized to 98,974, including both units and individual augmentees.  This is a decrease of 1,310 from last month’s 10 MAY total mobilization announcement.   At any given time, services may mobilize some units and individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. A cumulative roster of all Reserve contingent personnel can be found at  www.defenselink.mil/news/May2006/d20060531ngr.pdf  for those now mobilized. [Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle 1 Jun 06]

 

 

MILITARY RELATED JOB FAIRS:  The Veteran Eagle is a newsletter for veterans, transitioning military, their family members, and friends and supporters of VetJobs. It provides informational assistance to users in finding the job that best meets their needs.  Interested vets can review data that will enable them to find a job and/or subscribe to the newsletter at www.vetjobs.com.  The site also provides information to employers on the advantages of hiring vets.  Following are the scheduled military related Job Fairs for JUN 06

 

6/4-5, Bradley Morris Hiring Conference for Transitioning Military, Dallas, TX, Register online for more information at www.Bradley-Morris.com

6/5-6, Orion International Military Hiring Conference, San Diego, CA, Register online for more information at www.orioninternational.com

6/5-6, Orion International Military Hiring Conference, Raleigh, NC, Register online for more information at www.orioninternational.com

6/7, Fort Huachuca Security Clearance Career Fair, Windemere Hotel & Conference Center, 2047 S. Highway 92, Sierra Vista, AZ, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/11-12, Bradley Morris Hiring Conference for Transitioning Military, San Diego, CA, Register online for more information at www.Bradley-Morris.com

6/13, Huntsville Technology, Engineering & Security Clearance Career Fair, Holiday Inn Select Hotel, 401 Williams Avenue, Huntsville, AL, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/14, Defense and IntelligenceCareers Career Fair, Holiday Inn Express, 6401 Brandon Avenue, Springfield, VA, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

6/14, ACAP JOB FAIR, Fort Hood Officers Club. Bldg 5764, Fort Hood, TX, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/15, Austin Technology, Engineering & Security Clearance Career Fair, Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark, 4140 Governor's Row, Austin, TX, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/15, Regional Veterans Career Day, Holiday Inn Hampton Hotel and Conference Center, Hampton, VA, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/16, ACAP Hiring Event, Fort Carson, CO, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

6/18-19, Bradley Morris Hiring Conference for Transitioning Military, Atlanta, GA, Register online for more information at www.Bradley-Morris.com

6/18-19, Bradley Morris Hiring Conference for Transitioning Military, Norfolk, VA, Register online for more information at www.Bradley-Morris.com

6/19-20, AFCEA/TECHEXPO Career Fair, Washington DC Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Washington, DC 20001, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

6/20, San Diego Technology, Engineering & Security Clearance Career Fair, Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 1895 Camino del Rio South, San Diego, CA, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/21, Veterans Job Fair/Appreciation Day, Aerospace Machinist Industrial Lodge #751, 9135 15th Place South, Seattle, WA, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

6/22, ACS-ACAP JOB FAIR, Commons Building, Fort McPherson, GA, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM

6/23, Defense and IntelligenceCareers Career Fair, Sheraton Four Points at BWI, 7032 Elm Road, Linthincum, MD, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM 

6/23, ACAP Center Job Fair, Main Post, Bldg. 210, Rooms 118 C&D, Ft. Riley, KS, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM

6/26-27, Orion International Military Hiring Conference, Washington, DC, Register online for more information at www.orioninternational.com

6/26-27, Orion International Military Hiring Conference, Dallas, TX, Register online for more information at www.orioninternational.com

6/27, MilitaryStars Mid-Atlantic Regional Career Expo, Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, 300 South Charles Street, Baltimore, MD, 12:00 Noon to 5:00 PM

[Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle 1 Jun 06]

 

 

MILITARY FUNERAL DISORDERLY CONDUCT UPDATE 06:  On Memorial Day, President Bush signed into law H.R. 5037.  The measure (P.L. 109-228) introduced as the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act, prohibits demonstrations at national cemeteries during military funerals.  The act bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of national cemeteries and within 150 feet of roads leading to national cemeteries. The limitation is effective from one hour before until one hour after a funeral. Violators could be sentenced to a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. The new law is in response to a small church group from Topeka, Kan., that claims military combat deaths stem from God’s anger at the United States because it tolerates homosexuals. The group has carried signs in the vicinity of military funerals with wording such as, “Thank God for IEDs,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.” The bill was originally introduced by Congressman Mike Rogers (MI).  The full House approved the legislation on 6 MAY where it was then referred to the Senate.  The Senate unanimously supported the bill on 24 May clearing it for the President’s signature. More than a dozen states have passed similar legislation, or are considering it. [Source: NGAUS LEGIT 2 Jun 06 ++]

 

 

RETIREE MOBILIZATION UPDATE 04:  The Army is currently accepting applications for recall from Category One and Two retirees.  A Category One retiree is non-disability retired, under age 60, and retired less than five years.   A Category Two retiree is non-disability retired, under age 60 and retired more than five years.  The Army is processing requests for Category One retirees to assignments worldwide and for Category Two retirees to CONUS assignments only.  Assignments normally last 12 to 18 months.  They are a temporary change of station and do not permit the movement of families and household goods.

Retirees must be physically fit and able to perform the duties of their military skills worldwide.  A physical examination will be done during initial in-processing at a designated installation.  Retirees who are not physically fit for recall to active duty will be immediately released from active duty.  

 

      To volunteer, retired Soldiers must have an account with Army Knowledge Online (AKO) https://www.us.army.mil and must update their ‘My Record’ at the Human Resources Command Web site https://www.hrc.army.mil/index.  Click on HRC-St. Louis and then click on Mobilization/Demobilization, Mobilization of Retirees.  Your record update must include your current address, home, work and cell telephone numbers, and e-mail address(es).   Applications and further guidance are also available at that site.  E-mail completed applications to retmob@hrcstl.army.mil or FAX them to (314) 592-1003.    Note:  There is no guarantee that applicants will be recalled to active duty.  If recalled, all retiree recalls are temporary in nature.  The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army may end the period of recall with 30 days notice to you.  Therefore, the Human Resources Command-St. Louis advises applicants not to make any major life changes in anticipation of mobilization, such as quitting a job or selling your home.  [Source: Army Echoes May-Aug 2006]

 

 

HEALTH SEARCH ENGINE:  Health information is spread all over the Web. It can be cumbersome looking at each site for what you need. There is a search site still in the test stage called Mamma Health at www.mammahealth.com.  Type in medication on a health question and Mamma Health will search a plethora of trusty sites. Rather than just provide links to the sources, content is displayed. Information like definitions, causes and cures is right there. If you need more information, you can click on a corresponding link. It also provides a regular search engine. The results are not as detailed as the health portion, but it gets the job done.   Source: Don Harribine’s Tips & Topics 13 May 06]

 

 

COMMISSARY SAVINGS TIP:  Higher gasoline prices are causing many shoppers to make fewer trips to the commissary.  Savings can be enhanced by advance planning of your purchases and buying more when you do make the trip. In addition to clipping coupons you can check out what is on sale at the "savings aisle" under the shopping link at www.commissaries.com/log_in/html/savings_aisle.cfm. DeCA is not allowed to advertise prices outside the store, but you can print out a list of items on sale in your commissary.  You can also shop online at the utilizing the Virtual Commissary at www.commissaries.com.  Here can be viewed packaged sets of groceries to send on special occasions to friends, family members, or troops overseas.  APO or FPO addresses can be accommodated. [Source: Military.com Report 1 May 06

 

 

CERVICAL CANCER:  Cervical cancer is the second most common malignant disease in women globally.  It is often diagnosed at a younger age than other cancers. While cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined approximately 50% over the past three decades, the disease remains a serious health threat among women. It is estimated that approximately $1.7 billion is spent in the United States each year on treatment. Recent trends show that incidence rates for Hispanic women are higher than those for non-Hispanic women.  Although the mortality rate for African American women has declined more rapidly than the rate for White women, the African American mortality rate continues to be more than double that of Whites.  Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected early. An important strategy to reduce the risk of cervical cancer is screening through the use of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test. The main cause of cervical cancer is continuous infection with human papilloma viruses, especially HPV 16 and 18, which are spread by sexual contact.  An experimental cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix under development by GlaxoSmithKline remains effective for nearly five years.

 

     Cervarix is designed to protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which account for about 70%of cervical malignancies and may protect women against more types of cancer-causing viruses than originally thought.  It appears to also provide protection against two other HPV types, 45 and 31, which can also trigger cervical cancer. Women who got Cervarix didn't report any more long-term problems (such as thyroid problems) compared to those who received a placebo injection.  Another vaccine for cervical cancer, called Gardasil, developed by Merck is waiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  It could possibly be on the market later this year. Gardasil protects against HPV 16 and 18, and also against HPV 6 and 11, which accounts for about 90% of genital warts.  Additional information on this type of cancer can be found at www.cancer.gov/cervical.  Here users can find up-to-date information on treatment, prevention, genetics, causes, screening, testing, and other topics.  [Source: Express Scripts e-Bulletin 6 Apr 06 ++]

 

 

TRICARE FACT SHEETS:   Tricare Fact Sheets are designed for use by anyone who needs detailed information on particular Tricare topics. Listed below are those presently in print and their effective date. All reflect the most current information and are available online at  www.tricare.osd.mil/Factsheets/. 

Questions or concerns about the Tricare Fact Sheets should be submitted to TMA Communications at eenews@tma.osd.mil:

 

TRICARE Benefit for Some Activated National Guard/Reserve Members & Family Members 05/04/2005

Certificate of Creditable Coverage  02/03/2004

Chiropractic Care Program  07/19/2004

College Students and TRICARE  08/26/2004

Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS)  10/26/2005

ECHO Home Health Care (EHHC) 09/28/2005

Extended Care Health Option (ECHO)  12/09/2004

Early TRICARE Benefit for Some Activated National Guard and Reserve Members and Family Members 04/26/06

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and TRICARE  08/18/2005

How TRICARE Changes When a Uniformed Services Member Retires  08/18/2005

New TRICARE Retail Pharmacy (TRRx) Program Begins  06/02/2004

Newborn Enrollment in DEERS  08/11/2005

Next Generation of TRICARE Contracts  08/01/2002

Patient Safety and TRICARE  02/27/2004

Point-of-Service Option  04/18/2002

Supplemental Insurance  11/16/2005

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Overseas Program  03/07/2005

Transitional Assistance Management Program  01/06/2005

TRICARE Appeals  11/02/2004

TRICARE Catastrophic Cap  11/19/2004

TRICARE Dental Program  01/30/2006

TRICARE Dental Program Survivor Benefit  07/27/2005

TRICARE Eligibility  06/08/06

TRICARE For Life and Medicare  10/20/2005

TRICARE for Medal of Honor Recipients and Eligible Family Members  05/17/2005

TRICARE Global Remote Overseas & Puerto Rico Prime Benefit  05/07/2004

TRICARE Maternity Care Options  04/20/2005

TRICARE Online  02/27/2006

TRICARE Pharmacy Program  10/24/2005

TRICARE Plus  07/08/2002

TRICARE Portability  10/08/2002

TRICARE Prime and Non-Medical Attendant Travel Entitlements  05/05/2005

TRICARE Prime Remote  03/21/2003

TRICARE Providers  09/22/2004

TRICARE Regional Contractors For the United States   12/09/2004

TRICARE Reserve Family Demonstration Project  11/16/2005

TRICARE Reserve Select  12/12/2005

TRICARE Retiree Dental Program  07/26/2005

TRICARE Standard  01/24/2006

TRICARE Survivor Benefits for Active Duty Family Members  08/09/2005

TRICARE Vision Benefits  06/07/06

TRICARE, Medicare, Skilled Nursing Facility Care and Long-Term Care  01/09/2003

TRICARE: The Basics  06/11/2003

TRICARE: Notice of Privacy Practices  04/11/2003

Uniformed Services (US) Family Health Plan 11/01/2004

Unremarried Former Spouses (URFS) Information  12/02/2004

Using the TRICARE Dental Program Overseas  03/08/2005

Where Should Your Outpatient Medical Records Be Stored?  01/12/2004

[Source: Veterans Support Branch AHRC/PAV-V/CBB St. Louis MO Jun 06]

 

 

TRICARE TOP TFL:  Eligible beneficiaries living overseas may use Tricare Overseas Program (TOP) Tricare for Life (TFL) as long as they are entitled to Medicare Part A and Part B.  TOP TFL coverage is the same as stateside Tricare Standard.  Medicare does not typically provide health care coverage overseas; therefore, TOP TFL will be the primary payer and the beneficiary will be responsible for the fiscal year deductible and cost shares.  However, Medicare does pay for health care services received in U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and, for purposes of services rendered onboard ship, in the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the United States).  In these locations, TOP TFL acts as the second payer after Medicare, just as with the stateside TFL program.

 

      If beneficiaries get medical care from a provider that accepts Medicare in one of the U.S. territories, their provider may file the claim with Medicare.  Medicare then processes the claim and forwards the claim to TRICARE for payment of the remaining amount.  Tricare automatically sends payment to the beneficiary's provider.  No action is required by beneficiaries.  They will get a Medicare summary notice from Medicare and an EOB from WPS indicating the amounts Medicare and Tricare paid. When seeking reimbursement for care received in locations not covered by Medicare, beneficiaries must file their own claim(s).  Paper claims are submitted to the Tricare Overseas claims processor using a DD Form 2642, www.tricare.osd.mil/claims/Dd_2642.pdf, along with a copy of the provider's itemized bill and any EOBs from all OHIs; no Medicare summary notice is required.  Beneficiaries are responsible for the Tticare Standard deductible and cost shares.  The TOP TFL claims filing address is: Tricare Overseas,  P.O. Box 7985, Madison, WI 53707-7985.  

 

      For additional information on processing overseas claims, beneficiaries can use the following resources:

        The Tricare Overseas claims processor, www.tricare.osd.mil/overseas/;

        A local Tricare Service Center (TSC), which can be located on the TSC Web site, www.tricare.osd.mil/tricareservicecenters/default.cfm;

        A Beneficiary Counseling and Assistance Coordinator, www.tricare.osd.mil/bcacdcao/; or

        The Tricare Claims Web site, www.tricare.osd.mil/claims/default.cfm.  

For more information on TOP TFL, beneficiaries may visit the Web site, www.tricare.osd.mil/tfl/top.cfm. [Source: Tricare Help E-mail Service Office of the Surgeon General msg 20 Mar 06]

 

 

MILITARY LEGISLATION STATUS UPDATE:  Following is current status on some Congressional bills of interest to the military community.  Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can determine if your legislator is a sponsor of the bill you are concerned with. The key to increasing cosponsorship is letting your representative know of your feelings on these issues.  At the end of the below listed bills is a web link that can be used to do that:

 

H.R.303:  To amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and to eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.  The following sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 235:   Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL-03), Rep. Thomas Davis (R-VA-11), Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-05).,  Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA-7), & Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA-37) To support this bill send a message to your Representative at --http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7693831. 

 

H.R.808:  To amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the offset from surviving spouse annuities under the military Survivor Benefit Plan for amounts paid by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC).  A motion was filed to discharge the Rules Committee from consideration of H.RES 271 on 16 NOV 05.  This resolution provides for the consideration of H.R.808 and requires 218 signatures for further action. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA-13) on 6 JUN was the 170th representative to sign the petition. No sponsors were added to this bill since the last report and it remains with a total of 204: To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7683586

To support the discharge petition send a message to your Representative at --

http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/alert/?alertid=8248891&type=CO

 

H.R.968: To amend title 10, United States Code, to change the effective date for paid-up coverage under the military Survivor Benefit Plan from October 1, 2008, to October 1, 2005. The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 141: Rep. Raul Grijalva (DEM-AZ-7). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7683511

 

H.R.994:  To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for TRICARE supplemental premiums.  No sponsors were added to this bill since the last report and it remains with a total of 330. To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7761876

 

H.R.995: To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the payment of Combat-Related Special Compensation under that title to members of the Armed Forces retired for disability with less than 20 years of active military service who were awarded the Purple Heart. The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 31: Rep. Ray LaHood (REP-IL-18).  To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7683281

 

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

The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 44: Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR-1). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7718711

To support Sen. Reid’s amendment to the 2007 NDAA bill S.2766 send a message to your Representative at --http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/alert/?alertid=8831461&type=CO

 

H.R.2076: To amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation.  No sponsors were added to this bill since the last report and it remains with a total of 28. To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7728776

 

H.R.2962: To amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes.  The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 51: Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA-53). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at --http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7784066

 

H.R.4949: To amend title 10, United States Code, to prohibit increases in fees for military health care.  The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 158: Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-06),  Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA-05), & Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA-19).  To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=8591231

 

H.R.4992: To provide for Medicare reimbursement for health care services provided to Medicare-eligible veterans in facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 15: Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR-5). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=8670886 

 

S.185:  To amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal the requirement for the reduction of certain Survivor Benefit Plan annuities by the amount of dependency and indemnity compensation and to modify the effective date for paid-up coverage under the Survivor Benefit Plan. The following sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 34: Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) & Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7709421

 

S.407:  The ‘Keep Our Promise to America's Military Retirees Act’ to restore health care coverage to retired members of the uniformed services and their eligible dependents. No sponsors were added to this bill since the last report and it remains with a total of 13.  To support this bill send a message to your Senator at -- http://mrgrg-ms.org/fax-it.html

 

S.484: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for Tricare supplemental premiums. The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 62: Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID).  To support this bill send a message to your Senator at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7787396

 

S.2617: A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to limit increases in the costs to retired members of the Armed Forces of health care services under the TRICARE program, and for other purposes.  No sponsors were added to this bill since the last report and it remains with a total of 8.  To support this bill send a message to your Senator at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=8675061

 

S.2658:  A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to enhance the national defense through empowerment of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and the enhancement of the functions of the National Guard Bureau, and for other purposes. The bill was introduced 24 APR 06 by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) and currently has 29 sponsors. To support this bill send a preformatted or edited message to your Senator by using the “Write to Congress” feature at  -- www.ngaus.org.

 

Note: 153 days until Election Day.  Make your vote count.  Be sure you are registered to vote.

[Source: USDR Action Alerts 1-15 Jun 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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