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

Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2006 12:34 AM

Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 1 June 2006

 

RAO Bulletin Update

1 June 2006

 

 

THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:

 

== VA Data Privacy Breach ------------------- (26,500,000 vets exposed)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [01] ------------- (Q&A)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [02] --------------(Funding & hearings)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [03] ------------- (Legislation & reward)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [04] ------------- (Vet action to take)

== VA Data Privacy Breach [05] ------------- (Impact on S.1408)

== Health Care Broken Promise --------------  (Recruiter’s )

== Memorial Day History ---------------------- (Why a special day)

== VET SBA Office Closed ------------------- (No advance word)

== DFAS Overseas Direct Deposit [01------- (Exchange rates)

== COLA 2007 [02] ---------------------------- (2.3% to date)

== VDBC [05] ---------------------------------- (More on SSDI)

== Postal Service Update --------------- (Rate increase proposal)

== Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society ------  (A chance to volunteer)

== VA Budget 2007 [04] ---------------------- (House vote 395-0)

== Vietnam POW Exhibit --------------------- (Now open to public)

== Internet Neutrality -------------------------- (HR 5252 to keep )

== NDAA 2007 Update 03 -------------------- (Bush not happy w/House)

== AFRC Accommodations ------------------- (Good deal )

== Long Term Care Website ------------------ (Latest on LTC)

== VA Health Care Access -------------------- (IG says not up to par)

== VA Claim Representation -----------------  (S.2694 to rectify)

== VA QTC Contract Questioned ------------ (Concern’s w/Principi)

== TMOP Prescription Orders ---------------- (How to place)

== TMOP Prescription Refill ----------------- (How to refill)

== TMOP Overseas Orders ------------------- (Prerequisites)

== FTC Consumer Complaint Form --------- (How to get results)

== Bariatric Surgery --------------------------- (Obesity treatment)

== Arizona Tuition for Military ------------- (Bill in progress)

== Telephone Dialing Tip --------------------- (Save time & money)

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

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH:  The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) issued a statement advising that a GS-14 senior-level 60 year old career employee working as an information technology specialist in the Office of Policy took home electronic data in his laptop computer from the DVA which was subsequently stolen in a home burglary.  Also stolen was an external hard drive containing a duplicate portion of some of the data.  Subsequent investigation disclosed the employee had routinely been taking such data home since 2003.  Removal of the data from the department headquarters is in violation of VA policies and the employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a VA OIG investigation.  This data contained identifying information on veterans who have had dealings with the VA. Included were the unencrypted names and birth dates as well as some disability ratings of 26.5 million vets and 100 spouses of which 19.6 million also contained social security numbers. The data did not include any of VA's electronic health records nor any financial information.  Appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the VA Inspector General's office, have launched full-scale investigations into this matter. Authorities believe it is unlikely the perpetrators targeted the equipage taken because of any knowledge of their data contents. It is possible the burglars initially were unaware of the information which they possess or of how to make use of it but with all the public media about the theft it is unlikely they still are not aware. 

 

     The VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform veterans. The DVA became aware of this incident on 3 MAY when the employee reported it and notified the local police indicating only a few hundred files had been stolen.  When the magnitude of the files involved was determined the FBI was bought in on 17 MAY. DVA did not commence notifying veterans through mass media until 20 MAY. DVA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans’ service organizations, and other government agencies to help ensure that veterans and their families are aware of the situation and of the steps they may take to protect themselves from misuse of their personal information. To enhance this effort they will send out individual notification letters to veterans to every extent possible. Through other government agencies, the DVA has set up a manned call center that veterans may call to get information about this situation and learn more about consumer identity protections. That toll free number is 1(800) 333-4636. The call center operates from 0800 to 2100 (EDT) Mon thru Sat.  It will operate as long as it is needed and is capable of handling more than 250,000 calls a day. Veterans can also obtain additional info on dealing with identity theft at www.consumer.gov/idtheft . The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held an emergency hearing on the issue 25 MAY. [Source: TREA Leg Up & VFW Washington Weekly 22 May 06 ++]

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 01:  The following is provided to answer questions and suggest actions that veterans may want to take as a result of the recent theft from the VA of 26.5 million veteran’s names, social security numbers, and birth dates:  

 

1. At this point there is no evidence that any missing data has been used illegally. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs is asking all veterans to be extra vigilant and to carefully monitor bank statements, credit card statements and any statements relating to recent financial transactions. If you notice unusual or suspicious activity, you should report it immediately to the financial institution involved and contact the Federal Trade Commission for further guidance.

 

2. The information was stolen from a VA employee’s home on 3 MAY 06. If the data has been misused or otherwise used to commit fraud or identity theft crimes, it is likely that veterans may notice suspicious activity during the month of May. Law enforcement officials reported several burglaries in the area and they do not believe the stolen information was targeted.

 

3. The VA strongly recommends that veterans closely monitor their financial statements and review the guidelines provided at www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml.

 

4. The VA does not believe that it is necessary to contact financial institutions or cancel credit cards and bank accounts, unless you detect suspicious activity.

 

5. No electronic medical records were compromised. Data applied to veterans separating from the military since 1975 and may have included data on veterans who separated before 1975 but who submitted a claim for VA benefits. The data lost is primarily limited to an individual's name, date of birth, social security number, in some cases their spouse's information, as well as some disability ratings. However, this information could still be of potential use to identity thieves.

 

6. The VA is working with the President's Identity Theft Task Force, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this data breach and to develop safeguards against similar incidents. The Department of Veterans Affairs has directed all VA employees complete the "VA Cyber Security Awareness Training Course" and complete the separate "General Employee Privacy Awareness Course" by 30 JUN 06.  In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs will immediately be conducting an inventory and review of all current positions requiring access to sensitive VA data and require all employees requiring access to sensitive VA data to undergo an updated National Agency Check and Inquiries (NACI) and/or a Minimum Background Investigation (MBI) depending on the level of access required by the responsibilities associated with their position. Appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, have launched full-scale investigations into this matter.

 

7. The DVA has set up a special website www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml and a toll-free telephone number 1(800) 333-4636 for veterans that feature up-to-date news and information. . At the website you can request daily, weekly, or monthly updates on the VA security situation to be sent to you by email

[Source: TREA Leg Up & VFW Washington Weekly 22 May 06 ++]

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 02:  The Veterans Affairs Department is prepared to shift up to $25 million of its fiscal 2006 funding to handle initial costs associated with the theft of as many as 26.5 million veterans’ personal data from an employee’s suburban Maryland home. The overall price tag could climb. Lawmakers on 24 MAY granted VA this authority to pay for the call center supporting the toll-free number it has set up in the wake of its 22 MAY announcement that personal information, including Social Security numbers, of possibly every living U.S. veteran discharged since 1975 was stolen from the employee’s house. Data on veterans discharged before 1975 but with claims filed at the agency since, as well as on some veterans’ spouses, also is at risk.  According to figures supplied the DVA had received 84,309 veteran calls on the subject were handled as of 2200 21 MAY and call volume more than doubled on the second day. 

 

     Under the Congresional authority granted, money to pay for the call center could be taken from four information technology programs. VA management is uncertain whether all $25 million will be needed to support the call center. However, the department must also shoulder other expenses, including the cost of printing and mailing notification letters.  About $12 million could be culled from a Veterans Health Administration program for computer infrastructure and network management. An additional $1.5 million could come from a Veterans Benefit Administration project on “IT Program Integrity and Data Management”. Also, an effort called “One VA Eligibility and Registration” could end up losing $4.5 million. This initiative was designed to ensure that veterans only have to register once with the department in order to receive all the benefits for which they are eligible. Lastly, a program to create a common VHA electronic repository for health records could lose $7 million. The House Appropriations Committee instructed VA to touch those funds only if the other reprogrammed funds have been depleted, a congressional source said. The fiscal 2006 budget for the health record project is only $16 million, so the $7 million would amount almost a 50% cut.  The $25 million price tag could prove just the beginning of the department’s expenses associated with the theft.

 

     When the Alpharetta, Ga.-based data broker ChoicePoint disclosed in 2005 that personal information for about 145,000 people had been sold to criminals posing as a legitimate businessman, the incident ended up costing the company $11.4 million through 30 JUN 05, according to company records. Two million of that was just for credit reports and credit monitoring for victims. Both the House and Senate committees on veterans’ affairs are holding hearings on the theft. Among the topics staffers say will be discussed is the more than two-week lag time between when the theft occurred May 3 and the day the department notified Congress and potential victims. In a statement released 22 MAY, department Secretary R. James Nicholson said he is concerned about the timing of the department’s response once the burglary became known and the department is conducting a very extensive review of individuals up and down the chain of command. [Source: GOVEXEC.com daily briefing 24 Mat 06]

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 03:  On 22 MAY Rep. John T. Salazar (D-CO-03), a Member of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee and a veteran introduced the “Veterans Identity Protection Act of 2006” (H.R. 5455). This legislation aimed at helping veterans whose personal data was stolen from the home of a VA employee earlier this month.  A corresponding bill S. 2970 has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). In introducing the legislation Salazar said, “This Administration has clearly failed in its duty to protect those who have protected us. Entire lifetimes of saving money and good work can now be devastated in an instant because of the VA’s careless handling of personal information. And by not informing anyone of the breach for nearly a month, the VA squandered critical damage control time. This Administration owes far more than a sincere apology to our veterans for its cover up and careless handling of security. A full investigation is needed and the people in charge must be held accountable. But more immediately, we cannot allow our veterans to suffer while the government sorts out its mistakes. Veterans should not have to pay for identity theft. The least the government can do is cover the cost for veteran’s to monitor their credit.” Salazar’s legislation calls on the VA to:

 

  Provide one year of free credit monitoring to affected individuals.

  Provide one free credit report each year for two years after the end of credit monitoring, in addition to the free credit report available under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

  Authorize $1.25 billion in emergency funds for the first year of implementation.

 

     On May 25, 2006, the DVA Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) and the FBI announced a $50,000 reward through the Montgomery County (Maryland) Crime Solvers organization, for information that leads to the recovery of a laptop computer and external hard drive that contained personal information for millions of veterans. Montgomery County Police are working with the FBI and the VA OIG in the investigation of a residential burglary that occurred on 3 MAY, in the Aspen Hill community of Montgomery County.  Federal investigators have removed other sensitive VA data the worker was not authorized to have at home. The primary objective of the investigation is the recovery of the laptop and external hard drive. Anyone who can provide information that leads to the recovery of the laptop and external hard drive that contains the veterans' data should call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 1(866) 411-TIPS (8477). A cash reward of $50,000 will be paid for information provided to the Crime Solvers tip line that leads to the recovery of these items. [Source: www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml & Democratic Leader Pelosi msg 24/25 May 06]

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 04:  Although not anticipated the potential does exist that the data contained on the hard drive of the stolen computer could be used for identity theft.  The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following steps if you detect suspicious activity:

a. Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus at  Equifax: 1(800) 525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 or Experian: 1(888) 397-3742; www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013 or TransUnion: 1(800) 680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

b. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

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

d. 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, or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580.

 

Suspicious activities indicating potential identity theft could include:

-  Inquiries from companies you haven't contacted or done business with.

-  Purchases or charges on your accounts you didn't make.

-  New accounts you didn't open or changes to existing accounts you didn't make.

-  Bills that don't arrive as expected.

-  Unexpected credit cards or account statements.

-  Denials of credit for no apparent reason.

-  Calls or letters about purchases you didn't make.

[Source:  www.firstgov.gov/veteransinfo.shtml 26 May 06]

 

 

VA DATA PRIVACY BREACH UPDATE 05:  Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) made a plea to his chamber’s leadership on 25 May to schedule floor debate on a bill that could help veterans better protect their stolen personal information. He is hopeful they will take some time on the floor in the near future to allow consideration of the Identity Theft Protection Act (S.1408) which he co-sponsored with a bipartisan group of seven lawmakers. Pryor made the comment during a joint hearing hosted by the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security committees on the recent data breach at the Veterans’ Affairs Department. This bill was first introduced in JUL 05 but up to this point has not received much interest.  A Senate aide who has worked on the bill said that there has been increased activity and discussion in recent days towards getting a data breach bill passed due to the Veterans’ Affairs Department breach.  Among other things provisions of the legislation are designed to:

 

-  Allow consumers to restrict access to their credit reports.

-  Frustrate potential thieves from conducting transactions under other people’s names.

-  Require commercial entities and non-profit institutions to implement security measures.

 

     The committee needs to enact language on relevant areas that fall under its jurisdiction so that committee staffers can finalize and merge the various legislative proposals in their chamber. It is committee chairman Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) intention to pass a bill that would cover the financial institutions covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which both address financial privacy issues. The House Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Judiciary committees all approved separate proposals for data protection legislation in late MAY. The consumer groups generally support the Energy and Commerce bill, while business interests support the Financial Services legislation. Only the Financial Services legislation includes a provision that allows consumers to restrict third-party access to their credit reports. However, the bill would only permit them to do so after being victims of fraud. 

 

     U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, asked the Treasury Department via letter on 26 MAY for details on a plan to use IRS databases to notify U.S. veterans whose personal information was stolen earlier this month. The IRS has an up-to-date database of most Americans’ last known addresses, and that database will be used to contact veterans whose information was compromised. In a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow, Baucus asked for detailed information on IRS plans to use private contractors to produce and send letters to veterans.  In closing he said, “Treasury must exercise the utmost care to ensure that the privacy of these veterans is completely protected and not further compromised. Veterans deserve assurances that the IRS’s notification process will not result in their further victimization. Already, this incident has proved upsetting to many of our nation’s veterans, who are now legitimately concerned that the security of their identities is at risk. Notification letters from the IRS may themselves add confusion. Letters from the IRS may cause veterans to wonder whether their tax or financial information has been compromised or whether they have a tax matter that needs to be addressed. I urge Treasury to ensure that these IRS letters are clear in their purpose and won’t further complicate what could be an alarming situation for many veterans.”

[Source: GOVEXEC.com Daily Briefings 26 & 30 May 06]

 

 

MEMORIAL DAY HISTORY: On 20 MAY Americans celebrated Memorial Day. It is important to remember this day is not just the traditional start of summertime fun, but also a time to honor the service members who have given their lives for our country. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on 30 MAY 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On 5 MAY 1868, Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

 

   The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

 

     During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.  In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo (which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866) because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Memorial ay should not be confused with our 11 NOV Veterans Day which is the day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually. Several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day:

  Mississippi: Last Monday in April

  Alabama: Fourth Monday in April

  Georgia: April 26

  North Carolina: May 10

  South Carolina: May 10

  Louisiana: June 3

  Tennessee (Confederate Decoration Day): June 3

  Texas (Confederate Heroes Day): January 19

  Virginia: Last Monday in May

 

Refer to www.historychannel.com/exhibits/memorial/?page=home for additional  information on Memorial Day and other U.S. military historical events. [Source: National Military Family Association newsletter 23 May 06 ++]

 

 

HEALTH CARE BROKEN PROMISE:  Military retirees have been trying for years to obtain the retirement health benefit they were promised upon enlistment into the armed service.  Action taken to date includes:

-  JUL 96: A Class Action law suit was filed in Federal Court in Pensacola, Florida by Attorney George E. Day for monetary damages charging age discrimination, 5th amendment taking of property and breach of contract.

-  JUN 97: Judge Vinson ruled on the United States motion to dismiss claims brought by Colonel Day, on behalf of the plaintiffs. Judge Vinson ruled that the two strongest charges of the breach of contract claim under the "Little Tucker Act" and the deprivation of property claim under the Fifth Amendment for non-monetary relief could go forward. All other charges were dismissed for various reasons.

-  AUG 98: District Court denied CAG plaintiffs’ entire petition.

-  DEC 98: CAG Plaintiffs appeal to US Circuit Court of Appeals (USCCA) for the Federal Circuit, Washington D.C.

-  FEB 01: Three-judge panel of the USCCA overturned the district court decision. It found that military retirees who entered service before 7 JUN 56 had been promised free lifetime health care in return for a career of military service and were due compensation of up to $10,000 each for the government’s failure to live up to that promise.

-  JUN 01: The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, Washington, D.C. ordered plaintiffs be re-heard in oral argument on their Feb 2001 victory. A rehearing before the full (en banc) court was agreed to.

-  MAR 02: Federal Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case.

-  NOV 02: In a 9-4 court ruling it affirmed the US Government position that military retirees have no legal standing to receive the medical care promised upheld by Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. In their decision they said, “We cannot readily imagine more sympathetic plaintiffs than the retired servicemen of the World War II and Korean War era involved in this case. They served their country for at least 20 years with the understanding that when they retired they and their dependents would receive full free health care for life. The promise of such health care was made in good faith and relied upon … Perhaps Congress will consider using its legal power to address the moral claims raised by Schism and Reinlie on their own behalf, and indirectly for other affected retirees.”

-  JAN 03: A Petition for a writ of Certiorari was filed in the Supreme Court of the United States

-  JUN 03: The Supreme Court refused to hear the CAG Lawsuit.

 

     With all judicial avenues closed retirees sought Congressional action.  On 2 FEB 05 Rep.Van Hollen (D-MD), in an effort to correct this wrong, reintroduced the bill for the fourth time (JAN 97, SEP 99, & NOV 03).   The Keep Our Promise to America’s Military Retirees Act (HR 602) which has just had its 247th cosponsor sign on. This Act responds to the Federal Court ruling that only Congress, not military recruiters, can authorize what kind of care will be provided to military retirees, and that only Congress can - and should - make good on promised and earned health care.  While Tricare works well for many military retirees, HR 602 will get health care to military retirees who are not getting the service they deserve from Tricare.  It will get it to them right away because it does not require another burdensome bureaucracy to be created.  The bill’s provisions will help reduce the cost of health care for military retirees by:

-  Expanding health care coverage for the most elderly retirees who need health care the most by waiving the Medicare Part B premiums required to enroll in Tricare for Life (TFL). 

-  Providing health care to any military retiree who is not well served by Tricare, by allowing them to elect FEHBP coverage. 

-  Reducing the cost of FEHBP by requiring DOD to reimburse military retirees' FEHBP expenses that normally would be covered by Tricare Standard.  

-  Bringing down pharmacy costs for military retirees who are physically unable to use Tricare Network Pharmacies. 

 

Despite HR 602’s overwhelming endorsement with 247 cosponsors, the Republican leadership has declined to bring this bill to the floor for a vote.  Vets seeking justice under this bill are encouraged to contact their congressional representatives and ask why HR 602 is not being acted upon. [Source: Rep. Chris Van Hollen Press Release 18 May 06 ++]

 

 

VET SBA OFFICE CLOSED:  Sen. John Kerry (D- MA) n 24 MAY voiced his concerns about two severe actions (not publicly announced) taken by the Bush Administration turning its back on the veteran’s community during a time of war. Without consultation or notification, the Bush Administration has closed its office at the Small Business Administration (SBA) solely dedicated to helping veteran-owned small businesses gain access to federal contracts.  Information on what this office provides to vets can be found at www.sba.gov/vets/news.html. The Administration has also informed the Veterans Advisory Committee, another group dedicated to helping veteran small business owners that their charter will not be extended and instead will expire this SEP 06. These unprecedented moves hurt America’s veteran entrepreneurs and raise serious questions about the Administration’s commitment to comply with federal law.

 

     In closing the contracting assistance office, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has eliminated the one office solely dedicated to implementing a law that requires 3% of all federal contracting dollars to be awarded to service-disabled veteran owned firms. The government has failed to meet this goal and has also failed to develop and support the Veteran’s Advisory Committee, as required by law passed in 1999. Last year, the federal government awarded just 0.38% of contract dollars to companies owned by service-disabled veterans, costing them nearly $9 billion in lost contracts. Reaction to date on the closing has been:

-  Joe Wynn, President of the VETs Group and executive member of the Task Force for Veterans Entrepreneurship (TFVE), said, “Despite the best efforts of the Task Force and other veteran’s groups to work with the SBA to help make the Veterans Procurement Program under PL 108-183 become a success for the government and for the service disabled veteran business owners that it was designed to serve, the SBA continues to demonstrate a seemingly disregard for carrying out the President’s Executive Order, 13-360, which instructed the SBA to provide information, federal procurement training, and assistance to increase participation in federal contracting for service disabled veteran business owners.”

-  Bob Hesser, also a member of TFVE, and President of Vetrepreneur, LLC a Service- Disabled Veteran-Owned small business said, “During the short time the SBA’s Veteran’s office existed there were meaningful actions that gave us a belief that someone cared. I am just not sure of that today!”

-  The ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business Sen. John Kerry (D- MA) on 24 MAY said, “This complete lack of commitment to our veterans is really appalling, especially just before Memorial Day … It is shameful that in a time of war, the Administration saw fit to abandon our commitment to those who have honorably served our country - and the brave men and women serving today who will be the proud veterans of tomorrow. Now, it should be our turn to serve them, by protecting their personal information and by providing them with opportunities to start a business, or rekindle businesses that are struggling from recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan".

 

The SBA has also failed to respond to a letter sent on 27 FEB 06 from Senator Kerry and Senator Daniel Akaka (D- Hawaii), Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, regarding their role in implementing the Veteran’s Benefits Act of 2003. [Source: Vet Advocate Carl Young msg 24 May 06 carlhandup@cox.net]

 

 

DFAS OVERSEAS DIRECT DEPOSIT UPDATE 01:  For those members participating or considering International Direct Deposit (IDD) the following applies to currency exchange rates are calculated and currency choice:

-  Your payment will be converted from U.S. dollars to local currency two business days prior to the U.S. payment date using a wholesale exchange rate.

-  International Direct Deposit puts your money directly into your local bank in local currency.  If you reside in Canada and have a U.S. dollar account, you may elect to receive your payment electronically in U.S. dollars.  Note that this option is only available in Canada.

 

Additional information regarding the IDD can be found at www.dod.mil/dfas/retiredpay.html.  Click on the International Direct Deposit link found on the left side of the page.  For questions regarding retiree/annuitant pay contact:

1. Existing or new annuity accounts: Defense Finance and Accounting Service, US Military Annuitant Pay,  P.O. Box 7131, London, KY 40742-7131  Tel: 1(800) 321-1080 or (216) 522-5955 Fax:  1(800) 982-8459

2. Casualty/Retired/New Retired accounts: Defense Finance and Accounting Service

US Military Retirement Pay, P.O. Box 7130, London, KY 40742-7130 Tel:1(800) 321-1080 or (216) 522-5955 Fax: 1-800-469-6559

[Source: DFAS Retired Pay Newsletter 18 May 06]

 

 

COLA 2007 UPDATE 02:  In mid-May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the APR 06 monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for recipients of military and federal civilian retired pay, VA disability compensation, federal survivor annuities, and Social Security. The CPI rose another full percentage point in March, for a total of 2.3% growth so far this fiscal year.  Again, energy cost increases of 4.2% from March to April were the dominant reason for the increase.  Month-by-month figures and historical inflation data are available at www.moaa.org/lac/lac_issues_list/lac_issues_fully_retired/lac_issues_second_career_cola.htm.  [Source: MOAA Leg Up 19 May 06]

 

 

VDBC UPDATE 05: During its May 18-19 hearing in Arlington, VA, the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission members and veterans’ service organization representatives exchanged views on whether Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) awards should be considered in assessing VA and military compensation amounts for service-disabled veterans.  The commission, chartered by Congress to study the benefits that are provided to compensate and assist veterans and their survivors for disabilities and deaths attributable to military service, is now scheduled to provide their final report in October 2007. 

Over the past two months, the commission had failed to reach an internal consensus on whether to collect SSDI data.  This week’s hearing gave military and veterans’ organization VSO representatives the opportunity to comment.   In response the following points were inputted:

 

1) SSDI is an independent Social Security insurance program that all American workers pay for through payroll tax “premiums.”  As such, it serves a different purpose than compensation earned through service and sacrifice for the Nation.

2) Vet organizations are strongly opposed to offsetting VA disability compensation by SSDI, just as thry believe it is inappropriate to offset retired pay for VA disability compensation or to offset Survivor Benefit Plan annuities for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation payments.   In the case of SSDI, the statute has always prohibited any such offset to military retirement or veterans’ disability benefits. 

3) Congress established the commission at the same time it acted to eliminate the disability offset to retired pay for 100% disabled retirees - the only group that might qualify for SSDI.  In that context, it would be the ultimate irony for the commission to investigate whether there should be a new offset to these members’ disability compensation where none existed before.

 

After considering all of the organizations’ inputs, the commission by a vote of 11 to 2 decided that it should get more information on SSDI.  However, the commissioners took pains to emphasize that they do not intend to consider SSDI as a possible offset to VA disability compensation.  Rather, the commission may consider possible options to improve coverage for disabled veterans, such as waiving the normal requirement to have paid 40 quarters of Social Security payroll taxes to be eligible for SSDI.  However, all VSO representatives noted that once the door was open and the data collected, no assurance could be made regarding how the data could be used by others.  In recent weeks, several major VSO leaders publicly expressed their deep concerns over this matter and the "slippery slope" created by the commission's effort to seek personal SSDI data. Additional information on the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission is available at  www.vetscommission.org.  [Source: MOAA Leg Up 19 May 06 ++]

 

 

POSTAL SERVICE UPDATE:  The Postal Service's rate increase proposal, announced 3 May, drew grim reactions from the lawmakers working to overhaul the agency. House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) said in a release he was disappointed the Post Ofice's Board of Governors did not see fit to wait until comprehensive postal reform legislation becomes law before making a decision on whether to seek rate increases.  Davis called on the Postal Service to stall its rate case until after issues surrounding the overhaul legislation are reconciled in conference. Meanwhile, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) hinted that the agency's rate increase, which would raise first-class stamp prices from 39 to 42 cents, heightens the urgency to push the overhaul legislation. Collins said the bill awaiting conference would modernize the rate-setting process to provide more predictability for its users. Both House and Senate versions require the agency to establish annual increases, which would be restricted by a rate cap tied to the Consumer Price Index. The Postal Service currently increases prices at its own discretion, and without a price ceiling.  The newly proposed increase, averaging 8.5% among the varying mail classes, follows last year's increase of 5%. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) the House bill's H.R.22 lead sponsor, said a 13.5% hike in just over two years could be perceived as excessive.  While congressional staffers involved with the legislation noted the price hike highlights the need for overhauling the Postal Service's rate increase process, negotiations are still under way to move a bill that will meet White House approval.  The administration opposes language to transfer the agency's $27 billion military pensions obligation from the Postal Service to the Treasury and give the agency access to money slated for an escrow account.

 

     A small provision in the House version of the postal overhaul bill would raise rates for customers sending single-piece parcel packages.  The House provision places single-piece packages into a category for products that compete in an open market alongside UPS and FedEx. Rates for those products would be set by comparisons with Post Office’s private competitors. Additionally, unlike most postal products, customers would have to pay a sales tax on sending their individual packages. Both provisions would drive up prices and be a big payoff to U.S. Postal Service competitors. The bill also would create a category for first-class mail, but those rates would be set by the Postal Regulatory Commission and subject to an annual rate cap. Insiders say that the provision was created to serve the interests of Postal Service competitors. Anything that weakens the Postal Service is in the advantage of the agency's competitors. Bill Olson, an attorney for the Association of Priority Mail Users, said there has been an enormous amount of private lobbying from UPS throughout the drafting of the overhaul bill. The single-piece package provision in the House measure effectively accomplishes the agenda of companies such as UPS. Competitors want the Postal Service to be forced by reform to charge prices beyond what the market will bear to drive customers away.

 

     UPS spokesman Dan Bolger said they have been up front in their support of postal legislation, arguing that all mail competitors should have a higher level of transparency. Having products compete in a market-driven economy better serves customers looking to predict their mailing costs. The legislation, he said, would benefit customers by leveling the playing field. However, Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, a group representing direct mailers, said implementing the House provision would hurt customers. He noted customers typically send single-piece parcels at the same time as their first-class mail and believes the House got it wrong by dividing the two into separate pricing categories. Del Polito believes consumers would be better off if the packages they send through the mail were not priced by the same market that drives UPS parcels. [Source: GOV.Exec.com 15 May 06 ++]

 

 

NAVY-MARINE CORPS RELIEF SOCIETY:  The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, and their eligible family members and survivors, when in need. To do this, counseling, loans, grants, various services, and referral to other community resources are available. There are no fees for such help. The Society, operating in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, administers nearly 250 offices ashore and afloat at Navy and Marine Corps bases around the world. More than 3,000 trained Volunteers accomplish the major portion of the Society's work.  They are supported by a small cadre of paid employees. Volunteers are trained by the Society for the jobs they agree to do and can obtain reimbursement for transportation and child care expenses. Information on volunteering is available on their website www.nmcrs.org.  Here can be found locations, telephone, and email point of contacts for all their offices plus a list of the services they provide.  This is an opportunity for anyone interested in spending time, even a few hours a week, in supporting the troops.  The Quantico office at (703) 784-9754 is presently seeking volunteers for two main positions: receptionists and case workers.  [Source:  Military Report 16 May 06 ++]

 

 

VA BUDGET 2007 UPDATE 04:  On 19 May the House passed (395-0) HR 5385, The Military Construction, Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. Included in the funding measure is a $2.6 billion increase above FY 2006 for VA medical care. The bill also provides significant increases for veterans’ mental health programs to include funding for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and three Centers for Excellence for veterans seeking mental health care treatment. It does not include proposed VA enrollment fees, higher prescription co-pays or any Tricare increases for those under 65 using the military health care system. Passage of the bill without providing for the Defense Health Program (DHP) $735 million revenue loss from the administration’s proposed TRICARE fee increases sets up the possibility that there will be a shortfall (for the 5th year in a row) in funding for veteran medical care.  The issue could be resolved in conference if the Senate takes up the DHP funding gap.  To date, the Senate has not taken up their funding bill. [Source: VFW Washington Weekly 22 May 06 ++]

 

 

VIETNAM POW EXHIBIT:  Visitors can get a rare glimpse into the lives of prisoners of war through a dramatic new exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The exhibit, titled “Return with Honor: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia,” located in the museum’s Modern Flight Gallery, is now open to the public. Visitors enter the exhibit next to a reproduced doorway to the “Hanoi Hilton,” the name given by Americans to Hoa Lo Prison. Photographs, videos, dioramas and artifacts tell the story of prisoner torture, political exploitation, filthy living conditions and endless attempts at communist indoctrination. Visitors can look inside re-created, life-size prison cells for an up-close picture of POW living conditions. Several artifacts, including handmade games, rings, cigarette cases and clothing that were created by the prisoners during their confinement, also are on display.

 

     The exhibit also features a Son Tay prison camp rescue raid display. Although the raiders in NOV 70 found that the prison camp did not hold any POWs, the raid proved a success in other ways. A daring raid so close to Hanoi showed that the United States had the will to carry out exceptional operations to ensure POW well-being. POW morale soared on account of the raid.  The exhibit also highlights the story of U.S. forces’ final combat in Southeast Asia, which occurred in May 75 when the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez was seized by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge navy while it was in international waters. Featured in this display are a life ring from the Mayaguez and a beret worn by one of the pararescuemen who participated in the operation.  The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission to the museum and parking are free. For more information about this and other exhibits at the museum, call (937) 255-3286, Ext. 302 or visit the web site at http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/. [Source: Air Force Retiree News Service 17 May 06]

 

 

INTERNET NEUTRALITY: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) joined with House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Ranking Member John Conyers  (D-MI) 18 MAY in introducing HR 5417, the “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006.” The Act would ensure competitive and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet. It is particularly important and timely because H.R. 5252, the Energy and Commerce Committee video franchising measure, is insufficient to ensure that broadband network providers like AOL do not abuse their market power to discriminate against competitive Internet content or services. HR 5417 will assure that the status quo is preserved and that the market power broadband providers now exercise over transmission is not extended to control of content. This should protect the communications freedom and innovation created by the Internet, instead of allowing the equivalent of an Internet toll road. The bill amends the Clayton Act to prohibit broadband network providers from interfering with the ability of users to access the Internet content, applications and services of their choice or the ability of independent content, application and service providers to reach consumers with the same speed and quality of service as the network provider. It would also require network providers, if they prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to a particular type of content, to prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all content of that type at no charge.  Additional information is available at kyra.jennings@mail.house.gov. [Source: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren newsletter 19 May 6 ++]

 

 

NDAA 2007 UPDATE 03:  In a Statement of Administration Policy on 11 MAY, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) registered opposition to several provisions of the House’s version of the fiscal Defense Authorization Act. For example, OMB objected to the House’s action to block the administration’s efforts to double and triple Tricare fees for military retirees under age 65. The administration also opposed expansion of Tricare eligibility to all Selected Reserve members and their families. The OMB statement expressed regrets that the legislation includes a 2.7% across-the-board pay raise instead of the 2.2% the President had budgeted. OMB objections were based upon its estimate of cost. After the Senate passes its version of the NDAA, expected to take place after the Memorial Day recess, both versions will be hammered together by a joint conference committee. [Source: Armed Forces News 19 My 06]

 

 

AFRC ACCOMMODATIONS: The Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) provide luxurious accommodations at very affordable prices in some of the world’s top vacation destinations. At the Army’s website www.armymwr.com/portal/travel/recreationcenters/tips.asp you can obtain  tips for planning your next vacation at an AFRC plus site descriptions, phone numbers, rate information and eligibility of use for the following AFRCs throughout the world:

 

Shades of Green Resort -- Orlando, Florida:  This is a military-owned resort within Walt Disney World.  This resort makes the Central Florida vacation experience affordable for those who utilize it.  Shades of Green is walking distance to two of Walt Disney World Resort PGA championship golf courses and a nine-hole executive course. Guests are provided transportation to all Walt Disney World attractions and early entry into select attractions.

 

 Hale Koa Hotel -- Honolulu, Hawaii : The Hale Koa hotel or "House of the Warrior," is an impressive resort destination situated on 72 tropical acres on the beach at Waikiki. It is located about 10 miles from the Honolulu International Airport.

 

New Sanno Hotel -- Tokyo, Japan: This facility operated by the US Navy, is located in downtown Tokyo. It offers recently-upgraded amenities, such as a swimming pool, recreational facilities, a Navy Exchange, and other services designed for military travelers. Patronage of New Sanno Hotel is regulated and controlled by the Status of Forces Agreement. Eligibility is limited to:

-  Active duty U.S. military personnel and their dependents

-  .DoD US civilian employees / dependents duty stationed in Japan or traveling to / via Japan on official DoD orders.

-  US civilian employees / dependents stationed outside Japan and on EML orders to / thru Japan.

-  Contractors / dependents on DoD orders to execute contracts for the US Armed Forces stationed in Japan.

-  US Embassy Tokyo personnel and individuals administratively attached to US Embassy Tokyo, (USFJ Policy Ltr 30 - 6).

-  US military retirees and dependents when accompanied by retiree sponsor.

-  Bona fide house guests of authorized patrons.

 

Dragon Hill Lodge -- Seoul, Korea:  This facility is operated by the US Army in support of personnel assigned or employed by the U.S. Forces Korea, their family members and guests. Eligibility is ectended to: Active duty, retired military, dependents, DOD civilians and all foreign non-Korean military with orders to USFK. All must present either DD Form 1173 or DD Form 2. Reservations are accepted 24 hours a day.

 

Edelweiss Lodge and Resort -- Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany:  This facility offers a vacation retreat designed exclusively for active duty military members, DoD civilians and retirees, complete with everything you would expect from a world-class resort. Long revered as one of the most desirable destinations in the Bavarian Alps and Germany's premiere winter and summer sports center, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area is an idyllic location nestled at the foot of sweeping Alpine vistas. Edelweiss Lodge and Resort authorized patrons include United States active-duty military members, military retirees, military reservists on active-duty, national guardsmen on active-duty, current Department of Defense civilian employees assigned to EUCOM, foreign military currently on orders assigned to a U.S. military installation and the family members of authorized patrons.

[Source: Military.Com Travel Benefits May 06]

 

 

LONG TERM CARE WEBSITE:  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has announced the launch of a new and improved website for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program at www.ltcfeds.com/ Long Term Care Partners, LLC, administers the long term care program and maintains the site. The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program is the largest group long term care insurance program in the nation. It provides federal employees and annuitants, active and retired members of the uniformed services, and their qualified relatives the opportunity to apply for coverage at group rates. Long Term Care insurance provides coverage for non-medical care to assist beneficiaries with eating, bathing, and other care not covered by TRICARE, Medicare, or other health care insurance.  New features and improvements to the website include:

-  Revamped educational sections on the basics of long term care and the basics of long term care insurance;

-  A frequently asked questions section on the Federal Program;

-  A calculator allowing employees to calculate the average cost of care in 2005 for home health care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes in their area; and

-  A calculator allowing employees to calculate premiums for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program's four pre-packaged plans or customized plans.

 

After calculating premiums, eligible individuals should then compare them and the coverage benefits with other plans offering long term care. [Source: [Source: National Military Family Association newsletter 23 May 06]

 

 

VA HEALTH CARE ACCESS:  A report released in MAY 06 on the access to care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) shows that long-term care services are severely under funded and that the waiting time for care is excessive for many veterans, especially in Hawaii. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), the Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, requested the review by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (IG). The review was predicated on reports that clinics were illegally restricting entry to clinics and access to certain health services. VHA allegedly has an effective process to ensure that all eligible veterans had adequate access to care.  However, the review found the following:

-  Clinics were in fact withholding non-institutional long-term care services, such as home care, to certain veterans.

-  The Administration has not fully funded its projected workload for non-institutional care

-  VA facilities need to improve timeliness of care (facilities were not meeting their 30-day goal)

-  VA does not measure waiting time to obtain specialty procedures

 

The IG review was based on visits to five medical facilities and two Veterans Integrated Service Networks located in Hawaii, Alaska, New York Harbor, Tampa, and Portland. In its review, the IG found that veterans in Hawaii who needed specialty procedures waited the longest. Specifically, Hawaii’s veterans waited on average 63 days for cardiology services and 135 days for gastroenterology care. Since Senator's Akaka's visit in JUN 05 to various Hawaii VA centers, improvements have been made to providing certain services to veterans. During congressional field hearings in the State of Hawaii in JAN 06, Senator Akaka expressed concern over VA’s lack of funding for proper health care for veterans and restrictions on which Maui veterans could get needed long-term care services. VA officials told Senator Akaka they would lift those restrictions and all of Maui veterans are now getting home care and other long-term care seniors.

Overall, the IG review supports Senator Akaka’s commitment to addressing the lack of funding in VA. The Review of Access to Care in the Veterans Health Administration is available on-line at www.va.gov/oig. [Source: Molokai Island Times online edition 18 May 06]

 

 

VA CLAIM REPRESENTATION:  In 1862 with the Civil War raging Congress passed a law prohibiting a lawyer from charging more than $5 to help a veteran with his claim.  In 1864 the limit was raised by Congress to $10 where it stayed for approximately 120 years. As a result of that low fee, few attorneys helped veterans with their claims. Under current law, all 24 million living veterans are prohibited from hiring a lawyer to help them navigate the Veterans Affairs system. In 1988, the law was changed which created a situation in which lawyers could be retained, but not paid until after the adjudication and appeals process is completed within the VA.  The net result of the change is that veterans do not retain an attorney until after their case has been lost and they have often spent at least 3 years in the VA appeal process.  Under the current appeals system, about 85% of veterans choose to be represented by Veterans’ Service Organizations or state veterans agency personnel which are allowed.  In an effort to provide freedom of choice in representation the Veterans’ Choice of Representation Act of 2006 (S.2694) has been introduced by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs & Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

 

     The Craig-Graham legislation seeks to allow veterans to use the services of an attorney at the beginning of the process.  This would put veterans into a similar situation other Americans have, for example: If you have a dispute with Social Security regarding your benefits, you can hire an attorney to represent you; or if you have a dispute with the IRS, you can hire an attorney to represent you; or if you raise cows or sheep, and have a permit to graze those animals on federal land but you run into a dispute with federal officials, you can hire an attorney to represent you before the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.   Language in the Craig-Graham bill would allow VA to set up a payment structure like the Social Security system, where an attorney could only be paid either 20% of past due benefits or a set dollar amount specified by VA, whichever is lower. The change does not require the use of an attorney but would simply allow veterans that option if they so choose. Sen. Craig’s office is looking for veteran feedback on this legislation. You can send your comments to Amanda Meredith, a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs at amanda_meredith@vetaff.senate.gov.   [Source: Sen. Larry Craig’s Communication Director’s msg 14 May 06 ++]

 

 

VA QTC CONTRACT QUESTIONED:  The secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been asked to produce records of communications between VA officials and a California company with a long-term, multimillion-dollar contract to perform medical exams for veterans seeking disability assistance. In a letter sent 25 APR 06 to Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30) asked for copies of all communications between top agency officials and QTC Management Inc. of Diamond Bar. 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.  Principi has stated that he recused himself from all matters involving QTC while he served as VA secretary.

 

     VA payments to QTC jumped from $8 million in 1998 to $69 million in 2005 and QTC was paid $246 million during Principi’s tenure. Other firms have complained that the VA did not notify them that the contract for the disability exams was up for bid, despite their requests to be notified. Stating that the QTC contract appears to be a poor deal for the taxpayers, Waxman asked for all records of written correspondence and summaries of any oral communications between the company and former VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi or other political appointees within the agency. Waxman’s letter stated,  “Regardless of whether ethical or contracting rules were violated, the appearance of impropriety can have a damaging effect on public confidence in the department. This appearance can be mitigated by full disclosure.” [Source: Los Angeles Times Walter F. Roche article 26 Apr 06]

 

 

TMOP PRESCRIPTION ORDERS:  DoD is planning a strong push to convince TRICARE Pharmacy Beneficiaries to use the Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP) rather than retail pharmacies. There are savings for both the beneficiaries and the government if the mail order program is used.  It is a convenient and easy way to get the prescriptions you take regularly (such as those to lower blood pressure, or to treat asthma or diabetes) because they are delivered directly to your home.  However, this is only practical if one is looking at maintenance drugs. If you need a drug immediately (like an antibiotic) then an MTF or a retail pharmacy are the only sensible options.  To fill a prescription through TMOP the following steps should be taken:

 

Step 1: Register to use the TMOP: The first time you use the TMOP you must fill out a TMOP mail-order registration form and send it to Express Scripts (the TMOP contractor) along with your prescription and copayment.  You complete this form only one time, unless your health condition changes.  If you have registered at TMOP online recently or previously mailed a registration form, you need not re-register.  You may request a registration form by calling: Worldwide: 1(866) 363-8667 or 1(866) 275-4732; or TDD 1(877)540-6261 for the deaf and hard of hearing. You can also download the registration form directly from the Express Scripts Web site at www.express-scripts.com. A registered pharmacist can be access at any time by calling one of the above toll-free numbers who is available to answer questions about your prescription

 

 Step 2: Ask your provider to write a prescription for up to a 90-day supply with up to three refills, if possible.  If you must begin a prescription medication right away, ask your provider to write two separate prescriptions for the same medication: A one-month supply for you to fill immediately at a local retail network pharmacy and a long-term supply for you to fill through the TMOP.  While you wait for your mail-order shipment, begin taking the medication you obtained from the local retail network pharmacy. Certain medications may have a 30-day limit for the supply amount, quantity limits and/or require evidence of medical necessity or prior authorization from your provider. 

 

 Step 3: Mail your health care provider's written prescription with your registration form and copayment to Express Scripts at P.O. Box 52150, Phoenix, AZ 85072-9954.  You must enclose a copayment for each prescription you send to the TMOP.  For example, if you are an active duty family member or retiree sending the TMOP two separate prescriptions for generic medications, your total cost would be $6 (i.e., two $3 copayments).  You may pay by check or money order, payable to Express Scripts.  The easiest way to ensure you send the correct copayment is to authorize TMOP to bill your credit card account.  You do not have to pay shipping or handling.  If you are on active duty there are no copay requirements to use the TMOP.

     For your added convenience you may also ask your provider to fax your written prescription, directly to Express Scripts using the toll-free telephone number, 1-877-895-1900.  To do this:

1.         Complete the TMOP Mail Order Registration form and send to Express Scripts.

2.         Ask your provider to fax your prescription with a cover sheet containing his/her name and phone number.  The TMOP only accepts prescriptions faxed directly from your provider may only be faxed by the provider.  Prescriptions faxed to TMOP and must include the patient’s full name, address, telephone number and date of birth. If your provider faxes a prescription on your behalf, you may pay your co-payment in one of the following three ways:

1.         Wait for the TMOP to bill you directly;

2.         Call Express Scripts to authorize billing on your credit card; or

3.         Visit the Express Scripts Web site to authorize billing on your credit card.

After the provider faxes the prescription, please wait 48 hours before calling Express Scripts to ensure your order is in the system.

 

Step 4: Allow about 14 days from the day Express Scripts receives your prescription to the time your medication arrives at your door.  

[Source: www.tricare.osd.mil/Factsheets/viewfactsheet.cfm?id=339 Tricare Fact Sheet May 06]

 

TMOP PRESCRIPTION REFILL:  You may request your refill by mail, telephone or by visiting the Express Scripts Web site at www.express-scripts.com..  To ensure timely receipt of your medication, request your refill at least two weeks before the prescription runs out.  Check the label of your current TMOP medications for the date you should request a refill.  You must pay for orders you place by telephone or online by check or credit card.  There is no charge for prescriptions for active duty service members.  TMOP will deliver your medications usually within 14 days from the date TMOP receives your request.  If you forget to request a refill on time, you may obtain your medications by requesting expedited shipping and handling services, which are available for an additional charge. [Source: www.tricare.osd.mil/Factsheets/viewfactsheet.cfm?id=339 Tricare Fact Sheet May 06]

 

 

TMOP OVERSEAS ORDERS:  If you reside overseas, you must meet the following requirements to be able to use the TMOP:

-  Possess an APO/FPO address;

-  If you are assigned to an official U.S. embassy and you do not possess an APO/FPO address, you may use the official embassy address to receive a prescription; and

-  A U.S. licensed provider must write your prescription.

 

     The TMOP may only mail prescriptions overseas under the above requirements.  TMOP cannot mail prescriptions to any private foreign address.  That same APO/FPO or U.S. Embassy address must also be reflected in DEERS. The Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP) is designed as a secondary insurance. By law, all other insurance is primary to Tricare. If the patient has other health insurance [OHI] with a pharmacy benefit, they cannot use TMOP unless they can provide proof they have exceeded their benefit or the drug is not covered.   Prescriptions submitted must include a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) number. Arizona rules require that each prescription be written on a prescription pad and that a DEA number appear on the prescription before it can be processed. Express Scripts, Inc. is a civilian company doing business in Arizona and have to abide by those rules. The computer software for prescription processing at ESI and PDTS also requires a DEA number in order to process the prescription. If a prescription is missing the DEA number, the claim will be rejected out of the system causing delays in filling and shipping of the member's medication order.  TMOP is not able to ship refrigerated medications to any APO/FPO address.   Your Tricare approved overseas provider will inform you of alternatives upon request if you require refrigerated medication.  [Source: Tricare Fact Sheet May 06 www.tricare.osd.mil/Factsheets/viewfactsheet.cfm?id=339 ++]

 

 

FTC CONSUMER COMPLAINT FORM: If you have a complaint with a company, you can do something about it. Tell the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has created an online form at https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01 that handles a variety of complaints. Complaints can be about media violence, multi-level marketing, privacy issues, and more. You can even report spam. You fill out your contact information and then provide information on the complaint. The FTC doesn’t settle individual disputes. However, your complaint can lead to legal action if the company was fraudulent. This means you can have others avoid falling victim to unscrupulous organizations. There are also links to forms for reporting identity theft. Or, if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry https://www.donotcall.gov/register/Reg.aspx forms for reporting violations. [Source: Don Harribine’s Tips & Topics 13 May 06]

 

 

BARIATRIC SURGERY:  Bariatrics is the medical specialty of treating obesity (defined as having a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher). The BMI is calculated based on weight and surface area; height is often used to approximate surface area. About one-fourth of adult Americans are defined as obese; about 3% are morbidly so. The most commonly used bariatric surgical procedures are gastric bypass and gastric binding. Both procedures can have significant complications and require lifelong medical follow-up as well as a commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise. The average weight of someone who undergoes bariatric surgery is close to 300 pounds; three-fourths of patients have a BMI over 40, and most are at least 100 pounds overweight. Bariatric surgery alters the anatomy and digestive pathways. When we eat, food goes from our mouth to the stomach through a long tube, the esophagus. Food is partially digested in the stomach, and from there it goes to the intestines, where digestion and absorption of nutrients is completed.

-  Gastric bypass involves surgically creating a small pouch from a portion of the stomach at its junction with the esophagus. This pouch is connected directly to the small intestine, bypassing the stomach and part of the intestine. The pouch, about the size of an egg, holds less food than the stomach, and the opening between the pouch and the intestine is small, so food leaves it slowly. The usable length of the small intestine also may be shortened. These factors all contribute to less food consumption and absorption, and thus lead to weight loss.

-  Gastric binding involves surgically placing a band around the stomach near the esophagus to make a pouch that functions as a small stomach. Unlike gastric bypass surgery, which is irreversible, the band can be adjusted or removed. Someone with such a pouch might only be able to eat 1⁄2 cup or less of food at each meal before feeling full.

Candidates for bariatric surgery include those who remain obese after trying diets and more conventional weight-loss approaches. Surgery could be indicated if excess weight leads to other medical complications, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart or lung disease, or when weight interferes with daily life activities such as walking. However, bariatric surgery can have many complications, including diseases resulting from poor nutrition such as protein deficiency, vitamin B-12 deficiency, anemia, and osteoporosis. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common side effects. About one-fifth of patients need additional surgeries for hernias and other problems. [Source: MOAA Magazine Ask the Doctor article 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. The key to obtaining cosponsorship is letting your representative know of your feelings on these issues.  Following each bill listed 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 230: Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA-45), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) & Jim Saxton (R-NJ-3). 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.  The following sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 204: Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15) & Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-17). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7683586

 

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 140: Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13). 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.  The following sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 330: Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY-5), Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA-5), Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA-33), Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA-4) & Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX-1). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7761876

 

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 sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 43: Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY-2), Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4) & Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7). To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=7718711

 

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.  The following sponsor was added to this bill giving it a total of 28: Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7). 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 sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 50: Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA-4) & Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY-29). 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 155: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14). 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 sponsors were added to this bill giving it a total of 13: Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN-5), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY-29), Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL-19) & Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) To support this bill send a message to your Representative at -- http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=8670886 

 

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 26 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: 160 days until Election Day.  Make your vote count.  Be sure you are registered to vote.

[Source: USDR Action Alerts 16-31 May 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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