From: Director, RAO Baguio [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 7:55 PM
Subject: RAO Bulletin Update 1 March 2006
RAO Bulletin Update
1 March 2006
THIS BULLETIN UPDATE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES:
== Military Funeral Conduct  --------- (New law in WI)
== VA GAO Findings ----------------------- (Not very good)
== Credit Card Scam ------------------------ (Report it if called)
Budget Proposal Impact on Vets ------- (
== VA Mileage Reimbursement ----------- (Bill cosponsors needed)
== VA Budget 2006  ------------------- (Not enough money)
== VA Health Care Funding  ---------- (Assured funding bill)
== E-Passport -------------------------------- (Available end of 2006)
== HHS 2007 Budget Proposal ------------ (Programs impacted)
== Air Force Memorial ---------------------- (Scheduled to open SEP)
== Military Retirement System Basics ---- (No longer simple)
== AOL/Yahoo Email Tax ------------------ (Misunderstood)
== COLA 2007 ------------------------------- (CPI up 0.7%)
== Good Conduct Medal Elimination ----- (Air force only)
== Iowa Home Ownership Program ------- ($5k to eligibles)
== Tricare User Fee  -------------------- (AFSA comments)
== VDBR Overview ------------------------- (Vet radiation exposure)
== Aid & Attendance ------------------------ (Eligibility)
== Taxation After Discharge ---------------- (What to plan for)
== Cataracts ----------------------------- (Symptoms & treatment)
FUNERAL DISORDERLY CONDUCT UPDATE 01: In
People with strong views on certain issues
often use/abuse their freedom of expression rights as they try to impose their
views on others. There are several groups of people who feel that everyone must
support their beliefs. Often these people are willing to use methods of
demonstration that go beyond what people with normal sensibilities would even
consider. When peaceable assembly and freedom of speech cross into the arenas
of destruction, vengefulness, and cruelty to feelings of others, it compromises
the rights of others. At that point, these people are crossing the line of the
First Amendment and are moving toward crossing the line of human decency. Unfortunately, there is one small group of
Fortunately, for the most part, mourning families have been buffered from first-hand exposure from these demonstrators by groups of veterans and patriotic citizens. One group of motorcyclists calling themselves the Patriot Guard Riders (more than 5,000 strong) has stepped forward to help shield familiars form protestors. Wearing vests covered in military patches they ride around the country from one military funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from protesters. Unfortunately, the families have had to read the newspaper accounts and watch the televised reports concerning the actions of such groups who use their First amendment rights to walk the line of the law with their actions. Laws are necessary to counter these actions when they cross the line of decency. In addition to Wisconsin and Iowa similar bills are pending or are in affect in Missouri (500 FT), Kentucky (300 ft), Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio. At last report there are at least 14 states considering laws aimed at the funeral protesters. This is an election year and many legislators will be trying to get the veteran vote. When they do vets have the opportunity to ask their state representatives where they stand on this issue and are they supporting similar legislation. [Source: VietNow National President article Feb 06 ++]
VA GAO FINDINGS: The Government Accounting Office (GAO) submitted their report on 1 FEB 06 to the Ranking Member of the Senate and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The report had been requested by the committees because of continuing unrealistic presidential VA budget submissions over the last four years based on assumed implementation of VA management efficiency initiatives that would save money without reducing the quality of service. Specifically the GAO as asked to address and report on:
(1) VA’s methodology for projecting the health care management efficiency savings that were assumed in the President’s budget requests for fiscal years 2003 through 2006.
(2) VA’s support for reported actual savings achieved through management efficiency initiatives during fiscal years 2003 and 2004—including the methodology and documentation used to track and report achieved savings.
(3) A summary of prior GAO and VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports that have identified management inefficiencies at VA.
GAO’s findings were
(1) VA lacked a methodology for making the health care management efficiency savings assumptions reflected in the President’s budget requests for fiscal years 2003 through 2006 and, therefore, was unable to provide the GAO with any support for those estimates. They were told by VA officials that the management efficiency savings assumed in VA’s requests were savings goals used to reduce requests for a higher level of annual appropriations in order to fill the gap between the cost associated with VA’s projected demand for health care services and the amount the President was willing to request. Specifically, there was little consistency with respect to what VA’s regional networks reported as management efficiency savings, how savings were calculated, and what type of documentation was available to support the savings figures reported. In addition, VA’s regional networks sometimes reported savings resulting from cost-cutting measures as management efficiency savings. Although both can achieve savings, cost-cutting measures, unlike management efficiency initiatives, are not consistent with VA’s objective of providing the same or higher quality and quantity of service at a lower cost.
(2) The GAO concluded that the VA does not have a reliable basis for determining whether it has realized the management efficiency savings that were reflected in the President’s budget requests for fiscal years 2003 and 2004.
(3) In recent years, the VA OIG and GAO identified management inefficiencies that, if unaddressed, could contribute to requests for higher amounts of appropriations that could otherwise have been avoided. In addition, recent GAO and VA OIG reports have identified both serious control weaknesses in the agency’s inventory management and shortfalls in the agency’s efforts to provide reliable cost data to accurately assess the efficiency and effectiveness of VA’s programs and initiatives.
To better determine whether management efficiency savings are being achieved as planned, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Assistant Secretary for Management to establish methodologies for tracking and reporting actual savings achieved through implementation of proposed management efficiencies, including
- clear criteria for what constitutes savings resulting from management efficiencies,
- controls to ensure that actual savings are reported on the same basis as projected savings in the budget request, and
- documentation of such savings.
VA concurred with GAO’s recommendations and said that VA’s Assistant Secretary for Management will establish processes and procedures to ensure proper documentation of savings and a methodology on how realized savings should be tracked and reported. However, VA disagreed that it used its management efficiency savings goals to fill the gap between the cost associated with VA’s projected demand for health care services and the amount the President was willing to request. It said that identifying goals, setting challenging targets, and forecasting management efficiency savings are entirely appropriate for a large health care organization like VA. To review a copy of the entire GAO report GAO-06-359R go http://veterans.house.gov/democratic/press/109th/press109th.htm and click on Rep. Lane Evans Press Release 2 FEB 06. [Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle Jan 06]
CREDIT CARD SCAM: By understanding how this VISA and MasterCard telephone credit card scam works, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself. Callers do not ask for your card number. They already have it from another source. The scam works like this:
Person calling says, “This is (name), and I’m calling from the Security and
Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is (number). Your card has been
flagged for an unusual purchase pattern and I’m calling to verify. This would
be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an
Anti-Telemarketing Device (or whatever) for $497.99 from a Marketing company
2) When you say “No”, the caller continues with, “Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and their charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?”
3) If you say “yes”, the caller continues - “I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. Do you need me to read it again?”
4) The caller then says, “I need to verify you are in possession of your card”. He’ll ask you to “turn your card over and look for some numbers”. There are 7 numbers. The first 4 are part of your card number and the next 3 are the security numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. (DO NOT DO THIS)
5) If you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he’ll say, “That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?” If none, the caller thanks you and states, “Don’t hesitate to call back if you do.” and hangs up. You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number.
What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don’t give it to them. Instead, tell them you’ll call VISA or Master card directly for verification of their conversation. VISA/MasterCard would never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you’re receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you’ll see charges for purchases you didn’t make, and by then it’s almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report. Upon calling VISA or Master card for verification you will receive instructions on any further action required. [Source: VP Information Security & Data Processing Mgr, Premier Banks (651) 855-1126 Jan 06)
1.) Raises veteran out of pocket health care costs for the fourth year in a row. Imposes new fees for one million veterans, costing them more than $2.6 billion over five years and driving at least 200,000 veterans out of the system. It would double the co-payment for prescription drugs from $8 to $15, and impose an enrollment fee of $250 a year for category 7 and 8 veterans, who make as little as $26,902 a
2.) Increases TRICARE health care premiums for 3.1 million military retirees under 65. Premiums will double for senior enlisted retirees and triple for officer retirees by 2009 and drug co-payments will increase -- costing military retirees $2.4 billion over five years. These fee increases of more than $1,000 could drive more than 144,000 military retirees out of the TRICARE system.
3.) Provides $1 billion less than veteran's service organizations specify is needed, and is $10 billion below the amount needed to maintain services at current levels over the next five years.
4.) Maintains VA funding inadequacies will be offset by anticipated $1.1 billion in new VA management efficiencies. This in spite of a Government Accounting Office report requested by Congress that indicates this is highly unlikely.
5.) Estimates fewer returning veterans from
6.) Continues to deny VA health care funding for new (priority 8) veterans. Lack of funding since 17 JAN 03 has prevented 1 million veterans, who make as little as $26,902 a year, from enrolling in VA health care.
7.) Funds 17,100 fewer Army National Guard and 5,000 fewer Army Reserves than are authorized by law.
8.) Lacks funding that would allow repeal of the Disabled Veterans Tax, which forces disabled military retirees to give up one dollar of their pension for every dollar of disability pay they receive. The budget continues to require nearly 400,000 military retirees with service-connected disabilities to continue to pay the Tax.
9.) Lacks funding that would allow ending the Military Families' Tax. The Survivor Benefit Plan penalizes
survivors, mostly widows, of those killed as a result of combat. These widows lose their survivor benefits if they receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits because their spouse has died of a service-connected injury. The President's budget forces these 53,000 spouses to continue to pay this unfair tax, even though these families have made the greatest sacrifice for our country.
10.) Increase of 14% for Mental health services is
inadequate to meet growing need for Iraqi veterans. An Army study shows that
about one in six soldiers in
11.) Decreases by $13 million the funding of
medical and prosthetic research. This
would set the research grant program back years, just as many troops in
VA MILEAGE REIMBURSEMENT: In 5 JUN 2001 a bill was introduced in the Senate to increase the mileage payment to vets for necessary travel to obtain special medial care. This bill died in committee primarily because it lacked cosponsors. Last year Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) reintroduced this bill as S.996 under the title, “The Veterans Road to Health Care Act of 2005”. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. The legislation would raise the travel reimbursement rate for veterans who must travel to VA hospitals for special treatment. The current reimbursement rate is 11 cents per mile. Taking into account increases in the cost of gas in recent years 11 cents per mile is not sufficient to cover actual expense incurred by vets. The bill would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in calculating expenses of travel for purposes of the Veterans Beneficiary Travel Program, to utilize the mileage reimbursement rates for federal employees who use privately owned vehicles on official business. This rate is prescribed by the Administrator of General Services under section 5707(b) of title 5, United States Code and is currently 40.5 cents per mile.
This applies only to those veterans who cannot receive adequate care at their VA facility and have been referred to a special care center by their VA physician. Even though it would pay veterans four times more than they are currently receiving, that amount is not out line with the expenses vets presently incur when they travel to VA clinics. Many of them, besides being disabled, are aged and many require a caretaker to come with them. There are very often additional expenses of hotel or motel rentals plus meals. An increase in mileage reimbursement would help to alleviate this financial hardship imposed on veterans in need of critical care. The bill presently only has two cosponsors, John Thune (R-SD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) and has receive no others since 11 May 05. To move forward it requires many more cosponsors. Vets are encouraged to communicate with their Congressional representatives and ask them to sign on to the bill. [Source: VA Outpatient Clinic Travel Clerk Bob Giese msg. 23 Feb 06]
BUDGET 2006 UPDATE 13: Rep. Lane Evans
(D-IL), ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC),
warned that the problem of chronic underfunding of veterans’ health care is
again causing budget shortfalls at VA hospitals and clinics across the
nation. Evans and Rep. Michael Michaud
(D-ME), ranking Democrat on the Health Subcommittee, have called upon the VA
Secretary in a joint-letter sent today, to provide a full and accurate
accounting of current shortfalls. Evans commented he is distressed by reports
of $500,000 to $18 million shortfalls the Committee is hearing from VA medical
facilities across the nation from inclusive of
VA HEALTH CARE FUNDING UPDATE 04: One of the hottest and most visible topics debated in Congress this past year was federal funding shortages in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. From the start of the year leading veterans service organizations warned of a serious shortfall in funding, that VA’s problems were growing, and that a crisis was brewing. Officials of the Bush Administration and Congressional leadership failedto heed these warnings until in JUN 05, VA was forced to acknowledge a nearly $3 billion shortfall for fiscal year (FY) 2005/2006. The VA admitted it had miscalculated and underestimated the demand growth and other factors straining and stressing the health care system. The veteran organization’s (DAV/PVA/VFW/AMVET) Independent Budget (IB) was right on target. Congress addressed the shortfall for 2005 by adding $1.5 billion in emergency supplemental funding in late August. Later, Congress provided an “emergency designation” supplemental budget of $1.22 billion to VA to cover admitted fiscal year 2006 shortages.
Each year veteran organizations fight for
sufficient funding for veterans health care as indicated by the BI. Each year
the level of appropriated dollars falls short of what is necessary to meet the
needs. The current discretionary funding method, coupled with continued
inadequate and frequently late budgets, has created structural under-funding
that jeopardizes quality of care to
Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) have both sponsored important bills, S. 331, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act, and S. 963, the Veterans Health Care and Equitable Access Act, which would assure VA health care funding. Members of the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform, recently urged Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) and Ranking Member Daniel Akaka (D-HI) of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, to hold hearings in this session of Congress on the funding problems they reported above and to discuss a long-term funding solution. Senators Thune and Johnson made a similar request to the Veterans Committee. Chairman Craig left only a small ray of hope for the potential scheduling of this topic before the end of the year. In this regard, the same request for a hearing on health care budget reform has been made to the Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Steve Buyer (R-IN), to no avail. The Ranking Member of the House Committee, Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) introduced H.R. 515 in the House, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act. DAV believes that the efforts by Congress to date to prop up VA health care funding have only been band-aid solutions when the VA health care system is hemorrhaging with a variety of pent-up shortages, hiring freezes, and growing waiting lists.
Veterans deserve to have their concerns about the way veterans health care is funded addressed in an official forum. Especially those have suffered catastrophic disabilities as a result of military service and will need and depend on the VA health care system and its specialized services for the rest of their lives. If you care about having adequate VA health care in the future you should contact your elected officials to request that a hearing on veterans’ health care budget reform be scheduled in the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees as a top priority. Also, for them to support H.R. 515, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act and S. 331, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act, and the budget reform provisions in S. 963, the Veterans Health Care and Equitable Access Act. [Source: DAV Legislative Talking Points for 2006 Mid-Winter Conference 17 Feb 06 ++]
E-PASSPORT: The State Department announced 18 FEB it has started issuing electronic passports on a trial basis. Diplomats received the first e-passports containing radio frequency contactless chips and face recognition technology in late December. The e-passport contains a chip, which is embedded into the cover of the document and includes a digital image of the traveler, as well as their name, date and place of birth, gender, passport number and dates of passport issuance and expiration. Contactless chips interact intelligently via RF with a contactless reader, allowing the chips used in the e-passports to be read at a close distance. Privacy advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union have raised concerns over the possibility of someone in close proximity to the passport-holder using a chip reader to skim (steal) personal information from passports.
Low-frequency RFID chips can be read from up to 20 feet, but the State department has maintained e-passports would include chips that only can be read from approximately four inches away from the source. To eschew concerns over privacy and safety the front covers of e-passports have a built-in anti-skimming device. It is akin to wrapping them in tin foil to prevent the radio frequency signal from getting through. They are also equipped with an encryption feature to prevent the interception of information by a third party (eavesdropping). This is an improvement over the initial e-passport proposal but the use of radio frequency technologies still creates a potential problem of security and identity theft. Questions remain over whether the chips can still be read without other people’s knowledge and if the technology can be used as unique identifier even if it is encrypted.
The estimated cost for the government to
produce e-passports would increase from the current $2.40 to more than $10
each, according to documents obtained by the ACLU. Applicant fees for new
paper-based passports currently total $97 each. When e-passports start being
issued to everyone, the passport fees for first time applicants will remain the
HHS 2007 BUDGET PROPOSAL: In addition to proposing a number of new fee assessments and increased deductibles for Tricare users the Bush administration’s 2007 budget calls for eliminating a number of Health & Human Services programs for a savings of $866 million plus spending reductions of about $1 billion for additional programs. If approved, retirees relying on or benefiting from non-Tricare related services under these programs could be impacted. Following is a summary of programs affected:
The proposal would eliminate spending for:
1.) Community services block grants to Community Action Agencies that offer employment, housing, nutrition and health care for low-income ($630 million)
2.) CDC Preventive Health and Human Services Block Grant used to fund chronic disease prevention, immunization, injury reduction programs and sex-offense prevention programs. ($99 million)
3.) Certain categories of funding under the $693 million Maternal and Child Health Small Categorical Grant program. ($39 million)
4.) Urban Indian Health Program, which funds primary, preventive and behavioral health care
for the 60% of American Indians and Alaska Natives that reside in urban
areas. ($33 million)
5.) Real Choice System Change Grants. Alternate funding included in another program. ($25 million)
6.) State grants for Alzheimer's community-based care ($12 million) plus the Maintain Your Brain campaign ($1.6 million)
8.) Program that provides defibrillators to rural communities and trains local personnel to use them. ($1.5 million)
The proposal would reduce spending for:
* Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education Payment Program which subsidizes children's hospitals from $297 million to $99 million;
* Health Resources and Services Administration Health Professions Programs which direct health care professionals to underserved communities from $295 million to $159 million;
* HRSA Rural Health Programs which fund rural health care facilities, state offices of rural health and the establishment of rural provider networks from $160 million to $27 million.
* Poison control centers from $23 million to $13 million.
* National Cancer Institute by $39.4 million to $4.75 billion.
* CDC cancer prevention programs spending by 1% to $304.7 million
* National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for low-income women by $1.4 million
* CDC Office of Smoking and Health by $2.1million.
[Source: Congressional Quarterly HealthBeat Feb 06 www.cq.com]
AIR FORCE MEMORIAL: The United States Air Force is the only branch of service that does not have any memorial in the Washington DC area commemorating its service to the nation. However, it is the second highest (53,000 plus) of any of the four armed services in combat casualties. Recognizing the need for a memorial Congressional Legislation in 1991 authorized the existence of the Air Force Memorial Foundation (AFMF) for the primary purpose of building one. The Foundation was incorporated in 1992 as a tax-exempt, charitable, historical, and educational organization. It was granted 501 (C) (3) status by the Internal Revenue Service, thus making contributions tax exempt.
Preliminary approval given by the US Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission and the Park Service to place an earlier design of the Memorial on a two-acre site of land known as Arlington Ridge. It was planned to be located approximately 600 feet south of the Iwo Jima Memorial and northeast of the Netherlands Carillon Memorial. However, controversy continued concerning this location, and the AFMF Board of Trustees considered it to be in the best interest of the Foundation, the Air Force and all corporate and individual donor’s to work with Congress and relocate to another site. The actual decision to relocate was contained in the 2002 Defense Authorization Bill. The memorial will now be located at a promontory point of land known as the Naval Annex. The site overlooks the Pentagon from the southwest and is located just off Interstate 395 (a major gateway to DC). Upon completion the Memorial will honor the millions of patriotic men and women who have distinguished themselves in the service of the USAF and its predecessors.
The redesigned Memorial is representational of the Air Force. Central to the design are three stainless steel spires which soar skyward. The highest of the spires will ascent 270' above the 3-acre elevated promontory site. Other key elements of the Memorial include a bronze Honor Guard, inscription walls, and an open glass Chamber of Contemplation, all landscaped to create a memorial park and parade ground overlooking the nation’s capital. To date, the AFMF has raised over $38.5 million dollars, which is only $3.2 million dollars short of its goal. Supporters include aerospace and defense-related corporations, charitable contributions from other corporations, foundations, private individuals, service organizations and service groups. Anyone wanting to donate can contact the Air Force Memorial Foundation, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1109. Phone: (703) 247-5808 Email: email@example.com.
The Memorial began to take shape last week as the 40-foot tall, 28-ton base section of the first of three stainless steel spires arrived at the memorial promontory overlooking the Pentagon. The towering spires of the memorial were designed by the late James Ingo Freed, internationally renowned architect of Pei Cobb & Partners, and are destined to become a prominent part of the skyline of Northern Virginia and the greater Washington DC area. Evocative of the Thunderbird bomb-burst flying formation, the highest of the three spires will eventually reach a height of 270 feet. The memorial project is scheduled for completion by mid-September, 2006. Additional information about the Air Force Memorial Foundation and the Air Force Memorial inclusive of photos can be found at www.airforcememorial.org. [Source: Air Force Retiree News 15 Feb 06 ++]
MILITARY RETIREMENT SYSTEM BASICS: The military retirement system used to be easy to understand: You put in 20 years, and you got 50% of your base pay immediately upon retirement. You put in more than 20 years and you got 2.5% more for each year of active duty after 20 years up to 75%. Then, Congress decided military retirement was an area that could be tweaked to reduce annual Defense expenditures. Congress started with small changes, moving the annual COLA to 1 JAN instead of 1 OCT, but then got serious and made some major changes. Here are some basics of the current military retirement system that you should be aware of:
1.) For Navy and Marine Corps members, you are considered to be a "retired member" for classification purposes if you are an enlisted member with over 30 years service, or a warrant or commissioned officer.
Those with less than 30 years service are transferred to the Fleet Reserve/Fleet Marine Corps Reserve and their pay is referred to as "retainer pay". Air Force and Army members with over 20 years service are all classified as retired, and receive retired pay.
2.) When a USN or USMC member completes 30 years, including time on the retired rolls in receipt of retainer pay, the Fleet Reserve status is changed to retired status, and they begin receiving retired pay.
3.) The law treats retired pay and retainer pay exactly the same way.
4.) There is no "vesting" in the military retirement system. You either qualify for retirement by honorably serving over 20years in the military, or you do not other with the exception of a few "early retirement" programs, which were designed to reduce the size of the armed forces.
5.) A retired military member can be recalled to active duty without the member's consent at any time to perform duties deemed necessary in the interests of national defense. A retired member may not be
involuntarily ordered to active duty solely for obtaining court-martial jurisdiction over the member.
6.) Retired pay amounts are determined by multiplying your service factor by your active duty base pay at the time of retirement for those who entered active duty or on prior to 8 SEP 80,
7.) Base pay is the average of the highest 36 months of active duty base pay received for those who entered active duty after 8 SEP 80. Additionally, the first COLA adjustment will be reduced by 1%.
8.) If you are a commissioned officer or an enlisted with prior commissioned service, you must have at least 10 years of commissioned service to retire at your commissioned rank. If you have less than 10 years of commissioned service, and voluntarily retire, you retire at your enlisted rank, and only the highest 36 months of active duty enlisted base pay counts for retirement computation. The Service Secretary can waive this to 8 years.
9.) Those who joined the military on or after 1 AUG 86 are required to make a decision at the 15-year point of their career whether or not to remain in the aforementioned retirement program or to receive an immediate monetary bonus ($30,000), and elect the "REDUX" system. Those who elect "REDUX" will have their annual COLA reduced by 1% until age 62 when those percentage points are added back to
the retired pay.
10.) For all plans, years of service include credit for each full month of service as one-twelfth of a year and retirement pay is rounded down to the nearest dollar.
11.) IAW the Tower Amendment your eligibility date is usually the day prior to the effective date of an
active duty pay increase and pay is computed by utilizing the active duty pay rates in effect on that date,
your rank/rate on that date, total service accumulated on that date, and all applicable COLA increases.
12.) If you have less than 20 years of service and have been found to be physically unfit for further military service and meet certain standards specified by law, you will be granted a disability retirement. If your disability is rated by the DoD disability evaluation system (not VA) at 20% or lower, you can be discharged with severance pay, unless the condition existed prior to service and was not permanently aggravated by service or misconduct.
13.) If you receive a disability retirement with a rating of above 30%, and other conditions are met, your disability retirement may be temporary or permanent. If temporary, your status should be resolved within a five-year period during which you will receive a minimum of 50% and a maximum of 75% of base pay.
14.) Those separated for Military disability may be eligible for monthly disability compensation from
the Veterans Administration (VA) but not both.
15.) Military retirement pay is taxable. VA disability pay is not. Military disability pay is taxable unless you joined prior to 24 SEP 75 or it is combat related.
[Source: Guide to U.S. Military Feb 06 http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalpay/a/retirementpay.htm]
AOL/YAHOO EMAIL TAX: Many Americans hold the fatalistic view that we cannot long enjoy anything that is useful and inexpensive before the “inexpensive” factor is removed through big business’ raising its price and/or the government’s taxing it. The fear that such will be the fate of e-mail communications has been with us for several years now, as evidenced by the continuous circulation of a 1999 hoax message warning of an imminent 5¢ surcharge to be imposed by the U.S. Postal Service on every e-mail sent.
The announcement in FEB 06 that two large e-mail providers, America Online (AOL) and Yahoo, were proposing to implement a system for allowing senders of commercial e-mail to receive preferential treatment by paying a per-message surcharge started a new “e-mail tax” scare, one largely created from unfounded fears based on misunderstandings of what AOL and Yahoo were proposing. As described by the New York Times, the proposed scheme would work this way:
- America Online and Yahoo, two of the world’s largest providers of e-mail accounts, are about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from ¼ of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered. The senders must promise to contact only people who have agreed to receive their messages, or risk being blocked entirely.
- AOL and Yahoo will still accept e-mail from senders who have not paid, but the paid messages will be given special treatment. On AOL, for example, they will go straight to users’ main mailboxes, and will not have to pass the gantlet of spam filters that could divert them to a junk-mail folder or strip them of images and Web links.
- As is the case now, mail arriving from addresses that users have added to their AOL address books will not be treated as spam.
A few points about some facets of this scheme that are often misrepresented:
- Referring to the proposed system as one which will implement an “e-mail tax” is inaccurate and misleading. No one is proposing that end users — ordinary AOL and Yahoo subscribers — be charged for sending or receiving e-mail.
- AOL and Yahoo are proposing to assess a cost-of-business surcharge to companies who want to ensure their commercial messages reach the inboxes of AOL and Yahoo subscribers instead of being diverted to trash folders by filters already in place to trap unsolicited commercial e-mail (better known as “spam”).
- E-mail senders who opt not to pay the surcharge will not be prevented from sending messages to AOL and Yahoo subscribers. Their messages will simply continue to pass through the same spam filters both AOL and Yahoo have had in place for years.
- The notion that non-commercial or non-profit on-line groups will be priced out of existence by being required to “pay thousands of dollars for every email message sent” is unfounded. Nobody is proposing that such groups’ messages be blocked, or that they be handled any differently that they are now. Yes, such messages will have to get past spam filters before they’re delivered, but that’s already the case, and it has been for a long time.
- As for fears that the initiative will result in the release of torrents of spam from paying senders into the mailboxes of AOL and Yahoo e-mail users, the cited New York Times articles notes that “senders must promise to contact only people who have agreed to receive their messages, or risk being blocked entirely.”
- Many, e-mail providers (not just AOL and Yahoo) have long had in place filters to trap or strip e-mail sent to large numbers of recipients or containing external web links and embedded images (because those features are hallmarks of spam and fraud).
The best way for AOL and Yahoo subscribers to ensure that mailings reach them is to be sure to designate the sender’s address in their accounts as an authorized. Even if some people’s worst fears are realized and the proposed surcharge system is implemented and proves too costly, cumbersome and/or restrictive to users, consumers have one obvious recourse: there are a lot of other e-mail providers to choose from. Of the ~11,000 AOL users being dropped form this Bulletin’s directory about 500 have chosen to take that course because of difficulty in getting their incoming email through AOL’s filters . [Source: www.snopes.com/politics/business/emailtax.asp 23 Feb 06 ++]
COLA 2007: In mid February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the January 2006 monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the metric used to calculate the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retired pay, VA disability compensation, survivor annuities, and Social Security. The CPI reversed the first quarter of the fiscal year's downward trend and rose 0.7 percent above the year's COLA base. The bulk of the fluctuation in inflation for the last several months - in both directions - has been due to fluctuations in energy prices. For more information on the subject, visit http://moaaonline.org/ct/Dp1ti851Mz6C/. [Source: MOAA Leg Up 25 Feb 06]
GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL ELIMINATION: The Air Force is no longer awarding the Good Conduct Medal. The director of Airman development and sustainment, Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, said “The quality of our enlisted personnel today is so high, we expect good conduct from our Airmen.” He added, “Having a medal for good conduct is almost to say we don’t expect Airmen to do well, but if they’re good we will give them a medal.” One must look at the history of why the medal was created in the 1960s, says the Air Force. The military was using the draft and was involved in the Vietnam War. The Air Force didn’t have any other method to recognize Airmen. Today, the Air Force Achievement Medal recognizes outstanding Airmanship. Airmen who have previously earned the Good Conduct Medal are still authorized to wear it. [Source: Armed Forces News 24 Feb 06]
IOWA HOME OWNERSHIP PROGRAM: On 23 JAN 06, Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law House File 2080, which provides $2M in additional funding for the State of Iowa’s Military Servicemember Home Ownership Assistance Program, administered through the Iowa Finance Authority. Program funds are available now for eligible Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve servicemembers. To be eligible for the Home Ownership Program, servicemembers must have spent at least 90 days cumulative (other than training) on Title 10 Active Duty since 911. The program provides matching grants up to $5,000 toward the purchase of an Iowa home for eligible personnel. For more information refer to www.ifahome.com or contact Iowa Finance Authority representatives Mickey Carlson at (515) 281-8929 or Judy Hartman at (515) 242-4960. [Source: www.daviowa.org/html/__home.htm#Military article Jan 06]
TRICARE USER FEE UPDATE 07: Under the administration’s proposed budget, the annual Tricare fees described in DoD’s FY 2007 budget proposal would be indexed to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program effective 1 OCT 08. The Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) says this would gobble up COLA raises and more. For example, AFSA says by 2013 a married senior NCO on Tricare Prime would be paying more than $1,071 per year over current rates. A married E-6 in Tricare Standard would be paying $451 a year by 2013. Deductibles for all enlisted members in Tricare standard would balloon from $185 (single) and $370 (families) to $298 and $596 respectively. In a notice to its members AFSA declares the administration plan for military health care increases would significantly degrade the value of the current military retirement benefit by taking an increasing amount of dollars out of the pockets of retirees with no end in sight to the reduction of benefits. They say the Bush administration's plan is reprehensible and the increases for military retirees under age 65, their dependents, and survivors would change retirees lives forever.
VDBR OVERVIEW: Beginning in 1978 reconstructions of radiation dose exposures have been performed for military personnel who participated in the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons from 1945 to 1962 at the Trinity Site in New Mexico, at the Nevada Test Site, and in the Pacific, or who were prisoners of war in Japan or were stationed from September 1945 to July 1946 in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Japan after the atomic bombs were detonated. Because of concerns about the increased risk of cancer and other illnesses in veterans who may have been exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons, several laws have been passed by Congress since 1981 that relate to the reconstruction of radiation doses received by veterans and the compensation of veterans for adverse health effects associated with radiation exposure. The latest legislation was enacted on 16 DEC 03, as the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-183 , referred to below as the Act).
Following the recommendation of a National Academy of Sciences report published in 2003 on the Dose Reconstruction Program, this Act required the establishment of an independent Advisory Board that will provide oversight of the dose reconstruction and claims settlement programs for veterans. The Board, which has been named the Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction (VBDR), is required by the Act to:
• Conduct periodic, random audits of dose reconstructions and decisions on claims for radiogenic diseases;
• Assist the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in communicating to veterans information on the mission, procedures, and evidentiary requirements of the Dose Reconstruction Program; and
• Carry out such other activities with respect to the review and oversight of the Dose Reconstruction Program as the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs shall jointly specify.
VBDR may also make recommendations on modifications in the mission or procedures of the Dose Reconstruction Program if it considers these changes to be appropriate as a result of its audits.
The second mandated meeting was held JAN 06 in Los Angeles at which the DTRA administrator presented a list of improvements and adjustments within the Dose Reconstruction network that are designed to speed up the process of addressing radiation illness claims filed with the VA by an Atomic Veterans. He also emphasized the need to give the Atomic Veteran the benefit of the doubt when radiation dose issues involving tests, and post test events cannot be adequately addressed by the current probability of causation models and methodology. A sub-committee paper was delivered describing the apparent exposure levels in various areas of the U. S., and with various population groups. The thrust of the findings pointed to the fact that all causation probabilities are not firm, nor can they be believable, and that there is no firm base to formulate a concrete and accurate dose absorption rate for any given event. The presentation concluded with the statement that an accurate exposure dose is un-obtainable in all cases and only theoretical doses can be applied to any claim for service connected radiation exposure compensation. The conclusion bolsters the comments issued along these lines by the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV) for the last 25 years.
A second paper was offered to the Board, by a sub-committee contractor addressing the issues of skin cancers that may have been precipitated by exposure to ionizing radiation. Again, final comments related to this presentation were to suggest that any claim for radiation induced skin cancers cannot be accurately assessed for a firm probability of causation, therefore; all such claims should be treated as a presumptive event. Given this, skin cancers should be added to the PRESUMPTIVE list, thus requiring no radiation causation dose reconstruction assessment. After a long discussion, both for and against such a measure, it was agreed to by all Board members, that a recommendation to treat all skin cancer claims as PRESUMPTIVE within the DTRA and the VA would be in order. In the opinion of the NAAV the majority of the members of the VBDR were in agreement that radiation induced illness causation dose reconstruction is the major roadblock in getting a service connected claim approved by the VA and is leaning heavily towards recommending that Dose Reconstruction be absolved altogether since Atomic Veterans are getting older and are no longer interested in fighting the system. It appears that the next meeting will be JUN 06 in Austin, Texas. To keep current on this and other Atomic Veteran issues refer to www.naav.com [Source: NM e-Veterans News 30 Jan 06]
AID & ATTENDANCE: Aid and Assistance (A&A) is available to veterans in need of regular aid and attendance of another person, or the veteran is permanently housebound. This is a benefit paid in addition to either disability compensation or pension. A veteran with 30% or more disability rating is entitled to receive a special allowance for a spouse who is in need of A&A. To obtain an additional VA compensation benefits for home treatment A&A must be requested. If the veteran is already receiving benefits a written request letter, over the veteran's signature is usually adequate to open a claim. A sample A&A form for inclusion with the request can be downloaded at www.co.pinellas.fl.us/Bcc/Veterans/pdf/aid_attendance.doc.
If the veteran has never filed a claim for disability benefits, a formal application (VA Form 21-526) would have to be filed along with the request for A&A. Approval time by the VA is subject to the Regional Center's current workload. Generally, most regional offices will try to expedite a claim if the veteran is terminally ill, and are often able to give a decision in 30 days or less. Normally, the effective date of an approved entitlement is the date the claim is received by the VA. However, there are provisions where the effective date can be retroactive to the date of admission to a VA hospital, or a non-VA hospital if the veteran was maintained at VA expense. In the event the patient dies before approval the family may be paid (with certain restrictions) any benefits which accrued but were not paid to the veteran before his death. Reimbursement from accrued funds for actual expenses paid occur only when there is no qualifying dependent and is then limited to the amount of the accrued expenses. A&A will be denied if the veteran did not qualify for pension and/or the condition(s) causing the need for A&A is not related to service. Also, if the veteran does not actually need the aid and attendance of another person as determined by the VA. Aid and Attendance is also available to spouses or children drawing death pension if:
1) The deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
2) He or she served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a war, AND
3) You are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran, AND
4) Your countable income is below a yearly limit set by law.
VA aid and attendance and housebound allowances are not income for SSI purposes per SSA policy SI 00815.050. Any cash from a nongovernmental medical or social services organization is not income when it is for medical or social services already received by the individual and approved by the organization; or it is a payment restricted to the future purchase of a medical or social service. Cash from any insurance policy which pays a flat rate benefit to the recipient without regard to the actual charges or expenses incurred is income. VA pays you the difference between your countable income and the yearly income limit which describes your situation. This difference is generally paid in 12 equal monthly payments rounded down to the nearest dollar. Countable income includes Social security, U.S. Civil Service retirement, U.S. Railroad retirement, military retirement, unemployment insurance, any other retirement income, total wages from all employers, interest and dividends, workers' compensation, black lung benefits and any other gross income for the calendar year prior to application for care. Also considered are assets such as the market value of stocks, bonds, notes, individual retirement accounts, bank deposits, savings accounts and cash. VA may compare income information provided by the veteran with information obtained from the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit. This includes welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income
Countable income is reduced by unreimbursed medical expenses. Medical expenses are broadly defined, and may include such items as eyeglasses, transportation to and from medical care providers, prosthetic aids, and hospital and nursing home costs It does not extend to such items as room and board in a facility not deemed to be providing medical care at the requisite level. For VA purposes, a nursing home means any extended care facility which is licensed by a State to provide skilled or intermediate- level nursing care. A listing of the facilities which meet the criteria of being approved to provide skilled or intermediate care is kept by the each State's licensing or certification authority.
The particular personal functions which an applicant is unable to perform will be considered in connection with his or her condition as a whole. It is only necessary to establish that applicants are so helpless as to need regular aid and attendance, not that there be a constant need. The basic criteria for showing an individual's regular aid and attendance need would include some but not all of the following for a favorable ruling to be made:
- Whether there is inability to dress or undress yourself, or to keep yourself ordinarily clean and presentable;
- Frequent need of adjustment of any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid;
- Inability to feed yourself through loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness;
- Inability to attend to the wants of nature;
- Incapacity, physical or mental, which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect you from hazards or dangers incident to your daily environment.
You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or Death Pension by Surviving Spouse or Child. If available, attach copies of dependency records (marriage & children's birth certificates). .[Source: VA Pamphlet 80-05-01 & Pinelles County Veteran Services www.pinellascounty.org/Veterans/default.htm Jan 06 ++]
TAXATION AFTER DISCHARGE: In most cases, retired pay is fully taxable. Retired/retainer pay is not subject to FICA (Social Security) deductions, nor is your retired pay reduced when you become entitled to social security payments. The amount of taxable income is reduced by SBP costs and any waiver for VA compensation or deduction for dual compensation (federal civil service employment). The amount deducted from your pay for federal withholding tax is based on the number of exemptions you indicate on either your pay data form or your W-4 after retirement. To change your withholding tax status or to request an additional withholding amount after retirement you can use one of the following means:
1) Forward an IRS Form W-4 to DFAS - Cleveland Center., or
2) Use Employee Member Self Service (See DFAS Web Site)
3) Air Force retirees can visit their local Financial Services Office or AFB to change their Federal Income Tax Withholding information.
4) Some Navy Personnel Support Detachments (PSDs) and Army Retirement Service Offices (RSOs) offer this service.
Disability retirement payments (Not VA Disability) are taxable for those members with either total military service after 24 SEP 75, or who were in the service before this date but were not on active military service or under binding written commitment to become a member of the armed services on 24 SEP 75. Disability retirement payments are nontaxable for:
1) Those members with military service or under binding written commitment to become a member of the armed services on 24 SEP 75, or
2) members whose disability retirement has been deemed as combat-related, regardless of their active military service.
If your disability retirement is calculated based on the second method, only that portion of your pay which would have been received under the actual percentage of disability calculation is nontaxable The amount of taxable income may be further reduced by any SBP cost and deduction for dual compensation (federal employment). If your disability retirement was combat-related, you are not subject to the provisions of dual compensation. If, after retirement, you waive a portion of your pay in favor of VA compensation, your taxable income will be reduced by the amount of VA compensation or the amount of percentage of disability calculation, whichever is greater.
State tax withholding is on a voluntary basis and must be in whole dollar amounts. $10.00 is the minimum monthly amount. Before making your request in writing, you must contact the taxing authority in the state in which you have established residence to determine if you are required to pay state income tax. If you are an Air Force retiree, your local Financial Services Office at the Air Force Base. Some Navy Personnel Support Detachments (PSDs) and Army Retirement Service Offices (RSOs) can adjust your state tax withholding information. Navy personnel should check with their local PSD to see if this service is available. [Source: New Mexico e-Veterans News 6 Feb 06]
CATARACTS: A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. The lens works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. Cataracts are classified as one of three types:
1. A nuclear cataract is most commonly seen as it forms. This cataract forms in the nucleus, the center of the lens, and is due to natural aging changes.
2. A cortical cataract, which forms in the lens cortex, gradually extends its spokes from the outside of the lens to the center. Many diabetics develop cortical cataracts.
3. A subcapsular cataract begins at the back of the lens. People with diabetes, high farsightedness, retinitis pigmentosa or those taking high doses of steroids may develop a subcapsular cataract.
A cataract starts out small, and at first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass or viewing an impressionist painting. A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seems too bright or glaring. Or you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did. Hazy or blurred vision may indicate a cataract. Cataracts affect vision by scattering incoming light. The type of cataract you have will affect exactly which symptoms you experience and how soon they will occur. When a nuclear cataract first develops it can bring about a temporary improvement in your near vision, called second sight. Unfortunately, the improved vision is short-lived and will disappear as the cataract worsens. Meanwhile, a subcapsular cataract may not produce any symptoms until it’s well-developed. No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. Researchers are gradually identifying factors that may cause cataracts and information that may help to prevent them. Many studies suggest that exposure to ultraviolet light is associated with cataract development, so eye care practitioners recommend wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to lessen your exposure. Other studies suggest people with diabetes are at risk for developing a cataract. The same goes for users of steroids, diuretics and major tranquilizers, but more studies are needed to distinguish the effect of the disease from the consequences of the drugs themselves. Other risk factors include cigarette smoke, air pollution and heavy alcohol consumption. A small study published in 2002 found lead exposure to be a risk factor. If you think you have a cataract, see an eye doctor for an exam to find out for sure.
When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids. An intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted in the eye in place of the patient’s clouded natural lens. Think about surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision. Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with over 1.5 million cataract surgeries done each year. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40. During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens, and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL). New IOLs are being developed all the time to make the surgery less complicated for surgeons and the lenses more helpful to patients. One example is a new IOL that lets patients see at all distances, not just one. Another blocks both ultraviolet and blue light rays, which research indicates may damage the retina. [Source: Guide to Eye Cataracts and Cataract Surgery Jan 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. When in Philippines email@example.com
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