AFSA HQ Newsletter – August 18th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

Congressional Recess Continues

The House and Senate continue to meet in pro forma sessions as their summer recess continues.  The Senate plans to resume normal activities on September 7 and the House a day later, on September 8.

Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction

The budget deal signed into law last month increased the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by as much as $2.4 trillion and called for $350 billion in security cuts over the next 10 years.  It also created a bipartisan congressional committee tasked with identifying another $1.2 trillion in government spending cuts before Thanksgiving.  Last week, House and Senate leaders named the 12 congressional members chosen to serve on this Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction.  They are:  Rep. Jeb Hensarling R-TX (co-chair); Rep. Fred Upton, R-MI; Rep. David Camp, R-MI; Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-CA; Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC; Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA (co-chair); Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT; Sen. John Kerry, D-MA; Sen. Jon Kyl , R-AZ; Sen. Pat Toomey, R-PA; and Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH.

The deficit reduction committee will begin its work late this summer and much of it will occur behind closed doors.  However, if its members fail to reach agreement on spending cuts by November 23, a binding mechanism is in place to automatically impose steep reductions in defense spending and other government programs.   Although the outcome won’t be known for some time, either way, defense spending will sustain big hits and that worries many top DoD leaders.  The automatic trigger would be very problematic for DoD because it would direct $500 billion or more in unplanned defense cuts.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently spoke out against the automatic feature, saying “It is an outcome that would be completely unacceptable to me as Secretary of Defense, to the President and, I believe, to our nation’s leaders.  Most importantly, it would be unacceptable to the American people.”

Over the past week several members have contacted us wanting to know how the deficit panel decisions might affect them.  To be clear, everyone could be affected in some way, shape or form.  Many of the unfavorable changes to military benefits proffered by various panels and commissions over the past year and a half will be considered by this committee.  These include reductions in the value of the military retirement package and higher TRICARE fees.  Possible changes in veteran’s benefits and education programs Tuition Assistance will be scrutinized as well.  Cuts in Medicare payments and programs could reduce the number of doctors available to see TRICARE patients.  Much is at stake and this is not the time to be sitting around on your hands waiting for your benefits to be taken away.  Be proactive!  Contact your elected officials now and let them know how you feel about cuts in defense-related spending.  Unless they hear from you; Congress might not do the right thing.

VETERANS NEWS

VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program

VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is for service-connected Veterans who want to take their careers in a direction that previous training and current disabilities make difficult.  To apply, you must be at least 10 percent service-connected disabled, hold an honorable or other than dishonorable discharge and apply for the program.  Disabled veterans approved for Voc Rehab can receive up to 48 months of benefits and the period of eligibility is 12 years after separation or the notification of a disability rating, whichever came last.  To learn more visit VA’s official Blog, VantagePoint.

VA Health Care

There are many ways that a Veteran may qualify to receive top-notch VA health care at over 1,400 medical centers and clinics across the nation.   The VA has highly trained physicians and clinicians that allow the VA to address many specialties.   You may also be able to receive assistance with prescription medication.  VA health care is portable. Once enrolled, you may receive care at your home facility as well as the nearest VA facility while traveling. If you are a Veteran, and you want low-cost, high-quality health care, use this online tool to see if you qualify.

HEALTH CARE

TRICARE Touches on Treatment for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes scaling and inflammation of the skin affecting nearly 7.5 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   Anyone can get psoriasis and the TRICARE Management Activity wants beneficiaries to know more about its symptoms and treatment.  Click HERE to learn more.

Retroactive coverage closing for TRICARE Young Adult program

Don’t forget!  The opportunity to purchase retroactive TRICARE Young Adult coverage expires Sept. 30.  Retroactive TYA provides coverage for young adults back to January 1, or the day they became eligible if that was after the first of the year.   Complete information and application forms are available HERE.

AROUND OUR NATION

Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay

If your enlistment was involuntarily extended between September 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009, due to Stop Loss, you may be entitled to Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP).   The deadline for filing a RSLSP claim has been extended to October 21, 2011.

Eligibility and filing information for Air Force personnel is available on the AFPC Website. (http://www.afpc.af.mil/stoploss/index.asp) If you meet eligibility criteria, you must submit a claim to your service’s personnel headquarters by October 21, 2011, to be guaranteed payment.   By law, there is no authorization to make payments on claims that are submitted after this date.

According to a recent DoD press release, nearly $326 million has been paid to more than 90,000 Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force members to date.   The military services estimate thousands more are eligible but haven’t yet filed claims.

Authorized by the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act, RSLSP entitles eligible service members or their dependents amounts up to $500 for each month for each month served in Stop Loss status.   To receive payment, those who served under Stop Loss (or their beneficiary) must submit a claim.  The average benefit so far is $3,600.

RSLSP is eligible for Combat Zone Tax Exclusion if the member was in a combat zone tax excluded area in a month that the Stop Loss Special Pay was earned.  Combat zones are listed in the DoD Financial Management Regulation, Volume 7A (chapter 44, paragraph 440103A).

milConnect

Have you heard about milConnect?  It’s a new centralized web site that allows sponsors, spouses and their children (18 years and older) to access information regarding their personal information, health care eligibility and personnel records.  Check it out by visiting HERE.

Updating Your Banking Information With DFAS

The most convenient way for you to update your banking information with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) is through your myPay account.  You can also make that update by mailing a completed SF 1199A, (http://www.fms.treas.gov/eft/1199a.pdf) Direct Deposit Form to:

DFAS Retired Military Pay
PO Box 7130
London KY 40742-7130

or via fax at 1 (800) 469-6559.

Secondary Dependents

Secondary Dependents include stepparents, disabled children over the age of 21, wards of the court, and children under the age of 23 who are full time students who service members may be supporting.   Learn more about eligibility criteria, preparing and submitting applications to have eligible persons included as your secondary dependents, including a link to the Secondary Dependency Guide and Points of Contact by clicking HERE.

WANT INSTANT UPDATES?  – AFSA IS NOW ON TWITTER

Be the first in getting the latest updates and follow AFSA ON CALL.    We are now posting daily and weekly updates on Twitter.  As you may already know, Twitter allows for instant updates and happenings around the world, either on computers or your portable devices.

Sign up for your AFSA Twitter updates at – http://twitter.com/#!/afsahq

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

AFSA USAA Rewards World Master Card

Support the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) with this card, you can support AFSA’s mission to advocate improved quality of life and economic fairness for Air Force enlisted members and their families.  It’s a great way to support all Air Force enlisted ranks.  For more information, please visit the AFSA web site and look under Resources >> Member Only Benefits

DELL COMPUTERS

Exclusive discounts and promotions for AFSA Members on Dell notebooks, mini laptops, work stations and much more. Check by logging on HERE.

FLOWERS FROM FTD.COM

AFSA members can automatically save 15% on floral and gift purchases by shopping HERE, or by calling (800) SEND-FTD and giving promo code 4578.

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