AFSA HQ Newsletter – August 25th


AFSA Headquarters – “Shock & Awe”

Your Airman Memorial Building was rocked by the earthquake that hit the region on Tuesday.  Upon initial inspection, it appears  the building only sustained very minor damage and remains open for business.

Rare Earthquake “Shakes Up” Capitol Hill

The White House, U.S. Capitol, Pentagon and many other federal buildings were evacuated on Tuesday after a moderate earthquake “rocked” the National Capitol Region.  Experts say the 5.8-magnitude quake was the largest one in this area in over 100 years.

Capitol Hill was relatively quiet in the moments leading up to the quake because most lawmakers and many of their staff were out of town for the ongoing congressional recess.    For the past three weeks, the House and Senate have been meeting in Pro forma sessions where each chamber is called to order for a brief period, but no business is conducted.  Tuesday afternoons’ scheduled Senate session ended up being held off Capitol Hill grounds in a nearby postal building and lasted just 22 seconds.  In contrast, the earthquake that forced the change in venue lasted twice as long (44 seconds).

By Wednesday morning much of Washington D.C. had returned to normal.  Most federal buildings escaped significant damage with one key exception—the WashingtonMonument.  It remains closed indefinitely after engineers found cracks near the top. Additionally, the National Cathedral has been closed due to significant damages.

A pile of Work Awaits Lawmakers upon Their Return

It’s common for writers to use the term “full plate” to depict the large amount of work awaiting congressional attention.  However a “holiday platter might be a more appropriate description of what now awaits lawmakers when they come back to Washington after Labor Day.

Their top priority will be addressing the issue of FY 2012 appropriations.  None of the 12 annual funding bills have cleared Congress thus far.  Given their difficulties in reaching the recent budget deal, we don’t anticipate much movement in this area over the few short days that remain before the start of the new fiscal year.  Look to Congress having to pass a short-term continuing resolution that will keep the government running beyond October 1.

Once annual funding is resolved, next in line would normally be the authorization bills.  Service members and AFSA are particularly interested in the outcome of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act because this legislation addresses key issues like annual military pay raises, TRICARE fees and the like.  The House approved its version of the bill in late May (H.R. 1540), and the Senate Armed Services Committee blessed a draft of theirs in June (S. 981).  So much time was consumed by Congress crafting the budget deal that the Upper Chamber never finished this important defense legislation prior to their leaving town on recess.  Although the Senate could resume work on their bill in September, we anticipate it will be later in the year.  One thing is certain; the bill won’t be completed prior to the start date of the new fiscal year.

Somewhere along the way, lawmakers will still need to tackle the issue of federal payments to doctors who take care of Medicare and TRICARE patients.  Last year, Congress passed legislation five times to block scheduled cuts in physicians’ reimbursement rates and the current moratorium expires on January 1, 2012.  Unless Congress acts by year’s end with another band aid fix or a permanent solution, payments to doctors accepting patients in these two programs will be slashed by nearly 29 percent.  That is why your AFSA Legislative Team is pressing Members of Congress to address this issue NOW., A timely fix to the reimbursement rate issue is necessary to ensure continued beneficiary access to quality care.


Agent Orange Deadline Approaching

Vietnam-era veterans take note; an important due date is approaching for those who have medical diagnoses for three presumptive conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans who have been diagnosed with ischemic heart disease, hairy cell/B-cell leukemias and Parkinson’s disease have until August 30, 2011, to file their disability claims with VA in order to qualify for up to one year of retroactive benefits.

Veterans can file for disability claims online at VA’s Agent Orange Fast Track Claims Processing System (   Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam or in-land waterways between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 may use this website to apply for disability benefits for these conditions.

NOTE: Widows and widowers whose spouses have died from Agent Orange presumptive conditions may also qualify for retroactive benefits and are encouraged to file for dependent indemnity compensation by August 30.

Immunization Awareness for Veterans

VA health care workers prepare for the upcoming flu season, it’s important for vets to get the right vaccines in the right doses at the right time.  As part of National Immunization Awareness Month activities, VA provides this list( of some of the most important vaccines.

Homeless Female Veteran Population Increasing

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), women veterans are up to four times as likely as their male counterparts to be: younger, self-identify as a racial minority; have lower incomes, and be unemployed.  DOL recently released a guide for service provides in hopes of enhancing the aid provided to women veterans.  A key challenge in aiding women veterans is that many women simply don’t think of themselves as veterans. If not in a combat situation, they are most likely not going to see veteran care or assistance.  “The Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers,” was introduced at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Theater at Arlington National Cemetery.  This guide acknowledges the experiences and challenges facing women veterans, and will result in better assistance and better outcomes for these deserving women.

To download a copy of this guide, click here.


Army Surgeon Selected as Next Deputy Director of TMA

Brigadier General W. Bryan Gamble has been selected as the new deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity.   Gamble, who is currently the commanding general of the Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and deputy commander of the Southern Regional Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, will assume his new post at TMA in mid-September.

Hurricane Irene Threatens East Coast: Are You Prepared?

This weekend could be rough one for residents of the East Coast where Hurricane Irene is predicted to strike.  TRICARE beneficiaries should start preparing to weather out the storm or, if necessary, evacuate as soon as possible.  TMA put together this press release ( with some important considerations to help you prepare for the worst.

TRICARE Expands Retail Pharmacy Vaccine Program

TRICARE is expanding the number of preventive vaccines covered at retail network pharmacies.  Until now, the majority of vaccines were only covered when obtained through a physician’s office.

“Vaccines are a critical part of every family’s preventive health program,” said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, TRICARE Management Activity deputy director. “We are very pleased to offer this expanded convenience to our beneficiaries and, best of all, there’s no copay.”

TRICARE covers age-appropriate vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the high-demand shingles vaccine, Zostavax. Since late 2009, TRICARE has covered seasonal flu, H1N1 flu and pneumococcal vaccines at retail pharmacies with nearly 300,000 vaccines administered to date.

The expanded program covers immunizations for measles, mumps, shingles and many other preventable diseases. To see the expanded list of vaccines available from authorized TRICARE retail pharmacies, click here.
TRICARE officials strongly recommend that beneficiaries check ahead before making a trip to their pharmacy to make sure it’s part of the TRICARE network and authorized to offer the vaccines. Ensuring that the pharmacy has the needed vaccine is also advised as some, such as shingles, may be in short supply.

In addition, while all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to administer vaccines, individual state laws can restrict which vaccines pharmacists may administer, or may restrict based on licensing or by age of the recipient.

Beneficiaries who obtain vaccines through their regular physician do not pay copayments for preventive care such as immunizations and recommended screenings, but usual cost shares and copayments for office visits may apply.

“Expanded access to a wide variety of recommended vaccines makes it easier for beneficiaries to make good health care choices,” said Hunter. “Whether we choose a military clinic or hospital, a retail pharmacy or our regular doctor, getting immunized is one of the easiest things we can do to help protect the health of our families and our community.”



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