AFSA HQ Newsletter – October 28th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

Troops in Iraq Coming Home

On October 21, President Obama announced nearly all U.S.troops in Iraqwill be coming home by the end of the year.  About 39,000 US troops are currently in that country, down from a peak of 165,000 in 2008.  150 USmilitary personnel will remain in Iraqafter the end of the year to serve in an advisory role and related duties.  “After nearly nine years, America‘s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama said. “The coming months will be a season of homecomings.   Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.” 

HASC Hearing on Military Retirement Reform

The House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday to take a look at the issue of military retirement reform.  The Pentagon’s principal spokesperson, Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, opened her testimony noting “The primary goals of the military compensation system are to attract, retain and eventually separate members so the United States forces can support the numerous missions both here and abroad, and when called upon, succeed on the battlefield.  Even though some consider military benefits far-reaching, we must remain cognizant that they support the men and women who volunteer to defend this great nation.” 

As Dr. Rooney correctly pointed out, unlike the civilian sector, the military services must grow most of its workforce from within and it can take 15 to 20 years to properly prepare the next generation of military leaders.  It is important that the benefits and services provided to service members foster their long-term commitment to serve this nation in uniform. 

Dr. Rooney said the department does believe that a review of the military retirement system is both a fair and reasonable endeavor and that over the past year DoD has been reviewing the current system.   In her words, the ongoing review is “deliberate, careful, and pragmatic” and involves officer, enlisted and civilian leadership from each of the Armed Forces and all three components (active duty, Guard and Reserve). She also indicated that the unpopular Defense Business Board proposal was one of many concepts being reviewed modeled to determine its impact on recruiting and retention. 

“The Department is working to strike the correct balance” said Rooney.  “This includes weighing the impact on recruiting and retention, considering the welfare of individual service members and their families which includes grandfathering current serving members who took their oath under the current system, and acknowledging our responsibility to the American taxpayer.”  She emphasized that the department must ensure that any proposed changes do not break faith break with currently serving members or negatively impact recruitment and retention efforts; and concluded by telling panel members that the current military retirement system is “neither unaffordable nor spiraling out of control, as some would contend.” 

A second DoD witness, Ms. Virginia Penrod, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, shored up the observations of Dr. Rooney, noting the current system has supported the most successful all-volunteer service in the world. 

The Military Coalition of which AFSA is a member was invited to testify as well and the written testimony outlines the history of the military compensation system, refutes arguments put forth by various “experts” and news media to change the present benefits package, and most important, draws attention to past lessons like REDUX.  That mandatory retirement system, enacted on August 1, 1986, reduced the value of 20-year retired pay value by approximately 25 percent for members who entered the service on or after that date. 

At the time, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger warned lawmakers that the lower retired pay REDUX offered compared to the sacrifices inherent in a military career would eventually undermine retention.  He was right.  Retention flagged, morale dropped, and in 1999, Congress was forced to repeal the compulsory function of REDUX.

It’s interesting to note that REDUX was the end result of a “budget-driven” exercise in the face of dwindling defense budgets.  Then, much like now, there seemed to be no shortage of experts claiming the military retirement was too costly, too expensive or a drain on the department. 

The most powerful argument offered for the current uniformed services retirement system is that it has worked – and worked extraordinarily well at sustaining career retention through the extraordinary variety of conditions the nation and our military have encountered over the last 60 years. 

Through multiple wars and budget-driven force build-ups and drawdowns, it has proven highly effective in accomplishing its intended purpose.  The hard reality is that the extraordinarily arduous service conditions it was intended to offset have not changed.  If anything, service conditions have been worse in recent years than at any time since the current system was created.  Military service members deserve a compensation package commensurate with the high level of service and sacrifice they provide each and every day.  And nothing in the civilian sector can compare to that same level of commitment.  Instead of looking at what we should cut, our service members and this nation would be better served if Congress begins this discussion by talking about what this nation owes those who give 20 or more of the best years of their lives in service to our country. 

The hearing was taped and is now available online.  Readers of On Call are encouraged to set aside an hour and 16 minutes to view the entire video which can be found here.

VETERANS NEWS 

Survivor and Dependant Assistance

VA’ Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain Veterans.  If you’re a child or spouse of a Veteran who has passed, is permanently disabled, or MIA you may qualify for up to 45 months of education benefits—to include: a traditional degree, certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job-training.  Visit VA’s Survivors & Dependents Assistance Webpage to learn more. 

Last week, VA’s Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force released a draft report for public comment.   The report summarizes the status of clinical care, employee training, benefits, and outreach for those who suffer from Gulf War related illnesses.   You can read the report at this link, then visit here to add your own comments for Secretary Shinseki to read.   The comment period is open for 30 days.

DFAS Military Retiree Newsletter

As a reminder, DFAS Military Retiree Newsletter is now online. In the latest issue you can find out about the upcoming pay schedule change, get tips on logging into myPay, learn how to plan ahead for tax season and see other big announcements you won’t want to miss.

HEALTH CARE 

TRICARE Young Adult TYA Prime Delay

The TRICARE Management Activity informs AFSA that the launch of the TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) Prime has been delayed a month.  The delay is to allow adequate time to implement this complex next phase of the TYA program.   Enrollment in the new TYA Prime program is expected to begin on 1 December for coverage effective January 1, 2012.

Beneficiaries can be assured that TYA Standard is in place, so young adults still have flexible, quality health care coverage available to them.   The delay simplifies premium payments as beneficiaries will only have to deal with the 2012 premium. The 2012 TYA premiums going into effect January 1 will apply for the start of TYA prime.

Beneficiary Web Enrollment

The Defense Manpower and Data Center’s Beneficiary Web Enrollment Application allows Uniformed Service members and their families to easily enroll in and manage their DoD health care benefits (namely TRICARE) and assign Primary Care Managers.   Visit the BWE Website to learn more.

New Duty Station?  Be Sure to Update DEERS

Just a reminder that when you arrive at your new duty station you should update your address in DEERS so healthcare and other benefits will continue unimpeded.

PS: while you are at it, let AFSA know your new address to facilitate timely receipt of your SERGEANTS!

Red Ribbon Week

This week, the Department of Defense is observing Red Ribbon Week, a national campaign aimed at mobilizing communities to combat alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse Oct. 23-31.  In addition to raising awareness of the impact of drug use on individuals and communities, the campaign encourages parents, educators and community groups to promote drug-free lifestyles.  Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program.  Click on the link for information about Red Ribbon Week activities, click 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 

INSURANCE: PROPERTY & CASUALTY

Protect what’s important to you with affordable insurance from USAA.  USAA offers top-rated coverage at low rates.  Combine that with award-winning service — in fact, USAA was ranked one of Business Week’s top two “Customer Service Champs” the last four years in a row.  To make it easy for you, you can do it all online — quote, buy, print ID cards, and much more. Call USAA at (800) 531-8722 or go online HERE.

AFSA  WIRELESS  CENTER

Save on phones and accessories at the AFSA Wireless Center.  Shop and compare from a vast selection of carriers and products.  You’ll get the same great rate from the carrier you choose, plus a better phone at a better price.  Click HERE or call (866) 416-3060. 

AROUND OUR MILITARY 

TAP Enters Digital Age

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class has been available to service members separating and retiring from the military since 1992. The program is now being offered in a digital format. Learn more by clicking here. 

Have you checked out milConnect yet?

milConnect is a new Web site powered by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) that allows sponsors, spouses, and their children (18 years and older) to access information regarding their healthcare eligibility, personnel records, and other information from a centralized location.   Sign up today & start managing your military benefits!  To begin, click here

“Because you are busy defending our Nation, let AFSA defend your benefits” 

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“I THINK AFSA SHOULD __________.”

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