AFSA HQ Newsletter – October 7th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

House Passes Second CR

On Tuesday the House agreed to a second Continuing Resolution (CR) which will keep the government funded through November 18. The Senate approved the measure last week, and the president signed it into law early Wednesday. The CR provides $2.65 billion to replenish FEMA’s disaster relief fund and, as agreed to in the August budget deficit reduction agreement, cut funding provided to other federal agencies like the Department of Defense by 1.5 percent over 2011 funding levels.

As previously reported, Congress is woefully behind in their fundamental responsibility to fund government agencies. To date, The House has passed just six of 12 annual funding bills. Three more have been approved by their respective committees but have yet to reach the House floor, and three are working their way through the committee drafting process. The Senate is even further behind, having acted on just one of the six bills sent to it by the House (H.R. 2055, the VA/MILCON bill).

The CR passed on Tuesday buys Congress seven additional weeks to work out their differences on the annual funding bills. Whether Congress uses the time wisely, or squanders it, remains to be seen. If the current struggle to reach consensus continues, passage another CR or an omnibus measure which rolls all of the appropriation bills into one is highly likely.

AFSA on the Hill

AFSA stepped up its presence on the Hill this week. The AFSA CEO, M & G Director and the M & G Manager met face-to-face with several Members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees to express our deep concern with potential cuts in defense spending and military compensation/benefits. Among those seen were Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rep. Joe Wilson, (R-SC), Rep. Ruppersberger (D-MD), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Rep. Tim Walz, (D-MN), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Sen. John Kerry, (D-MA). Many other visits are being planned, and we intend to maintain an aggressive schedule of office visits up so long as earned military benefits are in jeopardy. Additionally, the CEO discussed at length with former Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX who is now on a Commission to work military children education), the Interstate Compact for Education of Military Children. They are scheduled to meet separately to work on the remaining six states not presently participating in the Compact.

Each Member we visited this week was receptive to the AFSA message. They shared similar concerns with the implications of cutting defense and pledged to do their part to protect earned benefits. We also used solicited their support of AFSA-endorsed legislation and a good example of the value of directly meeting with Members and their staff was Rep. Tsongas who at our request, has e-mailed us back and agreed to sign on to H.R. 178, the Military Surviving Spouses Act, just 14 minutes after our meeting.

A December NDAA?

That seems to be the prevailing belief in the halls of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been holding up action on the Senate version over White House and some senators opposition to provisions in the bill that require military custody of suspected terrorists. In our conversations with congressional members and their staff this week, we learned the Senate version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act has been removed from a list of legislation the upper chamber intends to pursue between now and Thanksgiving. They tell us the Senate probably won’t get to the bill until December, and of course, that bill must still be reconciled with the House measure passed in May of this year.

S. 1634, the Rural Veterans Health Care Assistance Act

Last week Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation to make quality health care more accessible to veterans who live in rural states. Tester’s bill, S. 1634, the Rural Veterans Health Care Assistance Act, would establish the Rural Veterans Health Care Technical Assistance Center. The center would provide private health care providers in rural communities with information, education and technical assistance to improve services for veterans. It also allows the VA to partner more effectively with rural hospitals and clinics. S. 1634 would also ensure that health care providers in rural areas know the best ways to contact and work with the VA in order to put their knowledge of rural health care to good use. AFSA is well aware of the difficulty of finding healthcare in rural areas and supports efforts like Senator Testers that will facilitate better access to that care. To view the complete text of this AFSA-endorsed bill, click here

VETERANS NEWS

VA Burial Eligibility

The VA National Cemetery Administration honors the military service of our Nation’s Veterans. Many veterans don’t realize they’re eligible for burial in one of VA’s 131 national cemeteries across the country. Learn more about this benefit by visiting VA’s Website

National Veterans Day Poster for 2011

The Veterans Day National Committee recently selected the National Veterans Day poster for 2011 designed by John Magine, a Vietnam Veteran who works as a visual information specialist at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. It is the second time the committee has selected his artwork for the national poster – his previous design won the 2008 contest. The poster was shipped to VA facilities nationwide Friday, and can also be viewed and downloaded in a variety of formats from the Veterans Day Web site

New e-Afterburner posted on website

The September 2011 edition of the e-Afterburner has been posted on the Air Force retiree website. This edition is available in both .doc and .pdf formats for downloading and printing.

VA Provides Additional Money to Help Eliminate Veterans Homelessness

On Wednesday, VA announced that community groups in eleven states will share more than $10.3 million in additional grants from the department to provide enhanced services for homeless Veterans. This is in addition to $59.5 million in preventive grants VA awarded earlier this year.

“Homelessness is a national issue that will be solved at the local level,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA is proud to partner with the community organizations that share our dedication to serving those who served this Nation. They are pulling Veterans out of homelessness and setting them on the path to independence.”

A key component of VA’s plan to eliminate homelessness among Veterans, VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program provides grants and per diem payments to help public and nonprofit organizations establish and operate supportive housing and service centers for homeless Veterans. For more information, visit VA’s website for the National Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Office (www.va.gov/homeless/GPD.ASP). As a reminder, VA’sNationalCallCenterfor Homeless Veterans is 1 (877) 424-3838).

HEALTH CARE

TRICARE Covers Allergy-related Care

Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? As a reminder, TRICARE covers both diagnosis & treatment.

TRICARE Assistance Program

The TRICARE Assistance Program (TRIAP) uses video chat and instant messaging to deliver behavioral health counseling services to beneficiaries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Active duty service members and their families, beneficiaries using TRICARE Reserve Select and those covered under the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP) are eligible to use this service. To learn more about this counseling service, visit the TRICARE Assistance Program webpage

Manage Your Personal Health Record with TRICARE Online

TRICARE TV explains how you can manage your personal health record with TRICARE Online.

AROUND THE AIR FORCE

AFPERS Website Redesign

Air Force Personnel Services (AFPERS) introduces a redesigned home page! This is the first phase to centralize the AFPERS website for all Air Force components: active duty, guard, reserve, civilians and retirees. Read more about it by clicking here

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

AFSA USAA Rewards World Master Card

Get this card and you will be supporting AFSA’s mission to advocate improved quality of life and economic fairness for Air Force enlisted members and their families. 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.

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