AFSA HQ Newsletter – December 2nd

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS 

FY 2012 NDAA

The Senate continues to work on S.1867, the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, and at press time were sorting through nearly 350 proposed amendments to the bill.  On Tuesday, the chamber overwhelmingly rejected an effort to strike language in the bill pertaining to the treatment and custody of suspected terrorists.  By a vote of 61 to 37, Senate lawmakers agreed to retain this controversial language which was drafted by the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) nearly two weeks ago.  The issue of classification and treatment continues to be very contentious—contributing to a 5 month delay on the bill and now a White House veto threat if the language is retained in the final bill.   A House version of the same bill passed in May contains more stringent language, setting the stage for a major confrontation between the two chambers and eventually, with the Administration down the road. 

Shortly before press time the Senate voted 88 to 12 to limit debate and restrict further amendments to the bill.  The move puts senators on course to wrap up work on the measure Friday.  Now it is unclear if the chamber will have enough time to act on AFSA endorsed amendments that will repeal the SBP/DIC offset, expand concurrent receipt to other disabled retirees or allow gray area retirees and widows to travel on military aircraft via “Space A.” 

On a positive note: Senator John McCain (R-AZ), this afternoon, abandoned his effort to tie future TRICARE Prime increases to a national health index which would translate into increasingly higher fees for beneficiaries—much higher than a previously agreed to SASC position that limits annual TRICARE Prime enrollment fee increases to the rate of the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).     McCain changed his mind after facing intense pressure from military and veterans groups like AFSA who strongly opposes such a change. 

House Extends Financial Protection for Guard and Reserve Members

Nearly six years ago, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law.  One of its many provisions established a “means test” to determine a debtor’s ability to repay debts.  Under this test, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is presumed to be an abuse of the bankruptcy process if it appears that the debtor has income in excess of certain thresholds.  In 2008, Congress approved an exception to the means test’s presumption of abuse for members of the Guard and Reserve who, after September 11, 2001, served on active duty or in a homeland defense activity for at least 90 days (Public Law No. 110-438).  The exception was due to expire at the end of this year but H.R. 2192, the National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2011, passed by the House on Tuesday, extends it through 2015.  The bill now heads to the Senate for their action/approval. 

Airline Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces

The House unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday that could make airline travel for members of the Armed Forces a little more “hassle-free.” 

H.R. 1801, the Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act, requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop a separate screening process for military personnel flying on civilian aircraft.  The bill was inspired after its author, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), saw a combat soldier forced to take off his boots at an airport.  “It’s undignified,” Cravaack said in an interview with a local newspaper.  “In respect to our men and women in uniform and in the best interest of our national security, this bi-partisan initiative is the least we could do for our military personnel and their families traveling our nation’s airports while serving our country. 

Allowing service members to be respectfully screened in an expedited manner is simple way we can honor their service and commitment to the nation.  AFSA strongly supports accelerated screening for military members and will work to advance this legislation in the Senate. 

VETERANS NEWS 

VA Caregiver Support Program

VA is implementing a telephone support program to help spouses of returning Iraqand Afghanistan Veterans after a pilot telephone support program showed significant reduction in stress for the spouses.   “Returning to civilian life after living in constant combat readiness can be a shocking transition, and it is the immediate family, the spouses and children, who bear that brunt of that transition with those who served,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The more support we can provide to the family, the better the outcome will be for our Veterans.”   The spouse telephone support program, which is part of VA’s Caregiver Support Program, builds spouses’ ability to cope with the challenges that reintegration to civilian society can bring, helps them serve as a pillar of support for returning Veterans, and eases the transition for families after deployments.    Spouses in the pilot program reported decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, with an increase in social support.   Local caregiver support coordinators are available to assist Veterans and their caregivers in understanding and applying for VA’s many caregiver benefits.   VA also has a caregiver Web page with general information on spouse telephone support and other caregiver support programs available. 

Osteoarthritis Finding Could Pave Way for Prevention

New research led by VA, has shed light on the causes of Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis.  The disease, believed to be the result of wear and tear on the joints, breaks down cartilage in areas like the hands and hips. Researchers discovered that immune system changes may trigger cartilage breakdown—a finding that might eventually pave the way to preventing the disease.   To learn more, click here

Having Trouble Making Your Mortgage Payment?

If you’re having difficulty making your monthly mortgage payment, consider contacting the VA Regional Loan Center  for assistance.  Even if you don’t have a VA Home Loan, some help is available.  See this VA Fact Sheet for more information. 

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS 

AFSA Insurance: Life and Health

For information and applications on any of these insurance plans please contact Marsh Affinity Group Services toll-free at (800) 882-5541, or online HERE.   Coverage may vary or not be issued in all states. 

  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance Plan
  • Cancer Expense Insurance
  • Group Dental Insurance
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Short-Term Recovery Insurance Plan
  • TRICARE Supplement Insurance
  • Life Line Health Screenings 

Flowers from FTD.COM

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

Bellevue University $500 AFSA Grant Bellevue

University offers AFSA members a $500 military grant to attend Bellevue University as part of our Military Partners program.  Bellevue University will also waive the application fee and provide a Personalized Degree Plan for each student.  To apply for the grant, please visit www.bellevue.edu/militarypartners and select “AFSA” as your military partner.  For more information, contact our prior service enrollment team at 866-676-3614 or at military@bellevue.edu

THINKING AFSA

End-of-Year Membership Drive

Don’t forget the2011 End-of-Year Membership Drivewhich runs through the end of December!   We have authorized a special membership rate; 5-years for $100.00! 

Applications must be mailed to the HQ NLT 31 December 2011.  HQ will also accept applications via the phone at (800) 638-0594, Ext 288.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”

President John F. Kennedy 

We want to hear your thoughts and opinions.  Complete the sentence below!  What’s your top 10 list for AFSA?  Go ahead.  Don’t be bashful.  Send it. 

“I THINK AFSA SHOULD __________.”

Ready to join?

AFSA Legislative Action Center

Legislative Action Center
Follow the issues and write letters to your Congressman!

Take Action!

Find and contact your Senator and Representatives!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.