AFSA HQ Newsletter – December 7th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

Defense Authorization Bill Update

As reported in last Friday’s AFSA Alert, the Senate completed action on its version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  The bill was readied for floor action in June but Senate leaders held it up over individual member and White House objections to provisions that address the custody of terrorist suspects.  Revisions to that language cleared the way for the bill’s passage in the upper chamber but may continue to cause problems down the road.  The House intends to retain stronger language it wrote into its bill, and the Administration has signaled through numerous veto threats that it prefers the issue be taken out of the bill altogether.  Soon the joint House-Senate conference will begin and there is little doubt this provision will again be the subject of much debate as lawmakers work toward a final bill which will be numbered as H.R. 1540. 

The Senate bill approved on Friday:

  • Provides a 1.6 percent military pay raise
  • Extends many special pays and bonuses  
  • Modifies Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay—prorating them based on the number of days spent in a qualifying area rather than be paid on a monthly basis
  • Repeals the mandatory high-deployment monetary allowance
  • Prevents the reduction in basic housing allowance for Guard members transitioning from active duty to full-time Guard duty
  • Provides a death gratuity and related benefits for Reservists who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training
  • Strengthens employment and re-employment rights for individuals ordered to full-time Guard duty
  • Directs a review of current employment programs for military spouses
  • Allows the defense secretary to issue a Cold War Service Medal
  • Authorizes the Secretary of the Air Force to allow seriously wounded, ill, or injured former or retired enlisted service members to continue their participation in associate degree programs of the Community College of the Air Force in order to complete a degree program interrupted by separation or retirement.
  • Establishes that annual TRICARE Prime enrollment fee increases each year be limited to the rate of the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA).
  • Extends the time limit to submit TRICARE claims for care provided outside of theUnited States 
  • Requires beneficiaries who enroll in the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan (USFHP) after Sept. 30, 2011, will be required to transition to TRICARE for Life once they become Medicare-eligible due to age 
  • Repeals the SBP/DIC offset

Nearly 400 amendments were introduced as part of the Senate process and some of them would have addressed long-standing AFSA goals.  These include provisions that would have expanded concurrent receipt (CR) and provide veteran status to retired career members of the Guard and Reserves.  Prior to the NDAA’s passage, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) announced plans to attach 71 of the unaddressed amendments to defense-related legislation this week.  Whether his package would include the CR and veteran’s status is not known at this time.   AFSA does not agree with one amendment that may be included in that group—a provision offered by Senator Levin that would establish a DoD BRAC-style commission to recommend “modernizing” the military compensation and retirement systems.  President Obama called for this commission as part of his deficit reduction plan announced back in August.  It would review current military compensation, take inputs from DoD and submit recommendations on these programs to Congress.  Lawmakers would then have a short period of time to approve or disapprove the package (without amendments).  If they agree with the recommendations, it goes to the President who would also have a short timeframe to enact the recommendations or reject them in their entirety.  AFSA strongly believes this kind of “take it or leave it” exercise does not properly serve our national security interests and those who serve in uniform.  Similar to past commissions and panels that looked at the same issue, this one begins the same premise—cutting the bottom line.  Therefore one can reasonably expect it will produce the same result; recommendations that reduce the overall value of military compensation

FY 2012 Appropriations

Congress continues to work on legislation to fund many federal agencies through the remainder of FY 2012, including VA and the Department of Defense.   We hear the military spending bill is close to final form but rather than passing it as a stand-alone bill, lawmakers are likely to use it as the vehicle that carries legislation for the remaining departments.  Congress is under the gun to pass the remaining annual funding bills before a stopgap funding measure expires on December 15.  Unless consensus is reached soon, another continuing resolution is likely.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Flags are flying at half-staff today in observance of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.   70 years ago Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Field inHawaii, killing more than 2,300 Americans.   The following day President Franklin Roosevelt, addressing a joint session of Congress, called December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.”    The attack onHawaiiushered theUnited Statesinto World War II and ending the country’s isolationist policy. 

VETERANS NEWS

New Members Appointed to VA Committee on Women Veterans

VA recently announced six new members have been appointed to the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel established in 1983 that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women Veterans.  The new committee members, who are appointed to two-year terms, are: 

  • Sherri Brown, Alexandria, VA:   A Veteran of the Coast Guard Reserves; currently serves as Senior Vice President for Service to the Armed Forces for the American Red Cross.
  • Latoya Lucas,Rocky Mount,NC:    A retired Army specialist, with combat service inIraq; currently works as a motivational speaker.
  • Sara J. McVicker,Washington,DC:  A former Army Corps nurse, with service inVietnam; currently serves as a member of Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Women Veterans Committee.
  • Delphine Metcalf-Foster,Vallejo,CA:  A retired Army first sergeant, with service in Desert Storm/Desert Shield; currently serves as a member of Disabled American Veterans’ Department of California Women’s Committee.
  • Robin Patrick, Virginia Beach, VA:  A Veteran of the U.S. Navy and Army National Guard; currently serves as a Veterans’ advocate for women Veterans, homeless Veterans, disabled adults, and families.
  • Felipe Torres,Helotes,TX:  A retired Marine Corps colonel, with service inVietnam; currently serves as a women Veterans advocate. 

In congratulating the six new appointees, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki noted, “Women serving in the military are essential components of our Nation’s success,” he added.  “In honor of their service, VA’s is committed to providing women Veterans with quality care and preparing for their evolving needs.” 

Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veterans population. There are 23.4 million Veterans; approximately 1.8 million are women Veterans.  They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total Veterans population and nearly 5 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services.  VA estimates that by 2020 women Veterans will comprise 10 percent of the Veteran population. 

HEALTHCARE

ESI Changes Address for Paper Claims

TRICARE’s pharmacy contractor, Express Scripts Inc., has a new mailing address to receive paper claims submitted by TRICARE beneficiaries.  TRICARE beneficiaries should use the address below to submit paper claims to ESI: 

Updated address:

Express Scripts
P.O.BOX52132
Phoenix,AZ85082 

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

Discount Prescription Card

AFSA members & dependents have a Prescription Discount Benefit. Cut your prescription costs up to twenty percent on brand-name drugs and save as much as fifty percent on generic medicines with the RxAmerica program. To print your prescription card click here, select “wellness”, then choose “RX AmericaPrescription Plan”. 

THINKING AFSA

AFSA Seeks Input for 2012-2013 Legislative Platform

AFSA International Legislative Committee Chairman Dale Nelson has issued the following call for inputs on the 2012- 2013 AFSA Legislative Platform: 

AFSA’s chapter and division members are the “eyes and ears” of the Association.   Their first-hand knowledge of issues affecting Air Force enlisted members has been extremely valuable over the years in charting the course our lobbyists pursue each year. 

With this in mind, the AFSA International Legislative Committee is now seeking proposals for possible inclusion the 2012-2013 AFSA Legislative Platform.  Recommendations should be written in point paper format and submitted through the local chapter to the Division President for coordination.   Division Presidents will compile issues received from their chapters and forward them to the Directorate of Military and Government Relations (M&G) for further evaluation. 

Proposals must be received by Military and Government Relations and (cc:)Trustee Nelson (Legislative Committee Chairman) NLT January 15, 2012, to ensure there is sufficient time to research each issue.  Items received by this time will be considered by the AFSA Legislative Committee in the spring of 2012 when it meets to prepare a new draft platform for the AFSA International Executive Committee. 

End-of-Year Membership Drive

Don’t forget the 2011 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 December, 31 2011.  HQ will also accept applications via the phone at (800) 638-0594, Ext 288. 

WORTH REPEATING

“What you have chosen to do for your country by devoting your life to the service of your country is the greatest contribution that any man could make.” 

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 __________.”

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