AFSA HQ Newsletter – January 19th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

Second Session of the 112th Congress Underway

The full House met briefly this week before adjourning on Wednesday.  They will be back, along with their Senate counterparts early next week.  Several key issues will take center stage during the first few weeks of the second session of the 112th Congress return.  They include raising the nation’s debt ceiling; another “tax-extenders” package containing the tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and a “Doc Fix” addressing Medicare & TRICARE’s reimbursement rate for doctors; and minimizing or eliminating the deep cuts in defense spending directed by the last year’s budget accord. 

Last week, President Obama asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion.  This would boost the debt ceiling to $16.4 trillion and is believed to be enough to allow the government to keep borrowing through 2012.  The House on Wednesday passed a resolution expressing their disapproval with the President’s plan for another hike in the debt ceiling.  The Democratic-led Senate is likely to be more supportive of another increase, setting the stage for another funding-related battle between the two chambers.  Congress last agreed to raise the debt limit by $500 billion in September of last year. 

The tax extension legislation consumed considerable time during the final days of the first session of the 112th Congress.  Two days before Christmas, Congress agreed to a two-month deal that expires at the end of February.  Lawmakers are now working on a new package to cover the remainder of the year.  Confidence is high they can complete this by the February 29 deadline.  As reported, our interest here lies with rates paid to doctors who treat Medicare and TRICARE patients.  Without additional congressional action, the previously delayed 27 percent cut in payments would occur on March 1.  That could translate into access problems for beneficiaries if doctors limit the number of patients they see who use these two programs.

Several members of Congress hope to forestall the deep cuts in defense spending mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25).  When the congressional “Super Committee” failed its charge of finding $1.2 trillion in government savings last November, they set in motion an automatic trigger mechanism known as sequestration.  Sequestration is expected to slash as much as $600 billion from defense spending over the next decade and that, coupled with nearly $490 billion in planned reductions has many lawmakers deeply concerned.  AFSA expects to see, and intends to support legislation originating in both chambers that delay or reduces the cuts directed by the August budget accord. 

State of the Union

President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address (his fourth) on January 24 at 9:00 pm, Eastern Time.  This annual address is an important communication between the President and Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current conditions of the United States, and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year.  Formerly known as the “Annual Message,” the formal basis for the State of the Union address is the U.S. Constitution which says, The President “Shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”  The practice of delivering the annual message in January is not quite as old.  It began in 1934. 

The Budget Process

A week or so after the President gives his State of the Union address; he will submit his FY 2013 budget proposal to Congress.  The annual budget process begins with his submission which by law must occur on or before the first Monday in February (31 U.S.C. 1105(a)).  The next key deadline in the process is April 15.  That’s the day House and Senate lawmakers are supposed to complete action on a concurrent budget resolution. 

VETERANS NEWS 

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Over 1.5 million Veterans have a vision threatening eye disease—including 285,000 with Glaucoma.  Learn more about the disease and what resources VA offers here

National Resource Directory

The National Resource Directory provides online support and access to over 10,000 services and resources

For wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families, caregivers and those who support them.  Members are encouraged to visit the site so they are aware of what is available.  Be sure to check your particular state for any additional benefits that may be offered. 

New Law Change Increases Insurance Coverage for Veterans

According to a recent VA press release, some Veterans covered under the Veterans Group Life Insurance program (VGLI) now have the opportunity to increase their coverage to the current maximum coverage under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program. 

Thanks to the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 which was enacted on October 13, 2010, Veterans can increase their coverage by $25,000 at each five-year anniversary date of their policy to the current legislated maximum SGLI coverage, presently, $400,000. 

Before enactment of this law, Veterans could not have more VGLI than the amount of SGLI they had at the time of separation from service.    For example, those who got out of the service prior to September 1, 2005, when the maximum SGLI coverage was $250,000, were limited to $250,000 in VGLI coverage.   Now on their first five-year anniversary, these Veterans can elect to increase their coverage to $275,000.   On their next five-year anniversary, they can increase the coverage to $300,000, and so forth. 

The additional coverage can be issued regardless of the Veteran’s health.   To be eligible to purchase this additional coverage, the Veteran must: 

  • Have active VGLI coverage,
  • Have less than the current legislated maximum coverage of $400,000,
  • Request the additional coverage during the 120-day period prior to each five-year anniversary date, and
  • Be less than 60 years of age on the five-year anniversary date of his or her coverage. 

Eligible Veterans are notified of this opportunity a week before the start of the 120-day period prior to their anniversary date, and twice more before the actual anniversary date.  For more information about VA’s Insurance Program or other VA benefits, click here, or call 1-800-827-1000. 

HEALTHCARE 

Preparing for a Deployment

Getting ready to deploy?  Here is a quick checklist you can use to get your family TRICARE-ready during your extended absence: 

Paperwork:  Make sure your spouse can take care of things while you’re gone

  • Leave a copy of your orders for your spouse
  • Prepare a Power of Attorney so that your spouse can make changes or update information in your absence
  • If you want your spouse to have access to your medical records and personal health information while you are away, you must fill out paperwork giving them permission.
  • Make any necessary financial arrangements (allotments, automatic bill paying, etc.) 

Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS):  DEERS registration is key in determining TRICARE eligibility

  • Keep family member information updated in DEERS at all times
  • Show your spouse how to make changes in DEERS in case he or she needs to while you’re gone
  • Get identification (ID) cards updated if they are about to expire 

TRICARE:  Make sure your spouse knows the TRICARE basics and make a list of important phone numbers 

  • Primary care manager or provider to call for appointments
  • Regional contractor
  • Emergency room
  • Beneficiary counseling and assistance coordinator (BCAC) 

Review your family’s TRICARE plan information so they know how to access care in your absence.  Remember to discuss how and where prescriptions can be filled 

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 (http://www.afsainsurance.com), select “wellness,” then choose “RX AmericaPrescription Plan.” 

WORTH REPEATING 

“Offense is the Essence of Air Power”

~ General H. H. “Hap” Arnold ~ 

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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