AFSA HQ Newsletter – January 26th

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS 

State of the Union

The President delivered his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening.  The majority of his comments centered on economic and policy issues he believes Congress should work on during the coming year.  It was nice however, to hear all of the praise for our brave men and women at the beginning and end of his speech.   “The generation serving in the military today has made the United States safer and more respected around the world,” the president said.  “All American troops are out of Iraq, Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run.  In Afghanistan, U.S., NATO and Afghan forces have reversed the Taliban’s momentum and some U.S. troops are coming home.  These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America‘s Armed Forces,” he said. “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.”           

Elsewhere in his speech, the President stressed the importance of caring for veterans. “Our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it.  As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us.  That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned.”  He highlighted recently-approved tax credits to companies that hire vets and proposed a Veterans Job Corps to help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters. 

The President concluded by again suggesting elected officials in Washingtoncould learn from the service of military personnel.  “As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our union will always be strong.”

FY 2013 Budget Proposal Delayed

The White House on Monday said it was delaying the release of President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal by one week.  The new date is February 13.  An Administration official said the later date was needed to finalize decisions and technical details of the document.  Prior to Monday’s announcement, the Administration was expected to release next year’s budget proposal on time, by February 6 as required by law. 

The President will ask less for DoD in FY 2013 and we will not have to wait until mid February to find out everything his plan entails.  Defense Secretary Panetta is expected to release details about the President’s proposal later today.  Our sources tell us the expected top line of the new defense budget will be around $513 billion, but that does not include war time funding.  One agency that is likely to receive a boost in funding (albeit not as large as past years) is Veterans Affairs.  Funding for some VA functions may decrease but overall, AFSA believes the department as a whole will receive a modest increase in funding.  Details on the VA budget are not expected to be released until February 13. 

Presidential Nominations for Top DoD Posts

Early this week, President Obama announced plans to nominate four people to fill key Defense Department posts.  They include Undersecretary of the Air Force, Erin C. Conaton, who was nominated as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.  The other three individuals are: Frank Kendall III who was nominated as undersecretary for defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; James N. Miller as undersecretary of defense for policy; and Jessica Lynn Wright as assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.  All four nominations are subject to Senate confirmation; a hearing date has not been set. 

Second Session of 112th Congress Now in Full Swing

The House and Senate are in session this week and will remain so for much of the next month.   High on their “to do” list is passage of “tax extender” legislation which contains the ever-important “doc fix.”   A temporary measure passed prior to Christmas expires at the end of February.  Without new legislation, payments to doctors that treat Medicare and TRICARE patients will be cut 27.4 percent on March 1, 2012.  AFSA will be watching this issue very closely and readers are encouraged to contact their elected representatives on this matter.  Tell them to pass a long term “doc fix” and protect access to health care for military families and retirees.         

VETERANS NEWS 

Passing of First VA Secretary

Edward Joseph Derwinski, the first “Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” passed away on January 15.  Secretary Derwinski was a World War II Army Veteran who served in the Pacific theater of operations and in post-warJapan.  Following the war he served in a number of public service positions including 24 years as a member of the US House of Representatives and six more at the State Department. 

When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was established on March 15, 1989, President H.W. Bush swore in Mr. Derwinski as its head on that date.  He went on to serve in the position until September 1992.  Secretary Derwinski is survived by his wife, Bonnie; a son, Michael; a stepdaughter, Maggie Hickey; a stepson, Kevin Hickey; a sister, Bernadette Ferrara; and seven grandchildren.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Derwinski family.

VA Emergency Care Payment Policy Extended

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced a change in regulations regarding payments for emergency care provided to eligible Veterans in non-VA facilities.  In short, VA’s authority to pay for emergency care provided to eligible Veterans at non-VA facilities–until the Veterans can be safely transferred to a VA medical facility–has been extended.  More than 100,000 Veterans are estimated to be affected by the new rule at a cost of about $44 million annually. 

VA operates 121 emergency departments across the countries, which provide resuscitative therapy and stabilization in life-threatening situations. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  VA also has 46 urgent care units, which provide care for patients without scheduled appointments who need immediate medical or psychiatric attention.  Additional information about emergency care in non-VA facilities is available and can be found by clicking here.

VA History

The VA benefits system traces its roots back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians.  The Pilgrims passed a law stating disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.  Learn more about the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs by visiting their history page

National Directory

As a reminder, use VA’s National Directory to locate your local medical centers, Vet centers, PTSD programs, national cemeteries, and more. 

HEALTHCARE 

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Have you thought about your thyroid gland?  Most people are unaware of their thyroid unless they’ve suffered from symptoms related to thyroid disease. TRICARE covers clinical preventive services including checks for thyroid cancer for adults with a history of upper body radiation. 

Hypothyroidism is a common condition where there body lacks sufficient levels of thyroid hormone.  Symptoms include gaining weight, feeling tired and having difficulty with cold temperatures.  Conversely, hyperthyroidism results when the thyroid is too active, producing more thyroid hormone than the body needs.  This condition can cause weight loss, rapid heartbeat and sensitivity to heat.

Treatment is available for both conditions depending on the cause, and the goal is to bring thyroid hormone back to normal which typically eliminates the patient’s symptoms.  Those who have any of these symptoms or a family history of thyroid disease should speak with their primary care provider to discuss their thyroid health. 

Does TRICARE for Life cover the Silver Sneakers program?

No.  General exercise programs, even if recommended by a physician and regardless of whether or not the exercise programs are given by an authorized provider are not covered by TRICARE.  In addition, exercise equipment, spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools, health club memberships or other such charges or items are also not covered by TRICARE. 

Routine Eye Exams & TRICARE Prime

TRICARE Prime provides routine eye exam coverage as follows:

  • Well-child care coverage (infants and children up to age 6):   Infants receive one eye and vision screening is covered at birth and at 6 months.    Children (up to age 6) of active duty members are covered for one routine eye exam per year.  All others are covered for one routine eye exam every two years. 
  • Adults and children (over age 6):  Active duty family members are covered for one eye exam per year.  Retired service members and their families are covered for one eye exam every two years. 
  • Diabetic patients (any age):   Eye exams aren’t limited. One eye exam per year is recommended. 

Ophthalmological services, which may include an eye exam and other specialized services, are covered in connection with the medical or surgical treatment of a covered illness or injury.  Please contact your regional contractor for more information. 

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

Air Force Times: AFSA Subscription Discount

Don’t miss this special subscription offer; order the Air Force Times at $39.95 for the year.   That’s a savings of 76 percent off the cover price.  On top of that, the Air Force Times will send $5 to AFSA on your behalf — and send to you – TWO FREE GIFTS!   Order online here or call (800) 368-5718.   [Please advise the AF Times that you are an AFSA member.] 

WORTH REPEATING 

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than his own country!” 

Daniel Webster 

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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