AFSA HQ Newsletter – March 8th

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND NEWS

HASC Testimony

In written testimony presented to the House Armed Services, Personnel Subcommittee, AFSA and its Coalition partners express concern about current military strength levels and urge lawmakers to make certain that the drawdown does not proceed at a rate which would adversely impact the required dwell time for the troops.  The statement calls on Congress to ensure that the Services maximize the use of voluntary drawdown tools (including the temporary early retirement authority included in the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act) before resorting to involuntary measures; sustain adequate recruiting and retention resources to enable the uniformed services to sustain their continuing needs for top-quality personnel; and most important, support a defense budget that funds both people and weapons needs.  The 37-page document also cites our opposition to any effort that would “civilianize” the military retirement system, and the BRAC-like review process proposed by the Administration for military retirement reforms.  As previously stated, a BRAC-style review of military compensation would undermine a more proper appraisal by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.  Other sections in the Coalitions’ testimony discuss cost-of-living increases for active and retired members, Guard and Reserve compensation and educational benefit issues, family support programs, concurrent receipt, the SBP/DIC offset and a host of personnel-related issues.  The HASC has not yet posted it online, but you can view it here.

Legislation Introduced to Make VA COLAs Automatic

Current law requires automatic adjustments to Social Security and military retired pay based on a formula (CPI) that measures the rate of inflation.  However, Veterans benefits like VA disability and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation still require legislation to authorize a similar increase.  Typically the rate authorized is the same as Social Security.  In recent years, increases for Social Security and federal retired pay are known for some time before Congress acts to raise VA payments.  Last year, Social Security announced it’s COLA on October 19 but Congress didn’t agree to legislation authorizing a similar increase for VA recipients until November 2.  On March 5, Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ) introduced H.R. 4142, the American Heroes COLA Act to make VA’s cost-of-living adjustments automatic like Social Security and military retired pay.  This bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and its passage would eliminate the period of uncertainty between the announcement of the Social Security COLA and action by Congress to raise VA’s rates.

Congressional Mobility Air Forces Caucus

On Monday, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) and Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) launched a bipartisan Congressional Mobility Air Forces Caucus at a breakfast briefing on Capitol Hill.  They were joined by many of their colleagues and General Raymond E. Johns Jr., Commander, Air Mobility Command.  In their comments, Garamendi, Pompeo, and Johns discussed the importance of working together to achieve a shared goal of supporting our nation’s air mobility capabilities.  The Congressional Mobility Air Forces Caucus will:

  • Raise awareness of the critical roles that air refueling, airlift and aeromedical evacuation play in our national security.   Air mobility plays a support role inAmerica’s overall strategic defense, and it is crucial that Members of Congress, the media and the public become more aware of the vital functions that air mobility serves.
  • Establish a forum for exchange among Members who are committed to promoting air mobility.  Many Members of Congress represent districts with air mobility bases or with industries that supply air mobility platforms.  It is important that Members are able to discuss issues related to air mobility as they emerge in Congress.
  • Ensure Members’ access to the most accurate and up-to-date information about developments in air mobility.  For Members of Congress to serve as effective advocates for air mobility, it is critical that they are informed about shifting on-the-ground challenges as well as new mobility air forces and industry developments.

“The ability of the United States to respond rapidly to any location on the planet is only possible because of our superior air mobility capacity,” said Congressman Pompeo in a press release announcing the new caucus.  “Our nation’s air mobility forces — spread across Active, Guard and Reserve forces — provide the foundation for the Air Force’s core functions of global vigilance, power, and reach.  The new caucus will educate, inform, and advocate to ensure that our nation continues to enjoy unrivaled worldwide access.”    According to their press release, the group intends to maintain a visible presence on Capitol Hill, and will host regular meetings to promote and advance its cause of strengthening air mobility.

Congressman Donald Payne

Representative Donald Payne (D-NJ) passed away on Tuesday following a brief struggle with colon cancer.  Elected to the House in 1988, Payne represented the residents ofNew Jersey’s 10th district for nearly 24 years.  He was the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and served as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.  He also once served as president of the national YMCA.  Representative Payne was a widower with three children and four grandchildren.  To his entire family, AFSA extends its deepest condolences.

VETERANS NEWS

VA Recognizes Women Veterans

All month, VA is celebrating the contributions made by women Veterans to our Nation’s history.   Several new videos are available from the “Stories of Service” series, in which women Veterans speak of their experiences in the military and their return to civilian life.   Each of the 3-5 minute videos can be found here.    You can also download posters and tools that promote Women’s History Month and recognize women Veterans as history makers at VA’s Women’s Health Care Webpage.

State VA Benefits and Services

VA has many resources available for Veterans and family members but additional resources may be available through State Veteran Affairs offices.  To learn about benefits and services offered in your State, click here.

VA Voter Assistance

VA Voluntary Service strives to meet the needs of America’s Veterans in many different ways.  To continue our mission of serving America’s Veterans and their families, we provide the following links to assist you during your local, state and national elections.  These links will take you to sites outside of VA.

United States Election Assistance Commission

The EAC Web site serves as a national clearinghouse of information on all aspects of election administration, from voting system testing and certification to data on how Americans voted in recent federal elections. The new clearinghouse search tool will help you find what you’re looking for. Documents are available in various languages.  Within the EAC site you will also find links to:

  • A Voter’s Guide to Federal Elections
  • Overseas Citizens & Military Voters
  • Register to Vote
  • Become a Poll Worker
  • Election Management Guidelines
  • Voting Accessibility

For additional voting information, please contact your local VA Voluntary Service office.

Veterans Crisis Line

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.  Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Southern Nevada VA Medical Center

This August, Southern Nevada will finally get its first VA medical center; a 1.3 million-square-foot complex will provide assistance to 45,000 Veterans who currently travel throughout the valley for medical care.  The state-of-the-art facility will feature advanced electronics systems, computerized patient records, and automated digital media systems that can broadcast information into waiting rooms and classrooms.  TheLas Vegas Sun has the story; click here to read.

HEALTHCARE

Early Refills Authorized in Storm-damaged Areas

Due to tornadoes and severe weather in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, the governors of these states have issued States of Emergency in the following counties:

Kentucky Indiana Illinois Ohio
  • Ballard
  • Bath
  • Campbell
  • Carroll
  • Grant
  • Grayson
  • Hardin
  • Johnson
  • Kenton
  • Laurel
  • Lawrence
  • Magoffin
  • Martin
  • Menifee
  • McCracken
  • Montgomery
  • Morgan
  • Muhlenberg
  • Ohio
  • Owsley
  • Pendleton
  • Rowan
  • Russell
  • Trimble
  • Clark
  • Gibson
  • Harrison
  • Jefferson
  • Posey
  • Ripley
  • Scott
  • Shelby
  • Vanderburgh
  • Warrick
  • Washington
  • Gallatin
  • Massac
  • Perry
  • Pulaski
  • Randolph
  • Saline
  • Union
  • Williamson
  • Adams
  • Athens
  • Brown
  • Clermont
  • Gallia
  • Pike
  • Scioto

Due to this issuance, TRICARE and Express Scripts have implemented the Emergency Refill Too Soon Procedures for these counties through April 2, 2012.  To get an emergency refill, you may take your prescription bottle to any TRICARE retail network pharmacy.   Contact Express Scripts at 1 (877) 363-1303 or search the network pharmacy locator to find the nearest network pharmacy.   If possible, you should try to visit the pharmacy where the prescription was 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.

Bellevue University $500 AFSA Grant

Bellevue University offers AFSA members a $500 military grant to attend BellevueUniversity 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 at866-676-3614 or at military@bellevue.edu.

WORTH REPEATING

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too”

~ Voltaire ~

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.   Click HERE to send.

“I THINK AFSA SHOULD __________.”

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

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