AFSA HQ Newsletter – April 26th

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 

Breaking News – HASC Subcommittee Says “No” to TRICARE Fee Increases

The House Armed Services Committee released legislative language that will be considered by the Subcommittee on Military Personnel at their markup later today (Thursday).  This year’s proposal: 

  • Authorizes a military pay increase of 1.7 percent and extends many bonuses and special pays
  • Provides significant new regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting sexual assault within the military
  • Extends access to family housing for six months and Commissary and Exchange benefits for two years for troops who are involuntarily separated.
  • Extends some TRICARE benefits to members of the Selected Reserves who are involuntarily separated. 

Most significant, the Subcommittee mark does not, repeat, does not, contain provisions that will provide for higher TRICARE fees and premiums.  Instead, the Subcommittee inserted language expressing a sense of Congress that “Career members of the uniformed services and their families endure unique and extraordinary demands and make extraordinary sacrifices over the course of a 20- to 30-year career in protecting freedom for all Americans; and those decades of sacrifice constitute a significant pre-paid premium for health care during a career member’s retirement that is over and above what the member pays with money.”  This belief tracks in line with the position AFSA and its Coalition partners have maintained for many years. 

We are pleased with the Subcommittee’s decision but remain cognizant of the fact their efforts could easily be overturned by the full Committee when it meets to address the bill in early May.  It happened last year and comments made by some of our sources on Wednesday suggest a repeat situation is likely.  The bottom line, the Subcommittee got this one right and now they need our support.  Please contact your representative and urge them to support the Subcommittee plan.  Don’t delay, do it today! 

AFSA Meets with HASC Chair, House Majority Whip

The AFSA CEO and Director of M&G were among a small group of Association representatives invited to the Capitol on Wednesday for a   meeting with the House Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Armed Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA).  The conversation centered on the leadership’s concern with sequestration and its probable impact on national defense after January 1, 2013.  In the coming weeks, House leaders will pursue a number of initiatives designed to minimize the impact across-the-board cuts will have on the military.  We will cover some of them in a future edition of On Call. 

Senate Legislation Addressing Former Clark AB Cemetery Introduced

Last week, Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced legislation aimed at restoring theClarkVeteransCemeteryin thePhilippines.  S. 2320, the “Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act” would require the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to restore, operate, and maintain Clark Veterans Cemetery to honor the courageous Americans buried there.  It is a companion measure to H.R. 4168 which was introduced by Representative Frank Guinta (R-NH) last month. 

“The U.S. government has a moral responsibility to care for veterans cemeteries that honor those who have bravely served our country,” said Senator Ayotte. “The American veterans buried in Clark Veterans Cemetery deserve a dignified and well-maintained final resting place, and it’s time for the U.S. government to fulfill its responsibility to care for this sacred ground.”

America‘s veterans deserve dignity and honor no matter where they are buried,” Senator Begich said. “It is our duty to recognize their service by making sure this cemetery is maintained appropriately, and this final resting place of thousands of service members should not be left in disrepair.” 

The ABMC is an independent agency of theU.S.government charged with managing overseas cemeteries and monuments. BecauseClarkVeteransCemeteryis a permanent American cemetery in a foreign country, AFSA believes the ABMC is the appropriate federal agency to oversee the cemetery’s management and maintenance. 

Editor’s Note – Update on House Bill, H.R. 4168:  AFSA understands a “watered down” version of Guinta’s bill is now advancing within the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC).  The revised provision, which has been attached to annual VA COLA legislation, now requires the ABMC to “study” the matter and then report their findings to Congress. 

VETERANS NEWS 

New VA Initiatives to Improve Benefits Delivery to Veterans and Families  

Last week, VA announced the national deployment of claims transformation initiatives to 12 regional offices in the remaining months of fiscal year 2012 to improve benefits delivery to Veterans, families and their survivors. 

“This is an important milestone in our transformation to achieve the goal we established in 2009 of processing all disability claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level in 2015,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. 

The 12 regional offices to begin the deployment of the transformation initiatives include: Huntington, WV; Hartford, CT; Portland, OR; Houston, TX; Cleveland, OH; Des Moines, IW; Boise, ID; Phoenix, AZ; New Orleans, LA; San Juan, PR; Atlanta, GA; and Newark, NJ    This deployment follows four pilot programs at Indianapolis, IN, Wichita, KS, Milwaukee, WI., and Fort William Henry Harrison, MT, in 2012.

“This national deployment, consisting of people, process and technology initiatives, follows comprehensive planning and testing to ensure we have the right recipe for success,” added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. 

During the national deployment, VA will further track and gauge the integrated effects of the transformation plan to reduce the backlog of disability claims and provide Veterans, their families, and survivors with more timely and accurate claims decisions. VA expects to deploy the transformation plan to the remaining 40 regional offices throughout calendar 2013. 

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than four million Veterans, family members and survivors.  Veterans filing claims may file online through eBenefits, a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA.  They can check the status of their claim with a Premium eBenefits account, and use a growing number of online services or contact VA for more information at 1(800) 827-1000. 

VA to Increase Mental Health Staff by 1,900

Last Thursday, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that the department would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians – to include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations. 

“As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care.” 

To locate the nearest VA facility or VetCenterfor enrollment and to get scheduled for care, Veterans can visit VA’s website. Immediate help is available at Veterans Crisis Line or by calling the Crisis Line at 1 (800) 273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255. 

Find a Career at VA

If you’re interested in serving through a job in VA’s health care system, they are hiring. Click here to learn more. 

VA Disability Benefits Questionnaires

Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) are downloadable forms that Veterans can use in the evaluation process for VA disability benefits.  These forms can help speed up processing of Veterans’ disability compensation and pension claims.   Veterans can have their providers fill out any of the more than 70 DBQs that are appropriate for their conditions and submit them to VA. 

Military Spouse Alternative Education Funding Resources

Is your spouse attending college?  Military OneSource provides a lengthy list here of education and training funding resources, including federal programs, branch programs and alternative sources of financial aid. 

HEALTHCARE 

TRICARE Dental Program Contractor Change

TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) beneficiaries are reminded that that MetLife will begin providing TDP coverage on May 1, 2012.  Click here for more information. 

This Saturday is National Take-Back Day

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is holding another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday (April 28) from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  This is a good opportunity to dispose of your unwanted or expired medications. 

Drop-off sites include many military installations so you should easily find one near you.  For more information, including a Collection Site Locator and a Partnership Toolbox, visit DEA’s Website

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

Columba Southern University (CSU) Learning Partnership

The AFSA/CSU partnership provides AFSA members a 10 percent discount on all of CSU’s tuition rates, along with the waived $25 application fee.  This discount is available for all AFSA members, employees, and their immediate family members (spouse and children).  Go to CSU’s website here and select “Air Force Sergeants Association” as the Partner Benefit provider. 

AFSA 2012 Professional Airman’s Conference

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for theJacksonville,Florida, events, August 11-15.  You are encouraged to sign up early and make your Hyatt Regency room reservation at the AFSA special rate while that special is available. Additionally, why not advertise your Division or Chapter in the PAC magazine?  Contact AFSA Marketing for details. 

Advertising with AFSA

To advertise with AFSA, contact: AFSA Marketing at   (301) 899-3500 ext. 242 or 244, e-mail: marketing@hqafsa.org 

WORTH REPEATING 

“We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” 

–President George W. Bush, October 7, 2001 

We want to hear your thoughts and opinions.  What’s your top 10 list for AFSA?  

Go ahead send it.  Don’t be bashful.   Click HERE to send.


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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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