AFSA HQ Newsletter – May 23rd

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 USAF RELATED NEWS 

Senate Bill Restricts TRICARE Fee Hikes

With little fanfare, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced S. 3230, the Military Health Care Protection Act of 2012 late last week.  This bi-partisan effort recognizes (1) “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-year to 30-year career in protecting freedom for all Americans;” and (2) “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.”  Additionally, S. 3230 contains language that says: 

  • Fee increases can not be higher than the percentage of annual pay raises
  • Bars increases in TRICARE Standard inpatient fees (currently $708)
  • Establishes an enrollment system so coverage isn’t denied for lack of enrollment 

AFSA is very pleased to see this legislation presented.  Members should contact their two senators and urge them to co-sponsor this important bill. 

House Passes Their Version of NDAA

Late last week the full House approved its version of the FY 2013 NDAA (H.R. 4310) by a recorded vote of 299-120.  Chamber action produced a number of additional provisions for inclusion in the final bill that AFSA was pleased to see.  These include amendments by Rep. John Larson (D-CT) which would make Applied Behavior Analysis (used to treat children with autism spectrum disorders) part of regular TRICARE coverage and a provision by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) which directs DoD to provide an easier way for Guard and Reserve members to calculate their early retirement credit.  The House measure is now complete, and we wait for the Senate to complete their bill. 

Senate Sessions Closed to the Public

Speaking of the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA), the Senate Armed Services Subcommittees are meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday to mark up a draft version of the bill with all but one session closed to the public.  For only the second time in 15 years, the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support held an open session to discuss their portion of the authorization measure. The Subcommittees on Seapower, Emerging Threats & Capabilities, Airland, Personnel, and Strategic Forces will a conduct their markups in private.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will convene on May 24th and 25th for full committee markups and these sessions will be closed to the public as well.  Lawmakers hope to complete the job by week’s end.  It will be interesting to see if they can get their business handled before the Memorial Day weekend which is the start of a short recess.  You can expect Senate NDAA will differ greatly from the recently-approved House version, and that both bills will differ from the Administration’s initial proposal.  In the end it is a process that is actually moving in Congress and this is encouraging. 

Sequestration Defined

According to Webster’s online dictionary, sequestration means to place (property) in custody, but in the political arena there is a slightly different take.  For lawmakers the term describes a fiscal procedure authorized by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (commonly referred to as the “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act”) that triggers automatic spending cuts in the event Congress exceeds previously agreed-to spending limits in its annual Budget Resolution.  However, the prospect of this maneuver actually being used is another thing; in many eyes, that would be catastrophic, and so far, Congress has been unwilling to let it happen.     

Sequestration garnered renewed attention following the passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 last August.  The agreement included a number of budget cuts but still required Congress to come up with an additional $1.2 trillion in savings by November 2011 or sequestration would result in January 2013.  (If you remember the newscasts from 8 months ago, there was constant talk of a “Super Committee,” a bi-partisan congressional panel tasked with developing a plan to accommodate the BCA.  The Super Committee’s failure to reach agreement by the November deadline mandated the deep cuts soon to be triggered by “sequestration,” the term you hear in the news today.) 

Absent alternative congressional action, the January 2013 sequestration required by the BCA would force an additional $60 billion in automatic cuts to the defense budget for FY 2013, over and above the $45 billion already taken which is a cumulative 18 percent cut in one year, plus nearly a half-trillion dollars in additional cuts over the next nine years.  Cuts of this magnitude would devastate an all-volunteer force that has borne 100 percent of the nation’s burden of wartime sacrifice for the last 10 years.  Thousands could be separated, benefits would cut, morale would plunge and readiness would decline if Congress does not act soon. 

Avoiding the terrible effects of sequestration should not be a political issue but unfortunately it has become one.  Standing in between a House-passed measure and a Senate that has yet to act are the thousands of men and women whose sole purpose for serving is to ensure our national defense.  While AFSA remains politically neutral, as an Association, our focus is on issues pertinent to our membership and this is one of them.  We urge Members of Congress to come up with an immediate, bipartisan resolution to avoid this unconscionable prospect.  At the same time, we want to remind our membership to get involved; act so your choice is not removed from the equation.  Contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel about the issue.  Register to vote and tie it to decisions like these.  Follow up with your elected officials via phone calls or CapWiz.  and if you don’t receive a response, send them another letter asking them where it is. 

Multi-Media Access

When dealing with legislation in Congress there are times where it’s just a slow process and we have time to dissect every nuance of the issue.  Other times, things happen at such a rapid fire pace it’s hard to keep up.  Here at AFSA Headquarters we’re trying to get the word out on relevant issues as quickly as possible.  We have a number of means to do so and encourage our membership to use whatever works for them personally.  We also ask that our Division and Chapter leadership ensure their members are aware of these options so can stay informed and act or vote in an educated manner.  Like GI Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.” 

  • AFSA Magazine – A bi-monthly periodical provided as part of your membership.  Stories can go into great detail and it comes right to your doorstep.
  • AFSA On Call – Our weekly newsletter that sometimes forecasts and sometimes summarizes; delivered via email, sign up by clicking on newsletter on web page.
  • AFSA Alert – Same day email for a hot issue.  Something that happened recently or something that requires your immediate attention or action.
  • Twitter – “As its happening” reports via Internet.  If we’re in the room on Capitol Hill and can use smart phones, we’ll report “live.”  Follow us @AFSAHQ
  • AFSA Web Page – Aside from all the tools and forms available to membership, it has features that combine all the above, including an info-bar at the bottom showing our most recent Tweets. 

AFSA Briefs the Air Force Retiree Council

Last week, the AFSA CEO briefed the Air Force Retiree Council on a number of subjects affecting military retirees and their family members.  Of particular interest to the Council were DOD’s proposed TRIICARE increases, existing statutes and their limitations on benefits following military retirement for Guard and Reserve members, retention of the final months pay for surviving spouses after the military sponsor has passed away, and the current “Sense of the Senate” regarding education for children of military parents (i.e. their grandchildren).  Since the Council reports directly to the CSAF, all of their Talking Papers, minutes, etc., will be sent accordingly. 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

Senate: DC Work Week; contact lawmakers viaWashingtonoffices

House:  Constituent Work Week; contact lawmakers via home-state offices               

VETERANS NEWS 

Program Retrains 99,000 Unemployed Veterans

From the VA web site; Starting May 15, unemployed Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 can now apply for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year through a joint VA and Department of Labor (DOL) program that focuses on retraining 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs. For more details, click here

Veterans Day is Not Memorial Day

At a recent Veterans Day National Committee meeting where AFSA serves as an associate member, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki took a moment to verbalize a distinction that many people often confuse or wrongfully combine.  To paraphrase, Secretary Shinseki reminded those in attendance that Veterans Day is meant for recognition of the veterans who have returned to us and that Memorial Day is meant for recognition of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  His comments serve as a good reminder for the rest of us, and we hope all Americans take full advantage of the upcoming holiday to pay their respects to those who died in the performance of service to theUnited States. 

HEALTHCARE 

TRICARE Prime Changes Coming

As a result of the 2012 NDAA that was passed into law last year, there is a significant change with a deadline to act that is fast approaching.   TRICARE Prime has an option in certain regions of the country for beneficiaries to choose the United States Family Health Plan (USFHP) where they are serviced by Johns Hopkins, Christus Health and other medical providers instead of a Military Treatment Facility (MTF).  Click here to see what’s in your region. 

If you sign up for USFHP after September 30, 2012, you will only be able to use it until age 65.  TRICARE beneficiaries who either sign up before September 30th, or who are already currently receiving their care via USFHP, will be grandfathered in and therefore allowed to keep USFHP for life. 

Some scenarios to consider: 

  • You are currently active duty and by regulation use MTF for you, but elect USFHP for your family.  If you retire October 1, 2012, or later you have no choice in the matter; at 65 you (and your spouse) will be moved back into MTF care.
  • You’re retired and already on USFHP before September 30th, but 25 years from now you move to an area that does not offer USFHP.  If you haven’t paid the Medicare Part B fees (not required while on USFHP) you may have to pay a higher rate to get current with Medicare as you transition back to MTF. 

Of course there are too many scenarios to cover in this medium as each person has their own set of unique circumstances.  The best piece of advice we can offer is to educate yourself as much as possible through TRICARE representatives, pamphlets and web pages and to do the same with USFHP outlets.  Then you can make an intelligent decision in the best interests of your particular circumstances.  Just remember that you only have about 4 months until the deadline of September 30, 2012. 

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. 

Team AFSA Gift Items

Share your AFSA pride! AFSA has a wide range of very reasonably priced AFSA caps, commemorative coins, decals, medals, pins, plaques, awards and certificates available 24/7 on our website

AFSA 2012 Professional Airman’s Conference)

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for theJacksonville,FLevents, 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 Div/Chapter in the PAC magazine?   Contact AFSA Marketing for details. 

WORTH REPEATING 

“The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.” 

—Thomas Campbell 

We want to hear your thoughts and opinions… 

What’s your “Top 5” when you think of benefits resultant of military service? 

Go ahead, don’t be bashful.   Click HERE to send your inputs. 


Click HERE to receive this newsletter            Click HERE to access AFSA CAPWIZ

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.

Ready to join?

AFSA Legislative Action Center

Legislative Action Center
Follow the issues and write letters to your Congressman!

Take Action!

Find and contact your Senator and Representatives!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this website and receive notifications of new posts by email.