AFSA HQ Newsletter – June 13th

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 

Clark AFB Cemetery Addressed in Resolution

Last week, the Senate passed a resolution celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the United States/Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and the vitality of this bilateral relationship.   Included in Sen. J. Res 418 was language recognizing theClarkAirForceBaseVeteransCemetery, administered by theU.S.government from 1900 to 1991, as the final resting place for thousands of Filipino andU.S.veterans.   It continues, saying that after close consultation with the Government of thePhilippines, theUnited Statesshould designate an appropriate entity to be responsible for making necessary arrangements to ensure ongoing maintenance ofClarkVeteransCemetery. 

Earlier this year, AFSA endorsed H.R. 4168 by Representative Frank Guinta (R-NH) and S. 2320 by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).  Both bills would authorize the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to operate and maintain theClarkCemetery. The inclusion of similar language in last week’s resolution suggests both countries are prepared to take steps to ensure the graves of the many heroes atClarkreceive the time and attention they deserve. 

Threat to Defense and American Recovery

“Sequestration poses the greatest single threat to American recovery in the near term.”  These are the words of former DoD Comptroller, Dov S. Zakheim, who in a recent Foreign Policy Magazine article warned that cuts triggered by the August 2011 Budget Accord and failure of the congressional “Super Committee” will be highly disruptive to current and long-term defense programs.  Equally alarming he says, is the impact of the sequester on the economy as a whole.  He points to a recent study by theBipartisanPolicyCenter which found that sequestration will produce a net loss of more than 1 million jobs and lowerAmerica’s GDP by one-half percent.  Click on the link above to read his complete article.

First Female Four Star

Military history was made last week as Lt Gen Janet Wolfenbarger received her fourth star during a promotion ceremony at theNationalMuseumof the United States Air Force.  General Wolfenbarger is the first female, four-star general in the Air Force.  She will serve as commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. 

Funeral Protest Laws Evolving

The Kansas-basedWestboroBaptistChurchhas earned a notorious reputation as a nationally traveled protest group.  Regardless of their true agenda, few can argue that signs reading “God Hates You” or “America Is Doomed” have any legitimate business in the vicinity of a military funeral. 

Well it shouldn’t be a problem inAlabamaanymore.  On June 6, 2012, Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed a bill into law mandating that protestors stay at least 1000 feet away from funerals. Alabamastate lawmakers passed the legislation unanimously before sending it to Bentley. 

Earlier this year on February 16th,Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed bills clarifying state laws banning protests.  The updates were required as result of an unfortunate bi-product of the original 2006 law.  In 2007 a couple who were part of the funeral procession for a close friend KIA in Iraq, were removed from the procession and arrested due to signs hanging in their van’s window that were critical of then President George W. Bush.  Family of the fallen soldier had no issue with their signs, but a Sherriff’s deputy saw it differently and the couple missed the services all together. 

As a result in 2009 a case was filed inMichiganwith the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.  “Although the statute was designed to keep the controversialWestboroBaptistChurchout ofMichigan, it was ultimately used to disrupt a peaceful funeral and arrest innocent mourners whose privacy the statute was designed to protect,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. 

While there are groups like the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) whose sole purpose is to protect families from the antics of radicals, AFSA reminds our membership not to take the law into your own hands.  PGR is a good example as they will not physically engage with the Westboro group regardless of how disgusted they feel about them.  Aside from revving their motorcycle engines to drown out the chants of the demonstrators, they will also form a line on either side of the street holding outstretched full size US Flags to honor the fallen and to shield their family. 

While free speech is protected by the constitution, there is no federal law currently addressing demonstrators or protestors at funerals.  AFSA also reminds our members that while many will focus their attention on national policies, it is equally important to monitor legislative happenings in your home state too.

Use It or Lose It?

A number of news outlets have reported recently about the possibility of certain base amenities being cut to save on overall budgetary concerns.  Auto-hobby shops, pools, bowling centers, clubs, arts and craft centers, outdoor recreation, youth centers, golf courses and even billeting are all part of the conversation.  The only things that appear immune to fiscal frugality are fitness centers and child development centers since they tie directly to enabling mission accomplishment. 

The purveying thought process around the Air Force is that you need to “vote with your wallet.”  For example, one unit commander recently commented that airman and family programs are “all under pressure to prove that they can be financially self-sustaining.   Such activities enjoyed some financial support from the Air Force, but that won’t be the case in the future.” 

In related news, it appears on the surface that DoD leadership understands the importance of commissaries and the BX.  The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, Robert L. Gordon III, in a prepared statement to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said, “Commissaries and exchanges are a highly-valued non-pay compensation benefit for our service members and their families, and we appreciate that you recognize their value…You recognize, as do we, that these programs are crucial to the quality of life of military members and military families.” 

While AFSA is committed to protecting those hard earned pay and benefits of its membership, the reality is that pay is guaranteed by law and benefits are always subject to adjustment.  That “adjustment” includes outright elimination in extreme cases.  Considering where we are with national budgets and the specter of sequestration, it would be in your best interests to actually use the facilities at your disposal while you still have a chance to influence perceptions of their value and utilization. 

You don’t know what you’ve got, til it’s gone. 

“Citizen Airmen” Providing for Our National Defense

From weapons inspections to award ceremonies, the Guard is often just as busy as its active duty partners.  Take a couple minutes to check out these Minuteman Reports and you will see what we mean. 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

  • Senate: DC Work Week; contact lawmakers via Washington offices
  • House:  In recess; contact lawmakers via their local offices 

VETERANS NEWS 

Vietnam War Vet Returns Home

Chief Master Sergeant Arden Hassenger’s plane crashed in Laoson Christmas Eve 1965.   Originally reported as missing in action, years later he was reported as killed in action but his remains were never recovered… until March of 2012 as a result of an investigation team’s effort.  On Friday in Lebanon, Oregon’s OddFellowsCemetery—47 years after his passing—Chief Hassenger was finally laid to rest.    Welcome home. 

Scam Targets Vets

Editor’s note:  The following warning comes from VA and is provided in its entirety.    Emails are being sent to individuals, including military members, military retirees, and civilian employees, which appear to be sent by Defense Finance and Accounting Services.   Although the email appears to come from DFAS and displays a .mil email address it is actually from a non-government email account.  The emails indicate that individuals who are receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to obtain additional funds from the IRS. These emails are not issued by DFAS. 

The email indicates that individuals receiving VA disability compensation can receive additional funds from the IRS by sending copies of VA award letters, income tax returns, 1099-Rs, Retiree Account Statements, and DD 214s, to a retired Colonel at an address inFlorida.  These schemes can be quite costly for victims. Promoters may charge exorbitant upfront fees to file these claims and are often long gone when victims discover they’ve been scammed. 

Taxpayers should be careful of these scams because, regardless of who prepared their tax return, the taxpayer is legally responsible for the accuracy of their tax return and must repay any refunds received in error, plus any penalties and interest. They may even face criminal prosecution. 

To avoid becoming ensnared in these schemes, taxpayers should beware of any of the following: 

  • Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits
  • Emails from unfamiliar senders asking for personal information
  • Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit Social Security numbers or other personal information 

If you receive a notice from the IRS, respond immediately. I f you believe someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, please notify IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice or letter.  You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. 

HEALTHCARE 

June is PTSD Awareness Month

Most of us associate surviving an IED attack or some other horror of war as the trigger to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In reality, there are many more causes to PTSD than just combat.  Child abuse. Sexual assault.  Natural disasters.  Car accidents.  More than half of US adults will experience trauma in their lifetime.   About 7 out of 100 will get PTSD at some point. For veterans and people who have been through violence and abuse the number is higher. 

Regardless of what causes PTSD, the symptoms are the same: Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, feelings of paranoia, emotional distance from our loved ones, or blaming oneself for how negative events transpired.  The list goes on.  If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD, take the time to educate yourself about this condition by visiting the NationalCenterfor PTSD home

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS 

AFSA Insurance – Life & Health

For information and applications on any of these insurance plans please contact Marsh Affinity Group Services toll-free at (800) 882-5541, or online here.  Please note; coverage may vary or not be issued in all States. 

  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance Plan
  • Cancer Expense Insurance
  • Group Dental Insurance
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Short-Term Recovery Insurance Plan
  • TRICARE Supplement Insurance
  • Life Line Health Screenings 

AFSA Subscription Discount – Air Force Times

Don’t miss this special subscription offer! Order the Air Force Times at $39.95 for the year.   It’s a savings of 76 percent off the cover price, and 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.] 

AFSA 2012 Professional Airman’s Conference

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for the Jacksonville,FL 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. 

WORTH REPEATING 

Remember that just the moment you say, “I give up”. Someone else seeing the same situation is saying, “My, what a great opportunity”

— H. Jackson Brown 

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

No, not the Clint Eastwood movie.  We’re talking about AFSA On Call.  We write this for you, so how are we doing?  On target?  Close but no cigar?  Completely out in left field?  Tell us what you think so we can do our best to serve you. Click HERE to send your inputs


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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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