AFSA HQ Newsletter – July 3rd

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


GAO Upholds TRICARE West Decision (UnitedHealth over TriWest)

Yesterday, GAO upheld the Pentagon’s $20.5 billion contract award to UnitedHealth Group Inc., leaving the future of incumbent TriWest in question.  According to officials from the TRICARE Management Activity, transition to the new contract will resume shortly and the new contractor is expected to take over the 21-state West Region on April 1, 2013.  TriWest executives protested DoD’s March 2012 decision with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which arbitrates contract disputes, arguing the award was the result of a flawed and unfair process.  Yesterday’s judgment was clearly not what they had hoped for.  In an email to AFSA and other military and veterans-groups, TriWest President and CEO David J. McIntyre, Jr., said, “Given our 16-year long commitment to providing access to care for military families across the West Region, we are extremely disappointed by the GAO’s findings regarding our protest.”   He went on to say that company officials would be reviewing their options in the coming days. 


Judiciary Branch — Does the recent decision by the Supreme Court regarding Health Care affect TRICARE beneficiaries?  In a word…no.  When the Affordable Care Act of 2010 first became law it was quickly followed by the TRICARE Affirmation Act, which confirmed military health programs met the established criteria of medical insurance and beneficiaries would face no penalties.  The Affordable Care Act also addressed coverage for adult children up to age 26 prompting passage of similar language in the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (PL-111-383).  This is where TRICARE Young Adult was created which pushed coverage from 21 (23 if a full time student) out to 26 years old. 

Veto Threat — The Office of Management & Budget (OMB) is the implementation and enforcement arm of Presidential policy government-wide.  So when OMB releases a statement it is the de-facto statement of the President.  Last week, the Administration threatened to “veto” H.R. 5856, the fiscal year 2013 Defense Appropriations Act, in part, because it does not include the Pentagon’s plan for higher TRICARE fees.  The June 28 “Statement of Administration policy” issued by OMB says: 

“The Administration is disappointed that the Congress did not incorporate the requested TRICARE fee initiatives into either the appropriation or authorization legislation.  The Administration asks the House to reconsider the TRICARE fee proposals, which are essential for DOD to successfully address rising personnel costs.  The $1.8 billion in savings are part of a carefully balanced FY 2013 Budget request.” 

Approved by the House Appropriations Committee last month, H.R. 5856 is expected to reach the chamber floor shortly after the Independence Day Holiday and Thursday’s announcement was clearly issued in anticipation of that action.  Readers may also recall that on May 15, OMB issued a similar “veto threat for the House-passed version of the FY 2013.  Portions of that statement are identical to last week’s announcement.

Stolen Valor Act Struck Down

In other news also involving the Supreme Court, the Stolen Valor Act has been ruled unconstitutional.  Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, the Stolen Valor Act was the congressional response to an epidemic of individuals falsely claiming high military honors without ever being awarded them, and, in many cases, never actually serving in the military at all.  It had provisions in it set to penalize those who would make these false claims.  For those still in uniform, governance of this issue lies in Air Force Instructions (AFI) and the Uniform Code for Military Justice (UCMJ).  Unfortunately, for those not subject to AFI’s or the UCMJ it appears they are protected by the very document wearers of the uniform are sworn to protect.  The First Amendment protects free speech.  Lying is a form of speech, therefore lying is protected by the First Amendment.  Congress is expected to respond legislatively to the recent Supreme Court decision.  One likely alternative is Representative Joe Heck’s (R-NV) H.R. 1775, which would make it illegal to profit from claims of stolen valor.  His bill targets fraudulent activity resulting in personal ($$) gain vs. free speech, an angle legal experts believe will pass judicial muster. 

Senate Approves Bill Helping Veterans Gain Career Credentials

Last Friday, the Senate passed legislation which would make it easier for many veterans obtain licenses required for civilian jobs.  S. 2239, the “2012 Veteran Skills to Jobs Act” which was authored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) directs the head of each federal department and agency to treat military training as sufficient to satisfy training or certification requirements for federal license.   Agencies would have 180 days to streamline licensing procedures once the legislation is signed into law.  S. 2239, now heads to the House, where similar legislation by Representatives. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Tim Walz (D-MN) is already advancing.  Their bill, H.R. 4155, was approved for consideration by the full House on June 27 and could come to the floor in July. 

Nomination of New ANG Bureau Chief

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Friday announced that President Obama has nominated Lieutenant GeneralFrankJ. Grass, Army National Guard, for promotion to general and for assignment as chief, National Guard Bureau,Washington,DC.  Grass is currently serving as deputy commander, US Northern Command and as vice commander, US element, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.  If confirmed by the Senate, Grass would succeed Air Force General Craig R. McKinley, the first four-star general to hold the assignment and first Guard Bureau chief to serve as a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Vet Center Opens Near Andrews AFB, AFSA HQ

The Department of Veterans Affairs opened a newVetCenterlast week near Andrews AFB and AFSA HQ.  Vet Centers are small; community based counseling centers set up to provide readjustment counseling services to combat veterans and their family members.  AFSA was pleased to be a sponsor of the facility and we welcome them to the neighborhood. 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

Senate: Holiday Recess; contact lawmakers via Home State offices
House:  Holiday Recess; contact lawmakers via Home State offices               


Enlisted Vet now in the NBA

Bernard James followed his father’s footsteps of service to country and enlisted in the USAF for 6 years at age 17.  During that time he had multiple tours in the Middle East.  In Iraq he guarded detainees at Camp Bucca.  In Qatar he secured aircraft and buildings.  And while continuing his role in military law enforcement in Afghanistan, he survived a 40 millimeter round that landed 90 feet away killing 6, and injuring more. 

Having played basketball just since the age of 15, James hadn’t started playing competitively until he got to his first duty assignment when he joined the intramural league.  His domination showed early and after working his way into the US Armed Forces All Star Tournament in 2005 he turned some heads; so much so that he garnered a scholarship atFloridaStatewhere he led the Seminoles to their first Conference championship and two NCAA tournament appearances.  The former SSgt will now make a living playing for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. 

Two Less MIAs

Late last week, DoD announced the remains of two missing servicemen had been identified.   Army Air Forces 1Lt Warren G. Moxley was flying an F-6C Hawk over Asbach, Germanywhen he crashed on March 15, 1945.  Another pilot on the mission reported seeing no parachute deploy when the aircraft went down.  Lt. Moxley will be buried in Charleston, Missouri, on July 3rd. 

1Lt Robert E. Bennett III and another officer were flying their F-4C Phantom II in a closed air support mission in the Tra Vinh Binh Province of South Vietnam when they went down in the Cho Chien river.   The other officer was rescued immediately by a nearby Navy patrol boat.   Before he could be reached, Bennett sank into the water and presumably drowned.  Lt Bennett will be laid to rest in Montrose, Colorado, on July 7. 


An Ounce of Prevention

As we have officially entered summer, there will no doubt be an increase of social gatherings, grilling in the back yard, visits to the beach or pool, graduations, weddings, and even company cookouts.  The increase in warmer weather means an increase in activity and a lot of our social settings center on food.  This also brings an increase in food borne illnesses due to the faster growth of microorganisms in warmer weather.  Save yourself a trip to the hospital or pharmacy by following these guidelines from Katherine Dennison, RD, Nutrition & Food Service: 

Here are basic tips to keep yours and your loved ones risk low: 

  • Clean your hands and surfaces often. Please wash your hands with soap and water before preparing or eating any food.   Prepare and cook food on clean surfaces. Use utensils that are cleaned thoroughly. Keep hand sanitizer handy, just in case.
  • Cook food thoroughly.   If you are taking food outside that is cooked at home, cook it thoroughly and seal the container during transport.
  • Do not cross contaminate.   Wrap raw items separately from cooked items, and raw meats/poultry away from other foods.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.   When traveling and/or presenting food outside, use freezer packs and/or warm food up by the fireside.
  • Keep food no longer than 2 hours out at room temperature or up to one hour outside at higher temperatures. 

A few more warning signs: 

  • Fish should never smell fishy.
  • Cold cut meats should not have a shiny rainbow coat on it.   This means it is spoiled, even if it does not smell.   Watch for spoiled fruits or vegetables.
  • One spoiled fruit or vegetable does spoil the bunch.   Ethylene gas emitted from a ripe fruit will increase the ripening of all the other fruit; thus your fruit can spoil quicker.


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

Great Wolf Lodge Discount

AFSA members get 10 percent off Great Wolf Lodge’s best available rates!   Clear your calendar, pack your swimsuit, and head to any of Great Wolf Lodge’s eleven resorts. Just imagine colossal indoor water parks, exciting arcade, a luxurious spa and fantastic restaurants — all under one roof.   After all, you deserve a little fun for all your hard work!   Click here, or call (800) 905-9653 and use corporate code AIRF207A. 

Plan on Traveling? Announcing AFSA’s new Trip Cancellation Plan!

Whether traveling to Cancun for vacation, participating in the

Air Force Sergeants Professional Airmen’s Conference, or just venturing away from home, you need 24-hour coverage and assistance.  Travel Guard offers insurance plans designed to cover U.S. and international residents’ needs.

Plans can be purchased up to 24 hours prior to departure. Click here for a free quote. 

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. 


AFSA International Auxiliary Scholars

The 2012 AFSA International Auxiliary Scholarship Program awarded five $1,000 scholarships.   Without the support of the gracious donors and sponsors, the AFSA International Auxiliary Grant/Scholarship Fund would be unable to grant the number of grants/scholarships to deserving recipients each year.  This year’s recipients are: 

  • Raschelle Goodman of Yorktown, VA
  • Conner Wilber of Crestview, FL
  • Amber Wolfe of Manchester, TN
  • Miranda Scarfuto of Brooklyn, NY
  • Natalie Boyd of Cross Hill, SC 


“There, I guess King George will be able to read that.” 

— John Hancock, July 4, 1776 


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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

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