Retiree & Veteran Affairs 18 Mar 2011 

3/18/2011 

Dr. Biden Pledges Support for Guard Families

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, promised National Guard members and their families here that she will support them during every deployment.  Biden announced February 28 that she and First Lady Michelle Obama will launch a campaign this month that’s designed to rally citizens businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide support for Servicemembers and their families.  Noting her experience as a military mom when her son Beau Biden, who is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, returned home from a yearlong deployment to Iraq, Biden said she worked during that time with the grassroots organization Delaware Boots on the Ground.  It makes a difference when someone reaches out to support Guard families.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=63060

Bank to Payback Military Families

Wells Fargo & Co. will pay $175 to eligible veterans who had a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan refinanced between January 20, 2004 and October 7, 2010, the bank said.  The move comes as part of a court settlement in a Georgia lawsuit that alleged the bank overcharged active-duty military personnel when they executed the refinances.  Federal law protects active-duty military members from foreclosure and high interest rates.  Wells Fargo will alert eligible households with letters.  The bank could pay out up to a total of $10 million.  This marks the second major concession by big banks to military families this year.  Last month, JPMorgan Chase & Co. refunded $2 million to 4,000 Servicemembers who had been forced to pay high interest rates. 
For more information, please go to:
http://www.military.com/military-report/bank-to-payback-military-families.html

Morgan Stanley Faces Probe on Military Members; Mortgages

Morgan Stanley, the sixth-largest U.S. bank by assets, faces a probe tied to mortgages for members of the U.S. military.  Morgan Stanley has received subpoenas and requests for information on matters that include the company’s compliance with the Service Members Civil Relief Act,” according to the New York-based firm’s annual report to securities regulators.  The Service Members Civil Relief Act provides financial relief to military personnel on active duty and can delay foreclosures.  The subpoenas and requests include those relating to the purchase, origination and servicing of residential mortgages.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-28/morgan-stanley-faces-probe-on-loans-made-to-military-members.html

Officials Seek Ways to Stem Increasing Military Suicides

The rising number of Servicemembers who have committed suicide in the last few years have resulted in various  outreach programs by military officials and civilian organizations, across the nation, in hopes of curbing these deaths.  Statistics reveal that there were 301 confirmed or suspected suicides last year among Soldiers on active duty or inactive status compared with 242 in 2009.  Furthermore, there were 114 suicidal deaths among inactive members in the Army National Guard last year, almost double 62 deaths in 2009.  War-zone deployments, substance abuse, and marital and financial problems have all been cited as factors in the suicides.  The latest military and civilian efforts include 24-hour-a-day psychological counseling and suicide hotlines, chaplain visits and also a new Pentagon video game which provides a virtual post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience to explore the symptoms and causes of combat trauma.  To learn more about this article, please to go: http://articles.philly.com/2011-02-28/news/28637711_1_military-suicides-suicides-last-year-suicide-rate

Westboro Protest Ruling Has Military Families Advocates Feeling Betrayed

On Wednesday, 2 March, the Supreme Court’s ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka KA, citing their right to free speech, in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. The lawsuit was originally brought by the father of a fallen Marine  to stop Church members from protesting at military funerals.  To read more on this topic, please click:  http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/02/109733/military-families-advocates-feel.html#

VA Expands Sports Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding two grants totaling $7.5 million to the U.S. Olympic Committee to enhance recreation and sporting activities for disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces.  Funding will be provided to the Olympic Committee’s member organizations, Paralympics sports clubs and veteran and military organizations nationwide to implement community based, physical activity programs for disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces.  Disabled veterans can locate adaptive sporting events in their communities at http://www.usparalympics.org

VA Boosts Medical Care for Female Veterans

The number of female veterans in the U.S. has doubled since the end of the Vietnam War and is projected to double again in the next five to 10 years, according to Patricia Hayes, chief consultant for female veteran’s health at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).  Women today make up 15% of the active-duty military and 18% of reserve forces and National Guard.  There are nearly 1.9 million female veterans currently in the U.S.  The historically male-dominated VA would like to make changes to better recognize women’s service to their country and provide improved care for their medical needs.  Advocates say the VA is on the right track, though getting top-notch care often depends on where you live. To read this article in its entirety, please go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-03-01-womenva01_ST_N.htm

VA to Expand PTSD Therapy

In response to a Government Accountability Office report on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has decided to offer cognitive processing therapy and prolonged-exposure therapy to treat the disorder at its facilities.  In cognitive processing therapy, the patient addresses conflicts by writing about the traumatic event in detail, and then reading the story aloud, repeatedly, in and outside of session.  For more information on cognitive processing therapy and prolonged-exposure therapy, visit the VA’s National Center for PTSD website at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/cognitive_processing_therapy.asp

Baker: DoD and VA Still Pondering Best Joint EHR Solution

On 24 February, Roger Baker, VA Chief Information Officer, felt uncertainty when declaring the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments would change to a single, integrated Electronic Health Record (EHR).  By late March with continued cooperation between DoD and VA, Baker and DoD officials will make a recommendation to the agency secretaries on how to move forward.  Some aspects of the joint program have already been settled on such as data standards and common applications.  According to the Baker, the agencies have been working for several months on a joint way forward, and whatever the outcome is, it fits nicely with the VA's goal of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record from enlistment through retirement.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/baker-dod-and-va-still-pondering-best-joint-ehr-solution/2011-02-28

New Defense-VA Record Tracks Individuals From Enlistment to Grave

According to the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 2012 budget narrative, the VA and Defense departments are developing a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record  which will provide Active-Duty Servicemembers and veterans with a remarkable benefits system which includes links to burial and memorial systems. The electronic records system will include exchange of burial and memorial information with VA's current memorial affairs operations and its Burial Operational Support System, which the department is currently in the process of modernizing.  Additionally, the system will help to automatically determine the eligibility of a veteran for burial benefits, support requests for grave markers and provide digital mapping of all headstones and grave markers in the 131 VA operated national cemeteries.  To read this entire article, please go to: http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20110216_2035.php?oref#

Military Healthcare Reform no Longer Taboo to Talk About

For the first time in nearly 20 years, retired members of the U.S. military might have to pay more for healthcare.  With the nation at war for nearly a decade, military healthcare and benefit programs have been considered sacrosanct.  The Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts have generated reverence among the public for the U.S. military, making it unthinkable for most lawmakers to vote for any proposal that would take dollars out of troops’ pockets.  But with Healthcare costs soaring, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen are now pushing for a modest hike in the healthcare premiums paid by “under age 65” military retirees, and some lawmakers are listening.  To begin paring down some of those bills, the Pentagon’s 2012 budget plan seeks to increase medical premiums for working-age military retirees by $30 from $230 to $260 and by $60 for family policies, from $460 to $520.  That plan is one aspect of a Pentagon goal of slashing personnel costs by about $7 billion.  To learn more, please go to: http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/146597-military-healthcare-reform-no-longer-taboo-to-talk-about

Budget Stalemate Hurting Services

Senate leaders claimed on 1 March that there is no resolution in sight for this year’s formal 2011 Pentagon budget despite the fact that troops, their families and over all military readiness will be hurt as a result.  The government is currently being funded through a Continuing Resolution (CR) which is a temporary funding measure that keeps the government operating at a reduced level when a permanent appropriations bill has not been approved by the beginning of the fiscal year.  However, the Defense Department could be limited to spending at 2010 levels which is a significant amount less than what was expected for this fiscal year.  Defense funding is not a key issue of this budget stalemate, but unfortunately, it is still tied up in this battle.  To read more about this issue, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/03/military-no-defense-budget-030111w/

Casey Warns Against 'Hollowing' Army

In an address during the Association of the United States Army Winter Symposium on February 25, General George Casey, outgoing Army Chief of Staff warned “the war is not over.”  Casey said the Army has to “be careful” to ensure that the budget cuts don’t recreate the “hollow force” of the 1980’s and 1990’s and continues to emphasize the need of focusing a great deal of attention on beefing up the force to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Sensing that there were still too few Soldiers to give returning combat veterans enough time to rest between deployments, Casey sought and received a temporary increase in end strength of 22,000 Soldiers.  Casey is concerned that budget constraints will affect the Army’s ability to come out of Iraq and Afghanistan and properly reset the force.  This was Casey’s last address to the assembled Soldiers and contractors at AUSA.  His term as chief of staff will end on April 11 and he will retire after serving in the Army for 40 years.  To read this article in full, please click on the following link: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/02/army-casey-warns-022511w/

Military's Aid to For-Profit Colleges Needs Oversight, Investigators Say

A U.S. military program that paid $175 million to for-profit colleges for active-duty Servicemembers’ tuition in 2009 may be wasting money because of insufficient controls and oversight, government investigators said.  The Defense Department (DoD) grants tuition assistance without having a system to track complaints, and it has reviewed less than a third of the courses offered by nonprofit and for-profit colleges.  Schools that offer online courses, especially for-profit colleges, have targeted the funds.  Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are investigating for-profit and nonprofit colleges that market educational services to current and former Servicemembers.  The DoD paid $517 million to all colleges for Servicemembers; tuition in the year ended September 30, 2009.  According to the report from the GAO, the lack of monitoring leaves military members vulnerable to recruitment abuses.  To learn more, please go to the following link: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-01/military-s-aid-to-for-profit-colleges-needs-oversight-investigators-say.html

GI Bill Changes May Send Some Vets Into Debt

In an effort to simplify the tuition formula for veterans going to college, lawmakers in December approved a measure to pay a flat rate of $17,500 per year for tuition and fees at all colleges except public schools in veterans’ home states, which are covered in full.  For most student vets, the changes mean a sizeable boost in the amount of money they receive, however for a smaller group, the change will mean a painful cut in funding they thought would be available to pay for classes next year.  Last year, more than 126,000 veterans took classes at private colleges with GI Bill funding, many attended the same schools but received vastly different payouts.  Last semester, veterans from Texas, which boasts the most expensive rates in the country, could receive more than $47,000 in tuition for other schools, while veterans from neighboring Arkansas, one of the least expensive, would receive only about $7,000.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.military.com/news/article/gi-bill-changes-may-send-some-vets-into-debt.html

What's New for Military Tax Payers

Each year brings new tax rules and regulations, and this year the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has signified the four biggest changes that may affect your 2010 tax claim. Changes include: the due date for your 2010 tax returns now April 18, earned income credit changes, a change in the 2010 standard mileage rate, and changes affecting the First-time Homebuyer Credit.  To learn more about each of these changes, please go to: http://www.military.com/Finance/content/0,15356,226311,00.html?ESRC=mr.nl or see the IRS First-Time Homebuyer Credit Fact-Sheet.  You may also check out the IRS's Official 2010 Armed Forces Tax Guide - created specifically to help military taxpayers.

Microsoft Corp. Helps Veterans' Job Search

Communities, nonprofit organizations and companies are reaching out to assist unemployed American veterans in their search for work.  One of the major companies joining these efforts is information technology giant, Microsoft Corp.  Last Veterans Day, Microsoft initiated their grand campaign entitled “Elevate America Veterans Initiative” by presenting $2 million in cash and almost $6 million in software and information technology training to six non-profit agencies across the nation, which support U.S. Veterans.  The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that unemployed military veterans currently make up 10.2 percent of the national unemployment rate, partially due to their inability to transition their military related skills into civilian jobs, and Microsoft is offering veterans support in making the transition.  To learn more about this subject, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=62964

Merger With Pope Makes Fort Bragg Even Bigger

Based on the recommendation by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), Fort Bragg, one of the nation’s largest military bases, is about to become even bigger as it merges with Pope Air Force Base.  The Air Force base will be renamed Pope Field and will transition to be an Army operated facility supporting Air Force operations.  Once the merger is complete, Fort Bragg will have about 58,000 uniformed military personnel and 13,000 civilian workers. The Air Force will see its numbers reduced by about 1,100.  One of the goals of the merger is to improve the efficiency of services provided to military personnel and their families, ranging from housing assistance to religious support.  To read this article in its entirety, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/03/ap-merger-with-pope-makes-fort-bragg-even-bigger-030111/

Army Band Offers Free Music Lessons

The United States Army Field Band recently incorporated instructional videos into their website via an "Educational Video Series Player." The free player is designed for all levels of musicians and music enthusiasts, presenting topics ranging from history and maintenance to advanced playing techniques. Users can select the topic that interests them most and go directly to the lesson. The player is easily launched from a PC or Mac and does not require the user to download any software. The videos are available on the Army Field Band website -- click on the "Educational Video Series Player" that will launch the instructional videos.

DOD to Measure Guard and Reserve Employment Practices

The Department of Defense (DoD) will survey employers nationwide in March and April to gain insight into the benefits and challenges of employing members of the Guard and Reserve.  Guard and Reserve members often return from military service as more valuable employees, but their extended absences can sometimes burden their civilian employers, therefore the surveys goal is to identify best practices in supporting Employers of Guard and Reserve (ESGR) members and evaluate the effectiveness of DoD employer support programs.  ESGR will send the survey to 80,000 randomly selected employers this week.  A letter of instruction will be included with the survey which should be completed by employers within eight weeks.  More information on the survey can be found at http://www.esgr.org/employersurvey

AUSA MEETS WITH TOP HOUSE LAWMAKERS

Last week, AUSA Director of Government Affairs Bill Loper, joined other military and veterans organizations at the Capitol to meet with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 17 other key members of Congress to discuss each association’s top legislative goals. 

Association representatives urged support for a number of legislative initiatives such as expansion of economic opportunities for veterans.  One Congressman noted that he would like to see trade unions hire more veterans for apprenticeships.  He also believes that veterans should get hiring preference on defense contracts. 

Other topics raised were improvements to benefits such as the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset and concurrent receipt.  AUSA continues to strongly support full concurrent receipt for all disabled military retirees including those who were medically retired before completing 20 years of service (Chapter 61).

With regards to the Defense Department’s proposed TRICARE fee increases, AUSA does not want any TRICARE fee increases; however, if they are approved, the associations are urging members of Congress to insure that any annual increase not be tied to medical inflation. We strongly believe that, in recognition of military beneficiaries’ lengthy service and sacrifice, the percentage increase in any year should not exceed the retired pay COLA percentage.  We strongly oppose adjusting fees for nondisabled retirees under 65 based on health cost growth for elderly and disabled Americans.

This meeting was another in a regular series of meetings called by senior House leaders to pulse military/veterans groups on their legislative priorities.  AUSA will continue to urge Congress to support our top legislative goals. 

Shopmyexchange.com plans liftoff March 15

DALLAS (AFRNS) -- While it is not exactly a NASA launch pad, the Exchange’s website has been the subject of an intense preflight checklist as it prepares for the re-launch of shopmyexchange.com. Liftoff, scheduled for March 15, will include more than $5,000 in giveaways for authorized shoppers, troops, and their families, who log on through April 18. The Exchange’s ground crew is on a mission to “boldly go where no site has gone before” as a new, enhanced look and feel makes it easier to log in for exclusive offers and savings, said Army & Air Force Exchange Service officials.  Military shoppers can also stay informed and receive coupons, some with exclusive QR-coded deals that can be sent directly to smart phones and other portable devices. Like a good mission control center, shopmyexchange.com puts everything at the user’s fingertips, said officials.  The Exchange’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blog pages, movie schedules for on-base theaters, a local Exchange locator, and celebrity interviews, for example, are intuitively integrated for easier use.  Beyond the more than 18 million items available to authorized shoppers, any American can support the troops through the site by sending a gift or calling card to those serving far from home. 

Officials said Exchange shoppers will find even more opportunities to save with limited-time only “super daily specials,” an Online Savings Club available only to shopmyexchange.com community members, and specialty stores offered through an exclusive online vendor mall.  Patrons will also still enjoy the quality customer service and product assortment they have become accustomed to throughout the nearly 116-year history of the Exchange, according to AAFES officials. “We expect the new interface to really ‘click’ with Exchange patrons,” Mike Howard, AAFES chief operating officer.  “One look and I think they’ll agree that shopmyexchange.com, with its tax-free savings, free standard shipping and new look, is truly out of this world.” 

To experience the new website, visit www.shopmyexchange.com. (Courtesy of AAFES)

Stay TRICARE eligible: Keep records up-to-date

By Sharon Foster

TRICARE Management Activity  

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFRNS) -- Beneficiaries who have recently experienced a life-changing event, such as the birth or adoption of a child, recent divorce or marriage should immediately record these changes in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. If they wait, their TRICARE benefit coverage could be affected.

“Life comes at you fast and beneficiaries should not wait to update DEERS when they experience any life event that changes their TRICARE status,” said John Arendale, chief of the purchased care systems integration branch for TRICARE Management Activity. “What beneficiaries don’t want to experience is a lapse in TRICARE coverage because their DEERS eligibility information is incorrect.” Incorrect information can potentially impact a beneficiary’s ability to get a prescription filled, get a medical claim paid or make an appointment to see a doctor. Beneficiaries can easily avoid these types of problems by making sure their DEERS record is accurate.  

DEERS is the worldwide, computerized database designed to maintain timely and accurate information on service members and family members that are eligible for military benefits and entitlements, including TRICARE. It is also used to detect and prevent fraud and abuse. All sponsors are automatically registered in DEERS.  The sponsor must register all eligible family members. Once the registration process is complete, the family members can update their personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers.

Events that change a beneficiary’s TRICARE status include:  relocation, retirement, change of address, change in marital status, birth, death, adoption or Medicare entitlement.  

A beneficiary can register eligible new family members in DEERS at the nearest military personnel office or uniformed services identification card issuing office.  To find an office near them, they can go to the Rapids Site Locator website, www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl/owa/home.  Beneficiaries can call to update contact information only at 800-538-9552.  

To register a child in DEERS, bring the following forms: 

-- An original or certified-copy of the birth certificate or certificate of live birth (signed by the attending physician or other responsible person from a U.S. hospital or military treatment facility) or consular report of birth (FS-240) for children overseas;  

--  A record of adoption or a letter of placement of the child into the home by a recognized placement/adoption agency or the court before the final adoption; and 

-- A DD form 1172 signed by the sponsor and verifying official from a uniformed services ID card-issuing facility.  

Get more information on DEERS eligibility at www.tricare.osd.mil/deers/default.cfm.

“Updating information in DEERS is the key to maintaining eligibility for TRICARE and other military benefits,” Mr. Arendale said. (Courtesy of TRICARE)

Debt Commission Revives; Immediately Attacks TRICARE Prime For Retirees

This week the President’s Bipartisan National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (better known as the Fiscal Commission) revived itself as The Moment of Truth Project. They are following the 9/11 Commission’s example of creating an organization to keep a government Commission’s recommendations before the public. This could be very influential. A large crowd of lobbyists and reporters but surprisingly very few, if any, other representatives from the VSO/MSO community.

Both co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson were on the Hill for the roll-out. Also speaking were Senators Durbin, Warner, Coburn, Crapo and David Gergin, David Wessel, Jeffrey B. Liebman and Donald Marron. The participants spoke about the need to have “everything on the table.” This means Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Defense along with domestic discretionary spending. But only one named program was directly attacked for excessive spending. Former Senator Alan Simpson said that there was one program that all military retirees had. Not just active duty retirees but National Guard and Reserve retirees as well!!!! Both those retirees who had served in combat and those who had not!! It was TRICARE and it cost retirees only $470 a year to medically cover themselves and their families! (What he meant was TRICARE Prime for military retirees between the ages of 38 and 64 and it is $460 a year. But what can you do?!) He said that when he asked Secretary of Defense Gates why he did not raise it to $5000 a year with a $500 co-pay the SecDef said that the Veteran Service Organizations would tear us to shreds. He assured us in the room that he has reached the “Zenith of his life; p------ off everyone in the United States.” This is going to be a very interesting year.

Protest Filed Over TRICARE South Contract Award

The fighting will not stop. (And who thought it would.) This week UnitedHealthcare filed a formal protest over the Pentagon’s award of the South region’s TRICARE contract to Humana. Two years ago DoD awarded the next generation of TRICARE civilian contract to UnitedHealthcare. Humana, then the incumbent contractor protested the contract’s award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) . Eventually they won the protest and the contract had to be reconsidered. At the end of February DoD granted the T-3 contract to Humana. On Monday United filed a formal protest and petitioned for a “Stop-Work Order” requiring that DoD stop all work to start up the new contract with Humana. That petition was granted.

United wrote: “Over the course of a two-year delay, the government has foregone concrete economic benefits from choosing a new contractor while the incumbent has benefited. During the delay, the incumbent changed its bid and guaranteed significant discounts going forward in what it would pay doctors and hospitals in Humana’s TRICARE network. UnitedHealthcare believes these discounts would pay providers significantly below what doctors and hospitals are paid in the Medicare system. UnitedHealthcare believes these terms could ultimately harm the TRICARE South Region health care system.”

So what does all this mean? If you are in TRICARE Prime in the South Region nothing changes until, at least, this protest is decided. If you are anywhere in CONUS there will be no changes in the Prime Service Areas (which is a very good bit of news for many beneficiaries) And the fight goes on.

Military Women Are Celebrated This Month

March is Women’s History Month and the VA and others arepulling out all the stops to acknowledge it. Below please find 2 Press Releases. The first is from VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki reflecting on the history of American women serving in and with the military and the dramatic increase in women serving today in all branches of the military. The Secretary said: “Duty. Honor. Pride. These words reflect the spirit of generations of American women who have sought to defend the rights and freedom of others. The history of women in the armed forces began more than 220 years ago with women who served during the American Revolution and continues through the present day. VA is honored to serve these women who have contributed so much to our Nation.”

The second release announces that the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) will be holding its 24th Annual Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium next Tuesday and Wednesday (March 15-16) at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina in San Diego California. Speakers will include several high ranking female military officers including the first Military Woman in Space, the first Female Hispanic Marine Corps General, the first African-American Female Director of the Navy Hospital Corps as well as the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanie Verveer, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and Actress Geena Davis.

If you wish to find out more about the Symposium and the Sea Service Leadership Association either call or e-mail Victoria Shapiro at (216) 712-1926 and vshapiro@susandavis.com  

Supreme Court Backs Veterans in Two Recent Decisions

On Wednesday, March 2nd the Supreme Court of the United States handed down two decisions that expanded veterans’ rights. The first case dealt with Department of Veterans’ Affairs filing deadlines, and the second dealt with expanding the protections afforded to National Guard and Reserve members by the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA).

In the first case, Henderson v. Shinseki, the court relaxed a filing deadline that had denied benefits to disabled veterans. David L. Henderson was discharged from the military in 1952 after receiving a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He sought additional government help for his condition in 2001, but he was turned down in 2004 because he missed a 120-day deadline to file an appeal by 15 days. He attributed the failure to file in time to the very disability for which he had sought help.

Tuesday’s decision did not overrule previous precedent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court, because Congress did not intend to impose such a strict rule when it comes to Veterans’ Affairs decisions. Unfortunately, Mr. Henderson died in October, while his case was pending in the Supreme Court.
At issue in the second case, Staub v. Proctor Hospital was the interpretation of USERRA, which prohibits employment discrimination based on one’s “uniformed service.” The law is similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex and other factors.

Vincent Staub is an Army Reservist and a civilian technician at an Illinois hospital. He sued after he was fired by the hospital. He claimed that his military status was a motivating factor in his termination. There was evidence that two of Mr. Staub’s supervisors were hostile to him because his military duties had caused him to be absent from work one weekend a month and two or three weeks a year. However, it was not clear that the human resources officer who actually fired Mr. Staub knew of or shared that hostility to his military service.
A jury awarded Mr. Staub about $58,000, but the federal appeals court in Chicago reversed that decision. That court said the connection between the supervisors’ hostility and the HR official’s action was not close enough.

Justice Scalia, who wrote the decision, said that the old way of thinking, used by the appeals court, did not appreciate the full situation. He thought that companies should be held liable where one employee lays the groundwork for another’s decision to fire a worker. He left to the appeals court whether to reinstate the jury verdict in Mr. Staub’s case or order a new trial.

Army Emergency Relief Campaign

The annual Army Emergency Relief (AER) campaign will run from March 1 through May 15, 2011.  AER is a private non-profit organization incorporated in 1942 to provide financial assistance to Soldiers, active and retired, and their families.  Access to financial assistance is available 24/7 directly through one of 86 AER Sections located worldwide or through 347 military bases with several relief organizations.  For further information on the 2011 AER campaign, contact your unit’s coordinator, or click: http://www.aerhq.org/
Leaders Outline Improved Health Care Services

The Defense Department has taken a number of recent steps to improve health care and family support services for military members and their families.  Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee about several areas of improvement during a hearing about the department’s fiscal 2012 budget.  The DoD has improved the delivery of mental health services by hiring 6,000 mental health care workers since 2001, previously the department had only about a thousand.  Officials also have stabilized programs, specifically regarding mental health and family support services, by removing them from the supplemental war funding budget and placing them in the base budget to make them sustainable. Public awareness campaigns such as the one announced last month concerning the health of military families also goes a long way in helping Servicemembers and their families.  The White House campaign “is a huge step forward in giving this visibility in a way we just haven’t had before,” said Gates.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=62875

Obama Seeks $7.2 Billion for PTSD/TBI treatment

President Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget proposes $7.2 billion in funding to research and treat the invisible wounds of war: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury(TBI).  The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department is planning to spend $6 billion in 2012 to enhance its ability to provide the best possible specialized care for those with PTSD, TBI and other mental health needs.  VA officials said the 2012 PTSD/TBI budget also will support collaborative programs with the Defense Department, including outreach to veterans, as well as new, but unspecified types of treatment.  It promises to lay the groundwork for psychological treatment “for many years to come.”  Both Defense and VA are awaiting congressional approval of their 2011 budgets by early March.  A continuing resolution that funds the entire federal government expires.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.nextgov.com/site_services/print_article.php?StoryID=ng_20110214_4683

Nonmilitary More Likely to Return to War Zone after Psych Condition

Recent studies show that among those who served in U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and were evacuated due to psychiatric conditions, non-military members such as diplomats and private contractors were more likely to return to duty.  Additionally, researchers found that 75 percent of medically evacuated nonmilitary personnel did not return to duty and were less likely to return to duty after war-related injuries.  Because non-military members are expected to play an increasingly, prominent role in future military operations, recognizing the types of medical conditions they experience may be useful in implementing preventive measures and treatment strategies.  To read further on this topic, please go to: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649840.html

18 Senators Press VA for Caregivers

Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), along with 17 Senators from both sides of the aisle, have written to Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jack Lew, to urge the Administration to carry out the law and begin providing supportive services to caregivers of wounded veterans.  It has been reported that some family members of seriously injured veterans have had to leave their jobs and make tremendous sacrifices without training, counseling, and financial benefits.  Senator Murray’s letter is available on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs website.  For more information, please go to Wounded Warrior news at http://www.military.com.

VA to Screen 535 Ohio Vets

535 patients at the Dayton VA Medical Center will be offered free screenings to determine if they were infected by a dentist who Veterans Affairs officials say failed to change latex gloves between patients.  The patients will be tested for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.  The dental procedures took place from 1992 to July 2010.  The dentist has not been identified.  For more information, call the hotline at 877-424-8214, which is manned 24 hours a day.  To learn more about your state’s veteran’s benefits, visit http://www.military.com at the State Veteran’s Benefits Directory.

TRICARE's Get Fit Page can Trigger New You

TRICARE has launched its updated “Get Fit” webpage with a new section focusing on monthly healthy living tips through slide show presentations.  These presentations provide health information, including suggesting healthy activities and living tips in hopes of a healthier lifestyle such as increased energy and reduced stress not only to Soldiers, but their beneficiaries as well.  TRICARE Management Activity will introduce a new health theme each month to raise awareness and commitment to health and wellness.  This web page should aid in making informed food choices and being physically active to help beneficiaries reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce their risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.  Visit http://www.tricare.mil/getfit for healthy living tips, links, games and articles.

Defense Department to Cut 209 Senior Executives

The Defense Department (DoD) is finalizing plans to cut 209 civilian senior executive positions.  In a statement sent February18 to the Federal Times, the Pentagon said 126 positions will be eliminated outright, and the remaining 83 jobs will be downgraded to GS-15 positions.  Ninety-seven of the affected jobs will be non-intelligence members of the Senior Executive Service.  Defense will also cut 21 senior-level or scientific and professional positions, as well as 33 highly qualified experts, and eliminate five intelligence SES members and 53 intelligence senior –level employees.  In August, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed cutting at least 150 executive positions over a two-year period.  “The eliminations followed a review of senior civilian staff to ensure it is properly sized and aligned with DoD missions and goals,” Defense said in a statement.

Vets Can Submit Resumes for the Congressional Record

An Illinois congressman is promising out-of-work veterans the opportunity to have their resumes published in the Congressional Record, the official record of debate and proceedings for the House and Senate.  He is promising attention, but not jobs.  Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. claimed that sending him your resume will not get you a job, but it can help force Washington to address the unemployment problem once and for all.  Jackson’s spokesman Andrew Wilson confirmed that the congressman’s intent is to put the resumes into the Congressional Record “in addition to using the stories in floor remarks, speeches, etc.”  Veterans who want their resumes published in the Congressional Record should e-mail them to mailto:resumesfromveterans@mail.house.gov.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/02/military-veterans-resumes-congressional-record-021411w/

Bank to Payback Military Families

Wells Fargo & Co. will pay $175 to any eligible veteran who had a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan refinanced between January 20, 2004 and October 7, 2010, the bank said.  The move comes as part of a court settlement in a Georgia lawsuit that alleged the bank overcharged active-duty military personnel when they executed the refinances.  Federal law protects active-duty military members from foreclosure and high interest rates.  Wells Fargo will alert eligible households with letters.  The bank could pay out up to a total of $10 million.  This marks the second major concession by big banks to military families this year.  Last month, JPMorgan Chase & Co. refunded $2 million to 4,000 Servicemembers who had been forced to pay high interest rates.

Green Bay Packers Show Appreciation to Wisconsin National Guard

On Thursday, 24 February, the Green Bay Packers, along with assistant equipment manager Tom Bakken, brought the Super Bowl XLV Lombardi Trophy to their many fans and members of the Wisconsin National Guard, as a gesture of their support and appreciation to them. The Packers have been big fans of the Wisconsin National Guard and have honored members of the Wisconsin Guard on Lambeau Field during several Packers’ games in the past. To read this entire article, please go to: http://military-online.blogspot.com/2011/02/green-bay-packers-show-appreciation-to.html

Trees Honoring Troops

Through the Rhode Island Tree Council's Trees Honoring Troops Program, anyone can donate a tree in honor or memory of a Servicemember and have it planted in either a Rhode Island public park or a cemetery.  For anyone interested in donating a tree, there is an application form that can be downloaded from the Rhode Island Tree Council's website , or call the organization’s phone number at (401) 764-5885.  Donations are $275 per tree.  Additionally, each donor may select the tree's location. For more information,. visit the Rhode Island Tree Council's Trees Honoring Troops webpage or click http://www.military.com/military-report/trees-honoring-troops to read the full article.

Draft Registration Should End, Lawmaker Says

After 31 years of symbolism, the time has come to end draft registration in the U.S., says Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Col., a retired Marine Corps officer and a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.  House Republicans have been gathering budget-cutting ideas, like Coffman’s, for a plan to cut federal spending.  If Coffman decides to press the point, he might have the opportunity to propose an amendment to the 2011 federal budget that would end draft registration this year.  The last draftees reported for military service in 1973, but draft registration through the Selective Service System continued in 1973, 1974 and 1975, at first as a temporary measure in case the experiment with the all-volunteer force failed.  In 1980, draft registration of 18-year old males was reinstated in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  In 2004 the House of Representatives voted on returning to a military draft, which was defeated by 402-2.  Delete-(Ending draft registration and shutting down the Selective Service System would save about $24 million a year.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/02/military-ending-draft-registration-021411w/

No Word on Fate of Brigades in Europe

Though it was the Pentagon’s plan to reach a decision in “early 2011” on the number of combat brigades it intends to keep in Europe, military officials here and in Washington appear unlikely to make an announcement anytime soon.  Pentagon officials have refused to state whether a decision is forthcoming and instead are offering vague references to on-going discussions.  While more military downsizing in Europe is all but certain, the form it will take the years ahead remains murky.  In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “excess force structure in Europe” would mean more reductions.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.military.com/news/article/no-word-on-fate-of-brigades-in-europe.html

Military Promotes Gulf Seafood in its Commissaries

Launching a new initiative to buy more domestic produce, The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) has purchased upward of 30,000 pounds of Gulf seafood in the past few months, by far the majority from the Emeril label.  So far, 72 of the military’s 249 commissaries, which are grocery stores that sell only to military personnel and their families, have begun selling the seafood.  The policy helps the Gulf seafood market which was damaged by the oil spill and is also a step toward increasing and promoting domestic catch nationally.  In doing so, the military apparently has cast aside concerns about the safety of seafood caught in waters tainted by the BP disaster in April.  Military officials acknowledged that some commissary customers have been nervous about the new Gulf seafood offerings because of the oil spill, but it appears customers are becoming accustomed to the Gulf fare.  To learn more, please go to: http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/resources/InternetResources/Pages/MilitarySpouseEducationEmployment.aspx

Beware of Collection Scams

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives a high volume of complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. In these scams, a caller claims that the victim is delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. Victims who receive such calls should: (1) contact their banking institutions, (2) request that an alert be placed in their files with the three major credit bureaus, (3) contact local law enforcement if they feel they are in immediate danger, and (4) file a complaint at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.  To learn more about military legal matters, visit the Military.com legal section.  To read the full article, please go to: http://www.military.com/military-report/beware-of-collection-scams

Another Report Takes Shot at TRICARE

According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress,  the cost of military health care will exceed $52B in 2012. That's a 300 percent increase over the last decade. Like previous deficit-busting reports, the Center for American Progress's recommendations would not change health care services provided to active duty troops, but suggests changes that specifically target working-age retirees who choose TRICARE Prime over the more expensive employer provided commercial coverage option. The report also seeks an increase in TRICARE for Life fees and would index fees based on each retiree's income level.

Court Okays Extending Claim Deadlines

The Supreme Court's recent decision, means that disabled veterans' appeals may now be considered after the 120-day filing deadline passes. In the ruling on Henderson v. Shinseki, the Supreme Court concluded that the 120-day limit was not intended to carry the harsh consequences of the "jurisdictional tag." For veterans, this means deadlines related to filing appeals and other claims have increased flexibility, in certain situations.

TRICARE Promotes Cancer Screenings

The beginning stages of colorectal cancer often have no symptoms. Because of this, early screening saves lives. For TRICARE Prime and Standard beneficiaries, there are no cost shares or co-pays for colorectal cancer screenings, as well as many other important preventive care services. For Medicare-eligible beneficiaries covered by TRICARE For Life, Medicare covers colorectal cancer screening tests and TRICARE generally pays the remainder of any costs not paid by Medicare. To learn more about colorectal screening, visit the CDC's Screen for Life campaign webpage. For more information about TRICARE's coverage of colorectal cancer screenings, visit the TRICARE website.