Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 30November 2011 

11/30/2011 

 

 

 

Monthly Electronic Retiree Account Statement (eRAS)

Your monthly electronic Retiree Account Statement (eRAS) is now available on myPay.  Click the link below to log in and access your eRAS.

 https://mypay.dfas.mil

While you're logged in to your account, please also take a few moments to verify that all of your contact information is correct.  DFAS will issue your 1099-R tax statement, annual RAS and a Retiree Newsletter in December.   Please make sure both your mailing address and email address are up to date. 

NEED HELP PICKING UP YOUR ELECTRONIC ACCOUNT STATEMENT?

If the Web address above is highlighted, click on it to open a browser window.  After you log in to myPay, you will be taken to a menu from which you can reach your eRAS.

If the Web address above is not highlighted, follow these steps:

   - Open a Web browser window.

   - Copy and paste the entire Web address into the location or address bar of the browser.

   - Press enter.

TROUBLE LOGGING IN TO MYPAY?

Visit www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary for instructions on starting a myPay account, requesting a login ID or requesting a temporary password.

HELP US SPREAD THE WORD.

The eRAS is only available on myPay.  Please share this news with your fellow military retirees who may not have myPay accounts.

Retired and Annuitant Pay

http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary.html

 DEFENSE PANEL REVISES AUTHORIZATION BILL

The fiscal 2012 Defense authorization bill was reworked by the Senate Armed Services committee last week to align it with spending levels proposed in the defense spending bill and the August debt limit law.  The bill, originally approved by the committee in June, would cut an additional $21 billion in Defense Department programs.

The revised bill would authorize $662 billion for national defense programs including $527 billion for the base Defense Department budget and another $117 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.  It also includes $17.5 billion for defense programs in the Department of Energy.  The bill is $27 billion less than the President’s budget request and $43 billion less than the amount enacted for fiscal 2011.

The revised bill would cut:

* $330 million for private-sector care under the Defense Health Program
* $527 million from military construction projects
* $244 million from space programs
* $2.8 billion for the Army procurement budget
* $800 million for Army research and development

Once the committee approved the bill, it was taken up by the full Senate.  On Friday, they approved several non-controversial amendments including one that would require a report on the implementation of the recommendations in the 2010 Army acquisition review panel’s final report and another that would require the comptroller general at the Defense Department to report to Congress on employment programs for military spouses.

The Senate is expected to resume debate on the bill after they return from the Thanksgiving recess.

What’s next:  After the Senate passes the bill, it will go to conference to iron out any differences with the House version.

NOT SO SUPER COMMITTEE

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (super committee), created as a part of the August Budget Control Act, must vote by no later than midnight 23 November on a plan to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  Unfortunately, it appears that they are deadlocked and will not meet their deadline.  If that happens, a sequester would be triggered that could lead to up to $500 billion more in defense reductions beginning n 2013.  Whether Congress will allow sequestration to occur will probably not be addressed until next year. 

One member of Congress that is not taking this lightly is Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.  In a letter to super committee leaders, he warned that their failure to achieve a deal would have an immediate consequence of a 25 percent reduction to the defense budget in fiscal 2013.

McKeon said, "If sequester were to occur, the impact on our national security, our men and women in uniform, and the Department of Defense would be immediate, dire, and in some cases irrevocable.  Congress can negotiate our way through impasses, but the Department of Defense is required to plan with the budget authority it is given."

As the FY13 budget is due early next year, a failed agreement would force the Defense Department to begin deep and irrevocable cuts out of our armed forces next year in order to reap the saving in 2013.  Once this process is set in motion, it will be difficult - if not impossible - to stop."

The sequestration scenario would include freezing defense assembly lines and shipyards across the nation, issuing pink slips to hundreds of thousands of active duty military, industry workers, and civilian defense personnel.  "We would cripple our ability to properly train and equip our force, significantly degrade military readiness.  Our ability to respond to national security crises or humanitarian disasters would be disrupted, and we would risk losing the technical and competitive edge that has traditionally given our troops a decisive advantage on the battlefield."

AUSA applauds Chairman McKeon and his strong stand against further cuts to the defense budget. 

PAPER: MILITARY RETIREE HEALTH CARE FACES A TRIPLE WHAMMY

With all of the talk swirling about cuts to the defense budget and to military retiree’s earned benefits, we would like for our readers to take a look at AUSA’s latest Torchbearer Issue paper.  Produced by the Institute of Land Warfare, the paper specifically targets threats to Medicare, TRICARE enrollment and the TRICARE pharmacy program. 

The paper identifies three important trends with regards to Medicare:

* Annual Part B premium increases have not only been steep but have also proved highly erratic and unpredictable;
* Annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to military retired compensation and Social Security benefits have not kept pace with the rapid rise in Medicare premiums; and,
* Because Medicare Part B premiums are “means-tested”; i.e., retirees with higher individual or family incomes pay even higher Part B rates.

The other two sections, TRICARE enrollment and the TRICARE pharmacy program, deal with higher fees and how such increases are consuming an ever greater percentage of military retirees’ incomes at a stage in their lives when they may not have much financial flexibility. In contrast, the quality and accessibility of their care is simultaneously decreasing.

In conclusion, the paper states, “To date, no single legislative action or major proposal has placed an unbearable health care burden on the military retiree, but the cumulative effect of numerous small cost increases approaches such a burden. Cost increases have been individually modest but indexed. Collectively, they have already had an impact on retired servicemembers and threaten an even greater impact in the future”

Military careers of sacrifice and civilian employment—and the compensation appropriate for each—are inherently incomparable. The nation can afford to keep its critical All-Volunteer Force and pay for the benefits owed to the select few who earn them. For example, one way of reducing unsustainable growth in Defense Department health care costs without adding further to the burden shouldered by military retirees is to offset any new access fees by reducing retirees’ Medicare premiums by like amounts. The nation’s debt crisis cannot and should not be alleviated on the backs of those few who answer duty’s call.”

Here is the link to the paper.  http://www.ausa.org/publications/torchbearercampaign/torchbearerissuepapers/Documents/TBIP_Retirees_web.pdf

The AUSA Government Affairs Directorate is sending this paper to every congressional office and professional staff members of key congressional committees.

Gays Seek Benefit Equality

Groups representing gay and lesbian servicemembers are pressing the DoD to extend benefits for same-sex dependents beyond Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI), Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI), Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP), military death gratuity, to include housing, TRICARE, and more. Based on UCLA's Miller Institute Social Research Center estimates, there are as many as 66,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers who are not offered the same benefits as their straight co-workers

Burn Pit Related to Illnesses?

An Institute of Medicine study has found no evidence between exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and long-term health problems. A 14-member committee of the institute, the nonprofit health research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, could neither prove nor disprove that servicemembers' exposure to burning trash piles in Iraq and Afghanistan could cause long-term health problems, and recommended that more studies be done. A summary of the study is available on the Institute of Medicine website.

DeCA Holiday Gift Cards

During the holiday season, a Commissary Gift Card can be an easy option for anyone to extend the gift of groceries to servicemembers and their families. The Commissary Gift Card comes in denominations of $25 and $50. Anyone can purchase a card online, or in a commissary. However, only authorized commissary customers can use it in a commissary. The cards are available at all commissaries worldwide and can be shipped anywhere in the United States and to APO, FPO or DPO addresses. For more information, visit the Commissaries.com website

Retirement Resources for Soldiers

Soldiers and families making financial decisions for approaching retirement have help available in-person and online. At every major Army installation, a full-time retirement services officer (RSO) supports both retiring and retired Soldiers and families of the active and reserve components. The Army G-1's Retirement Services homepage and your RSO's homepage offer 24/7, online support. A list of RSOs available online. Information on the  REDUX retired pay plan is available in the Career Status Bonus/REDUX Soldier Information section. Information on the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is available online. The latest information on using TRICARE in retirement is available on the TRICARE website or at the Army G-1's Retirement Services homepage

McCain: TRICARE Fees Must Rise To Control Costs

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., claimed that these “dire circumstances” we are under is the reason he’s willing to make military retirees pay more for health care benefits.  McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has drawn fire from retirees because of his suggestion that they can pay more for TRICARE healthcare.  However, military retirees and their families deserve the best possible care in return for a career of military service, and nothing less.  The defense bill being debated by the Senate includes two provisions to hold down health care costs, and McCain said he wished it did more.  These two provisions include trimming $330 million off the $16.4 billion account to cover private-sector care for family members and retirees, and allowing the Defense Department to increase TRICARE Prime enrollment fees in the future. To read more about McCain and the TRICARE fees, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-mccain-tricare-fees-must-rise-to-control-costs-111711w/

Survey: Military Families Report Concern Over Potential TRICARE Fee Hike

According to a recent survey, Military families are worried about changes to their health insurance, and those concerns are prompting them to sock away more money for such costs during retirement.  Increasing health care premiums for military retirees has long been a politically sensitive subject, with lawmakers and military advocates wary of appearing ungrateful for the sacrifices of Servicemembers.  The Pentagon has pushed for fee increases, originally proposing a 13 percent boost in 2012, and continues to weigh changes to the program as part of overall deficit reduction. Costs for new enrollees rose slightly as of 1 Oct, and other increases could be coming.  To read more about this survey, please go to: http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1111/111411kl1.htm

VA Plans 3,000 Units of Housing for Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to enter into agreements to provide more than 3,000 units of permanent and transitional housing for Veterans at 25 VA medical center campuses nationwide. Additionally, more agreements are planned for an added 1,000 units, which are to be completed in the coming weeks.  Proposed opportunities include housing for homeless Veterans, senior Veterans, disabled Veterans, other at-risk Veteran populations, and their families. The agreements are part of VA’s Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative.  BURR is a VA strategic effort to identify and repurpose unused VA land and buildings in support of VA’s goal to end Veteran homelessness.  For further information regarding the BURR initiative, please visit:  http://www.va.gov/ASSETMANAGEMENT/index.asp.

Expert: Double-Dip Housing Recession

The number of people falling behind on their mortgages increased over the last quarter for the first time since 2009, according to a new report by the credit bureau TransUnion. And while the news surprised many people, it came as no surprise at all to some mortgage experts who have known for years that a wave of wildly risky mortgages written in the declining days of the mortgage boom would come back to haunt the American economy in 2011.   To become more informed about mortgages, please go to: http://www.military.com/money

Jobless Rate Increases for Young Veterans

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that the national unemployment rate remains mostly unchanged at 9 percent, while the jobless rate for veterans of all generations dropped to 7.7 percent in October, down from 8.1 percent in September.  However, the job market is not getting better for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  The economy created just 80,000 jobs in October, resulting in only a 0.1 percentage point drop in the national unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department report.  But for Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans who left active duty since 2001, the unemployment rate for October was 12.1 percent, up from 11.7 percent in September and from an average of 10.5 percent in 2010. To read more about veterans and unemployment, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-jobless-rate-increases-for-young-veterans-110411/

At Ease Program To Help Veterans in Central Nebraska

Mental health disorders among military personnel and veterans have had many names over the years while on average, 18 veterans take their own lives every day because of depression and post-traumatic stress.  To help veterans and their loved ones cope with the mental strains and stresses of military life, Lutheran Family Services in Nebraska is offering At Ease, a trauma treatment and therapeutic support program. At Ease provides confidential, individualized counseling and treatment using individual and group approaches.  This program serves military members regardless of their service status, including those who have been dishonorably discharged.  To learn more about the At Ease program, please click: http://www.theindependent.com/articles/2011/11/12/news/local/14143824.txt

VA Approves New Emblem of Belief

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has approved the Armenian Cross as an emblem of belief that can be placed on the government headstone or marker of a deceased American veteran. To date, 38 denominations have had their "Emblem of Belief" accepted by the Veterans Administration for use on government headstones or markers. The grave markers and tombstones are free of charge, and the marker will be sent directly to the cemetery where the veteran is buried.  The cemetery staff will then install the marker on the grave site. For more information, e-mail mailto:mps.headstones@va.gov or contact National Cemetery Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs located at: 5109 Russell Road, Quantico, VA 22134-3903. 

Delta: Beware Of Bogus Emails, Postcards

Delta appears to be the victim of at least two scam attempts in which scammers are attempting to trick e-mail and postcard recipients into revealing sensitive financial or personal information involving fake Delta Air Lines flight confirmations. E-mails received by some consumers claimed to be electronic ticket receipts for a round-trip flight from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport to San Francisco with a confirmation number and ticket number, and these emails continue to appear to be part of a "phishing" attempt, or an effort by scammers to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal information, such as a credit card number or an account password.  Furthermore, fraudulent postcards are circulating through the mail offering two tickets anywhere on Delta's system and/or 3 days/2 night hotel and vacation packages. Similar postcards are also circulating using Northwest Airlines trademarks. To read more about these scams, please click: http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2011/11/delta-scam-alert/566963/1

VFW Presses Senator McCain on Support

 VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer expressed the organization's strongest opposition today to ongoing efforts by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to further balance the budget on the backs of military service members, their families, and retirees.  In a letter, the Chief wrote that McCain's acceptance of proposals to examine the current retirement system along with military pay, allowances and their tax implications, plus to suggest excluding military retirees from TRICARE Prime, implies that his unwavering support of the military exists only as long as you are wearing the uniform.  "Troops are of one voice against cutting their pay and benefits," wrote DeNoyer.  "That is why we are so adamantly against any proposal that would have those who sacrifice the most to sacrifice even more."  Read the full letter: http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/VFW%20to%20McCain%20Nov%202011.PDF

Congress Passes Veterans Job Bill

On Wednesday night, the House unanimously passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a comprehensive veterans' jobs bill that combined the best of two separate House and Senate bills with a tax credit proposed by the White House.   The president is expected to sign the bill into law early next week.   VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer said he was proud to see Congress come together to pass a law to address the daunting veterans' unemployment crisis.  VFW had previously testified in support of comprehensive veterans' employment legislation before both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees.  Read the VFW press release at http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/CONGRESS-UNITES-TO-HELP-UNEMPLOYED-VETERANS/.  To learn more about the bill, go to http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2011/11/update-vets-jobs-bill-heading-to.html.

VA Committee Discusses Budget Savings

The House Veterans Affairs Committee invited Veteran Service Organizations and the VA this week to discuss recommendations for possible savings within the VA budget.  The VFW, along with our Independent Budget partners, offered several areas of potential savings, while highlighting where better care and benefits could be provided to veterans.  The VSO representatives made it clear that that any savings should be reinvested to meet the urgent unfunded needs of VA.  The VFW remains committed to ensuring that VA healthcare and benefits are protected, and will continue to whether VA medical care is exempt from potential mandatory cuts should the Super Committee fail to reach an agreement by Thanksgiving Day.  For more on the hearing or to view the recorded webcast, visit the House VA committee at http://veterans.house.gov/.  For our letter to the House VA Committee, go to: http://www.vfw.org/uploadedFiles/VFW.org/VFW_in_DC/Joint%20VSO%20Response%20to%20HVAC%20on%20Savings%20and%20Waste%20in%20VA%20-%20April%204%202011.pdf

Vietnam Education Center Needs Photos

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is seeking photos of all 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C.  The collection will be used to highlight their service and sacrifice inside the new VFW-supported Vietnam Memorial Education Center, which is scheduled to break ground next year.  So far, 18,000 photos have been submitted by families and fellow comrades-in-arms.  Please submit photos to Jan Scruggs, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2600 Virginia Ave., NW, Suite 104, Washington, DC 20037.  Include the deceased's name, location, unit and approximate month/year the photo was taken.  Digitized photos can be e-mailed to jscruggs@vvmf.org.

WWII Film Sought

Towers Productions, a documentary production company for A&E, History and Discovery Channel, is working on a three-hour World War II special for the National Geographic Channel to air sometime in mid-2012.  They are on the hunt for rare and possibly never-before-seen combat footage---16mm or 8mm color or B&W film at the front or anywhere overseas---as well as field audio.  They are currently searching through a myriad of military collections, but believe many VFW members may also have a treasure trove of film canisters tucked away in attics and basements that they recorded personally while overseas.  If interested, please contact David Cottrell at Towers Productions at (312) 601-4916 or by e-mail at david.cottrell@towersproductions.com.

COLA Bill Goes to the President

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the 2012 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for veterans receiving compensation for service-connected disabilities. The COLA also affects the rates for military retirees, Social Security recipients, and the dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of veterans who died as a result of service. Although Congress has passed a COLA every year for veterans since 1976, there has not been an increase in the rate since 2009. The 3.6% COLA increase will go into effect on December 1, 2011, once the legislation is signed into by law by the President.

VA Cash-Out Refinance for Major Expenses

A VA cash-out refinance loan can provide eligible borrowers with cash out of the equity from their homes to pay for major expenses and combine debt. In a cash-out refinance situation, the borrower refinances his or her mortgage with a higher principal balance and acquires the cash generated from the transaction. Get more information on Military.com

X-Rays Identify Korean War POW-MIA

Over the past six years, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command has retrieved 14,200 chest radiographs (X-rays) representing about 6,400 GIs missing from Korea. The data has become key in the identification of  867 Korea War veterans buried as "unknowns" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Comparisons from the X-Rays are among several lab advances made in the past several years. For more information on JPAC's work in investigating, recovering and identifying missing American war dead, visit the JPAC website at www.jpac.pacom.mil/.

President Announces Jobs Initiatives

President Barack Obama has announced executive orders to give tax credits to employers who hire post-9/11 veterans and wounded warriors, as well as enhanced career counseling for veterans. A new Returning Heroes Tax Credit that will provide companies up to $5,600 in credits for each unemployed veteran they hire. Also, a new Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers employers up to $9,600 for each veteran with service-connected disabilities they hire. Post-9/11 veterans can now download a Veteran Gold Card that entitles them to six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling services at roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers nationwide. For more information, see this Military.com article. For more civilian job resources and military-friendly job postings, visit the Military.com Veteran Jobs Center.

New Way to Report the Loss of a Retiree

Survivors can now use a "fast form" to report the passing of a retiree to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) on the Internet rather than waiting on the phone. The DFAS Form 9221 for notification of death can be processed quicker than faxed or mailed forms. The notification-of-death form is only for reporting the death of a military retiree. Annuitant deaths must still be reported to one of the DFAS customer care representatives at 800-321-1080. To access the notification of death fast form, visit the DFAS website. If a survivor does not receive confirmation of receipt from DFAS within 48 hours of submitting the form, they should call 800-321-1080.

The Medicare/TRICARE Problem

This week, Medicare announced that without Congressional action payments to health care providers through Medicare and TRICARE would be cut by 27.4% on 1 January. This figure is slightly lower than the 30% Medicare has estimated previously.  But the change, based on updated estimates of Medicare costs and assumptions, won't make the consequences any less troubling for military families and retirees if Congress fails to pass a legislative fix before the end of the year to prevent this large cut.  Either number will cause significant numbers of doctors to stop seeing elderly and military patients.  The new Medicare announcement serves as a reminder that Congress has less than two months to take action as their schedule is filling up fast, with debate on the "Super Committee's" findings likely to take up much of December.  Please use our website, http://www.ausa.org to voice your opinion to your legislators.  Click on “Legislative Agenda” and then on "Contact Congress". Put your zip code in the box entitled “Elected Officials. The first letter titled, “No Attack on Military Retirement and Health Care Benefits” should go to the President.

TRICARE Reports Data Breach

A loss of computer tapes by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) may have placed TRICARE patient data at risk. Computer tapes containing personally identifiable and protected health information (PII/PHI) of 4.9 million military clinic and hospital patients in Texas were stolen. Individuals may protect their personal information by taking the steps suggested by the Federal Trade Commission at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.shtm . Concerned patients may contact the SAIC Incident Response Call Center, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time at (855) 366-0140 (toll free) for United States callers and (952) 556-8312 (collect) internationally.

Program to Educate Civilian Doctors on Military

The Defense Department (DoD) and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare are rolling out a certification program to help civilian mental health care professionals and primary care providers better serve military veterans and their families.  The “Serving Our Veterans” behavioral health program is a 14-part, 20-hour online course that instructs doctors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and other practitioners on the military’s unique treatment needs, its culture and experiences, as well as background and service-related injuries and disorders.  Council executives say the program will benefit all health care providers, especially those in regions not served by VA or military medical facilities.  To read more about this program, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-program-to-educate-civilian-doctors-on-military-110811w/

Too Many Youths too Overweight and Unfit to Fight, Retired Military Brass Say

The nation’s young adults are getting too fat, and unfit to fight according to a group of retired military leaders who noted that 1 in 4 Americans are now too overweight to enlist.  The nation’s obesity crisis threatens national security.  Nationwide, about 75 percent of American young people are not eligible for the military because of weight problems, criminal histories, not meeting the educational requirements and other problems.  The military is meeting its recruitment goals, in part because the slumping economy limits available private-sector jobs.  Even for recruits who meet the weight requirements, being unfit before enlisting can pose other problems.  Unfit  recruits have higher rates of sprains and stress fractures, and inactive males are three times more likely to be medically discharged than people who exercised or played sports three or more times a week before joining.  The group, called Mission: Readiness, comprised of 250 retired generals, admirals and other top military brass, urges schools to ensure that physical education requirements are met and that students have trained instructors and adequate facilities and equipment.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_19300627 

Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance Maximum Coverage Increases

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the maximum amount of Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) increased from $90,000 to $150,000, effective 1 Oct. under the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010. Maximum coverage will further increase from $150,000 to $200,000 after 1 Jan. 2012.  VMLI is issued to those severely disabled Veterans and Servicemembers who have received grants for specially adapted housing from VA.  These grants are issued to Veterans and Servicemembers whose movement or vision is substantially impaired because of their disabilities.  Policyholders may choose to decline the increase, accept the maximum amount or select a different amount. VA sent notification letters to eligible VMLI policyholders on 1 Sept. to inform them of these increases.  To learn more about this increase, please go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2201

Transportation Projects to Help Families, Vets

Transportation officials have announced a $35 million effort to help military families and veterans get to where they want to go.  The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative will help states and communities build or expand “one-click, one-call” centers that offer comprehensive information on local transportation options and other community services. The imitative will allow people to check bus and train schedules and access van pool information, for example, as well as find out about any other types of transportation providers and programs.  In addition to this effort, the Veterans Affairs Department is contributing up to $3 million for the VA health care network to coordinate veterans’ transportation needs with community transportation systems.  To further understand this effort, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-transportation-connection-110911w/

Grant Finances Black Troop History Project

The McCormick Foundation is financing an oral history project that highlights the service of black Soldiers.  The foundation made a $200,000 grant to the MilitaryMakers project, part of a digital archive that features interviews with Gen. Colin Powell and several Tuskegee Airmen, black pilots who served during World War II.  Organizers of the project say blacks have made up at least 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. armed forces since the Revolutionary War., but that the black history of the military often goes untold.  The archive will be made available online and will be used in presentations at military museums.  To learn more about this foundation and their grants, please click: http://mccormickfoundation.org/page.aspx?pid=627

VA Launches Video Series: Women Veterans' Stories of Service

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is building a video library that documents women in the United States Armed Forces, from their significant contributions to national safety and security to the ongoing challenges faced during their service and after returning to civilian life.  There are stories that are recent while others are older, they all offer a fascinating glimpse into our nation’s history and the vital role women have played.   To watch their stories, please go to: http://www.womenshealth.va.gov/WOMENSHEALTH/stories.asp

VA Introduces Make the Connection

Make the Connection, a new campaign launched by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is creating ways for Veterans and their family members to connect with the experiences of other Veterans, and ultimately to connect with information and resources to help them confront the challenges of transitioning from military service, face health issues, and navigate the complexities of daily life as a civilian. The campaign’s central focus is a website, http://www.MakeTheConnection.net, featuring numerous Veterans who have shared their experiences, challenges, and triumphs.  The site offers Veterans and their families the opportunity to view the personal testimonials of other Veterans who are working through a variety of common life experiences and mental health conditions. The Web site also connects Veterans and their family members with services and resources that may help them live more fulfilling lives. To read this article in its entirety, please go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2207

Air Force Mishandled Remains of War Dead, Inquiry Finds

Federal investigators said that they had uncovered “gross mismanagement” at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary, which cares for America’s war dead, after whistleblowers reported horror stories of lost body parts, shoddy inventory controls and lax supervision.  Military officials said the incidents resulted from the strain of handling thousands of bodies, some with injuries that made it difficult to prepare remains for burial.  The Pentagon is launching an effort to reassure members of the military and their families that flaws in the handling of human remains at the Dover military mortuary are being corrected.  To read this article in its entirety, please go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/air-force-mishandled-remains-of-war-dead-probe-finds/2011/11/08/gIQABKuE1M_story.html or http://www.military.com/news/article/pentagon-taking-closer-look-at-dover-mortuary.html?ESRC=eb.nl

Food Stamp Use at Military Commissaries Up Sharply in Four Years

Food stamp purchases at military commissaries reportedly have nearly tripled during the last four years, according to Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) figures.  The agency reports that nearly $88 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2011, up from $31 million in 2008.  There is little information about who is using the food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by the Department of Agriculture, because DeCA and the Defense Department (DoD) do not keep data on individuals who purchase items at commissaries.  The military started its own food assistance program, the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance, or FSSA in 2001 to remove military families from the food stamp program.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=49341&oref=todaysnews