Retiree & Veterans Affairs News 16 December 2011 

12/16/2011 

 

Electronic 1099R Available on myPay

Your electronic 1099R for 2011 is available on myPay at: https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx?flps=99R~RCPS

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) implemented the myPay web-based system in March 2000.  myPay delivers pay information and lets you process pay-related transactions timely, safely and securely. The Web-based system protects against identity theft and is faster and more secure than regular mail by allowing members to access electronic 1099R, RAS and other financial information. myPay matches industry standards for the highest level of encryption and security to protect myPay users.

If you do not have a Password for accessing myPay, you can obtain one by clicking on the Forgot or Need a Password? link on the myPay website at the web address shown above to receive a temporary Password. If you have any questions concerning myPay, please call toll free at 1-888-DFAS411 or 1-888-332-7411, Commercial 216-522-5096, or DSN 580-5096, 7:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Option 5 is for myPay questions.  If you have any questions regarding the information on your 1099R, please call 1-800-321-1080.

TRICARE Prime for Young Adults Stands Up

On December 1 DoD started enrollment for the new TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) Prime option with coverage starting on January 1, 2012. To qualify for TYA Prime, dependents of uniformed services families must be under age 26, unmarried and not eligible for their own employer-sponsored health care coverage. The monthly premium for next year will be $201 a month. Since May 2011 young adult dependents have been eligible for TYA Standard with a monthly premium of $186. On January 1 the premium will drop to $176 per month. Both programs follow TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard’s coverage.
For more information and application forms go to: www.tricare.mil/tya.

AS YEAR WINDS DOWN, IMPORTANT VOTES EXPECTED ON DEFENSE BILLS

As the 1st Session of the 112th Congress winds down, lawmakers are putting the final touches on the defense authorization and appropriations bills.

Last week, AUSA and its partners in The Military Coalition sent a letter to defense authorization conferees thanking them for including a 1.6 percent pay raise for the military.  The Coalition letter also highlighted certain provisions in the House and Senate authorization bills that AUSA strongly supports.

Here are several items we think deserve particular attention:

End Strength - We remain very concerned that end strength cuts are premature in view of continuing deployment requirements.  Our nation continues to demand more and more of our men and women in uniform and their families.

Annual enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime - We strongly urge the conferees to retain the House provision that expresses the “Sense of Congress” that career military people endure unique and extraordinary demands throughout their career which constitute a significant pre-paid health premium.  Both the House and Senate versions of the bill specify that the Secretary of Defense may only increase annual enrollment fees by an amount equal to the percentage by which military retired pay is increased.

Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) - The Senate’s bill includes a provision that would end deduction of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from SBP annuities when the member’s death is service-connected.  AUSA strongly urges the conferees to retain this provision in the final bill. 

Wounded Warriors - The Coalition urges the conferees to retain the House and Senate bill provisions that would help provide greater access to mental and behavioral health care for wounded warriors and their families.  The burden of multiple and extended deployments has stretched our servicemembers and their families to, and in some cases, beyond the breaking point.

Conferees worked over the weekend to resolve issues regarding whether or not detainees including those captured in the United States, would be held in military rather than civilian custody.  The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the bill if the provision remains in the final bill.  The Administration opposes the language on the grounds that it limits their options in dealing with alleged terrorists.

At the same time authorizers are finishing work on their bill, appropriators are also making progress on the defense spending bill.  However, appropriators have indicated that the bill will also include the Administration-opposed detainee language. Clearly this issue must be resolved this week.

The appropriations bill will be rolled into a year-end omnibus spending bill that Congress hopes to clear by Dec. 16, the deadline for the end of the existing continuing resolution.

It is expected that the House will vote on the authorization bill as early as Thursday, Dec.15, with the Senate vote to follow.  

ARMY ANNOUNCES CIVILIAN CUTS

Last week, the Army announced details of its plan to reduce the size of its civilian employee workforce.

The Army plans to reduce the workforce by 8700 positions and has identified 70 different locations affected by these reductions across eight commands and agencies with nearly 90 percent of the cuts taking place within Installation Management Command, Army Materiel Command, and Training and Doctrine Command. 

Thirty seven states will be affected by these reductions with the majority of personnel cuts occurring in those states with the largest military and Army civilian populations.

Army commands and agencies are continuing to take necessary actions to reduce their civilian on-board strength to meet funded targets established by the secretary of defense and reflected in the President’s Budget,” said Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs. “To the maximum extent possible, the Army will rely on voluntary departures to achieve these manpower reductions. 

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the co-chair of the Senate Army Caucus, reacted with strong disappointment when he learned that Fort Sill will lose 176 civilian positions.

“I am deeply disappointed by today’s announcement,” said Inhofe.  “In the history of the United States, the U.S. Army has played a pivotal role in defending our nation and its people, and the hard work from our men and women at Fort Sill is no exception.  He added, “If defense sequestration is allowed to proceed as currently scheduled, these cuts will be just the beginning of a total decimation of our armed forces, threatening our national security.  We cannot allow that to happen.  While I understand that many of these cuts at Fort Sill are position cuts and not job cuts, I will work with those in Lawton and at the Pentagon to mitigate the impacts."

SENATE ARMY CAUCUS BREAKFAST

The Army’s reduction in force announcement came shortly after the Senate’s Army Caucus Breakfast hosted by Sen. Inhofe, Caucus co-chair and Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the other co-chair.  AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA. Ret., was in attendance along with other key senators and senior staff members.

Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno were the breakfast speakers.  Gen. Odierno shared some sobering statistics with the audience.  “Our Soldiers have been the backbone of our Nation's successes. They have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire in conditions that have been as demanding as any that our Army has experienced in its 236 year history. Our Soldiers' actions speak for themselves. However, these accomplishments have come at enormous cost. 

"Since 9/11, more than 4,500 Soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice; another 32,000 have been wounded, with thousands requiring long term care.  There have been six awards of the Medal of Honor, 22 Distinguished Service Crosses, well over 600 Silver Stars, and more than 14,000 awards for Valor.”

Both the Secretary and the Chief of Staff acknowledged the current budget constraints and the effects further budget cuts would have on the Department of the Army.

Battle Over Military Health-Care Premiums Slows — For Now

Now that the defense authorization bill for 2012 has passed the Senate and House, the fight over  TRICARE has reached a truce for the moment.  House and Senate negotiators are working out differences in the defense authorization bill before it goes to President Obama, but TRICARE is not among the contested issues.  As of 1 October, retirees of working age had their annual health-care premiums jump to $520, up from $460 for families, and to $260, up from $230 for individuals, as well as additional increases in prescription copayments.  These increases were the result of a lengthy campaign by the Defense Department (DoD) to slash health-care and other personnel costs by billions of dollars.  There is further debate on how high TRICARE fees for military-age retirees should climb in the future, but is currently capped at the rate of the cost of living adjustment (COLA).  To read more about these TRICARE fees, please go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/battle-over-military-health-care-premiums-slows--for-now/2011/12/05/gIQAii15XO_story.html

Key Lawmakers Support Administrations Proposal for Military Pay Review

Two key senators, Sens. Carl Levin, D-MI, and Jim Webb, D-VA,  are backing the White House’s call for a presidential commission to recommend an overhaul of military retired pay and health care benefits.  If the nine-member commission has time, it also could look at ways to restructure or reform all other elements of pay and benefits, including annual pay increases, bonuses, and special pays and allowances.  The two have drafted legislation, to be offered as an amendment to the 2012 defense authorization bill now pending in the Senate, to create a commission to review regular and disability retired pay and changes to military health care benefits, looking at costs, how changes could affect military careers, and the impact on having a trained and capable all-volunteer force.  This commission’s final report would be sent to the president on 15 Dec. 2012.  To learn more about this commission, please click: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-pay-commission-obama-levin-webb-112911w/

How The Pending Defense Cuts Could Play Out

Congress’ failure to make a deficit deal could cut the number of Soldiers by up to 25 percent, leaving the smallest Army since just before World War II.  That, in turn, means the chance of deploying more often increases, gear, weapons and vehicles become older, and pay and benefits are likely to see changes in the near future.  For military leaders, the choice comes down to cutting Soldiers, cutting programs or reducing pay and benefits.  As a result of the supercommittee not coming up with a solution by their 21 November deadline, an automatic cut of $600 billion to defense spending over 10 years went into effect when the deadline passed.  The Pentagon has not said how it will cover $1.2 trillion in cuts. Additionally, defense officials, including Panetta, have pledged to protect pay and benefits, but that promise will not likely hold for future Soldiers. To learn more about the defense cuts, please go to : http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/12/army-how-pending-defense-cuts-could-play-out-120311/

Official: No Chance of Troops Returning to Iraq

The White House says U.S. troops will not be returning to Iraq after they leave later this month.  A senior administration official in Baghdad told reporters that there is no discussion, no contemplation, and no thought of returning U.S. troops to Iraq.  The remarks came after both U.S. and Iraqi officials appeared to leave the door open to some American troops returning after the withdrawal, which will be completed by the end of the year.  The U.S. does plan to offer the Iraqis training through the civilian-run embassy, such as helping them to acquire and learn how to us American-made weapons systems.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/12/military-official-no-chance-of-troops-returning-to-iraq-120111/

Senate Easily Votes To Give Guard A Seat On JCS

The National Guard has taken a big step toward gaining a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the Senate agreed with House-passed legislation to give the Guard a place at the table with the other military leaders.  The Senate attached the National Guard Empowerment Act to the 2012 defense authorization bill so the military leaders who made clear earlier this month they don’t want to add a permanent seat at the table for the Guard will have limited ability to try to stop that from happening.  Current Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, testified against the legislation on 10 November claimed that he sees “no compelling reason” to give the Guard a JCS seat, but said he is willing to make the Guard chief an ad hoc member.  Supporters, however, said there is sense behind the bill such as giving the Guard a bigger voice.  To read more about this subject, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-senate-votes-to-give-guard-jcs-seat-112911w/

Possible Compromise On The Label of Combat-Related PTSD

A debate between some Army officers and mental health professionals on a possible name change for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has drawn the attention of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other mental health officials over a possible name change for combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those advocating a change in the term PTSD say the word “disorder” can stigmatize Soldiers and could prevent them from getting the help theyneed.  Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli suggested that the APA group consider dropping the word “disorder” from the diagnosis and simply call it Post Traumatic Stress.  For further information on the labeling of PTSD, please go to: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/military/july-dec11/ptsd_12-06.html

Rise in PTSD Cases from Two Wars Strains Resources

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claimed that ten thousand combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flooded into VA hospitals every three months this year, pushing the number of patients with the disorder above 200,000 and straining resources.  The increase is more than 5% per quarter.  Since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began, 211,819 combat veterans have been treated by the VA for PTSD, about 16% of the 1.3 million who fought.  The VA says it sees only about half the veterans from the two wars because hundreds of thousands seek care elsewhere or not at all.  Military leaders describe PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly the mild TBI, as hidden wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan as they are often unnoticed or ignored.  The Pentagon has counted more than 200,000 brain injuries among troops since the wars began; most of those are mild TBI.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/story/2011-11-29/PTSD-cases-rise/51476604/1

PTSD in Military Women Can Put Them at Risk for Eating Disorders and Addiction

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often leads to other mental health disorders, namely eating disorders, addiction and even suicide.  Due to trauma experienced in the field or as a result of sexual assault or rape, active duty military women are far more likely to suffer from PTSD as well as eating disorders and addiction said Kim Dennis, MD, medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.  A service woman who experiences intense PTSD due to combat or sexual violation may begin abusing medications or alcohol, develop an eating disorder or self-injure to cope with the emotional pain.  PTSD is difficult to treat on its own, especially when a co-occurring disorder exists.  Working with qualified professionals can make all the difference in getting back to a normal life.  To learn more please go to: http://chicagopressrelease.com/press-releases/ptsd-in-military-women-can-put-them-at-risk-for-eating-disorders-and-addiction

Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans

In August, President Obama called on Congress to enact tax credits that will help get veterans back to work. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides businesses that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran. These tax credits were included in the American Jobs Act and were signed into law by President Obama on 21 November. For more information on these tax credits, visit the White House website at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/21/fact-sheet-returning-heroes-and-wounded-warrior-tax-credits

Veteran-Owned Businesses Face Problems with VA

Lawmakers grilled Veterans Affairs Department (VA) officials November 30 about why veteran-owned businesses ranked eighth in priority for government contracts despite the laws and regulations that are supposed to put veterans first.  Thomas Leney, executive director of VA’s office of small and disadvantaged business utilization, said veteran-owned businesses have priority in open market purchases.  Both business owners and VA contracting personnel find this priority list confusing and difficult to understand.  Getting contracts is only half the battle facing veterans-owned businesses.  The other equally large problem is certifying the ownership and operational control of a company.  To learn more, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-veteran-owned-businesses-VA-113011w/

VA Announces SSVF Funding Availability

On Thursday, December 1, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the availably of funds for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program. Approximately $100 million is available for initial and renewal supportive services grants to be funded under this notice for a 1-year period. Applications are due to the SSVF Program Office by 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 15.  The SSVF Program's purpose is to provide supportive services grants to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that will organize access to or provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families who are: residing in permanent housing, homeless and scheduled to become residents of permanent housing within a specified time period, and/or seeking other housing after exiting permanent housing within a specified time period. To better understand the SSVF funding, please go to: http://www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp

No-Cost Training for Unemployed Vets

The Department of Labor (DoL) has announced a new partnership with Microsoft Corp. To provide veterans with vouchers for no-cost training and certifications that can lead to important industry-recognized credentials. The voucher program will serve veterans in five communities (Seattle, Washington, San Diego, California, Houston, Texas, Northern Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida) with the highest number of returning post-9/11 era veterans. Additional information about this and other initiatives, including specific locations where the vouchers will be distributed, is available at the Department of Labor VETS website at http://www.dol.gov/vets/. An audio file of a press call announcing this initiative is available to download here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/media/audio/20111109-announcement-call.mp3.

New Videos Feature Military Service Stories of Women Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released a series of videos in which women Veterans describe their experiences serving in the military, ranging from their significant contributions to national safety and security to the challenges they faced during their service and after returning to civilian life.  The three- to five-minute videos are part of VA’s ongoing “Rethink Veterans” campaign to increase awareness of women Veterans and their vital roles in our nation’s history.  The PSA is available for viewing at: http://www.womenshealth.va.gov.

Tuition Assistance MOU Impacts Ed Options

According to recent reports, the DoD Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for military tuition assistance (TA), which goes into effect next month, may have forced several schools to reconsider accepting military students who seek to use their TA benefits. The chief complaint is that the MOU forces participating schools to subject themselves to DoD codes of conduct, inspections, and military student friendly procedures, which they claim will restrict their academic authority.  To read more about the Tuition Assistance program, please go to: http://militaryadvantage.military.com/2011/12/new-ta-policy-may-limit-academic-options/

Progressive Motorcycle Program

Implementation of the Progressive Motorcycle Program (PMP) at Army installations worldwide was mandated by rapid action revision (RAR).  Under the PMP, all Soldiers who own or operate a motorcycle must complete four separate training events at specific time intervals: the Motorcycle Safety Foundations Basic Rider Course, Basic Rider Course 2 (formerly Experienced Rider Course) or Military Sport Bike Rider Course (dependent upon type of motorcycle owned), motorcycle refresher training, and sustainment training. Previous provisions regarding basic personal protective equipment requirements and use of motorcycles by civilians on Army installations were also modified to reflect changes by the Department of Defense (DoD).  The PMP and other training programs provide lifelong learning opportunities that reinforce safe behaviors and enforce standards, keeping Soldiers safe and ready for the fight.  To read further about this program, please go to: http://www.army.mil/standto/archive/issue.php?issue=2011-11-30

Mortuary Family Call Center Opens at Dover

The Air Force recently moved its mortuary affairs call center responsibilities from a temporary call center to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover Air Force Base, Del.  Trained experts will continue to answer calls from the toll-free number 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, to meet the needs of family members.  The call center was established following the announcement of results from a year-long investigation of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Dover.  Investigators found no evidence that anyone intentionally mishandled remains, however, the investigation concluded the mortuary staff failed to maintain accountability while processing portions of remains for three Servicemembers.  Families of fallen Servicemembers as well as anyone interested or concerned may contact the Air Force toll free at 1-855-637-2583 or email at mailto:dover.pm@pentagon.af.mil  if they have questions about Air Force mortuary operations or the new call center.

Arlington National Cemetery Breaks Ground for Columbarium

Arlington National Cemetery began its first major construction project in nearly eight years with a ground-breaking ceremony for a 20,000 niche columbarium that will extend the life of the cemetery’s inurnment space to 2024.  A columbarium is a structure that holds urns containing cremated remains.  Construction on the cemetery’s ninth columbarium begins in January, with completion expected in June 2013.  The new structure will dwarf the previous eight columbariums, the largest of which contains 8,000 niches and the smallest 3,000.  The new columbarium will be almost the length of two football fields.  Officials also plan to expand the cemetery’s grounds on two sides by another 70 acres.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=66299

AAFES Pulls Weight Loss, Body Building Supplement From Shelves

Weight-loss and bodybuilding supplements containing a popular new stimulant were pulled off the shelves at Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores due to concerns they could be related to Soldier deaths.  The drug DMAA, which is an extract of the geranium plant with the chemical names 13 dimethylamylamine and methylhexanamine, triggered the recall of 18 athletic supplements sold worldwide in General Nutrition Centers shops by AAFES.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never questioned the safety of DMAA and that GNC officials have requested the opportunity to meet with the Defense Department (DoD) to discuss the recall.  To read more about this drug recall, please click: http://www.stripes.com/news/aafes-pulls-weight-loss-bodybuilding-supplement-from-shelves-1.162471  

TRICARE Data Breach Update 

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) is mailing letters to military clinic and hospital patients possibly affected by a data breach containing patient data from 1992 through Sept. 7, 2011 in San Antonio-area military treatment facilities (MTFs). This includes patients filling pharmacy prescriptions and other patients whose laboratory workups were processed in these same MTFs. SAIC's Incident Response Center is available to answer patient's questions Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. To 6 p.m. EST by calling toll free at 855-366-0140 in the United States. International patients can call collect at 952-556-8312. For more information, visit the TRICARE Data Breach webpage at www.tricare.mil/Breach/.  

Disability Eval System Speeds Claims

The Integrated Disability Evaluation System combines the military services' disability evaluation and that of the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits claims processes into a streamlined process to minimize the gap between service separation and VA benefits delivery. The program was introduced in 2007 as a pilot program and steadily expanded to full Defense Department-wide implementation at the end of September. The IDES provides a more seamless transition to veteran disability benefits with more consistent ratings between DOD and VA than the previous system. For more information, visit the Deployment Health Clinical Center website and the Stand-To! Website.

Using Space-A Travel

Space-A travel is free travel aboard Defense Department owned or controlled aircraft. Here are some tips on using Space-A Travel during the holidays: (1) sign up for departures as early as possible; (2) continuously call the passenger terminal to verify show times and flight status; (3) show up earlier than the posted flight check-in or roll call; (3) dress warmly and in layers; (4) NE able to pay for commercial airlift back if Space-A travel is not an option for the return flight; (5) plan funds for excess lodging or food costs caused by flight delays; (6) pack to observe the same U.S. Transportation Security Administration rules and regulations as commercial airlines; and  (7) do to exceed weight limits. Observe the four main points: "be early, be patient, be flexible and have a backup plan."

State Veteran's Benefits Directory

Each state manages its own benefit programs. The following is a list of links to the websites for each of the individual states that offer veterans benefits. Be sure to take advantage of the benefits you have earned by clicking on the link to your State Department of Veterans Affairs. See what benefits your state offers.

Scholarship Program Opens

Applications for the 2012 Scholarships for Military Children Program are now available at commissaries worldwide as well as online through a link on www.commissaries.com and directly at www.militaryscholar.org. Awards will be based on funds available, but the program awards at least one $1,500 scholarship to a student at each commissary. Applications must be turned in to a commissary by close of business Feb. 24, 2012. Students with questions about the scholarship program application can call Scholarship Managers at 856-616-931.

Army Managerial Training Program

The U.S. Army's Training with Industry (TWI) Program is a work-experience program which provides extensive exposure to managerial techniques and industrial procedures within corporate America to competitively selected officers and noncommissioned officers. April 1, 2012 is the deadline to submit your request to compete to the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC). For more information, refer to chapter 6 of Army Regulation 621-1, Training of Military Personnel at Civilian Institutions, contact Joel Strout at joel.strout@us.army.mil or visit the Advanced Education Programs Branch web page on the HRC website at www.hrc.army.mil/EdOps.

New Director of the Army National Guard

On 29 November, Army Maj. Gen. William E. Ingram, Jr. formally assumed the duties of the director of the Army National Guard, replacing Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, and was simultaneously promoted to Lieutenant General during a Pentagon ceremony.  Ingram is only the third director to hold the rank of three-star general in the position’s history since Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Fleming served from 1948 to 1950.  Prior to this new position, Ingram’s most recent assignment was as Special Assistant to the Vice Chief of Staff, Army. And before that he served as the adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard for more than nine years.


Defense Budget Cuts and the Impact

The Pentagon is facing some of its biggest cuts since the end of the Cold War as the Obama administration and Congress try to get a handle on the expanding national debt and deficit.   The Defense Department (DoD) is already facing some $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.  Defense Daily will host a webinar 15 December featuring a panel of experts and analysts who will discuss the repercussions of the spending reductions on the defense industry and investment in the defense sector, as well as focusing on the results of the super committee’s work.  To find out more information and register for this webinar, please go to: https://video.webcasts.com/events/pmny001/viewer/index.jsp?eventid=40601

Chairman Dismisses Notion of Military in Decline

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, emphatically dismissed the notion that the U.S. military is in decline during an interview on the BBC program "Newsnight".  Dempsey explained that the U.S. military has learned much over the past 10 years of war and the U.S. military is a joint force in ways that Servicemembers who served even as recently as the Persian Gulf War would not recognize.  Dempsey acknowledged that budget challenges do exist, and that the U.S. military will do its part to help the nation over the deficit crisis. The military is cutting $450 billion in spending over the next 10 years, he noted, a level of cuts he said is manageable. Dempsey said, historically the U.S. military has expanded during times of conflict and shrunk following the conflicts.  To read this article in its entirety, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=66260 

Older Vets to Get GI Bill Benefits

The President has signed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act into law. There are several provisions in this law that will have a positive impact on the veteran unemployment rate. The most often reported of these are tax credits for employers who hire veterans and wounded warriors.  However, one provision that is not being as widely reported provides a new shot at 12 months of the Montgomery GI Bill and will come as great news to unemployed veterans over the age of 35, The pre-9/11 veterans may soon qualify for as much as $17,600 for education and training. This benefit can be used for finishing up a college degree, certification, vocational training, On-the-Job Training and more.  For additional information about this law, please go to: http://militaryadvantage.military.com/2011/11/vow-act-offers-older-vets-gi-bill-benefits/

House Votes To Ease Airport Screening For Troops

On Tuesday, 29 November, the House voted unanimously to allow military travelers on official duty to receive special preference in moving through airport security checks faster.  The bill would give the Homeland Security Department six months to devise a preference system for the Armed Forces. The legislation has now gone o the Senate.  If the bill becomes law, the earliest beneficiaries would likely be troops returning from Afghanistan next year and their family members, who also would receive preferential treatment.  Although it's a policy, not law, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) already makes some accommodations to Servicemembers in uniform with a proper identification card and also expedites screening for wounded troops.  To learn more about this bill, please go to: http://news.yahoo.com/house-votes-ease-airport-screening-troops-002530804.html

TRICARE Young Adult Offers Prime Option Jan. 1

Young adults whose parents are TRICARE beneficiaries now can buy TRICARE Prime coverage if they live in an area served by TRICARE’s managed care network.  The creation of TRICARE Young Adult Prime (TYA Prime), announced 23 November in the Federal Register, gives unmarried adult children of Servicemembers and retirees without their own employee-backed health care plans the option of being seen at a military treatment facility or a TRICARE network primary care provider.  TYA Prime coverage, which begins 1 January, will cost $201 a month and covers adult children of TRICARE beneficiaries to age 26.  Applications for TYA Prime are on TRICARES’s website at http://www.tricare.mil/tya.  To learn more about TYA Prime, please click: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/military-tricare-young-adult-prime-112811w/.

TMC to Congress-Stop 27 percent cut in Medicare Payments to Doctors

Military Coalition members are asking Congress to stop the 27 percent cut in Medicare/TRICARE payments to physicians to protect health care access for seniors and America's military families. Congress has until 1 January to pass a fix. TRICARE payments to doctors are tied to Medicare, so the scheduled 27 percent cut (the largest ever scheduled) would hurt the nearly 10 million military family members who rely on TRICARE for their health care needs. Physician payments under Medicare and TRICARE have been virtually frozen for a decade, which has resulted in a 20 percent gap between payment updates and the cost of caring for seniors. Many physicians will be forced to limit the number of TRICARE and Medicare patients in their practice which will drastically impact military beneficiaries' health care access.  For further information on TRICARE, please go to: http://www.tricare.mil/

Military health-care reform leaves wounded warriors entangled in more red tape

Reforms meant to streamline military health care for severely wounded Servicemembers have in many cases worsened the bureaucracy, causing duplication, confusion and turf battles, according to families, congressional overseers and advocates for veterans.  After reports that troops recovering from catastrophic wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other facilities were getting lost in the military’s system, a high-profile commission recommended in 2007 that every severely wounded Servicemember be assigned a federal recovery coordinator. This single point of contact was to cut red tape and assist the wounded through recovery and the transition back to military duty or civilian life, but at least a dozen Defense Department (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs have sprung up to coordinate the care leading to significant duplication within and across branches of service.  With these multiple new programs, overlapping jurisdiction has only further confused the situation.  To read more about the wounded warrior healthcare reform, please go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2011/11/09/gIQAUMElZN_story.html

House Oversight Panel Probes Pentagon on Dover Mortuary Scandal

In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested a wide range of documents pertaining to serious violations of rules and regulations, gross mismanagement, dishonesty and misconduct at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary in Delaware.  The sweeping request seeks, by 9 December, lists of personnel involved, of allegations made and policies and procedures affected.  Members also ask for a briefing on the incident as well as a description of the Department’s efforts to remedy these deficiencies that allowed such incidents to occur.

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses In The US

Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now greater than those of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. A big part of the problem is nonmedical use of prescription painkillers such as using drugs without a prescription, or using drugs just for the "high" they cause.  Improving the way prescription painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people who misuse, abuse or overdose from these powerful drugs, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment. To learn more about the issues with painkillers, please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/PainkillerOverdoses/index.html

Survey Shows Growing Gap Between Civilians, Military

A new report confirms a concern defense and military leaders have long recognized: There's a growing disconnect between Americans and their military.  The report, published by the Pew Research Center, indicates that a smaller number of Americans currently serve in the armed forces than at any time since the peacetime era between World Wars I and II.  With the longest period of sustained conflict in the country's history, the report claims that while the military continues to shrink in size, the connections between military members and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.  Furthermore, the report also substantiated perceptions by civilians as well as veterans that the American public does not understand the problems faced by those in the military.  To read more about this disconnect, please click: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=66253

DoD Releases Updated Compensation & Benefits Handbook

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently published the updated Wounded, Ill and Injured Compensation & Benefits Handbook, a comprehensive resource guide describing compensation and other benefits Servicemembers and their families would be entitled to upon separation or retirement as a result of serious injury or illness.  The intent of the Handbook is to give seriously ill and injured Servicemembers and their families a quick reference guide to information, covering everything they may need during recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration.  For a copy of this handbook, please go to: http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/files/2011/11/2011-DoD-Compensation-and-Benefits-Handbook1.pdf and for further information about this, please go to: http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/2011/11/17/dod-releases-updated-compensation-and-benefits-handbook-to-assist-wounded-ill-and-injured-service-members-and-their-families/

ACAP Workshops Ease Transition

The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) offers transition workshops that teach tips and tricks for interviews, resume writing and how to dress for and communicate in the civilian work force. ACAP centers are located on most major Army installations, and these services are available to retiring Soldiers two years before their retirement date, while Soldiers who are separating can access the services one year before leaving service. For more information on ACAP including transition center locations and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the ACAP website at: http://www.acap.army.mil/ 

Green Energy Jobs Await Vets Returning To U.S.

Tipping Point Renewable Energy, a Columbus, OH-based solar power company is hiring only military veterans for its installation crews at a time when unemployment among former Servicemembers is outpacing that of civilians.  Tipping Point’s efforts echo those of companies and groups nationwide to hire veterans in the green energy industry, such as Denver-based nonprofit Veterans Green Jobs.  Additionally, a pilot program by five of the nation’s largest energy providers, called Troops to Energy Jobs, provides training and credentials to military veterans, as well as college credit for their military training and experience.  These green sector jobs as manufacturing or maintenance of wind turbines or solar arrays require skills similar to those that Servicemembers learn in the military.  Such job programs are brought about in hopes of declining the number of unemployed veterans as there will be many Servicemembers joining the civilian world when most are pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in need of employment.  To learn more about this subject, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/ap-green-energy-jobs-await-vets-returning-to-us-112611/

Course Trains Social Workers on Military Issues

The University of South Carolina is starting a new program to train social workers to assist the military, veterans and their families.  Spouses and children of the military may need mental health counseling, addiction treatment, help regarding behavioral health issues as well as transitional counseling, and these are areas where social workers can assist.  The program is in its final stages of academic approval where it entails an 18-hour graduate level certificate program that is part of the college’s two-year master’s degree program. Four courses will be available by the summer.  Several other colleges and universities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Montana and Texas are also looking at expanding training for social workers, as well as Southern California, who seems to be the furthest along. To get a better understanding of this program, please click: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/11/ap-course-trains-social-workers-on-military-issues-112611/ 

Retirement Resources For Soldiers

Soldiers and families making financial decisions for approaching retirement have help available to them 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 offers 24/7 online support, at: http://www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/.  Information on the REDUX retired pay plan is available in the Career Status Bonus/REDUX Soldier Information section at: http://www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/PreRetirement.asp .  For numerous resources regarding a variety of retirement topics, please go to: http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/resources/InternetResources/Pages/RetireesVeterans.aspx

Long Dwell Times Hurt More Than Help?

Servicemembers who spend more time at home between deployments may have a greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder than those with briefer dwell times. The study, conducted by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, revealed that the percentage of Servicemembers diagnosed with mental health disorders after repeat deployments, their second through fifth, increased as dwell times prior to the deployments lengthened. These results were published in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report. Servicemembers and their family members who need mental health care can access online resources at: http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/resources/InternetResources/Pages/Redeployment.aspx

Exchange Offers Gift of Expanded Layaway to Holiday Shoppers

With the holiday season right around the corner, the Exchange’s variety of expanded, convenient layaway options can assist the consumer in several ways to include holding items on layaway until as late as Christmas Eve.  Clothing, shoes and even handbags are eligible for 30-day layaway while all other merchandise (excluding fine jewelry, which is eligible for 120 days of layaway) can be put on layaway for up to 60 days. Additionally, layaway for toys and bikes has been extended to 90 days.  Moreover, any purchase of $25 or more is eligible for layaway at the Exchange and only a 15 percent deposit on the total purchase price is required to hold the product.  For further information about the Exchange’s layaway, please go to: http://publicaffairs-sme.com/pressrelease/?p=511

Family Matters Blog: 'Extreme Makeover' Seeks Military Families for Holiday Episode

The cast of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" would like to brighten the holidays for a deserving military family this year.  The reality show is seeking nominations for military families in desperate need of a home makeover. The selected family will be featured in an upcoming holiday episode.  Nominations must include the names and ages of every household member, a description of the major challenges within the home, a short description of the family story, and a contact phone number.  People should also explain why the family is deserving, heroic or a great role model in their community and, if possible, include recent photos of the family and home. People can submit nominations via email to mailto:jax@emhe.tv.  For more information on how to apply, visit the show's website at:
http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/index?pn=apply.

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL PASSES SENATE

After nearly two weeks of debate dominated by a dispute over military detainees, the Senate finally passed the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill.  The bill authorizes $527 billion for the base Defense budget, and $117 billion for overseas contingency operations.

In addition to a 1.6 percent pay raise for military personnel, the Senate agreed to amendments that would:

* End the deduction of VA survivor benefits from Survivor Benefit Plan annuities (SPB/DIC).
* Make the National Guard Bureau chief a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
* Direct a review of all current DoD military spouse employment programs.
* Authorize space-available travel on military aircraft for members of the reserve components, a member or former member of a reserve component who is eligible for retired pay but for age, widows and widowers of retired members, and dependents.
* Provide for the participation of military technicians (dual status) in the study on the termination of military technician as a distinct personnel management category.
* Authorize a death gratuity and related benefits for Reservist who die during an authorized stay at their residence during or between successive days of inactive duty training.
* Provide for employment and reemployment rights for certain individuals ordered to full-time National Guard duty.
* Provide that the basic allowance for housing in effect for a member of the National Guard is not reduced when the member transitions between active duty and full-time National Guard duty without a break in active service.
* Provide for the freedom of conscience of military chaplains with respect to the performance of marriages.
* Modify the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan to provide that a complete and validated full statement of budget resources is ready by not later than September 30, 2014.
* Extend the time limit for submittal of claims under TRICARE for care provided outside the United States.

The argument over detainees centered on a provision requiring that members of al Qaeda and its affiliates, including those captured in the United States, be held in military rather than civilian custody, although it would allow a waiver.  The Senate finally reached a compromise stating that the bill would not affect existing law relating to the detention of U.S. citizens and lawful residents, effectively leaving the contested issue to the Supreme Court to decide.  However, the compromise sets up a fight with the Obama Administration who has threatened to veto the bill.  

The White House believes the provision would restrict the Obama administration’s handling of suspected terrorists.  A spokesman from the National Security Council accused the Senate of “political micromanagement at the expense of sensible national security policy” and said lawmakers had ignored the advice of counterterrorism experts from Republican and Democratic administrations.

The House-passed version of the bill includes even stronger language that would require military commission trials for all accused terrorists. It would bar transfers of any terrorist suspects held anywhere in the world to the United States while also toughening the review process for those held and restricting the transfer of suspects to other nations.

Next:  Negotiators from the House and Senate will meet in conference to iron any differences between the two versions of the bill.

MILITARY FAMILY SUMMIT HELD ON CAPITOL HILL

AUSA Director of Government Affairs, Bill Loper, represented AUSA at the 2nd Annual Military Family Summit sponsored by the Congressional Military Family Caucus under the direction of co-chairs Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. 

The all-day event brought together members of Congress; leading Administration officials, active, guard and reserve service members; veterans; and their families in a common purpose to draw attention to the needs of military families and advocate legislative solutions on their behalf.  There were nearly 200 attendees.

The summit broke into groups to address issues such as those affecting children, service members, spouses and veterans.  Among the issues discussed were the interstate school compact to which 39 states now adhere covering 90 percent of military children and how to get the other 11 states on board, mental health continuum of care for service members, transferability of professional licenses and educational credits for spouses, and standardization of VA and DoD disability rating systems.

Feedback from the summit will be sent to other members of Congress and DoD stakeholders who will use it to develop legislative solutions.

SENATE PASSES SERVICE MEMBERS BANKRUPTCY BILL

Legislation (HR 2192) that would extend preferences for members of the National Guard and Reserve under current bankruptcy law was passed by the Senate and is now headed to the President for signature.

Members of the National Guard and Reserve were granted exemptions from income tests that restrict eligibility to claim Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress in 2005.  The law ensured that people would not be able file Chapter 7 bankruptcy when they were able to pay off their debts.  The most important element in the legislation was a measurement known as the means test.  The means test shows whether a debtor is in sufficient debt to file for liquidation under Chapter 7 by comparing their income to the average income of the state.  If it is found that the debtor's average income exceeds the median state income, they must apply the means test.  Depending on the amount of money leftover, if any, the debt will either qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or else they must file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which consolidates their debts instead of wiping them out completely.

The exemption for the service member is provided if they have served on active duty for at least 90 days since Sept. 11, 2001.  It remains available for 540 days after a service member leaves active duty but is scheduled to expire in December 2011.  The legislation that is now headed to the President would extend that exemption through December 2015.