Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 12 December 2012 

12/12/2012 

FY13 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION CLEARS SENATE

By a vote of 98-0, the Senate passed the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill last week.  The legislation would authorize $631.4 billion in discretionary funds for defense activities: $525.8 billion for the base Defense Department budget, $88.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations and $17.4 billion for the Energy Department and other national security programs related to nuclear safety.  The House defense bill (H.R. 4310), passed in May, would authorize $635.3 billion, about $4 billion more than the president’s request and $8 billion more than called for under the 2011 debt limit law.   

In the good news category, not included in the bill is the Pentagon’s plan to significantly raise enrollment fees and deductibles for working-age retirees, including income-based enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime and TRICARE for Life.  This means that the fee increase for 2013 will be no more than 1.7 percent, the same amount as the COLA. 

However, in the bad news column:  Despite an intensive lobbying effort from AUSA, its members and partners in The Military Coalition, senators shot down an amendment that would have precluded the Pentagon’s drastic increases in pharmacy co-pays.  The amendment, offered by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would have capped TRICARE pharmacy copays well below those proposed by the Pentagon;  and capped the annual percentage increase in future pharmacy copays to no more than the COLA in return for a one-year requirement for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries to use the mail-order system for maintenance medication refills.   

Specifically, it was Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who raised objections to the amendment at the last minute when amendments were only being approved by unanimous consent.  Their objection killed the amendment.  Accordingly, the Senate’s bill is silent on the pharmacy co-pay issue which would allow the Pentagon to implement its plan. 

“This is paid for, but it is smoke and mirrors,” Coburn said.  “We have used a trick ... that will require (more funding for) the health account ... which means we will not have $1.7 billion for naval exercises, for flight training, for tank training, for range training.”

McCain reiterated former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ claim that “health care costs are eating us alive.”

AUSA’s position:  If health care costs are “eating us alive” then why has the Defense Department been able to reprogram defense health care dollars to other “higher priority items” for the past several years?  If you recall, the Defense Department’s most recent reprogramming request to Congress included an appeal to reprogram $708 million in excess funds from the Defense Health Program.  The request stated that “funds are available because of a significant downward spike in the private sector care (PSC) cost growth rates.  Through the first 6 months of FY 2012, private sector care costs are growing at historically low rates of 0.6 percent for active duty and -2.7 percent for all other beneficiaries.”

Further, as far as Sen. Coburn’s concern about funding for training, we were astonished to hear him tell the hosts of a morning show the day after the authorization bill passed that “at least $50-60 billion could be cut each year from the DoD budget without hurting the defense of the country.”  

AUSA will strongly press the Senate to adopt the House’s version.  The House plan, while not perfect, is much better than the proposal being pushed by the Pentagon (and apparently, the Senate). 

Also included in the bill is an amendment that would clarify the computation of combat-related special compensation for disability retirees.  The provision corrects an inadvertent anomaly in the statutory Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) language that has the effect of denying any CRSC payment to many combat-disabled retirees forced into medical retirement. 

The Senate also approved a plan to establish a DoD BRAC-style commission to recommend "modernizing" the military compensation and retirement systems.  The provision would require an up-or-down vote by Congress, without any amendments.  This process would significantly restrict oversight and debate by the Armed Services Committees and subcommittees who have extensive knowledge and expertise on military compensation and retiree issues.  AUSA adamantly opposes short-circuiting the normal legislative process on issues of such vital concern to long-term retention and readiness. 

A Senate provision that would enhance DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs’ mental health programs and services was included in the bill.  With rising numbers of military suicides and veterans facing long wait times to receive needed PTSD treatment, it is vital that this provision be included in the final bill. 

The Senate passed language that would allow Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy coverage for beneficiaries with non-autism spectrum disorder diagnoses.   

An amendment that makes it a federal crime for someone to falsely claim to have served in the military or have received a military decoration if the object of the lie is for personal gain was included.   

The Senate also included a provision that would allow but not require some over-the counter drugs to be provided at government expense to beneficiaries if they are clinically effective and more cost-effective than prescription drugs.   

Agreement on a final bill has not been reached.  A House-Senate conference committee will meet this week to work out any differences between the two versions.  AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., has already sent a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership outlining our position on the various provisions.  

 Your electronic 1099R for 2012 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. - 6:00 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.

 PLEASE DO NOT REPLY. Replies will be sent to an unmonitored mailbox. If you would like to contact us, please visit AskDFAS (https://corpweb1.dfas.mil/askDFAS/askRA.jsp). There you will find a list of Frequently Asked Questions organized by category as well as an option to submit a personalized question.

 AUSA Family Programs Holiday Contest

It‘s that time of season where the holidays are approaching and we break out our best holiday decorations.  In keeping with that spirit, AUSA Family Programs wants to “see you in your best!”  We are having a Holiday Family Photo Contest. Send us your favorite holiday family photo and you will have a chance to win a $100 or $50 VISA Gift Card! Entries must be emailed to kmorilak@ausa.org no later than 19 December, by close of business, EST.  Five finalists will be announced and posted later this month on our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/AUSAFamily, where you get to vote for the winner!

NORAD Provides Website, Apps to Track Santa

Children of all ages will be able to track Santa Claus on his annual journey, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).  The "NORAD Tracks Santa" website features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world and more.  Official apps also are available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play so parents and children can count down the days until Santa's launch on their smartphones and tablets. Tracking opportunities also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus. Santa followers just need to type "@noradsanta" into each search engine to get started.  Starting at midnight Mountain Standard Time on 24 December, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 0400 Mountain time, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa's whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to mailto:noradtrackssanta@outlook.com. The NORAD Track Santa website is at: http://www.noradsanta.org

Holiday Mail Deadline

Christmas is right around the corner, and with the holidays comes an influx of mail sent to Servicemembers stationed overseas.  The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released their deadlines for ensuring mail sent overseas arrives in time for the busy holiday season.  The fastest way to send mail is through Express Mail. In order to take advantage of this service, the mail must be sent by 17 December for it to arrive on time when sending to a military installation overseas.  First-class mail, which includes letters, cards and parcels 13 ounces or lighter, should have been mailed no later than 10 December. Priority mail is first-class mail weighing more than 13 ounces, and it should also have been sent by 10 December. Parcel airlift mail needed to be mailed by Dec. 3. Read further by viewing: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118643

Panetta Taps Austin to be New CENTCOM Chief

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd Austin will be nominated to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command, the Defense Department announced Thursday.If confirmed by the Senate, Austin, who became the vice chief in February, would succeed Marine Gen. James Mattis. Read more:http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/army-austin-to-be-nominated-centcom-commander-120612w/

Reserve Officers Get Chance at Regular Army

Warrant officers in the National Guard and Army Reserve now have a shot at Regular Army career opportunities.  Officers and warrant officers in the Guard and Reserve can join the Regular Army through the fiscal 2013 Call to Active Duty program.  In a change from the fiscal 2012 program, certain categories of warrant officers are eligible to apply for transfer to the Regular Army.  Targeted officers include captains and majors with knowledge, skills and /or experience in science, technology, engineering or math.  To learn more, please go to: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/11/army-reserve-officers-get-chance-at-regular-army-112012/

Senate Passes Revised Stolen Valor Act

The Stolen Valor Act of 2012, sponsored by decorated Vietnam War veteran Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., passed the Senate as an amendment to the 2013 defense authorization bill to make sure nobody profits from lying about being a military hero. Webb’s proposal makes it a federal crime to make a false claim about having served in the military or having received a military decoration if the object of the lie is personal gain. Those caught lying for personal gain or for a tangible benefit, to include lying to get a job, would face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six months imprisonment.  The Senate-passed amendment, now part of S. 3254, is far from the final work on the bill.  To read more, please go to: http://bit.ly/11ym4T9

Training Service Dogs Helps Heal Service Members

The phrase, “a dog is man’s best friend” has new meaning for Servicemembers undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  While in treatment, Servicemembers can join a program to train dogs for veterans who are mobility impaired, said Rick Yount, executive director of Warrior Canine Connection. It’s not just training a dog because the Servicemembers are doing it to care for their fellow veterans. Servicemembers who join the dog training program at NICoE go through basic commands, and then move on to more complex tasks such as opening doors, turning on light switches and pulling wheelchairs. To read this article in full, please see: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118639

Soldiers Reminded to Beware of Scams

Special agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) are once again warning Internet users worldwide to be extra vigilant and not to fall prey to Internet scams or impersonation fraud -- especially scams promising true love. The victims are most often unsuspecting women, 30 to 55 years old, who think they are romantically involved on the Internet with American Soldiers. People should never send money to persons they meet on the Internet that claim to be in the U.S. Military. To report a scam to the Internet Crime Complaint unit, visit the IC3 website at http://www.ic3.gov. Also, report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft , or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).

Exchange Spreads Holiday Cheer with Industry Leading Exchange Policy

Nearly 20 percent of Americans will return at least one holiday gift item this holiday season, according to Lavi Industries, a provider of public guidance. To take the stress and confusion out of the return process, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service has extended the terms of its hassle-free return policy for the holidays.  The Exchange’s standard policy limits returns anywhere from 15 to 90 days with a sales receipt, but the holiday return/exchange policy extends these guidelines through 31 January 2013 for any item purchased between 1November and 24 December 2012. As is the case year-round, refund requests with sales receipts are processed in accordance with original forms of payment (cash for cash, credit for credit card). Refund requests without sales receipts receive an Exchange gift card.  In addition to returns on items purchased at the Exchange, shopmyexchange.com orders can be returned to the nearest Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy or Coast Guard Exchange. Online returns due to an error on the Exchange’s part are reimbursed standard shipping charges as well.

Exchange Gift Cards Personalize Care Packages for Every Member of the Family

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, six in 10 shoppers polled said they’d like to receive gift cards this holiday season, the most in the survey’s history. Whether in Afghanistan or Alaska, Servicemembers also appreciate the value of a gift card during the holidays. Fortunately, Americans wishing to send support always hit the mark when sending an Army & Air Force Exchange Service gift card. While only authorized military shoppers can redeem Exchange gift cards, any American can send one by simply calling 800-527-2345 or logging on to www.shopmyexchange.com and clicking “Support Your Troops” and then the “Gift and Calling Cards” icon. From there, Exchange gift cards, ranging in values from $10 to $500, can be addressed to a specific Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine or sent to “any Servicemember” through the Fisher House Foundation, Air Force Aid Society, Warrior and Family Support Center or Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

AAEFS "Go Nuts" Sweepstakes

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and Planters/Kraft are teaming up to give away ten $1,000 gift cards in the "Go Nuts with Planters" sweepstakes. Authorized shoppers need only visit their nearest Exchange, fill out an entry form and drop it in the box for a chance to win. From Dec. 1-31, Exchanges around the world will have entry forms available for the "Go Nuts with Planters" sweepstakes. Winners will be selected on or about Feb. 14, 2013.

VA Trademarks Term 'GI Bill'

The Department of Veterans Affairs has trademarked the phrase “GI Bill,” in an effort to prevent private companies from misleading Servicemembers.  Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law, there have been reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting of Servicemembers, veterans, and their families by some educational institutions.  Included among these practices was use of the term “GI Bill” in ways that federal officials said could lead vets to believe they were looking at official government information, when in fact they were reading material promoted, and paid for, by companies affiliated with a few particular schools.  VA reached a settlement with the private owners of GIBill.com to take over that website, as part of the same effort.  Learn further at: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/12/military-va-trademarks-term-gi-bill-120412w/

Senate Wants Details from VA on Claims Backlog

The Senate voted to demand a status report from the Veterans Affairs Department about efforts to reduce the backlog of almost 900,000 benefits claims.  By 95-0 vote, the Senate passed an amendment to the 2013 defense authorization bill sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which would require a report summarizing all the steps taken so far to reduce the claims backlog and what steps are planned in the future.  The report would be due within 60 days of the defense bill, S3254, becoming law.  To read this article in full http://www.armytimescom/news/2012/11/military-senate-report-VA-claims-backlog-112912w/

VA Loans Secure in Sandy's Aftermath

Following Sandy's devastation, military members victimized by the storm in the Eastern United States may be wondering what could happen to their VA loans following this natural disaster. Common questions may include: What if I can't make my payments and default for storm-related reasons? Do I have to pay late fees if I can't pay my mortgage on time due to the storm? Am I facing foreclosure if the storm has caused me financial distress? For answers to these questions and more, see: http://mnstr.me/SuPLzH

New Members Appointed to VA Committee on Women Veterans

Five new members have been appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises VA on issues and programs affecting women Veterans.  Established in 1983, the committee makes recommendations to the Secretary for administrative and legislative changes. The new committee members, who are appointed to two-year terms, are: Gina Chandler, Bryant, Ark.; Larri Gerson, Dunedin, Fla.; Mary Morin, Raymond, N.H.; Charlotte S. Smith, Farmington, N.M.; and Mary Westmoreland, Bronxville, N.Y..  Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veterans population. Of the approximately 22 million living Veterans, about 1.9 million are women. They comprise nearly 9 percent of the total Veterans population and nearly 5 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services. VA estimates that by 2020 women Veterans will comprise 10 percent of the Veteran population. VA has women-Veterans-program managers at VA medical centers and women-Veterans coordinators at VA regional offices to assist women Veterans with health and benefits issues. For more, view: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2405

Website Informs Employers Seeking to Hire Veterans

The Labor Department (DoL), in concert with two other federal agencies, has provided a tool to guide potential employers seeking to hire disabled veterans, the "America's Heroes at Work" website.  This website provides resources to organizations looking to hire veterans with or without disabilities.  It guides employers to understand the disabilities and potential accommodations that may be necessary, and how they can be made. In addition to giving employers toolkits and information about veteran disabilities, the website also emphasizes the advantages of hiring veterans, whether they have these disabilities or not. Read details at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118684 

Thrift Savings Plan Increases Limits

The elective deferral limit for regular Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions will increase from $17,000 to $17,500 for 2013. The TSP catch-up plan contribution limit will remain at $5,500. Military members can contribute any whole percentage up to 92 percent of basic pay, as long as the annual total does not exceed $17,500 for 2013. Those serving in tax-free combat zones may contribute up to $51,000 in annual contributions for 2013. There are monthly contribution limits, however. Military members can call TSP officials at 877-968-3778 for more information. Military members can visit the TSP website at www.tsp.gov and use their personal identification number and password to access their TSP account. Contribution allocations can also be made via the Thrift Line (877-968-3778). For general TSP questions, Airmen can call the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102 (press 1 and then press 6).

Sailors May Wear Army All-Weather Coat

The U.S. Navy has announced the optional wear of the Army double breasted black all-weather coat with all uniforms except the Navy Working Uniform (Type I, II and III) and Physical Training Uniforms, effective immediately. The Army double-breasted black all-weather coat will be available in select Navy Exchange Uniform Centers, on-line, and NEX 1-800 call centers in approximately sixty days. The optional all-weather coat will eventually replace the current Navy all-weather coat. The Navy also announced a limited wear test evaluation beginning this month of two types of cold weather parkas (CWP) under consideration for optional wear with service and service dress uniforms in cold weather environments. For more information on uniforms and uniform policy, visit the Navy Uniform Matters website.

DoD's Presidential Inauguration Plans

The Joint Task Force -- National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) social media sites for the 57th Presidential Inauguration are now available. JTF-NCR is providing several interactive, comprehensive sites as sources of information pertaining to DoD involvement in inaugural events. Content includes historical facts, up-to-date details about inaugural events, current and historical photos and artwork, service-specific details, profiles on personnel supporting the inauguration, and even patriotic crafts and activities. The 57th Presidential Inauguration website is available at inauguralsupport.mdw.army.mil. Visit the related Facebook website at www.facebook.com/jointtaskforceNCR, the Twitter website, YouTube website, the Flickr website, the Pinterest website, and the DVIDS website.

New myPay Password Reset Process

Beginning in mid-December, Defense Finance and Accounting Service customers will be able to reset their myPay passwords online by answering a few security questions. Before this new feature, myPay users received new passwords by email or mail. After logging in to their accounts in mid-December, users will be given a list of 17 possible security questions to answer. Users need to answer eight of those 17 questions to set up their online password reset capability. In the spring of 2013, however, all myPay users, including those who use Army Knowledge Online, the Air Force Portal and smart cards, will be required to answer eight security questions. Until then, those who choose to bypass the questions will not be able to reset their passwords online until they have answered the questions. . For more information, contact the DFAS Customer Care Center at 888-332-7411. 

Phase One of New Military Transition Program

The Transition Assistance Program is making major changes that will revolutionize the way the military prepares people leaving the services, with mandatory participation in programs throughout their military careers to help set them up for a successful transition. The redesigned program, called Transition Goals, Planning, Success or Transition GPS, will be the most-sweeping change to the Transition Assistance Program in two decades. A three-phase rollout of the Transition GPS program will continue through 2014. During current phase one of the rollout, all separating servicemembers will receive counseling about Department of Veterans (VA) benefits, and most will be required to attend newly revamped employment workshops run by the Department of Labor. For more information on the new Transition GPS Program, visit the White House website 

Safety-Kleen Committed to Hiring Veterans

Safety-Kleen is focused on providing safe, dependable environmental services that protect our customers and the environment. We are the largest used oil collector and re-refiner in the world as well as the leader in parts cleaning services. We serve businesses of all sizes, helping them balance their financial objectives with their sustainability goals. We have great opportunities for the skilled men and women who have served in the U.S. Military to join our team of experts that enable our customers to Make Green Work(R). Search and find employment opportunities just right for you. 

How Can You Say Thank You to Our Troops Today?

Thanks-A-Bunch(TM) and Military.com have come together to offer you a unique opportunity to say "thanks" to our troops, our veterans and their families (American Heroes) by providing them with a $50 Thanks-A-Bunch gift card that you can purchase for just $10 (tax deductible) to help pay for a nice meal out with family and friends.

TRICARE Standard Overview

TRICARE Standard is the TRICARE option that provides the most flexibility to TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries. It is the fee-for-service option that gives beneficiaries the opportunities to see any TRICARE-authorized provider. TRICARE Standard is not available to active duty service members. Standard shares most of the costs of medically necessary care from civilian providers when military treatment facility (MTF) care is unavailable. Get the full overview on Military.com.

AAFES Holiday Gift Cards

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is offering its Army & Air Force Exchange Service gift card at local Exchanges this holiday season. While only authorized military shoppers can redeem Exchange gift cards, any American can send one by simply calling 800-527-2345 or logging on to www.shopmyexchange.com and clicking "Support Your Troops" and then the "Gift and Calling Cards" icon. From there, Exchange gift cards, ranging in values from $10 to $500, can be addressed to a specific Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine or sent to "any servicemember". For more information, contact your local Exchange.

DeCA Scholarships for Military Children

Applications for the 2013 Scholarships for Military Children Program are now available at commissaries worldwide and also online at the Commissaries.com website at www.commissaries.com and the MilitaryScholar.org website at www.militaryscholar.org. The scholarship program awards at least $1,500 at each commissary. To apply for a scholarship, the student must be a dependent, unmarried child, younger than 21 -- or 23, if enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university -- of a servicemember on active duty, reservist, guardsman, retiree or survivor of a military member who died while on active duty or survivor of a retiree. Students with questions about the scholarship program application can call Scholarship Managers at 856-616-9311.

Senate Passes Disappointing Version of NDAA

This week the Senate passed its disappointing version of the NDAA. TREA- The Enlisted Association along with numerous other VSOs and MSOs worked hard and long to convince the Senate to pass the Reed-Rubio-McCaskill Amendment. The Amendment would have adopted a similar TRICARE pharmacy plan as that in the House version of the bill. At the last minute Senators McCain (D-AZ) and Coburn (R-OK) stopped its adoption by objecting to it during the time when any Amendment needed “unanimous consent” to be accepted. Therefore the present Senate version does not stop the implementation of the Obama’s expensive and growing plan of deductibles and co-pays that we have been writing about for months.

Again, in FY 2013 there would be no co-pays for beneficiaries if their prescriptions are filled on base. However, if the second tier (or brand name) prescription is filled at a network pharmacy the co-pay would rise from $12 to $26 for a 30 day supply. And third tier (or non-formulary) drugs would not be available at the network retail pharmacies.

In the home delivery/mail order plan the brand name/second tier would jump from $9 for a 90 day supply to $26 and the Third tier/Non-formulary co-pay would go from the present $25 to $51
Furthermore all future increases would be based on an annual medical cost increase- which would quickly eat up retired pay.

The much better House version would tie future co-pay increases to the COLA percentages that the retiree gets for his or her retired pay. And the increases for FY2013 were from $12 to $17 for retail pharmacy prescriptions of Brand/Tier 2 drugs and $44 for Tier 3/Non Formulary prescription in retail pharmacy.

While in home delivery/mail order for a 90 day prescription would go from $9 to $13 for Tier 2 and from $25 to 43 for Tier 3.

It is obvious why 97% of military retirees prefer the House to the Senate plan. But all is very far from lost. The NDAA now goes to conference where the differences in both chambers bills are worked out. It is very important that the pressure is not let up. If you are a constituent of a member of the House and/or Senate’s Armed Services Committees (see the lists below) please call, write or e-mail them and urge the adoption of the House plan.

SASC Members
Democrats:
Levin, Carl (MI) , Chairman
Lieberman, Joseph I. (CT)
Reed, Jack (RI)
Akaka, Daniel K. (HI)
Nelson, Ben (NE)
Webb, Jim (VA)
McCaskill, Claire (MO)
Udall, Mark (CO)
Hagan, Kay R. (NC)
Begich, Mark (AK)
Manchin, Joe (WV)
Shaheen, Jeanne (NH)
Gillibrand, Kirsten E. (NY)
Blumenthal, Richard (CT)
Republicans:
McCain, John (AZ), Ranking Member
Inhofe, James M. (OK)
Sessions, Jeff (AL)
Chambliss, Saxby (GA)
Wicker, Roger F. (MS)
Brown, Scott P. (MA)
Portman, Rob (OH)
Ayotte, Kelly (NH)
Collins, Susan M. (ME)
Graham, Lindsey (SC)
Cornyn, John (TX)
Vitter, David (LA)
HASC Members
Republicans:
Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Chairman
, California
Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland
Mac Thornberry, Vice Chairman, Texas
Walter B. Jones, North Carolina
W. Todd Akin, Missouri
J. Randy Forbes, Virginia
Jeff Miller, Florida  
Joe Wilson, South Carolina  
Frank A. LoBiondo, New Jersey  
Michael Turner, Ohio  
John Kline, Minnesota  
Mike Rogers, Alabama
Trent Franks, Arizona  
Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania  
K. Michael Conaway, Texas  
Doug Lamborn, Colorado
Rob Wittman, Virginia  
Duncan Hunter, California  
John C. Fleming, Louisiana  
Mike Coffman, Colorado  
Thomas J. Rooney, Florida  
Todd Russell Platts, Pennsylvania  
Scott Rigell, Virginia  
Chris Gibson, New York  
Vicky Hartzler, Missouri  
Joe Heck, Nevada  
Bobby Schilling, Illinois  
Jon Runyan , New Jersey  
Austin Scott , Georgia  
Tim Griffin , Arkansas  
Steve Palazzo , Mississippi  
Allen West , Florida  
Martha Roby , Alabama  
Mo Brooks , Alabama  
Todd Young , Indiana  
Democrats:
Adam Smith, Ranking Member
, Washington  
Silvestre Reyes, Texas  
Loretta Sanchez, California  
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina  
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania  
Rob Andrews, New Jersey  
Susan A. Davis, California  
James R. Langevin, Rhode Island  
Rick Larsen, Washington  
Jim Cooper, Tennessee  
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam  
Joe Courtney, Connecticut  
David Loebsack, Iowa  
Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts  
Chellie Pingree, Maine  
Larry Kissell, North Carolina  
Martin Heinrich, New Mexico  
William L. Owens, New York  
John Garamendi, California  
Mark Critz, Pennsylvania  
Tim Ryan , Ohio  
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger , Maryland  
Hank Johnson, Georgia  
Betty Sutton , Ohio  
Colleen Hanabusa , Hawaii  
Kathleen C. Hochul, New York   
Jackie Speier, California  
The second disappointment was that the Senate did not delete the Administration’s plan to set up a “BRAC –like” Commission to study all military retirement,form and present proposals for changes. (Again, the House deleted this idea.)
The “Military Retirement Modernization Commission” would hear DoD’s recommendations and after considering that “and other inputs, the Commission would make a recommendation to the President; the President could request changes in the recommendation but not require them; the President chooses whether to send the recommendation to Congress; and Congress must then vote up or down the recommendation without changes. This is a terrible idea at any time and even worse in these worrisome fiscal times. TREA will continue to urge Congress to reject this idea.

Washington Post Editorial Calls for Increases in TRICARE Costs

On Monday we awoke to the Washington Post’s lead editorial calling for increased costs for TRICARE beneficiaries. (A copy of the editorial is attached below.) This is not really a surprise the Post has taken this position for years. Senator McCain cited it, at length, when he was arguing on the Senate floor for changes in the TRICARE pharmacy plan that would increase co-pays for retirees and eliminate all 3rd tier drugs to be available in the TRICARE network pharmacies. These ideas are convincing to many people and are therefore dangerous. TREA will continue to fight these attacks on your earned benefits

Saving taxpayer money on Tricare

By Editorial Board, Published: December 2

IN THE POLITICS of defense spending, cutting expensive weapons programs plays the role that taxing the wealthy plays in the overall fiscal debate. Though undoubtedly necessary to any credible plan, it is far from sufficient. Yet advocates often talk as if reining in Pentagon spending is all about wasteful weapons.

In fact, weapons programs account for only about a third of defense spending, and the Obama administration is already planning significant reductions. The costs of operations and personnel make up the majority of the defense budget, so any balanced approach must deal with those as well.

Here, too, the administration plans cuts, including shrinking the Army and the Marine Corps. This is risky, given the potential threats the United States faces. Unfortunately, Congress is compounding the problem by protecting expensive items that inflate personnel costs without any corresponding payoff in defense readiness.

We refer to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s refusal to accept an administration proposal to trim Tricare, the military health-care program for which 9.7 million active and retired military personnel and family members are eligible. Obviously, those who serve or served their country deserve generous health benefits. But Tricare goes well beyond that. The service is free for active-duty service members and their families except for some prescription copayments. For retirees under the age of 65, many of whom are in the work force and eligible for employer-provided benefits, Tricare costs at most $1,000 per year out of pocket — less than a fifth of civilian plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Tricare’s costs have surged in recent years, from $19 billion in fiscal 2001 to $52.8 billion in fiscal 2011. Much of the growth was driven by Congress’s 2001 decision to add what is essentially a free Medigap plan for retirees over 65. But the main issue is the ultra-low fees and deductibles — which give retirees still of working age little incentive to economize or choose employer plans.

President Obama’s budget plan would save $12.8 billion over five years by gradually increasing working-age retirees’ annual enrollment fees, with lower-income retirees paying the least, and then adjusting them according to national health spending growth thereafter. The maximum fee would quadruple to $2,000 — still far less than most civilian plans. Most beneficiaries would not pay even that much.

The Armed Services Committee, however, voted to forbid any Tricare increases greater than the annual cost-of-living adjustment in military retiree pay. No doubt America’s military retirees are a powerful lobby, their might enhanced by the basic justice of their claim to have given much to their country. At the moment, however, debt is one of the main threats to future U.S. national strength and security, and it makes no sense to deal with it in ways that would also undermine military readiness.

The modest cuts in Tricare benefits that Mr. Obama seeks are abundantly justified by the national interest. His Office of Management and Budget announced Thursday that the president’s advisers will urge a veto of a defense bill without Tricare reform; they would be right to do so.

Stolen Valor Act

In 2005 Congress passed a law know as the Stolen Valor Act. That law made it a federal crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal, punishable by up to a year in prison if the offense involved the military’s highest honors. However, a lawsuit was brought against the case claiming that it violated First Amendment free speech rights and last June the Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The key issue in the case was whether knowingly false statements of fact – made without any apparent intent to defraud – are a protected form of speech, and if so, what level of protection they deserve.

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision, Senators Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Scott Brown (R- Mass.) authored a second Stolen Valor Act in an attempt to meet the concerns of the Supreme Court but also deal with those who falsely claim they received a military award or decoration.

In a victory that was supported by TREA, the Webb-Brown measure was added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last Monday.
The new Stolen Valor Act allows charges to be brought against individuals who make a false claim to have served in the military or to have been awarded a military medal, decoration, or other device in order to secure a tangible benefit or a personal gain. The bill was drafted to comply fully with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment restrictions outlined in June by the Supreme Court decision United States v. Alvarez, which struck down the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005.

“I am a strong believer in the First Amendment; I believe it is sacrosanct in our society. At the same time, our very special reverence for the First Amendment should be measured against the equally special place that our society holds for military service,” said Senator Webb, who served as a Marine rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam and is a former Secretary of the Navy. “Profiting from the misrepresentation of military service or awards undermines the value of service and is offensive to all who have stepped forward to serve our country in uniform. By adhering to the guidance of the Supreme Court ruling, this legislation brings accountability for such reprehensible actions within the scope of the protections offered to all Americans under the First Amendment. I am pleased that Senator Brown and I could collaborate and build strong bipartisan support for this measure.”

The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in September. However, it only covers specific awards, including the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart. It also covers the following campaign badges: Combat Infantryman’ Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Ribbon, and Combat Action Medal. The House bill carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.

The final fate of the Stolen Valor Act will be determined by the House-Senate conference committee that works out differences in the National Defense Authorization Act. However, since the House has already passed a similar bill we think there is a good change the Webb-Brown bill, since it covers a broader range of military awards, will stay as part of the final NDAA.

Military Judge Removed from Fort Hood Shooter Trial

The US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled on Monday that the judge in the court martial of Major Nidal Hasan had to be removed after finding that the judge’s treatment of the suspect, including an order to have the man forcibly shaved, indicated a lack of impartiality. Major Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, is charged with 13 counts of murder in the 2009 shooting rampage.

Hasan appealed after Colonel Gregory Gross ordered he must be clean-shaven or forcibly shaved before his trial. The trial has been on hold pending this appeal. Hasan has argued his beard is required by his Muslim faith, while facial hair violates Army regulations.

An Army appeals court upheld the shaving requirement in October, but the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said the command, not the judge, is responsible for enforcing grooming standards.

Gross had repeatedly said Hasan's beard disrupted court proceedings, but the military appeals court ruled evidence was lacking to prove it.

"Should the next military judge find it necessary to address (Hasan's) beard, such issues should be addressed and litigated anew," judges wrote in the ruling according to press accounts.

Gross found Hasan in contempt of court at six pretrial hearings because of his beard and sent him to a trailer to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit television. The appeals court's ruling also vacated the contempt of court convictions.

The court said it was not ruling on whether the judge's order violated his religious rights.

Fort Hood officials said proceedings in the case will resume after a new judge is appointed.

TRICARE Awards New TRICARE Retiree Dental Contract

TMA has awarded the new TRICARE Retiree Dental contract to Delta Dental. (They are also the present contractor). The contract provides several coverage improvements including:

The new contract features new benefits and enhancements including:
An increase in the annual maximum from $1,200 to $1,300
An increase in the lifetime orthodontic maximum from $1,500 to $1,750
Coverage of three surface posterior resin (white) fillings
An increase of the maximum per year for services related to accidents/injuries from $1,000 to $1,200
Addition of periodontal maintenance to be substituted for one of the annual dental cleanings
Additional yearly dental cleaning or periodontal maintenance for diabetics
First-year premiums below current rates
There are approximately 1.3 million beneficiaries in the current plan. All present enrollees should be getting a book explaining the contract changes. Below is DoD’s contract award announcement.

FOR RELEASE AT
5 p.m. ET

No. 933-12
November 30, 2012


CONTRACTS
TRICARE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITY
Delta Dental, San Francisco, Calif., is being awarded a fixed-price contract to provide TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) coverage to all eligible personnel retired from the uniformed services, un-remarried surviving spouses, eligible dependents, former members of the armed forces who are Medal of Honor recipients and their eligible dependents. Enrollment in the TRDP is voluntary and all premium costs are paid by the enrollee, therefore, there are no Government funds obligated on this contract. The total estimated contract value, including the approximate 12-month base period and five one-year option periods for dental care, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $2,551,743,226. The program offers worldwide coverage for dental services. The work to be performed includes management of provider networks, enrollment, claims processing, and customer service. This contract was competitively procured using the Best Value Tradeoff Source Selection process with three offers received. The TRICARE Management Activity, Aurora, Colo., is the contracting activity (HT9402-13-C-0006).

DFAS Announces Tax Statements Available Soon

Via DFAS Press Release:
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) recently announced that retiree and annuitant pay customers will receive their 2012 tax statements between mid-December and the end of January. Most 1099 forms will also be available a week earlier via the online myPay pay account management system (available at: https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx).
Bad addresses create significant delays in receiving end-of-year documents and maintaining accurate contact information is important. According to DFAS officials, incorrect address information is the top reason retirees or annuitants don’t receive their 1099-Rs.
Individuals without active myPay accounts should call, mail or fax a written request to DFAS-Cleveland, and the processing of a change of address and reissuing a new 1099-R takes at least 30 days. Changes made via myPay accounts take effect in three to five business days, and a copy of their 1099-R can be printed directly from myPay.
For more information, visit the DFAS website or call DFAS at 800-321-1080.

Chained CPI and Potential Impacts

The current CPI does not keep adequate pace with inflation and puts all recipients behind the power curve, as anyone who receives benefits can attest, against actual inflation.  Our affiliate, TSCL, has taken and will continue to take a stand regarding CPI computations and most significantly this current methodology. TREA cosigned a letter (with several other organizations) that was sent to Congress opposing the proposal to substitute a chained CPI calculation. This could have significant potential reductions in benefits especially over the long term. 

Subject: Fw: VA Warning: "Veterans Affairs Services"  Am organization not affiliated with the VA is getting Vet IDs.

 WARNING "VETERANS AFFAIRS SERVICES” IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH VA

Caution

From: "Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Massachusetts" <info@vfwma.org>
Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2012 1:49:39 PM
Subject: Warning!

We received the following warning message from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Please disseminate widely.

Department of Massachusetts
Message Center


VA Warning: "Veterans Affairs Services"

Organization Not Affiliated, Getting Vet IDs.


The Office of the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has requested dissemination of the following:

"An organization called Veterans Affairs Services (VAS) is providing benefit and general information on VA and gathering personal information on veterans.

"This organization is not affiliated with VA in any way." [The organization described itself at its web page at: http://www.vaservices.org /us/index.html ] "VAS may be gaining access to military personnel through their close resemblance to the VA name and seal.

Our Legal Counsel has requested that we coordinate with DoD to inform military installations, particularly mobilization sites, of this group and their lack of affiliation or endorsement by VA to provide any services.

In addition, GC requests that if you have any examples of VAS acts that violate chapter 59 of Title 38 United States Code, such as VAS employees assisting veterans in the preparation and presentation of claims for benefits, please pass any additional information to Mr. Daugherty at the address below.

Michael G. Daugherty,
Staff Attorney,
Department of Veterans Affairs,
Office of General Counsel

This email was sent by Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Massachusetts , State House Room 546-1, 24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02133-1043,

TriWest to United Healthcare Changeover

On April 1, 2013, the TRICARE West Region contract will transition to and be managed by United Healthcare Military & Veterans (UHC M&V). To make sure you understand the timing and key information about the TRICARE transition, visit the TriWest Transition Update Center.

TRICARE Facts

TRICARE is a regionally-managed health care program for Active Duty, Activated Guard and Reserves, Retired members of the uniformed services, their families, and survivors. TRICARE has 3 main coverage choices: TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Extra, and TRICARE Standard. Active Duty and Guard and Reserve servicemembers are automatically enrolled TRICARE Prime. However military dependents and retirees must choose the TRICARE option that best suits their needs. Get more information and see deductibles, fees and more on Military.com.

Research on Brain Injury and Vision Problems

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can result in many visual problems such as binocular vision dysfunction, light sensitivity, and visual field defects. The pathophysiology of these injuries is not well understood and continues to affect soldiers in their activities of daily living. The degree of binocular or accommodative dysfunction can range from mild to severe, but the effects on activities of daily living, such as reading, studying and administrative tasks, may be dramatic. Many of the issues associated with these injuries can be managed or eliminated with lenses. Another common finding in the TBI population is photophobia or light sensitivity. One 2007 TBI study evaluated 50 patients with diagnosis of a TBI. Seventy-four percent of subjects complained of vision problems. Fort Benning Optometry is currently involved with two TBI studies that are focusing on eye movements shortly after a concussive event. For more information, visit the braininjuries.org website and the brainline.org website.

Coping with Holiday Stress

Is the stress of the Season getting to you? Visit the TriWest Behavioral Health Portal to learn about coping with life's stressors, relationship issues, parenting resources, and much more.

For more military spouse and family resources, visit the Military.com Spouse and Family Center

Beat Holiday Overspending

This holiday season; don't go "broke" trying to save. You may not be able to control how long a sale lasts, but you do have the power to decide that it is okay if you miss out buying items that were not on your shopping list. Also, resist the children's pleadings for the latest gadget or the pressure to buy gifts for everyone. Ignore the ads that tell you to "buy now - and pay nothing until next year." Make peace of mind a new holiday tradition! To beat holiday overspending, identify whether you will actually use the item and whether the item is a 'want' or a 'need'. Following a tight budget it will help you weed out the non-essentials. For more practical ideas on beating overspending, visit the Navy Operational Stress Control website at www.navynavstress.com.

Soldiers Reminded to Beware of Scams

Special agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) are once again warning Internet users worldwide to be extra vigilant and not to fall prey to Internet scams or impersonation fraud -- especially scams promising true love. The victims are most often unsuspecting women, 30 to 55 years old, who think they are romantically involved on the Internet with American Soldiers. People should never send money to persons they meet on the Internet that claim to be in the U.S. Military. To report a scam to the Internet Crime Complaint unit, visit the IC3 website at http://www.ic3.gov. Also, report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft , or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). 

Safe Driving Tips for the Holidays

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. According to the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program (NADAP), nearly 30 people are killed daily in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver, a staggering one death every 48 minutes. For more information on preventing drunk driving and drugged driving, visit the MADD website, the USA.gov website, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

AAEFS "Go Nuts" Sweepstakes

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and Planters/Kraft are teaming up to give away ten $1,000 gift cards in the "Go Nuts with Planters" sweepstakes. Authorized shoppers need only visit their nearest Exchange, fill out an entry form and drop it in the box for a chance to win. From Dec. 1-31, Exchanges around the world will have entry forms available for the "Go Nuts with Planters" sweepstakes. Winners will be selected on or about Feb. 14, 2013.

Getting Smart About Antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide public health problem. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is believed to be the cause of this antibiotic resistance among bacteria. You can prevent antibiotic resistance by doing the following: (1) not requesting antibiotics from your doctor or taking antibiotics for a viral infection like a cold or the flu; (2) not sharing prescriptions or using a prescription that was not written for you; (3) taking all prescribed doses of the antibiotic; (4) taking the antibiotics exactly as the doctor directs-- do not skip any doses; and (5) returning for care if symptoms persist. Be smart when using antibiotics and keep in mind -- antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Antibiotics will also not keep other people from catching the infection. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/index.html.

Tax Return Problems in South Carolina

Officials believe that a large number of Soldiers and their families who filed state taxes in South Carolina may be victims of identity theft as the South Carolina Department of Revenue recently experienced a cyber-intrusion. Soldiers and their families who filed in South Carolina are urged to enroll in ID theft protection, which is free for one year. Carolina residents can also request a free credit report online at the Experian website at www.ProtectMyID.com/SCDOR by entering this code: SCDOR123. Or, telephone phone at 1-866-578-5422-- wait for the automated message to finish playing and a customer service representative will come on the line. For information on ways to avoid identity theft and other cyber schemes, visit the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs website.

The Golden Age Games, AUSA Western New York Chapter

The 2013 National Veterans Golden Age Games are being held in upstate New York. The games give Veterans the opportunity to compete in recreational activities they enjoy, experience camaraderie with their fellow Veterans and stay active. Veterans will be in the greater Buffalo area May 30 through June 4, 2013 competing in events such as cycling, golf, swimming, table tennis and sled hockey all across WNY. We are expecting over 800 Veterans and their families to travel to the Buffalo area to compete in 14 competitive games.  We are also in need of gifts in kind for the event including water bottles, towels, ice, cups, office supplies, tents, road cones and individually wrapped snack type items.  If you are interested in volunteering we need volunteers to assist with the Games, registration, meals, ceremonies and travel.  To volunteer contact the WNY Volunteer Staff (Buffalo and Batavia) Mark Francis, Manager: (716) 862-­8667, Kelly Roberts, Specialist: (716) 862-­8672, Cynthia Panasiewicz, Intern: (585) 297-­1196 or at their website: http://www.visn2.va.gov/vet/volunteer.asp.

Northern Colorado Subchapter

Participating in AUSA chapter activities in the Denver Metropolitan Area is diffic ult for those who happen to reside in Northern Colorado. Sam Thiessen, our State President, suggested that we look into the idea of establishing a new subchapter of AUSA to support our members and the Army in Northern Colorado. As you know, AUSA is a voice for the Army. Also, we have a fine Army ROTC program serving Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, and the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley. Loveland High School has an Army Junior ROTC. National Guard and Reserve units are in the area as well as Army Recruiting. While our Army recruiters are doing a great job, they can always use assistance in opening doors. AUSA can assist. More, AUSA can assist unit recognition and awards programs. We can never forget our heroes who have returned most recently from about every dangerous place in the world. Frankly, America’s Army and its veterans face future challenges almost unthinkable to many of us. For details, contact: POC COL (Ret) Jerry Webb mailto:geraldwebb7@gmail.com

AUSA NTX Chapter: Donate to Army Scholarship Foundation!

As a key component of its leadership and scholarship efforts, the North Texas Chapter (NTX) of AUSA works together with the Army Scholarship Foundation in helping to educate Army family members. On 1 November, the Army Scholarship Foundation held a reception in the home of Mrs. Faye Briggs in Dallas to help introduce the Foundation to the greater Dallas community. The Army Scholarship Foundation and NTX AUSA are helping Army families in facing military challenges such as frequent moves and reduced employment opportunities by providing academic scholarships to deserving Army family members. As a member of the host committee for this wonderful event, NTX AUSA provided a generous donation to the Army Scholarship Foundation. Members wishing to support or learn more about the Army Scholarship
Foundation are invited to send a tax deductible donation to the Army Scholarship Foundation at 11700 Preston Road, Suite 660-301, Dallas, TX 75230 or visit http://www.armyscholarshipfoundation.org/

Military OneSource Connects Troops, Families to Resources

The Defense Department (DoD) has revitalized and consolidated the Military OneSource website to better serve military members and their families.  Zona Lewis, military community outreach online and resource operations manager, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service that the Military OneSource overhaul incorporates new functionalities, enhanced social media platforms and multiple access methods.  The revamping comes at the behest of President Barack Obama, who sought an overall reduction of government websites, prompting DoD officials to have Military OneSource absorb MilitaryHomefront.  Officials therefore transferred the leadership and service provider information from soon-to-be retired MilitaryHomefront to the Military OneSource umbrella.  Military OneSource also provides round-the-clock consultants available worldwide to assist with family life topics ranging from moving to nonmedical counseling referral, including anger management and communication skills.  For more information, please see: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118628

Post-2014 Afghanistan Troop Levels Remain Undecided

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has yet to forward a recommendation to the White House on how many U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014.  In September, he stated that we completed the full withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops, and we will soon begin considering how we move forward on further troop level adjustments which will include planning for our post-2014 military and civilian presence in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials have asked for options to be considered, relatively soon, for what the post-2014 presence might look like, so U.S. military leaders soon will present options to the Defense Department (DoD) on further troop drawdowns for the coming year.  To read this in full, please click: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118624

TRICARE Rx Fee Hike Decision Looming

Congress is set to decide how much military pharmacy fees will be raised in 2013 when the final language of the fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Act in the next few weeks. Their decision will have an impact on the out-of-pocket costs for military families and retirees who rely on TRICARE network of retail pharmacies to have prescriptions filled. Under the House version of the plan, co-pays for formulary drugs would increase to $17 and non-formulary drugs would increase to $44. For details, read the Military Update by Tim Philpott at: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,252578,00.html

Soldiers, NFL Players Team Up Against Brain Injuries

Whether injured in combat or knocked unconscious on the field, service members and athletes are both at risk of traumatic brain injury.  That's why, as part of a national effort between the U.S. Army and the National Football League, or NFL, Soldiers from 7th Infantry Division and former players shared their experiences with traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, during a round-table discussion 20 November, at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seattle Seahawks' practice facility.  The partnership between the Army and NFL has led to several events, including discussions at the Pentagon and U.S. the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Leaders from both organizations hope these discussions will help Soldiers and players recognize the signs of TBI and encourage them to seek treatment. To get a better understanding, please see: http://www.army.mil/article/91710/Soldiers__NFL_players_team_up_against_brain_injuries/
Help Dealing with Depression

Clinical depression is a serious medical condition that, if left untreated, may lead to other complicated medical conditions. Two-thirds of people who suffer from depression do not seek help -- they believe their symptoms are just part of life. Depression can be treated. People do not have to live with depression. Defeat that enemy, get treatment and feel the joy of life again! If you or someone you know is in a crisis, seek help immediately: (1) call 911; (2) visit the emergency room or speak to a healthcare provider; or (3) call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to speak with a trained counselor-- this is a 24-hour toll-free hotline provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Screening tools, tips and more information about depression can be found at the following websites: (1) Militarymentalhealth at http://www.militarymentalhealth.org, (2) Help Yourself.Help Others at http://www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org, (3) Screening for Mental Health at http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org, (4) U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Depression/ and (5) the Helpguide at http://www.helpguide.org.

Army Docs Reevaluate More PTSD Cases

Stars and Stripes reports that a wide-ranging review of behavioral health diagnoses at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington closed in September with Army doctors changing more than half of the cases they evaluated, giving 150 Servicemembers new diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The review followed complaints early this year about a team of Madigan forensic psychiatrists who sometimes adjusted PTSD diagnoses. Dozens of re-evaluations are still outstanding. Former patients can still have their diagnoses reviewed by contacting Madigan. They would be referred to the hospital's Integrated Disability Evaluation System. They also can call an Army Medical Command hotline at 800-984-8523.

Blue Star Family Survey

How has your Army family fared after 11 years of war? Blue Star Families wants to know! The annual BSF Military Family Lifestyle Survey is open from now through early December for all active duty, National Guard, Reserve and veteran families and Servicemembers. This is the fourth annual survey conducted by Blue Star Families, and previous results have informed local and national policy and have been referenced by civilian and military officials at all levels, including Congressional leaders, the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama. Make your voice heard and take the survey now. http://tiny.cc/2013AUSA

U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selects 2013 U.S. Army Player of the Year Nominees

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Committee has nominated 16 high school seniors for the 2013 U.S. Army Player of the Year Award, considered high school football's highest honor.   The U.S. Army Player of the Year award is given to the Nation's most outstanding senior high school football player.  The U.S. Army Player of the Year will be crowned during the U.S. Army Awards Dinner on 4 January 2013, in San Antonio, where the winner will be presented with the Ken Hall Trophy, modeled after Ken "Sugar Land Express" Hall, high school football's all-time leading rusher.  For more than a decade, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been the Nation's premier high school football game, serving as the preeminent launching pad for America's future college and NFL stars. Andrew Luck, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, and Marcus Lattimore all made their national debuts as U.S. Army All-Americans. To read this entire article, and for the list of the Nominees, please click: http://1.usa.gov/SotrYc

Misleading Consumers With False Mortgage

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is issuing warning letters to approximately a dozen mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers advising them to clean up potentially misleading advertisements, particularly those targeted toward veterans and older Americans. The CFPB also announced it has begun formal investigations of six companies that it thinks may have committed more serious violations of the law.  These actions stem from a joint “sweep,” a review conducted  by the CFPB and the FTC of about 800 randomly selected mortgage-related ads across the country, including ads for mortgage loans, refinancing, and reverse mortgages. The CFPB’s review generally focused on mortgage advertisements, particularly ads that targeted older Americans or veterans.  The FTC is issuing their own warning letters to about a dozen companies and continuing with their own investigations of even more companies based on their findings. A copy of the FTC’s press release is available at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/index.shtml

Internet Romance Scams Use Soldiers' Identities

Special agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) are once again warning Internet users worldwide to be extra vigilant and not to fall prey to Internet scams or impersonation fraud -- especially scams promising true love, but only end up breaking hearts and bank accounts.  The victims are most often unsuspecting women, 30 to 55 years old, who think they are romantically involved on the Internet with American Soldiers, when in fact they are being cyber-robbed by perpetrators thousands of miles away.  The majority of the "romance scams," as they have been dubbed, are being perpetrated on social media, dating-type websites where unsuspecting females are the main target.  These scams are outright theft and are a grave misrepresentation of the Army and the tremendous amount of support programs and mechanisms that exist for Soldiers today, especially those serving overseas.  For details, please go to: http://www.army.mil/article/91823/Internet_romance_scams_use_Soldiers__identities/

Toys for Tots Kicks Off Season

Toys for Tots is kicking off its Christmas season at in cities around the country. Toys for tots Began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. Since beginning the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program in 1947, Marines have distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million needy children. For more information, and to find a toy drop location in your area, visit the Toys for Tots Foundation website at http://www.toysfortots.org.

AAFES Makes Top 25 Spouse Employer List

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) recently announced that it has been designated as one of the top 25 Military Friendly Spouse Employers by Military Spouse magazine. The sixth annual list recognizes those companies which hire spouses of active duty Servicemembers and make an effort to develop workforce development policies that acknowledge the unique challenges of military life. The Exchange was recognized for its forward looking policies that support the unique employment needs of military spouses. The list of 2013 Military Friendly Spouse Employers is available on the MilitaryFriendly.com website at http://www.militaryfriendly.com/home/mfse.

Army Hire a Veteran Program

The Army's Warrior Transition Command (WTC) recently unveiled its three-pronged Hire a Veteran education campaign plan, which aims to help employers understand that wounded warriors can bring a wealth of leadership experience and skills to the table and to their bottom line. The WTC is producing a video that highlights the incredible value our wounded warriors bring to the civilian workforce given their unique training and experience. The video and an online toolkit are available for download and distribution to HR professionals and employers at the WTC website at http://www.WTC.Army.mil. The video, "Hire a Veteran -- Obstacles & Solutions," features the stories of Soldiers who spent more than six months with a Warrior Transition Unit recovering from severe wounds, illness or injuries and how they pulled themselves up and out into the civilian workforce.

Tinnitus Affecting Veterans

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs revealed more than 10 percent of all veteran disability claims in fiscal year of 2011 were due to tinnitus, an early sign of hearing loss. In the military community, the most common cause of tinnitus is noise exposure. Second to tinnitus, actual hearing loss is the next most claimed disability, with 60,229 veterans - or 7.5 percent of all disability claims - citing hearing loss in FY 2011. A similar study in 2011 is available in VA's Journal of Rehabilitative Research and Development at: http://www.rehab.research.va.gov/jour/11/485/absfolmer485.html