Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 15 October 2012 



AUSA Annual Meeting

The Association of the United States Army welcomes all AUSA members, military and civilian employees of the United States armed forces and their families to AUSA’s Annual Meeting which will be held from 22-24, October 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Annual Meeting will include four Military Family Forums in which Army senior leaders and experts in the field of family readiness provide their views on the status of the Army family and Army family readiness programs. All forums will be live streamed across the country and overseas. Anyone eligible to attend the AUSA Annual Meeting may attend the Military Family Forums. For more information about the AUSA Annual Meeting, please go to AUSA’s website at:

Dempsey Releases Concept to Build Joint Force 2020

At the heart of the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations released recently by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey,  is an idea called globally integrated operations, which will be used to build and organize Joint Force 2020.  The concept stresses the military's agility and flexibility as the United States faces unclear and unknown threats in the future.  A key aspect of the Capstone concept is these networks of forces can "form, evolve, dissolve and reform in different arrangements in time and space with significantly greater fluidity" than today's force. There are eight key elements to globally integrated operations. To learn more about these elements, read the entire article at:

Army Releases August Suicide Data

The Army released suicide data today for the month of August.  During August, among active-duty Soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides:  three have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. During August, among reserve component Soldiers who were not on active duty, there were nine potential suicides (five Army National Guard and four Army Reserve):  none have been confirmed as suicide and nine remain under investigation.  The government has taken huge strides in providing our Soldiers, Department of Army Civilians and family members the needed resources to aid in suicide prevention, but their work isn't done.  Army leaders will continue to do everything they can to reverse these trends. The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at

Families Can Support Suicide Standown

There is something family members military-wide can do, too, and it only takes a minute. Get out your smart phone and enter the information for the Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1, go to, or text at 838255.  If you're unsure if someone close to you may be suicidal, you could at least talk through the situation with someone who understands and could share insight.  Understanding suicide and reversing its rising trend is difficult.  No training or information campaign will end all suicides, but for more information on the Military Crisis Line, go to the website at:

President Proclaims Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day

President Barack Obama asked the nation to rededicate ourselves to upholding the sacred trust we share with our Gold Star families and the heroes we have laid to rest, in his proclamation issued recently declaring 30September 2012, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day.  Additionally, he emphasized the importance of keeping our faith with our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and our military families by serving them as well as they have served us.  Furthermore, the Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1985 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as 'Gold Star Mother's Day. To read more on the president’s proclamation, please see:

App to Access TRICARE Pharmacy Benefits

TRICARE beneficiaries have new pharmacy options available and accessible in the palm of their hand just by using TRICARE pharmacy contractor Express Script’s enhanced mobile application. The new additions let beneficiaries use their smartphone to safely and securely manage their TRICARE pharmacy benefit. The updated app includes medication reminders and an account registration tool.  The updated app includes medication reminders and an account registration tool.  The Express Rx mobile app gives beneficiaries access to their prescription information anytime, anywhere.  Smartphone users can download the app for free by going to or using services like the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace. The mobile-optimized pharmacy website is accessible at

eBenefits Simplifies Access to Resources and Benefits

There are many benefits and services provided to military personnel and their families. Yet accessing these programs, learning about requirements and effectively using the benefits that you have earned may require a good deal of effort, as well as a bit of patience. To streamline the process, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have created eBenefits, an online web portal that provides benefit-related resources and tools for veterans, Servicemembers and their families.  eBenefits is a one-stop web portal that enables veterans and Servicemembers to access personal information and carry out tasks so they can use benefits. It’s easy-to-navigate format and topical options offer a more efficient system for managing eligible benefits and accessing services from a single portal. For details:

Changes in TRICARE Dental Program

Recent changes in the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) have left some military families paying out of pocket. Many local dentists are not part of the new contractor's network, and though they may still "accept TRICARE," they will require a patient to pay beyond normal cost shares. This may result in charging patients the balance between their charges and what the TDP would pay for. Dentists in the TRICARE network are not permitted to do that. Thus, beneficiaries should find out first if their dentist is part of the network. To find a list of providers or address other TRICARE Dental concerns, call the MetLife Dental Customer Contact Service Center at 1-855-638-8371 or visit the MetLife TDP website at:

This Year's Flu Vaccine Guards Against New Strains

As the time to get your flu vaccine has approached, a surprising new report shows babies and toddlers seem to be getting protected better than the rest of us.  Government officials claim that last year's flu shot won't shield you this year as there are two new strains of influenza which have begun circling the globe, but the updated vaccine appears to work well against them.  A yearly vaccination now is recommended for nearly everybody. The only ones who shouldn't get vaccinated: babies younger than 6 months and people with severe allergies to the eggs used to make the vaccine. Flu specialists can't say how bad this winter's flu season might be. Influenza strains constantly evolve, and some cause more illness than others.  But strains from the H3N2 family tend to be harsher than some other flu types, and a new H3N2 strain is included in this year's vaccine because it is circulating in parts of the world.  To read more about this year’s flu, go to:

New Army Tobacco-Free Policy

The surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command (AMEDD) will soon issue a directive that will require all Army Medical Department treatment facilities to be tobacco-free. Once the policy is in effect, tobacco use of any kind, to include smokeless tobacco, will be prohibited. This will be an AMEDD-wide policy; it applies to all Army medical treatment facilities. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), tobacco use is responsible for about one in five deaths annually in the United States, which is about 443,000 deaths per year -- an estimated 49,000 of these are the result of secondhand smoke exposure.

Army Reactivates Master Fitness Training Program After 10 Years

An effective physical readiness program depends to a great extent on the unit commander.  The program he was referring to is the Master Fitness Training program, or MFT, which was discontinued by the Army in 2001 and was recently reactivated, with the first pilot class graduating recently.  The new program is similar to the old MRT, but incorporates the latest fitness research methods into training.  Additionally, MFT trainers will be working with commanders to develop an effective program that not only reduces injuries and enhances performance, but also links the exercises to the warrior tasks and battle drills that all Soldiers are expected to be competent in.  For details about this reactivated program, please see:

Absentee Voting Keeps Overseas Voters Relevant

With the presidential tickets decided and convention season now in the rearview mirror, voters are preparing to cast their ballots and cross their fingers for their candidates. Overseas and military voters must register in their state of residence, request an absentee ballot and return the completed ballot to effectively cast a vote.  These steps are, of course, met with strict deadlines which vary from state to state.  There voting cutoff dates for states boasting large numbers of residents in the armed services. Residents of all states and territories, however, may register to vote and request a ballot within their state at the, which streamlines the process for overseas military personnel, families and civilians. The General Election is held in all states on 6 November.  To view the list of state cutoff dates, please see:

Roth Contributions to Open to All Active-duty Troops

According to Defense Financing and Accounting Service (DFAS) officials, beginning 1 October 2012, active-duty members of the Army, Navy and Air Force will be able to contribute to the Roth Thrift Savings Plan as part of their investment planning.  Active-duty Servicemembers also can start their Roth TSP contributions now through their online MyPay accounts, or by submitting a TSP-U-1 form to their finance office.  Active-duty Marines, Guardsmen, reservists and civilians paid by DFAS were able to begin making contributions to the program in June.  Additionally, other branches of the National Guard and Reserve will be able to make Roth TSP contributions by mid- to late 2013.  For further information, please click:

Kids' Entries Needed in Family Essay Contest

In an upcoming collectible magazine tribute entitled “Love and Honor: Service, Commitment and the Military Family, military family relationships will come to life in a portrait of devotion to duty, service and loved ones in uniform, told in family members’ own words.  As part of this effort, Military Times is  giving away five Kindle Paperwhites as grand prizes in their first Military Times Family Essay Contest, open to ages 8 and up.  Select essays will appear in the magazine “Love and Honor,” which will go in subscriber copies of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times during November — National Military Family Month.  For details about entering and requirements, please click:

DoD Implements New Flight Cancellation Policy for Travelers

The Defense Department (DoD) is working with airlines to implement a new flight cancellation policy that will affect air travel for temporary duty travelers.  According to Andrea Carlock, chief of the program management branch, which serves as part of the Defense Travel Management Office, effective 1 October 2012, any authorization that has airline reservations associated with it will be canceled if not approved and ticketed at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled flight departure.  This was as response partially due to the fact that there was a lack of cancellations for reservations, and the airlines were losing money.  The new policy governs the time requirements for travelers and authorization officials to make and approve arrangements for flights before travel occurs. A pop-up system is also being implemented for the Defense Travel System, advising those intending to make flight arrangements of these new requirements.  To get a better understanding of these new policies, please click:

Big Changes In-Store for Commissaries

Commissary patrons may soon see a huge change in how they shop for groceries. According to an article by Tom Philpott, military families might be ordering groceries online with curbside pickup by this time next year. In addition, a new smart phone app will enable military shoppers to instantly compare commissary and commercial supermarket prices. There is also big news for those stationed near large military installations in area like San Diego, San Antonio and Virginia's Tidewater area, where DeCA will be testing Costco like "warehouse" style commissaries.  Read the full article at:,15240,250458,00.html

Online Toolkit Aims to Support Mental Health Providers Serving Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed a new online Community Provider Toolkit located at: aimed at delivering support, therapeutic tools, and resources to community providers treating Veterans for mental health concerns.  This toolkit will enable those community providers who treat Veterans to better understand the specific issues Veterans face and help them access VA resources.  The goal of the Community Provider Toolkit is to further enhance the delivery of mental health services to Veterans through increased communication and coordination of care between community providers and VA.  Those interested in further information can go to

Representative Miller and Senator Burr Call for Removal of VA Chief of Staff

This week Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee called for the removal of VA Chief of Staff, John Gingrich based on the findings of the VA’s office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the VA’s “conference scandal.”

The scandal (which we have previously written about) concerns the $6.1 million the VA spent last year on 2 HR conferences held in Florida. The October 1 IG report did find that the July and August meeting were held for legitimate training purposes but they also found that the VA’s oversight was “too weak, ineffective, and in some instances, nonexistent.” They also stated that they could not be sure that $6.1 million” represented a complete accounting” for the conferences and that they “questioned about $762,000 as unauthorized, unnecessary, and/or wasteful expenses. They also “found that eleven VA employees, tasked with conference management responsibilities, improperly accepted gifts from contractors seeking to do business or already doing business with VA.”

On September 30 (the day before the release of the report) VA Secretary Shinseki already accepted the resignation of John Sepulveda, the VA Assistant Secretary for Human Resources (HR). The investigated HR conferences were held in Orlando where Mr. Sepulveda was a speaker and which included meditation, Pilates and water aerobics, and a $52,000.00 “Patton movie” parody training film. The film “should never have been produced and this misuse of taxpayer funds is completely unacceptable,” said Nathan Naylor, the VA’s deputy assistant secretary for public affairs.

At a September 20 House hearing VA’s Chief Financial officer Todd Grams said that the VA had spent $100 million on conferences, including travel costs during FY2012.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Top Senior Enlisted Advisor Urges Service Members To Vote

Army General Martin E. Dempsey and Marine Corps Sgt. Major Bryan B. Battaglia joined forces to urge all service members and their families to vote in the upcoming election Sgt. Major Battaglis said: “Whether overseas or at your home station, absentee ballot or the polling station, voting has never been easier for you and your family. And we strongly encourage each of you to exercise your right. If needed, your unit voting assistance officer stands ready to help.”

General Dempsey noted: Throughout history, the men and women of our Armed Forces have fought to protect and defend our constitution, including our right to vote. Voting is indeed democracy in action, and it defines, in no small part, what it means to be an American.”

This coming election will be the test to see how the many improvements passed and instituted in the last few years work in real life. After November please let us know how the new system actually worked.

VA Institutes Pilot Program to Help Prevent Diabetes

The VA has rolled out a pilot program that will hopefully reduce the number of veterans who suffer from diabetes. “The Diabetes Prevention Program will provide Veterans with another tool to help them lead healthier, fuller lives, reducing their risk for diabetes,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The DPP promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” was a multi-center clinical research study aimed at discovering whether modest weight loss through dietary change and increased physical activity or treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin could prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.”

The VA’s pilot program will be totally voluntary. It will be for veterans who are not being treated for diabetes but are considered at risk for developing the disease. A limited number of veterans will be enrolled in the program at the medical centers in Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Greater Los Angeles with VA Ann Arbor serving as the coordinating center.

“Approximately 24 percent of Veterans have Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Linda Kinsinger, VA’s chief consultant for preventive medicine. “We’ve monitored the DPP’s results and we feel that it could be another tool to make a difference for Veterans.”

For more information on this program, contact Jay Shiffler ( at the VA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. To learn more about the VA’s prevention program, visit

Release No. 10-04-12

Oct. 10, 2012

 Driver beware; concerned calls put brakes on automobile ads

 DALLAS (AFRNS) – Recent advertisements in Auto Trader and major metropolitan newspapers offering automobile sales through a company calling itself “Exchange Inc.” has consumers calling the Army & Air Force Exchange Service for answers.

 “Based on phone calls we’ve received, it appears someone is using the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Rick Koloski, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “The phone calls we’re getting are from consumers who inquired as to whether the advertisements were legitimate. One caller did tell us that they had placed an order, sent money, but had yet to take delivery.”

 Despite the fact that military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles in the continental United States, the individuals responsible for these advertisements have left consumers from Texas to Colorado with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.

 “We really don’t know how widespread the issue is at this point as the investigation is ongoing,” said Koloski. “In the meantime, we want consumers to be aware of the concern.”

 AAFES facilities are located solely on military installations. While the Exchange does have mail order and Internet offerings, the Exchange does not advertise in civilian outlets such as metropolitan newspapers or automobile sales magazines. All advertisements for legitimate Exchange offerings are published in outlets whose audiences are mostly comprised of military members. (Courtesy of AAFES News)

TRICARE Requires Electronic Payments

To avoid losing coverage, beneficiaries enrolled in TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) or TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR) who pay monthly premiums by check need to switch to an electronic form of payment before Jan. 1, 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, TRICARE will only accept monthly premium payments using recurring automatic payments by credit or debit card, or by recurring electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a linked bank account. Beneficiaries can contact their regional contractor to set up automatic payments and obtain more information. Contact information for each region is available at the TRICARE Contacts webpage at For more information about TRS or TRR, visit the TRICARE website at

Supplemental Food Allowance

Low-income servicemembers with dependents may benefit from the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance (FSSA) Program. FSSA is an additional food allowance some military families may qualify for based on a member's household size and household income. The program is available for Sailors stationed in the United States and overseas. Members may be eligible for up to $1,100 per month. Active component and Reserve Sailors on active duty meeting dependent and income-eligibility requirements on the Defense Manpower Data Center website may participate in the FSSA program. To apply, Sailors must submit a signed application and associated documents through their chain of command to OPNAV N130 for final certification and approval.

Veteran Talent Wanted: Hertz

Hertz is Committed to Hiring Hundreds of Veterans. At Hertz we share the military's values of discipline, hard work, and dedication. Start your civilian career with a company that can provide endless opportunity and a career path that lets you choose where you want to be. Whether you are looking for an entry level position or a management role, Hertz can provide the opportunities to grow, learn, and be challenged as well as provide you with the tools to succeed. Come back and join a team that appreciates all that you have done for your country and is ready to help you use your skills to better your life.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the nation. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women. One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Early detection of the breast cancer can provide early treatment for the servicemember and or their beneficiaries. For those women diagnosed with localized (stage 1) breast cancer there is over a 98% probability that they will survive 5 or more years. For more information, visit the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs Breast Cancer webpage, the Centers for Disease Control Breast Cancer webpage and Breast Cancer Awareness webpage, the website, and the website.

Retirees See Fee Hike in TRICARE Prime

On October 1 (the beginning of the 2013 federal fiscal year) military retirees under the age of 65 enrolled in TRICARE Prime face enrollment fee increases. This has nothing to do with this year’s proposals by DoD (which thankfully have not passed.) This is based on last year’s NDAA which allowed both a 1 time jump in TRICARE Prime premiums last year + a yearly COLA based increase for the future.

Until last year the enrollment fees for retirees under the age of 65 in TRICARE Prime was $230.00 a year for single coverage and $460.00 for family coverage. The rates jumped 13% for new retiree enrollees (those enrolling since October 1st 2011) to $260.00 for individuals and $520.00 for family coverage. These retirees now face an additional increase of 3.9% which brings their yearly enrollment fees to $269.28 for individual coverage and $538.56 for family coverage. PLEASE NOTE: Active duty service members and their dependents who are enrolled in TRICARE Prime do not pay yearly enrollment fees. Retirees enrolled in TRICARE Prime before October 1, 2011 did not see the 13% rate increase last year but are seeing it + the 3.9% COLA increase- therefore they are facing approx a 17% enrollment fee increase to the same $269.28 yearly enrollment fee for an individual and $538.56 a year for family coverage.

These numbers make very clear what a yearly increase in premiums, co-pays or other fees can quickly add up. It demonstrates how important it is for all of us to continue to fight the Pentagon’s proposals for increases in TRICARE costs for retirees in the lame duck session of Congress. This can truly affect your lives. We must not let up. TREA the Enlisted Association will, of course, keep you informed about the continuing assault to your earned benefits.

National Guardsman Wins Important Case in Fight With the Federal Government

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has announced it has won a USERRA case on behalf of a member of the Wisconsin National Guard. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose primary mission is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel.

USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) is a federal law that protects job rights for active and reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Office of Special Counsel enforces USERRA for federal employees.

In this case, Michael Hanke, a Wisconsin National Guardsman who lost his job in 2010 with a U.S. Army contractor while on his second tour of duty in Iraq, received a settlement equivalent to several years of salary under an agreement negotiated by the OSC.

Mr. Hanke worked for a defense contractor called ComTek in 2009 when he left for Iraq. While he was away, the Army in-sourced much of the work previously done by ComTek, hiring many of the same employees. When Mr. Hanke requested the same treatment, the Army told him he could not be hired while on active duty. He requested reemployment when he returned from active duty in 2010, but both ComTek and the Army turned him down.

Mr. Hanke filed complaints with the Department of Labor (DOL) against ComTek and the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and he requested that the complaint against the Army be referred to OSC when DOL could not resolve it. OSC attorneys investigated the complaint and concluded that the Army violated USERRA by refusing to hire Mr. Hanke because he was on active duty.

Additionally, a retroactive change to the law, enacted in late 2010, confirmed that the Army was responsible for reemploying Mr. Hanke when it in-sourced his former position. As a result, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner agreed to represent Mr. Hanke to enforce his rights under USERRA. Once OSC informed the Army of the results of its investigation and OSC’s decision to represent Mr. Hanke, OSC and the Army reached a settlement agreement that provides substantial compensation for Mr. Hanke, the exact amount of which is to be kept confidential.

“I applaud the Army Cadet Command for reaching a fair and equitable settlement on Mr. Hanke’s behalf,” said Ms. Lerner. “OSC will continue to press for the employment and reemployment rights of our veterans and National Guard and Reserve members, and for all federal agencies to live up to their obligation to be a model employer under USERRA.”

According to the Washington Post, the federal government is the largest employer of Reserve Component personnel and is also the biggest violator of the USERRA law.

Bill Passes While House of Representatives is in Pro Forma Session

Surprisingly S3624, the Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012 passed the House last Friday and has been sent to President Obama for his signature. The bill basically allows active duty military, military reserves, National Guard, active duty United States Coast Guard, or Coast Guard Auxiliary service members to earn their commercial driver’s licenses in states where they are stationed. This is accomplished by changing requirements that a state must follow when issuing a commercial drivers license or face severe withholding of federal highway aid funding. The bill which was introduced by Senator Snowe (R-ME) and had 10 original co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle is a very good idea and not controversial. It should help service members find jobs when they leave the service. What is surprising is that it passed while the House was in pro forma session. This was done because both the House’s Majority and Minority Leadership agreed that their membership would approve of this bill. It is also surprising that this bill was proposed has proposed on September 22nds. Just one day! Then the House leadership considered and passed it in just 1 day. Who says Congress can’t act quickly when they want to?

VOW To Hire A Hero Extension Bill Would Simplify Hiring Of Unemployed Vets

In September Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) introduced S. 3536, the VOW to Hire Heroes Extension Act of 2012. The bipartisan bill simplifies the hiring of unemployed and disabled veterans. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined Blumenthal in introducing this bill as original cosponsors.

Currently, to be considered a “qualified veteran,” eligible to participate in the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provided for by the VOW to Hire A Hero Act, veterans must be approved by a local employment agency, which can be an unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming process for both the veteran and the potential employer. This bill would modify the WOTC process to allow individuals to be considered “qualified veterans” for tax purposes if they simply provide their potential employer a DD 214 and valid proof of unemployment.

This bill would also extend the amount of time employers have to take advantage of tax credits for hiring unemployed or disabled veterans. Under the bipartisan VOW to Hire A Hero Act of 2011 employers are able to collect tax credits of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed or disabled veterans through the end of 2012. Blumenthal’s bill would allow employers to collect these tax credits through the end of 2016.

This bill makes changes to the current process based on feedback from the veterans and small business communities, both of which expressed a need to simplify the hiring process for veterans.

Afghanistan Surge Achieved Its Mission, Dempsey Says

The 33,000-man surge of U.S. forces into Afghanistan has achieved the goal set for it, and it will end on schedule at the end of the month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey claimed.  The end of the surge means only 68,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan.  The intended purpose of the surge was to buy us some time to push back on some Taliban initiatives, and to buy us some space to grow the Afghan security forces, and according to Dempsey, this objective has been met. To view this entire article, please see:

DoD Studies Families Mourning Service Members

The Defense Department's (DoD’s) Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is conducting the nation's first large-scale study of the impact of a Servicemember's death on surviving family members.  This will be a five-year study to fill a void in understanding the myriad of ways families are affected by a Servicemember's death, ranging from the emotional impact to loss of benefits.  This is an opportunity for recognizing that military service has certain unique challenges, certain strengths, certain risks or potential protective factors according to Dr. Stephen J. Cozza, director of child and family program at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, based in Bethesda, MD, and a principal investigator of the study.  The study will follow families over the course of two years to understand how bereavement changes over time.  To read more about this study, click:

Dempsey: Leadership, Trust Essential to Battling Suicide

Military leaders have changed the way they approach suicide prevention, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, said during a recent interview with American Forces Press Service.  Driven by awareness of the cumulative effects of 10 years of war, leaders are working to build resilience in the force from the moment a Servicemember enters the military.  It's important for people who feel overstressed to realize that it's OK to feel that way, but to understand that there are a number of programs available to help young men and women make their way through the different stresses in their lives.  Suicide prevention is a significant challenge, and solving the challenge will require awareness, commitment and understanding from leaders, Servicemembers and veterans.  The suicide prevention effort "is all about balance, it's all about commitment, it's all about trust and it's all about leaders taking ownership of this, from the most senior leaders in the uniformed force to the most junior," Dempsey said.  To learn more on battling suicide, please go to:

Guard Enlisted Leader Stresses Support Available

National Guardsmen should know that they are never alone, even when they are away from their units.  The National Guard is a family, and families support each other, Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Denise M. Jelinski-Hall told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.  The National Guard's Soldiers and Airmen face a number of unique challenges as they can be called up at a moment's notice to respond to natural disasters or other emergencies within their states.  The Guard's second mission, federal service, comes with its own disruptions as well. To combat the effects of these stressors, the National Guard has developed a leaders' guide to resilience. Additionally, there is a support network out there and a wide range of information and resources available to them.  However, not everyone is educated about these resources, but the Guard is working to ensure Servicemembers are informed of what resources are available, both for themselves and for their families.  To read the full article, please click:


The Department of Defense, DCoE’s resilience and prevention subject matter expert conducted a thorough review of the concept and has kept the information in their database should a DoD stakeholder be interested in the idea. The Army continues to seek out ways to better support "resiliency", "connection", and "support" in support of the families. To support these requirements, "Touch.Nology" has a proven system/product that meets and exceeds requirements in these critical areas for the families of our great Army, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, Army National Guard, & Army Reserve.  They are used with the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard Service as well as the Naval Special Warfare Family Support and Children’s Programs.  There are specific kits for: Deployed Soldiers, Family & Friends, Children ages 3-18, Youth (Teenagers), Families with wounded Soldiers, Basic Training Kits and Family Reconnection post deployment (Strong Bonds).  For more information:

New Transition Assistance Program Set for November Launch

Parts of a new transition assistance program (TAP) were tested this summer and the revamped TAP will be ready to support departing Servicemembers in November.  The revamped TAP includes a five-day workshop for troops leaving military service.  Troops attending TAP will be able to select a path, depending upon if they plan to pursue education after the military, search for a job or start their own business.  After the initial mandatory five-day workshop, additional days of training will be available depending upon the path that Servicemembers select and their ability to meet "career readiness standards."  Additionally, TAP can prepare departing Servicemembers for technical training or trade schools, as well as college, and can help them prepare resumes for a job search and help them determine how their military schooling could translate into career credentials. It can help them develop a financial plan, and possibly start their own business as well.  For further information about this new TAP, please click:

Readiness Council Adds Family Reps, Prioritizes Troop, Family Support

The Defense Department's Military Family Readiness Council convened at the Pentagon on September 20, 2012 with more family representation and an agreement to work to save troop and family support programs from budget cuts. Congress created the council as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act with a mandate to meet at least twice a year to review military family policies and programs and make recommendations to the secretary of defense. This year's defense spending bill expanded membership to include one spouse or parent representative from each of the services, as well as the director of the Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs. Learn more:

Dr. Lynette M. Fraga Named Executive Director for Child Care Aware® of America

Child Care Aware® of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association for Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies) announced today the selection of Dr. Lynette M. Fraga as the Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America, the nation's leading voice for child care, who work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to quality, affordable child care.  Dr. Fraga comes to Child Care Aware® of America from, a global care company providing a forum for families seeking care support, where she served as Vice President of Early Care and Special Populations.  To read more about her, please see:

Financial App for Military Families

The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP), in partnership with Better Business Bureau (BBB), has launched a free mobile app designed to help America's military families make better personal decisions to ensure their financial independence. The Military & Money App is the first financial educational app that provides Servicemembers and their spouses easy-to-use and practical money management tips, including tools to reduce debt and maximize savings. The Military & Money App is available free on iTunes. A companion website can be found at at

Companies Lauded for Top Support of Guard, Reserve Employees

Fifteen companies and organizations from a port to a power company received the coveted Secretary of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Freedom Award here yesterday.  The ESGR Freedom Award ceremony highlighted private and public companies which go above and beyond what the law requires to support their deployed Guard and reserve employees.  Now in its 17th year, the ESGR Freedom Award is the top honor the federal government can present to employers in recognition of the extra steps taken to support their deployed employees and families. Such employers seek to not only retain and support their employees who serve in military, they also hire veterans.  For a complete list of these employees, please see:

Officials Discuss Education Outreach for Hispanic Youth

The Defense Department's (DoD) director of Diversity Management, Stephanie Miller, joined other senior government officials to discuss federal efforts to encourage young people of Hispanic descent to obtain the education and knowledge necessary to enter technical occupations.  The DoD views education as a vital component of national security, since today's students are potentially tomorrow's Servicemembers and the U.S. military's equipment and weaponry are becoming ever more sophisticated.  One example of DoD youth outreach is the STARBASE Program which stands for Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration.  The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that nearly 50 percent of new jobs in the next decade will be in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Yet few Hispanic students are choosing those career fields. Additionally, the Labor Department (DoL) has several programs to help at-risk youth stay in school and continue their education to achieve good jobs as well.  To learn more about this article, please go to:

Ret. Military Leaders Slam Junk Food in Schools

Several hundred retired military leaders are raising red flags about childhood obesity in the U.S. and its impact on finding qualified recruits, calling for junk food to be booted out of schools and healthier fare to be offered in vending machines and a la carte lines.  A group of more than 300 retired generals and admirals recently released a new report saying that 40 percent of students who buy high-calorie, low-nutrient junk food from school vending machines and cafeteria a la carte lines consume an average of 130 calories a day from those types of foods.  All those extra calories are contributing to childhood obesity, a problem that means many young people are too heavy to serve in the military, ultimately putting national security at risk, the report says.  For the complete article, please see:

Exchange Now Accepting Medagate Worldwide

As of 8 September, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is officially the first retailer to accept the Medagate Over the Counter (OTC) benefits card on a worldwide basis. Medagate is a card-based program provided by Medicare and Medicaid Services that enables merchants to accept payment at the register for medicine and medical supplies covered by medical insurance plans. Medagate OTC cards are issued to Medicare and Medicaid members on behalf of insurance providers and are periodically reloaded by Medicare, Medicaid and other health plan companies. Cardholders can simply bring qualifying items to an Exchange checkout (including Express, Troop Store and Main Store locations) where the Medagate OTC card is swiped to pay for all eligible items. For details about this card, please go to:

Industry Recognizes VA Campaigns: Public Awareness for Veterans Mental Health Care

Two U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) public awareness campaigns designed to help Veterans who seek mental health care assistance have received forty-three industry and association awards for communication and design excellence.  The Veterans Crisis Line and Make the Connection campaigns strive to reach Veterans and their families and friends wherever they are. Using state-of-the-art online and communications tools, the campaigns have increased awareness of critical VA resources available to Veterans and their families and friends dealing with crises or other mental health challenges.  The campaigns have received recognition from many organizations and associations including the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, the Service Industry Advertising Awards, the Telly Awards, American Psychological Association, Interactive Media Awards, and the National Association of Government Communicators.  VA recently launched a new national public service announcement “Side by Side” that focuses on the important role family and community play in supporting Veterans in crisis. To view it, please visit:

VA, DOD to Fund $100 Million PTSD and TBI Study

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense today announced they are investing more than $100 million in research to improve diagnosis and treatment of mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Two groups, The Consortium to Alleviate PTSD and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium will be jointly managed by VA, and by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, on behalf of the DOD. Read more

VA Approves $28 Million in Grants for Homeless Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced it has approved $28.4 million in grants to fund 38 projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia that will provide transitional housing to homeless veterans.  Among these 38 projects, 31 will provide temporary housing to homeless veterans with the goal that they will retain the residence as their own.  Thirty-one of the grants were awarded through VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program's (GPD) "Transition in Place" model. The program allows veterans the opportunity to take over payment of a lease instead of moving out after using VA services.  GPD helps close gaps in available housing for the nation's most vulnerable homeless veterans, including women with children, Native American tribal populations, and veterans with substance use and mental health issues.  View here for details:

DoD Receives Military Family Support Award

The Defense Department (DoD) has been honored by a nonprofit organization for its collaboration with Congress in creating programs to support military families.  The National Military Family Association awarded its annual Support of Military Families award to the department at a September 24 reception on Capitol Hill that celebrated several longstanding supporters of military families.  To read this article in full, please go to:

Congress Clears CR

The Senate worked into the early hours last Saturday to clear a six-month continuing resolution. The measure, cleared by the House earlier this month, extends funding through March 27, 2013, with a 0.6 percent increase for most programs and agencies. With the beginning of the fiscal year looming (October 1) and all 11 appropriations bills still awaiting passage, the must-pass funding bill was the last item on the agenda for those congressional members hoping to get back to the campaign trail. The President is expected to sign the bill soon.

House Discusses New Transition Programs

Last week the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hosted a hearing to discuss the implementation of the military's new Transition Assistance Program. Your VFW, which has been highly critical of TAP over the years, was on hand to hear from the departments responsible for the new program's implementation, including Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and VA. To learn more about the hearing and to read VFW's reaction, go to

Absentee Voting Begins

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) encourages service members, spouses, voting-age dependents and overseas civilians who want to vote to visit to register and request their absentee ballots. If voters do not receive their ballot by October 6, FVAP recommends they complete and mail the back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to their local election office. If, after submitting the FWAB, they receive their State absentee ballot, they should also vote and return it. If both ballots are received by the deadline, only the State ballot will be counted. It is also very important that election officials have your correct current address. Of the 67,000 ballots received at overseas APO/FPOs for the 2010 election, 20,000 were redirected to another address and 13,000 were returned to sender.

Send Us Your Campaign Season Stories

Campaign season is in full swing, and hosting or attending Town Hall meetings or visiting with your members in their district offices is strong grassroots advocacy in action. This is why the VFW wants to highlight your advocacy work on our Capitol Hill blog, It is the work you do in the community that has helped stop bad legislation and advanced good bills to improve programs and services for service members, veterans and their families. The VFW's sustained voice in Washington, however, is only as strong as the voice of VFW members and our advocates around the country. With your support, the VFW helped bring about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, traumatic injury insurance, hiring preferences, advance health care appropriations, and family caregiver benefits, among many other accomplishments. Help us publicize your local success stories. Go to or simply email photos and stories directly to

Two MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced the identification of two servicemen who were missing in action from World War II and Korea. Returned home are:
* Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Samuel E. Lunday, 20, of Marianna, Fla. On April 24, 1943, Lunday and four other U.S. servicemen were flying a C-87 Liberator Express aircraft from China over the Himalayan mountains to their home base in India. Radio communications were lost following take-off and the crew was never heard from again. Eleven aerial search missions were unable to locate the aircraft or crew.
* Marine Pfc. Richard S. Gzik, 19, of Toledo, Ohio. On Dec. 2, 1950, Gzik and the other Marines of M Battery, 11th Artillery Regiment, 1st Marine Division, came under attack on the west side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Gzik was killed in action and buried. The fighting withdrawal of U.N. forces later that month prevented the recovery of his remains.
Read more about their stores at

It’s Called “Kicking The Can Down The Road

Despite the fact that they have many serious issues to deal with before the end of this year the members of Congress continued their stalemate during their short (two week) session after they returned from their August recess. The only substantial thing they managed to accomplish was passage of a “CR” – a concurrent resolution that will fund the federal government through March 27 of next year. Without the CR the federal government would have been forced to shut down on October1.

The CR was necessary because Congress has failed to pass a single one of the 12 funding bills it is supposed to pass each year. The hope is that the short-term funding will give them enough time to resolve all of the important issues they face and be able to agree on a budget for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year.

Funding for veterans’ disability-benefit processing was increased from $2.0 billion to $2.1 billion, one of the largest budget increases in the entire CR. In addition the Department of Defense faces a number of spending restrictions including a ban on starting new projects that aren’t funded in the current (2012) fiscal year.

The funding resolution continues a freeze on the pay of federal workers and also members of Congress.

Sequestration and the Threat of Simpson-Bowles

We have told you that after passing the CR (please see above) most members of Congress have gone back to their home districts and states to campaign. But that does not mean that nothing is happening on the Hill. Staffers are negotiating among themselves to prepare for the lame duck session. They are, understandably focused on dealing with the looming sequestration threat. That law presently reads that if a deficit reduction plan is not passed and signed into law by January 1st- there will be $1.2 trillion across the board cuts over 10 years ($500 billion out of defense and $500+ billion out of domestic discretionary programs.)

This would be dreadful and ham-fisted. There would be no judging of which programs can be cut and which ones must not be. Indeed, this is why it was originally passed. (The idea was that this was so unpalatable to both parties that a different deficit reduction agreement would be reach.) But alas- so far that has not proven to be true.

So what to do? Well there is a great deal of negotiation going on behind the scene. Publically 6 Senators (who are not running for re-election this year) have publically announced that they are working on an agreement were to try and stop the automatic sequestration. They are Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Carl Levin (D-MI), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

We also have it on good authority that lots of additional members of Congress and staffers are working on various deals.

While all this sounds hopeful there is a real threat to military retirees’ earned benefits. All these Senators as well as many other members of Congress seem to be planning to base their proposals on the Simpson-Bowles report. ( actually titled “The Moment of Truth: Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” but always referred to as Simpson-Bowles for the 2 co-chairmen of the commission) That report proposed numerous cuts and cost increases in health care programs. Surely we could expect that one of those plans would be TRICARE (as well as Medicare and the “Doc Fix”)

So far this Congressional session we have been largely successful in convincing Congress to refuse to adopt DoD’s proposals that call for:

  • dramatic co-pay and enrollment fee increases for retirees in TRICARE Prime
  • the creation of a yearly TFL enrollment fee
  • as well as ones for TRICARE Standard and Extra
  • and both dramatic increases in pharmacy co-pays and restrictions in where one call fill certain prescriptions 

But the House’s and the SASC’s versions of the NDAA are still pending. They could easily change and DoD’s proposals included. A lame duck session push could adopt these types of increases at the last minute. So we must all be vigilant. We must continue to push to protect these earned benefits. TREA will continue to fight any of these proposals and will keep you informed of any new or continuing threats.

An Interesting and Worrisome Fact

It is interesting to note that for the first time in almost 80 years none of the 4 major candidates for President and Vice President have served in the military.

The last time was 1932 (Hoover vs. FDR) Neither man served in the military However both were heavily involved in the First World War in civilian positions (Mr. Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913 through 1920 while Mr. Hoover ran America’s European relief efforts from 1913 through 1921.)

Veterans Jobs Corps Bill Held Up in Senate

Last week Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have established a $1 billion jobs program to pay veterans to work on America’s federal lands, as well as for local police and fire departments.

Republicans said the spending in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year, known as Pay-As-You-Go, or Pay-Go. Democrats and their Republican allies fell two votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to waive the objection, forcing the legislation back to committee. Congress will not reconvene until after the Presidential election this November.

A handful of Republicans joined with Democrats in voting to waive the objection to the bill: Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Senators Brown and Heller are also in tough re-election contests.

The legislation was loosely modeled on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps used during the Great Depression to put people to work planting trees, building parks and constructing dams. The latest monthly jobs report revealed an almost 11 percent unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what prompted Congress to take action on this issue.

Republicans agreed with the idea to help veterans, but said that they couldn’t find a way to pay for it.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said the federal government already has six job-training programs for veterans and there is no way to know how well they are working. He argued that making progress on the country's debt was the best way to help veterans in the long-term.

Heller said he was proud to support the bill.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) had filibustered the bill the week before, saying that Congress also had to cut foreign aid to Pakistan until the doctor that helped Seal Team Six kill Osama bin Laden was freed, and that the United States should stop all aid to Libya in the wake of the attacks on the U.S. consulate there that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

TREA: The Enlisted Association is sad that such a good idea fell prey to petty election-year tactics from both sides, and urges Congress as a whole to do more and work harder to lower veteran unemployment.

Silver Star Recipients Are Added to Federal Valor Site

It was announced this week that Silver Star recipients have been added to the valor site stood up in July by the Department of Defense. The site contains recipients since September 11, 2001.The site: was created to praise the heroism of the recipients and to help stop others from falsely claiming that they had received military honors. In July the site contained Medal of Honor recipients; in August the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross were added and now Silver Star recipients are posted.

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee Investigates Transition Assistance Program

On Thursday, September 20, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held an oversight hearing to examine the redesigned Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a joint venture between the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Last November, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 made TAP training mandatory for all servicemembers who were ending their time in service. TREA: The Enlisted Association was represented at the hearing by Deputy Legislative Director Mike Saunders.

Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) emphasized the need to tailor TAP to the individual servicemember’s needs, since not every servicemember is going to college, and not every servicemember is going to start their own business. The Subcommittee also detailed the necessity of giving servicemembers the choice of which tracks they would like to pursue.

While the Subcommittee remains optimistic about the future of TAP and its potential impact on servicemembers returning to civilian life, some are troubled by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) reservations regarding Congressional oversight.

 “While I realize that what is now being taught under TAP 2.0 is in its formative stages, having DoD employees question Congress’ oversight role is inappropriate,” stated Stutzman.

Each military service is responsible for enacting their own system; as of this time only the Marines have implemented the ability to have individualized tracks for each transitioning servicemember. The others, the Army, Air Force Navy and Coast Guard, all said that they would study the initiative and report back to Congress on whether or not they would follow suit.

Since the redesigned TAP program is so new, there was not much data presented at the hearing, nor were there very specific details on what type of training was taking place. TREA hopes that more of this information will become available in the near future so that we can properly evaluate the new TAP program.

VA Joins Push to Make Women Aware of Heart Disease Risks

Yesterday the Department of Veterans Affairs joined the American Heart Association in an event to help educatie women in the dangers of heart disease. Although some people still believe heart decease is a man’s problem more American women die of heart disease than of any other cause. Below please find the VA’s press release on yesterday’s event outside the VA headquarters.

September 24, 2012   

VA Teams Up with American Heart Association to Raise Awareness of Heart Disease in Women

Health and Fitness Event Will Run During Vermont Avenue Farmer's Market

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs will raise awareness of heart disease in women, particularly women Veterans and VA employees, at a “VA Goes Red” health expo Thursday, Sep. 27, outside VA’s central office at 810 Vermont Avenue. The event will run in conjunction with the FRESHFARM farmer’s market held at the same location from 11 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.       

“We are proud to team with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red For Women movement to raise awareness of heart disease in women Veterans and VA staff,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This event not only highlights our commitment to care for women Veterans, but it’s also a great opportunity to share information about cardiovascular disease and prevention.”

Activities will include healthy cooking demonstrations, fitness classes, health screenings and CPR instruction. VA’s Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey and Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Jesse, a cardiologist, will speak during the programmed portion from noon to 1:00 p.m. AHA President Donna Arnett, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., and chairperson of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, will also speak during the event.

“With the number of female Veterans and women in the military rising, and Go Red For Women entering its 10th year, now is the time to unite in the fight against the number one killer of women and advocate for an increase in women-focused research,” said Dr. Arnett. “Currently, 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, so we’re thankful for the opportunity to provide thousands of women with life-saving information about their personal risks through our relationship with VA.”

VA and the AHA announced their collaboration in May. By combining efforts, the organizations can maximize their resources and share Go Red For Women’s messages and tools with women Veterans and VA employees.

The farmer’s market—which opened as a result of First Lady Michelle Obama’s mission to make healthy food options more accessible to the DC population—provides an ideal venue to discuss heart disease prevention strategies, which include exercise and healthy eating.

Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. By 2020, VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population.

Visit and to learn more about VA programs and services for women Veterans.