Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 5 September 2012 

9/5/2012 

 

AUSA 2012 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 20-22, 2012 October 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. Register now by going to http://www.udreg.com/ausa/

Northern Command Assists With Hurricane Isaac Efforts

U.S. Northern Command is coordinating Defense Department support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local response activities in response to Hurricane Isaac.
Northcom has deployed four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Campbell, Ky., and two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters from Norfolk Naval Air Station, Va., to assist in search and rescue efforts. A search and rescue planner has also been activated and deployed to the Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center in Louisiana. Four emergency liaison officers deployed to the National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., in support of FEMA, and Fort Polk, La., has been designated as a federal team staging area. Read more: http://www.defense.gov//News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=117682

Thousands of Guardsmen Available to Governors in Isaac's Path

More than 33,500 National Guard personnel and nearly 100 aircraft are available to the governors of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens states along the Gulf of Mexico, Defense Department officials said; Click here for full article: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117652

University of Ky. to Study Military Suicides

The University of Kentucky is conducting a study to find out how military suicides affect families and friends.  Researcher Julie Cerel told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the study’s goal is to help develop a comprehensive approach that will prevent military suicides. She states that this study will help increase understanding on how many veterans are affected by suicide. It will also help examine exposure to suicide in the general population and how suicide affects families, communities and workplaces.  The Department of Defense reports 154 active duty members of the military committed suicides across the nation during the first six months of this year. That’s an 18 percent increase over the same period in 2011 when 130 suicides were reported.  For complete details, click: http://bit.ly/RPZhA4

Awarded Military and Family Life Counseling (MFLC) Contract

MHN Government Services, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. recently announced it has been awarded a U.S. Department of Defense Military & Family Life Counseling (MFLC) contract. The new contract is a second-generation contract under the MFLC program.  The MFLC program provides short-term counseling to active duty military Servicemembers, including members of the National Guard and Reserve Components, and their families. The MFLC program sends licensed clinical counselors to military installations to meet face-to-face with military family members to provide counseling, support and tools to respond to daily stressors, including the cycle of deployment and reintegration, relationship challenges and working in harm’s way.  Services under the new contract will commence on November 15, 2012, following a three-month transition period during which MHN Government Services will continue to provide behavioral health services to military service members and their families under the current MFLC contract. For the entire article, please view: http://www.tricare.mil/mediacenter/contractornews.aspx?fid=142

Financial Wellness Series for People with Disabilities

The National Disability Institute will present a webinar series featuring six, free 90-minute online programs. Each webinar will begin at 1500 Eastern Time on select Wednesdays starting in September and continue each month through December 2012. The series will address personal finances, taxes and public benefits as they relate to people living with multiple sclerosis, their families and caregivers. However, the topics would be of interest to all people with disabilities. The first webinar, Being Money Smart, will be held on 5 September from 3 - 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  To register online for each seminar, please go to: http://bit.ly/OiCSGl

Students at DODEA Schools Returning to Changes, Challenges

This year’s incoming freshmen in DODEA schools will have to earn more math credits to get a diploma. Alongside of some staffing changes, DODEA is introducing four new high school math courses with a focus on algebraic concepts and applications as well.  The emphasis on high school math comes as DODEA looks to better prepare its students for college math and the workforce in a technological age where skills in math are increasingly essential. In addition most of the more than 86,000 students at 194 military schools worldwide will have better Internet access in schools and more technology in the classroom, from individual-issued laptops for students at some Pacific schools to special education tablets in Europe to additional virtual classes.  For details, please click: http://1.usa.gov/NZZYkn

Soldier Leads Drive for School Supplies

A 1st Cavalry Division Soldier headed a fundraiser to provide school supplies for the Mae Stevens Elementary school in Copperas Cove, Texas.  “It's about giving back to a community that has given so much to you," said Army Sgt. Johnny Merical, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer for Company B, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.  After more than a month of collecting donations, and with help from other soldiers in his platoon, Merical bought school supplies and presented them to the school, as the community and school has supported him and his family as well.  The school's students and their families were in dire need of the supplies and this act of selflessness will certainly help.  To read the entire article, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117671

Express Mail for Military Ballots

Effective Sept. 1, 2012, through Nov. 30, 2012, customers can mail their Casted Absentee Ballots back to the United States for free using express mail military service. To receive this free service, customers must present absentee ballots at a post office finance window to receive a copy of the express mail 11-DoD label. The express mail label includes a tracking number customers can use to track the status of ballots on the Postal Service website. This service is only available to citizens who are casting votes by absentee ballot and cannot be used for other voting material mailings. All American citizens overseas, regardless of status, are authorized to use this free service and the military postal system to mail absentee ballots at any military post office.  For the Postal Service website, please go to: https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction%21input.action

Voting Program Launches Website for Smartphones

Servicemembers, their families and U.S. citizens living overseas now have voting information at their fingertips with the Federal Voting Assistance program's new mobile website.  The site provides an interface that quickly leads users to voting information in an easy-to-read, mobile-friendly format. The site connects voters with the latest news alerts, absentee voting information, state election dates, key contact information, and answers to frequently asked questions. Users also can sign up for FVAP's voting alerts.  The site connects voters with the latest news alerts, absentee voting information, state election dates, key contact information, and answers to frequently asked questions. Users will be directed automatically to the mobile website when they visit FVAP.gov from a mobile browser.  For more information, please click: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117656

DLA Orders Six-month Meat Supply to Aid Industry

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is procuring a six-month meat supply for its Defense Department (DoD) customers to provide relief to the drought-stricken agriculture industry.  The DLA Troop Support Subsistence supply chain is asking its top three prime vendors to purchase, store and distribute beef, pork, lamb, chicken and catfish items.  DLA Troop Support Subsistence provided millions of pounds meat to the U.S. military services and other DoD agencies all over the world.  One of five DLA Troop Support supply chains, Subsistence ensures that Servicemembers and other DoD customers around the world have high-quality, nutritious meals daily.  To read the entire article, please see: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117667

Exchange 'Takes a Bite Out of Crime'

According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, losses due to thefts from retail stores alone amount to more than 35 million a day. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), which has contributed more than $2.4 billion to morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) programs in the past 10 years, continues to focus its efforts on reducing theft to maximize the investment authorized shoppers make in their Exchange benefit.  Through an aggressive “Shoplifting Awareness Community Outreach” program targeted at youth, closed circuit televisions with DVR technology and high-tech Electronic Article Surveillance, shoplifting cases dropped 12.7 percent, from 5,432 in 2010 to 4,742 at the AAFES stores.  To read details regarding this subject, please click: http://publicaffairs-sme.com/pressrelease/?p=920

H.R. 1627 Improves VA Loans

On 6 August 2012, President Obama signed The Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act (H.R. 1627). The new law addresses some of the problems veterans have been facing recently including medical conditions caused by contaminated water used by families stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The signed legislation also makes certain veterans’ benefits, like VA loans, are more readily available. Additionally, this new law makes VA loans available to more surviving spouses, disabled vets and single parents, and VA loan limits return to $729,750 to over $1,000,000 for high-cost areas as well.  To see all of the changes regarding H.R. 1627, please view: http://mnstr.me/MXqihW

Shinseki Notes Strides in Serving Nation's Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki claimed that it has made great strides in meeting the challenges posed by a decade of war, and cooperation with the Defense Department (DoD) is crucial to continued progress. Shinseki continued saying that repeated deployments over the last decade have created issues that don't show up immediately. More Servicemembers are surviving catastrophic injuries, but higher survival rates also mean complex casualties such as post-traumatic stress (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), amputations, blindness, deafness and other injuries which can have compounding effects, he explained. In the face of these challenges, he said, VA has decided the compensation claims of 2.9 million veterans in the past three and a half years. In 2012, he expects that for the third straight year, VA will decide 1 million. Despite a backlog, VA is working with Pentagon officials to establish a single, common integrated electronic health record by 2014.  For more about this subject, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117670

Veterans Retraining Program to Enhance Job Skills

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has approved more than 36,000 applications for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a new training and education program for unemployed Veterans to upgrade their skills for in-demand jobs.  The program, a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which was passed by Congress and signed by the President in November 2011, is managed by VA and the Department of Labor (DOL) and allows qualifying Veterans to receive up to 12 months of education assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month.  The goal of VRAP is to train a total of 99,000 Veterans over the next two years in more than 200 job skills that DOL has determined are the most sought-after by employers.  To learn about this program and if you qualify, please go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2374

VA Expands Women's Health Practitioner Trainings

The Department of Veterans Affairs(VA) has trained nearly 1,500 providers through its flagship National Women’s Health Mini-Residency Program, one of many training opportunities for VA clinicians to sharpen their women’s health skills.  The training ranges from traditional lectures with direct instruction to online and audio courses. Several courses target physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners; other courses have sections geared toward wider audiences, including nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and psychologists. VA’s Employee Education System and VHA’s Simulation Learning Education and Research Network partnered closely with Women’s Health Education to develop the courses.  For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please visit: http://www.va.gov/womenvet and http://www.womenshealth.va.gov or read: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2375

VA Reports that VRAP Slots Are Filling Up Quickly

The Veterans Affairs Department (VA) announced, in a press release this past Monday, it has filled 36,000 of the 45,000 job training openings available in 2012 for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a new training and education program for unemployed veterans to upgrade their skills for in-demand jobs. VA expects to have every slot filled by September 30.

An additional 54,000 openings will be available at the start of the new fiscal year, October 1. VRAP provides up to 12 months of full-time Montgomery GI Bill benefits at the active duty rate, currently $1,473 per month, for veterans to take vocational training classes.

VRAP is part of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which was passed by Congress and signed by the President in November 2011. The VRAP portion was shepherded out of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee by Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL). The goal of VRAP is to train a total of 99,000 veterans over the next two years in more than 200 job skills that DOL has determined are the most sought-after by employers. The program is fully paid for.

From the Press Release:

To be eligible for the program, a Veteran must:

• Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;

• Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;

• Not be enrolled in a federal or state job-training program within the last 180 days; and

• Not receive VA compensation at the 100% rate due to individual unemployability (IU).

Veterans who have been approved for VRAP are encouraged to enroll as soon as possible to start training full-time in a VA-approved program of study offered by a community college or technical school. The program of study must lead to an associate degree, non-college degree, or certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by DOL.

Applicants approved for the 2013 phase should enroll full-time in an approved program and start training by April 2013 in order to take full advantage of this benefit before its termination March 31, 2014.

 Potential applicants can learn more about VRAP and apply online at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA toll-free at 1-800-827-1000. Information about the Department of Labor’s programs for Veterans is available at www.dol.gov/vets. Veterans can also visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation, listed at www.servicelocator.org, for in-person assistance.

Congressmen Call for Audit of TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy Program

Earlier this month eight members of Congress sent a letter to the Defense Department’s Inspector General requesting an audit of the TRICARE mail order pharmacy program. Among those signing the bi-partisan letter were Rep. Walter Jones (R- N.C.) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine).

The members are asking that the following questions be answered by the audit:

  • What controls are in place to ensure patients do not receive medication which they no longer need? 
  • What processes exist to halt the shipment of medication when type of medication, dosage, strength or other changes are made by a patient’s physician? 
  • Are TRICARE beneficiaries provided an opportunity to opt-out of automatic refill programs? 
  • Is higher utilization of mail order resulting in waste (in volume, prescription, and patient population) and increased health care costs for the Department of Defense? 
  • How effectively are patients utilizing their medications? 
  • How is TRICARE measuring adherence? 
  • What policy recommendations would TRICARE make to ensure patients are taking the medications? 

According to the letter the audit is being requested because of TRICARE’s emphasis on getting more beneficiaries to use the mail order pharmacy program. The Congressional members want to make sure the mail order program can generate the savings that DOD has said it will.

Auditing a program for effectiveness is always a good thing and since DOD has no idea where it spends all of its money TREA believes that if the entire DOD budget could be audited millions, if not billions, of dollars could be found that could be used to fund DOD health care programs without having to force military beneficiaries to pay more.

New Director of Center for Minority Veterans Named

The Department of Veterans Affairs has appointed Barbara Ward to the Senior Executive Service and assigned her as the Director of the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans.

“Barbara Ward is an outstanding fit in her new job and will provide a fresh perspective on women and minority issues,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “She possesses a unique blend of administrative and leadership skills that will greatly benefit all Veterans. We are lucky to have her.”

Ward previously served as Deputy Secretary for Women and Minority Veterans Affairs, California Department of Veterans Affairs from 2007-2011. She is a United States Air Force, and Vietnam-Era Veteran, who served as a commissioned officer in the Air Force Nurse Corps from 1972-1974. In her new position, she will serve as the principal adviser to the Secretary on the adoption and implementation of policies and programs affecting minority Veterans.

For more information about the Center for Minority Veterans, please visit: http://www.va.gov/centerforminorityveterans.

DoD Briefs on Back-To-School Initiatives

On Thursday afternoon, Marilee Fitzgerald, the Director of DoD Educational Activity (DODEA) held a briefing at the Pentagon to outline what was happening in the DoD school system at the start of the new school year. There are 194 DODEA schools this year located in 22 countries, 7 states and 2 territories. They are going to teach 87,000 children from preschool through 12th grade. (There are an additional 1.2 million military kids going to public schools around the country as well this year.)

Ms. Fitzgerald explained and praised these children by saying: “And our students have one bond that unites them all: They are all part of a military community. And I'd like to refer to this group of military children as ambassadors of our U.S. military core values. They are -- they bring a lifestyle, a commitment and a sense of purpose.

They -- their values are rooted in honor, courage, selfless sacrifice, loyalty, respect, integrity and excellence -- just like the families in which they live, just like their mothers and fathers who have made a commitment to our nation. That's what makes these children so very special for us.”

She noted that many military children will attend 6-9 schools before they graduate from high school. In DODEA schools has a 35% mobility rate.

We also learned that the DODEA schools have 8,000 teachers and support staff in the 194 schools.

70% of the DODEA schools’ physical plants have been found to be in “poor or failing condition”. (which fortunately does not mean unsafe but does mean unacceptable.) After much urging DoD has provided $3.7 billion over 5 years to get these 134 schools back into proper shape. 49 schools are in design stage and 7 new schools are under construction.

In addition there is an ongoing pilot project providing laptops in 14 middle and high schools. DODEA plans to expand this pilot into all their schools. It was also announced that there are additions to the present curriculum. Along with financial literacy DOD has added 8 new courses eight new courses in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- robotics engineering, green technology engineering, biotechnology engineering, and applied mathematics. So all told it sounds like an exciting year.

DODEA schools continue to be among the highest ranked schools throughout the nation. It is a benefit that TREA continues to watch closely.

VA to Celebrate 105th Birthday of Woman Vet

On September 11, the DC VA Medical Center is planning a birthday celebration for one of their residents. Alyce Dixon will be turning 105 years old!!!!!

In their announcement of this event the VA Wrote: “Veteran Alyce Dixon was among the first African-American women to serve in the Army. She joined at age 31 in 1944 and was stationed in both England and France. Ms. Dixon was in the 6888th Battalion, a postal service division. She has lived in the VA’s Community Living Center for over 10 years and is an active member of the Residents’ Council. “

This is quite an event. They are hoping that veterans (and others) will send Ms. Dixon birthday greeting either by going on the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s FACEBOOK page or by mailing her cards and congratulations to her at: Washington DC VA Medical Center, Community Living Center (Building 6), 50 Irving Street, NW, Washington, DC 20422

For more information you can also go to: www.washingtondc.va.gov.

AUSA Family Programs Launches Facebook Page

We have created our own Family Programs Facebook Page! Here you will find access to our weekly update, information about upcoming AUSA Family Programs activities, photos, and posts we hope you will enjoy. Help us spread the word and "like" our page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/AUSA-Family-Programs/394598297270094

Virtual Delegates Needed for AUSA's Family Forums

AUSA Family Programs is excited to announce a new pilot for FRG and FRSA’s to become involved with AUSA’s Family Forums; Virtual Delegates. Through the use of broadcast and social media Virtual Delegates would be selected by the senior commanders (installation, ARNG or USAR unit) whose installation houses army schools and NCO academies. Each selected location will forward the names of virtual delegates through IMCOM, ARNG, and USAR Family Program coordinators to AUSA Family Programs office for consolidation and registration.  Detailed information regarding this pilot will be coming soon to our website.  Interested FRG and FRSA leaders should contact their installation ACS or JFSAP Family Programs. To view the Family Forum schedule please go to:  http://www.ausa.org/resources/familyprograms/Pages/default.aspx

Suncoast Chapter President to Receive Abrams Medal

Retired MG Fred Raymond, Suncoast Chapter President for six years, will receive AUSA’s second highest award at the AUSA Annual Meeting in October, located in DC. Named for General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of all forces in South Vietnam, the award recognizes unselfish dedication and support to America’s Army and to the objectives of AUSA.  For the past 20 years, he has spent hundreds of hours at the National Archives in Washington searching military campaigns and actions in Vietnam to right several wrongs for awards to Soldiers with whom he served.  Additional awards include the Silver Star for valor, Bronze Stars for, both Valor and Service, Air Medals, Commendation Letters and Medals and the Combat Infantry Badge to Soldiers of his platoon and company where original nominations were lost in the heat of battle.  To learn more about this and the Suncoast chapter, please go to: http://www.facebook.com/AUSASuncoastChapter

Joining Forces Exceeds Hiring Goals for Vets, Spouses

First Lady Michelle Obama stated that The White House initiative to hire veterans and military spouses has surpassed its goals, having led to the hiring or training of more than 125,000 veterans and spouses in the past year.  2,000 companies have hired 125,000 employees through their pledges to the "Joining Forces" campaign, and, of those, 140 employers have hired 28,000 military spouses.  Additionally, the Joining Forces initiative to make professional licenses portable from state to state for military spouses is progressing!  For more information, please go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117599

Money App Puts Finances in Hand

The ins and outs of getting and staying in good financial shape can feel like a full-time job. From buying a house to researching tax breaks to asking about lower interest rates on credit cards or auto insurance, getting smart about finances takes effort. That endeavor can be made easier, however, with a free website and app created especially for military members by the Better Business Bureau and McGraw Hill Companies. Read about it at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117540

DODEA Focuses on Teacher Development for New School Year

Students heading back to Defense Department schools over the next few weeks are likely to see many improvements, including modernized classrooms, the latest technology, new course offerings, healthier school lunches, and even some new academic requirements. But the area getting the most attention in the name of student achievement will be less obvious, and that is staff development. Learn more: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117594

Stay Up-to-Date on Immunizations Before School

Immunizations are the most effective way to prevent disease and complications from disease, especially among young children. August is Immunization Awareness Month, the perfect time to make sure children have gotten their recommended immunizations before heading back to school.  Parents should check with their school district to be sure of the requirements for enrollment.  TRICARE covers necessary physical exams that, children ages 5-11, need to enroll in school, and age-appropriate immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Immunizations are covered at no cost to beneficiaries if they get them at a TRICARE-authorized provider or participating TRICARE network pharmacy. To find a pharmacy or provider that participates in the vaccine program and to see a list  of covered immunizations go to www.tricare.mil/immunizations

TRICARE Offers Home Delivery

TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program growth continues to soar in 2012 by offering a safe, affordable and convenient way to get prescriptions delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.  One of the most popular features is the automatic prescription refill option, which ensures patients do not run out of their medications.  Home delivery is also safe, automatically checking medical and prescription history to help prevent harmful drug interactions.  Beneficiaries can find links to sign up for TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or enroll their existing home delivery prescriptions in the automatic prescription refill program at www.tricare.mil/homedelivery or call toll free at 1-877-363-1303.  To read this article in full, please go to: http://www.military.com/military-report/tricare-offers-home-delivery?ESRC=miltrip.nl

Army Working on Blood Test to Detect TBI

The Army is expected to have an FDA-approved battlefield blood test for traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) in two years.  Col. Dallas Hack, a doctor and director of Combat Casualty Care at Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Md., stated that the Army’s trials of the blood test among troops in Afghanistan have proved promising. The current trial includes sites in the United States and abroad.  Researchers have identified proteins that appear in the blood after cells are damaged by a brain injury, and the test is meant to indicate the presence of those proteins.  Unfortunately, Hack emphasized that the test is for use only within days of an injury.  To read further details, click: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/08/army_brain_081512w/

Trauma Chief Cites Sweeping Changes in Critical Care

A trauma expert here claimed that from battlefield innovations to revamped health care systems, the military has radically transformed its trauma care over the past decade.  These advances have led not only to the nation's highest combat survivability rate in history, but also to countless saved civilian lives. One of the most significant trauma care advances was the introduction of regionalized trauma care, which involves a network of trauma centers in the same region working in coordination to save lives.  The military adopted this civilian-based concept in combat by implementing care that ranges from point-of-injury treatment to extensive surgery. By doing so, the military was able to take this concept downrange, "tweak it," and feed it back to the nation with improvements. For details, please view: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117612

New Campus for Wounded Warriors

Construction is underway on a new Soldier in Transition Campus at Fort Eustis, Va., which will greatly improve the recuperative process for wounded warriors assigned to the post's Warrior Transition Unit. The Warrior Transition Complex will consist of three primary facilities -- a 43,200 square-foot barracks capable of housing 80 Soldiers, a 16,600 square-foot company administration building that will provide office space for 76 people, and a 7,000 square-foot Soldier and Family Assistance Center to provide family-support services. The new campus is expected to be completed between December 2012 and February 2013.  For further details, click: http://www.military.com/military-transition


Military-Connected Girl's Recipe Lands on White House Plates

Finwe Wiendenhoeft is a military-connected kid living the kind of healthy lifestyle First Lady Michelle Obama encourages.  Healthy is a way of life for Finwe, 9.  Finwe  lives with her family on 30 acres in southwest Wisconsin, according to her mother, Kristina, and it was their recipe for a meatless burger that earned them two seats at the first-ever “Kids’ State Dinner” at the White House recently.  Their recipe for barbeque cheddar chickpea burgers was such a hit, Finwe earned a spot among 54 children, ages 8-12, to represent her home state at the White House for the midday meal.  Finwe and her mom were seated at the first lady’s table for the East Room event.  The guests dined on foods created from their own recipes, which were compiled into a digital recipe book located at: http://www.letsmove.gov/kids-state-dinner

Hawaii Museums Welcome Visitors

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii at Fort DeRussy at www.hiarmymuseumsoc.org tells the military story in Hawaii, from the early Native Hawaiian warriors to Soldiers who fought in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Honolulu Museum of Art at www.honolulumuseum.org houses a world-class art collection. Honolulu's Bishop Museum at www.bishopmuseum.org is Hawaii's largest museum dedicated to studying and preserving the history of Hawaii and the Pacific. The Iolani Palace at www.iolanipalace.org , the official residence of Hawaii's monarchy, is a National Historic Landmark. Meanwhile, the Schofield Barracks Tropic Lightning Museum at www.garrison.hawaii.army.mil/tlm/index.html is undergoing structural renovations to its 100-year-old building and will reopen in the Spring of 2013.

VA Central Office Installs System to Efficiently Manage Energy Use

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently completed the installation of a sophisticated Environmental Management System (EMS) at its central office, which will provide an estimated $3.5 million in savings over the next five years.  Henceforth, the VA is striving to be a leader in promoting energy conservation and reducing our environmental footprint.  The EMS installation at VA’s central office is illustrative of a larger initiative to enhance energy management across the National Capital Region.  EMS is a partnership between two offices within the VA - Information and Technology and HRA - and the General Services Administration (GSA).  The VA EMS is easily adaptable for use by other government agencies, especially those with large building portfolios such as GSA and the Department of Defense (DoD).  For more, view: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2369

Veteran Job Initiatives Show Results

On Wednesday First Lady Michelle Obama announced that in the year since it was created, the White House’s Joining Forces Program helped 125,000 veterans find jobs. This beat their original goal of 100,000 jobs.

Meanwhile a 15 month U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative “Hire Our Heroes” has held hundreds of job fairs throughout the nation for veterans has found jobs for over 10,400 veterans and their spouses with more than 500 employers from every sector of the economy..

The “Joining Forces Program” is headed by Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Biden’s wife, and convinced many private companies to focus on hiring veterans. Some of these companies included General Electric Corp., Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Xerox and Northrop Grumman.

The First Lady also announced the new goal of hiring 250,000 jobless veterans by the end of 2014. The program will also work to help 50,000 veteran’s spouses find jobs in the next 2 years. The Chamber of Commerce’s goal is 500,000 jobs by the end of 2014.

Pentagon May Finally be Forced to Audit its Books

In response to the Pentagon’s proposals of the last several years to slash military health care benefits because (they say) it costs too much, TREA has been urging Congress to force DOD to have its budget audited. The fact is the Pentagon does not know it spends its money. Yet stories constantly appear in the news about the millions and millions of dollars wasted by the Pentagon. Of course, the stories appear after the money is long gone.

Twenty-two years ago Congress passed a law to require every federal department to pass an audit. Every department has met that requirement except one: the Department of Defense.

DOD has kept saying it would get its books straightened out, but it never manages to do so. Recently, DOD officials have said that the Pentagon will achieve “full audit readiness by 2017.”

But unless Congress forces DOD to get its books in order, we believe it will never happen. That’s why we are very pleased that on August 2, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) introduced the bi-partisan bill, S. 3487, “the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2012.” Its authors are Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It has seven co-sponsors from both parties.

The Coalition believes that instead of focusing on cutting health care benefits, the Pentagon should first learn where they are spending their money. Then they would be able to limit the waste, fraud and abuse that is surely occurring and then fund their necessary programs including the promised and earned health care benefits. That’s why we urge youto contact your own Senators and urge them to support S. 3487.

We will be working to have a companion bill introduced in the House and for passage of both bills as soon as possible.

Military Funding Cuts Already Affecting Children in Military Families

We have been writing for awhile about the “sequestration” (across-the-board spending cuts) that will happen after January 1 if Congress can’t come to an agreement about cutting spending and/or raising taxes to reach the spending limits in the budget agreement they passed several months ago. However, for the children of many active duty personnel, the cuts have already started having a negative effect.

According to an article by Reuters News Service, the education of children in military families who attend schools heavily populated by military kids is already suffering. The Randolph Field schools near San Antonio, Texas, have started making cuts because there will be less money coming from the federal government as a result of the way the Department of Education is now allocating funds to such schools.

“Kids will have fewer reading specialists and math, English and science instructors, a smaller special education staff and other spending reductions…” according to the article.

In schools that serve Randolph Air Force Base, Ft. Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base they’ve already cut out baseball, swimming and cross-country and they have not filled some staff positions that became vacant when some staff members retired.

In York County, Virginia, parents are worried about transportation for children being cut, as well as having the teacher-student ratios in classes increase. Programs in those schools that have already been affected include the elimination of field trips and delay of bus purchases.

We are closely watching this situation as we head into the fall. It is unlikely Congress will take any action prior to the November elections. But they have so many issues to deal with that fixing the problems after the election but before they adjourn in December seems highly unlikely. We are fighting to stop the cuts that threaten military benefits and we will keep fighting until Congress decides to do something.

VA Might Have Spent as Much as $100 Million in Lavish Employee Conferences

Last week we reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being investigated for lavish spending on conferences held near Disney World in Florida for its employees. We said the amount of money being questionably spent was about $5 million. However, it turns out that the actual amount could be more than $100 million.

The issue is being investigated by the VA’s inspector general and the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the actual amount of money is still not certain. The $100 million figure comes from the VA’s Chief Financial Officer who told a House committee late in the fall of last year that conference expenditures were “a little over $100 million.” That compared with $92 million in 2009.

This issue is important as we deal with threatened cuts in the federal budget that could affect the Department of Veterans Affairs. While nothing is certain yet, TREA believes that it is absolutely wrong for the VA to be spending money this way when services to veterans could be in jeopardy.

We are closely monitoring this issue and we’ll report on it if something new and important is revealed.

And Now For Your Entertainment Pleasure

A new fake military news blog, the Duffle Blog is tricking and amusing people all over the country with its inside military humor. This satirical blog can be found at http://www.duffelblog.com (also on FACEBOOK and Twitter) In March, 28-year old veteran Marine Sgt. Paul Szoldra started an Onion like news comedy site. Since then it has spread like wildfire. Numerous news outlets have been fooled because it almost rings true.

Recent satirical military news articles posted on the site include:

  • Pentagon Proposes Controversial Policy Assigning Ranks To Military Spouses 
  • Airmen Offered Free Pickup Art Classes, Students ‘Aim Higher’ To Score Babes
  • Battalion Commander Receives Silver Star For Gallantly Doing Job, Bravely Supervising TOC

Gina Harkins, a staff writer for the Marine Times has been quoted as saying that some of their writers have fallen for some of the headlines: “We were duped! Because often those stories border reality. We’ve all seen some headlines and fallen for them a couple of times, until you click on them and see it’s a Duffel Blog.”

Go on, have fun, give it a try.

TMA Creates Website Covering TRICARE West Region Transition

The planning of the TRICARE West contract transition from TriWest (the present contractor for the west region) to UnitedHealthcare (the new contractor) is under way. The TRICARE West Region is made up of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa (except the Rock Island Arsenal area), Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri (except the St. Louis area), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (areas of Western Texas only), Utah, Washington and Wyoming. (This does not cover the Pharmacy, dental or TFL contracts.)

TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) has created a new website where you can get information about the transition. It is www.tricare.mil/westtransition. On that site you can sign up for e-mailed bulletins about the transition. And beneficiaries in the west region can expect to receive communications from UnitedHealthcare before the April 1st 2013 contract transition date.

In the meantime if you have customer service questions or need help before April 1st 2013 still go to TriWest at: 1-888-TRIWEST (1-888-874-9378) or go to the TriWest Website: www.triwest.com. Of course please remember if you have problems the staff of the Washington Office of TREA is here to try and help.

Still thinking about a vacation? Go to the newly redesigned www.Recreation.gov and get the information you need

The federal government has just stood up its newly redesigned www.Recreation.gov. It has lots of information and is easier to navigate (I just tried it.) It has information on approximately 90,000 “federal sites and outdoor places.”

It has several new features including:

Explore Trip Ideas: Explore Trip Ideas helps you discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.
Go Lists: Go Lists highlight places to go, events, and activities at federal sites across the country with topics including “Day Hikes for Weekend Warriors” and “Civil War 150th Anniversary: Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation.”
Discover Great American Adventures: Discover Great American Adventures offers more in-depth articles and destination spotlights, featuring a wide variety of experiences and adventures found only in America. Some destination spotlights include “Best Places to Star Gaze,” “Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming,” and many more.