Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 18 June 2013 

6/18/2013 

SENATE PANEL APPROVES POLICY BILL

An AUSA salute to all those who heeded our call to action and contacted their senators about pay and health care issues being considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of the defense authorization bill.  We successfully fought back the Administration’s attempts to dramatically increase/enact fees for TRICARE/TRICARE for Life beneficiaries.  However, we will remain in the alert mode until the bill is passed by the full Senate. 

Our caution stems from remarks made by the Personnel Subcommittee’s ranking member Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., who said, "I think the administration has a good proposal.  I know it is tough to go to a veteran’s organization and talk about increasing co-payments and fees, but TRICARE is, quite frankly, unsustainable.”

We could not disagree more.  It shouldn’t be tough to go to an organization and talk about increasing fees; it should be tough to go to military retirees who kept their end of the bargain and talk about increasing fees. 

We continue to strongly believe that Defense Department leaders should be held accountable to fix health program inefficiencies.  Studies show that consolidation of budget oversight would save billions vs. having three separate service programs and multiple contractors.

In any event, we are paying close attention and will respond accordingly if there is any attempt to change the committee’s recommendation when the bill goes to the full Senate for a vote. 

We are not so thrilled with the committee’s recommendation that the pay raise for military personnel should be only one percent as opposed to the 1.8 percent that would keep it in line with the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act formula that calls for annual increases to at least equal private-sector wage growth.  Since the 1.8 percent raise was included in the House-passed bill, this will have to be negotiated in conference committee and AUSA will strongly urge final passage of a 1.8 percent increase.

The committee also agreed to:

* Authorize active duty end strengths for the Army of 520,000;
* Amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to limit the authority of a convening authority to modify the findings of a court-martial to specified sexual offenses;
* Authorize the payment of the Survivor Benefit Plan annuity to a special needs trust for the sole benefit of a disabled dependent child incapable of self-support because of mental or physical incapacity;
* Authorize $25 million in supplemental impact aid to local educational agencies with military dependent children and $5 million in impact aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities;
* Add $732.2 million in Army operation and maintenance (O&M) funding to address readiness problems caused by fiscal year 2013 sequestration;
* Require the Secretary of Defense to personally approve any decision to cancel the deployment of a reserve component unit within 180 days of its scheduled deployment date when an active duty unit would be sent instead to perform the same mission, and requires the Secretary to inform the congressional defense committees and Governors whenever such a decision is made;
* Express the committee’s concern over unemployment of veterans and the cost to DOD of complying with state unemployment compensation requirements;
* Eliminate the requirement for continued certification for financial support in the case of a dependent granted a permanent ID card for permanent disability when the member or retiree providing the basis for dependency dies or becomes permanently incapacitated;
* Require the service secretaries to provide periodic notice to reserve component members who have earned early retirement credit;
* Direct the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to develop a coordinated, unified plan to ensure adequate mental health counseling resources to address the long-term needs of all service members, veterans, and their families; and,
* Reject the Pentagon’s request for a Base Realignment and Closure round in 2015.

What’s next:  The bill will now go to the Senate floor for a vote.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not given any indication of when that will occur.

NEW LEGISLATION SPOTLIGHT

Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., have introduced legislation to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog.

The Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act would require the Veterans Benefits Administration, an agency under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans with accurate information for faster filing options. 

Specifically, the bill would require the VA to track and post the average turnaround time for veterans when they are filing their claims.  Filing claims online through the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, instead of filing a paper claim, accelerates turnaround times and makes processing more efficient.  The bill would require the VA to inform veterans that under current law, when they file a FDC, they are eligible to receive up to an extra year of benefits.

“While there is no single bill that will magically reduce the backlog, it is legislation like this that takes another positive step forward.  Providing accurate information to veterans at the point they submit a claim will save time for both the veteran and the Veterans Administration, and ultimately help the VA adjudicate the claim efficiently. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Sen. Heinrich on this issue, and will continue to focus on ending the VA backlog," said Sen. Heller. 

PROGRESS ON DEFENSE BILLS

The House and Senate failed to conference a budget agreement; accordingly, there is a $91 billion difference between the two appropriations allocations.  The lack of a budget agreement could create problems with getting any spending bills passed resulting in another continuing resolution come 1 October.  In other words:  The dysfunction in Congress continues.  Added to the mix is the fact that unless the Administration and Congress can negotiate and reach a “grand bargain,” another sequester will cut 9.8 percent from defense spending.

In any event, the House is moving along with its work and the Senate is starting to work on theirs.  Here is a breakdown of defense-related legislation.

·         Fiscal 2014 Military Construction/Veterans’ Affairs

House.  The Military Construction/Veterans’ Affairs spending bill for fiscal 2014 overwhelmingly cleared the House last week, making it the first piece of defense legislation to move forward. 

The legislation provides a total of $157.8 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.  Discretionary spending would receive $73.3 billion, $1.4 billion less than the President requested and $2.4 billion more than fiscal 2013 level after reductions forced by the budget sequester.  Mandatory allocations would be $84.5 billion.

Included in the bill is a provision, offered by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., that would cut the pay of Veterans’ Affairs Department officials by 25 percent unless the number of disability compensation claims older than 125 days is reduced at least 40 percent by July 2014. 

“The pace with which the VA is examining claims is unacceptable and must be fixed,” said Kingston.  “When a soldier puts his life on the line for this country, he shouldn’t be left waiting a year for help when he gets home.  We have invested more than $500 million in this benefit management system over the last four years and the problem has only gotten worse.  If the leadership at the VA cannot reduce the backlog, they should see their pay cut.”

The bill would provide more than $290 million to help the VA reduce the backlog, providing funds for its paperless claims-processing system and the digital scanning of medical and benefit records.

The House also approved an amendment that would bar funding for a new round of base realignments and closures.

Senate.  The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up their version of the Military Construction/VA bill, next week, making it the first of the Senate’s spending measures to move forward. 

·         Defense Authorization

House.  The full House Armed Services Committee approved the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill last week.  Consistent with the House budget, the bill authorizes $552.1 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $85.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.

In meetings with Armed Services Committee staff, AUSA’s leadership outlined our position on several items we opposed in the President’s budget request.  One was the proposed one percent pay raise for military personnel.  AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan strongly believed that the one percent pay raise was wrong.  It would have been the smallest since 1958 and the first time since 1999 that the increase had not at least matched average private sector wage growth.  The Committee agreed and authorized a 1.8 percent raise instead that mirrors private sector wage growth.

As you are well aware, another issue we have fought against was the Administration’s push to increase some TRICARE fees and establish others.  We could not be happier that the Committee agreed with us.  In fact, a press release from the Committee outlined our position perfectly. 

“The Committee has already put TRICARE on a sustainable path through reforms in several recent NDAAs.  Those reforms connect TRICARE fee increases to retiree cost of living increases.  DoD’s record of incorrectly calculating TRICARE costs and their repeated requests to transfer billions in unused funds out of the program to cover other underfunded defense priorities raises questions about repeated claims by the Department of Defense that the Defense Health Program is unsustainable.” 

The bill includes a provision that will allow retirees to keep TRICARE Prime access after 1 October when the DoD reduces the availability of Prime to retired beneficiaries.

The Committee also addressed sexual assault in the military.  Among the provisions they adopted are those that would strip commanders of their authority to dismiss a finding by a court martial; prohibit them from reducing guilty findings to guilty of a lesser offense; establish minimum sentencing guidelines; and, one that would allow victims of sexual assault to apply for a permanent change of station or unit transfer.

Debate and passage of the bill by the full House is expected this week. 

Senate.  The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to start the mark up of their bill this week.  This is where you can help.  It’s terrific that the House saw things our way on the pay raise and proposed TRICARE fees, but that is only one step in the process.  We have to get the Senate to go along with the House lead.  Please send an AUSA-suggested letter to your Senators.  Click on this link and then on the letter titled, “Protect Military Pay and Reject TRICARE Fee Increases.”

·         Defense Appropriations

House.  The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee completed its markup of the fiscal 2014 defense spending bill last week and the full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to start its work this week.  The draft bill provides $512.5 billion in non-war funding, a decrease of $5.1 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $3.4 billion below the President’s request. This is approximately $28.1 billion above the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts.

The bill:

--Fully funds the authorized 1.8 percent pay raise for the military, instead of one percent as requested by the president.

--Rejects Administration proposals to increase/create TRICARE fees and adds $519 million for defense health care accounts.  It also provides $246 million for cancer research, $225 million for medical facility upgrades, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $20 million for suicide prevention outreach programs.

--Includes $175 billion for operations and maintenance – $124 million below the request and $1.5 billion above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.  This contains essential funding for key readiness programs to prepare troops for combat and peacetime missions, flight time and battle training, equipment and facility maintenance, and base operations.

--Includes $922 million to restore reductions in the request to facility sustainment and modernization, $536 million for a fuel shortfall (estimated by GAO), and full funding for the Tuition Assistance program at $570 million.  Additionally, the bill fully funds Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs at $157 million, and it adds $25 million to expand sexual assault victim assistance programs.

--Contains $66.4 billion – $3.5 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $1.1 billion below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies.

--Prohibits funding for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories, prohibits funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees, and places conditions on the release of detainees to other countries.

The bill could reach the House floor by mid to late June.

Senate:  There is no firm date for the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee mark up to start.  We’ve heard that it could begin in July; however, that has not been confirmed. 

DEFENSE SECRETARY DIRECTS CHANGE TO JOINT ETHICS REGULATION

AUSA and its 125 chapters’ core mission is to speak out for the men and women of the United States Army who proudly serve our country.  Our chapters, made up entirely of volunteers, provide recreational and educational opportunities to soldiers and their families.  Most importantly, they support our deployed soldiers and their families that are left behind. 

A large stumbling block in our mission has been the Joint Ethics Regulation that only allowed us to assist junior enlisted families in need if the gift is $20 or less or $50 per annum.  In fact, in our 2013 Resolutions we urge the Administration and Congress to enact legislation to remove impediments limiting or prohibiting not-for-profit organizations such as AUSA in supporting soldiers and their families. 

This impediment was raised by our Assistant Director for Retiree and Veterans’ Affairs SGM Leroy Bussells, USA, Ret., recently at a roundtable discussion with new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. 

We are very pleased to announce that Bussells’ entreaty was acted on by Secretary Hagel.  In a letter to Bussells, Hagel said, “I directed my staff to prepare a revision to the Joint Ethics Regulation that will allow certain enlisted military personnel to receive unsolicited gifts of a higher value.”  Hagel’s letter continued, “This change is effective immediately and will be incorporated in the next revision of the DoD Standards of Conduct Directive.”

A big salute to Secretary Hagel for recognizing the valuable service AUSA and other non-profit organizations provide to junior enlisted soldiers and their families who give so much to their country. inTransition Provides Mental Health Services to Service Members and Families

For military families, maintaining consistency is a difficult task. For those receiving mental health care, consistency is an even more difficult task to manage. inTransition provides service members and their families with the resources they need to maintain quality of care and find new mental health care providers as they transition to active duty, new duty stations, and retirement. Among its services, the program offers each service member a one-on-one transitional support coach, available by phone, who is a masters-level, licensed behavioral health clinician, information for service members about their mental health care and how to successfully change providers at the time of transfer or discharge, and crisis intervention services to help members with urgent/emergent conditions attain safe and appropriate services. For more information about inTransition, please visit their website.

Defense Center of Excellence Virtual Mental Health Fair

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury will host a virtual Mental Health Fair on Facebook to share mental health resources for warriors, veterans, their families, caregivers and providers. Visit our virtual exhibit hall to browse and access resources, and join live question and answer chats with front-line participants. The event will take place June 19th from 9am-5pm.

Fortune Magazine and Blue Star Families Notebook Mentoring Program

Fortune Magazine, in partnership with Blue Star Families is once again offering a wonderful opportunity for young women who are spouses or daughters of active duty, National Guard, reserve and veteran service members to participate in the Notebook Mentoring Program.  Recently honorably separated female veterans born after 1983 are also invited to apply. Young ladies who are selected to participate will meet one-on-one with women attending Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.   The mentees will also be treated to a formal dinner.  In order to be considered for participation in the program, young ladies must meet the following criteria and submit all required documentation.  All applications will be submitted through Blue Star Families who will review each application.  Paperwork must be submitted by June 30, 2013, and the event will take place in Washington, DC October 16, 2013.

DOD Establishes First Brain Tissue Bank to Study TBI in Service Members

The Department of Defense has established the world’s first brain tissue repository to help researchers understand the underlying mechanisms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in service members. “We have been at war for more than a decade and our men and women have sacrificed,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense (health affairs) and director, TRICARE Management Activity.  “The military health care system is bringing all the resources it can to better understand how to prevent, diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries and to ensure that service members have productive and long, quality lives.  Our research efforts and treatment protocols are all geared toward improving care for these victims.  And that will have benefits to the American public, at large.” Read the full article here.

2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Military Family Forum Registration Open

Want to already have an event scheduled on your Fall social calendar? Registration is now open for the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting, October 21-23,  along with the Military Family Forums. These forums within the Annual Meeting are designed to engage and inform both the military community and the greater civilian community around them. Here’s a look at our four forums and the subject matter they will cover.

• Military Family Forum I- Our Military Community: Voices from the Top
This forum will feature town hall style presentations from the top Army leaders.

• Military Family Forum II- The Performance Triad: A Holistic Approach to Self-Care
This forum will explore holistic approaches to caring for one’s self and family. New and innovative programs from the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense will be discussed.

• Military Family Forum III- Community Resources: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
This forum will showcase the growing support of military families by civilian organizations through private /public partnerships with the military community.

• Military Family Forum IV- Expanding Our Reach: Our Neighborhood Knows No Bounds
This forum will explore innovative uses of social media and advanced technology in the military family communications arena. Featured speakers will share techniques and successful approaches to building a virtual support community.

House Armed Services Committee Defense Authorization Bill Markup Moves Forward

The subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee submitted a markup of the defense authorization bill recently, and many of the suggestions fall directly in line with AUSA’s priorities and concerns on several key issues. The markup rejects the suggested healthcare fee hikes, along with a rejection of the suggested 1% pay raise for military personnel.  Though this is good news, it is still early in the process. It is important to remain vigilant, and aware of what is looming should these first steps stall out in the legislative process. This month AUSA put out a special bulletin highlighting several ways that the quality of life for our service members and their families is being threatened once more. Suggested cuts, closures, and fee hikes are at stake. Read the full feature here. Express your concern by contacting your members of Congress here.


2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Military Family Forum Registration Open Now

October might seem too far away to think about, but the Fall will be here before we know it, and with it, the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting October 21-23. Why not get a head start? Registration is now open for the Annual Meeting, along with the Military Family Forums. These forums within the Annual Meeting are designed to engage and inform both the military community and the greater civilian community around them. Here’s a look at our four forums and the subject matter they will cover.
• Military Family Forum I- Our Military Community: Voices from the Top
This forum will feature town hall style presentations from the top Army leaders.

• Military Family Forum II- The Performance Triad: A Holistic Approach to Self-Care
This forum will explore holistic approaches to caring for one’s self and family. New and innovative programs from the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense will be discussed.

• Military Family Forum III- Community Resources: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
This forum will showcase the growing support of military families by civilian organizations through private /public partnerships with the military community.

• Military Family Forum IV- Expanding Our Reach: Our Neighborhood Knows No Bounds
This forum will explore innovative uses of social media and advanced technology in the military family communications arena. Featured speakers will share techniques and successful approaches to building a virtual support community.

We look forward to seeing you in October. Register today!

AUSA Backs Military Student Identifier Bill

A high percentage of military students attend civilian schools, and though there are resources available to help them stay connected, most civilian educators are not aware of the military students in their school populations. An amendment has been issued with the HELP committee markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the amendment calls for the creation of a military student identifier to help better understand how military children are achieving academically. This is a great undertaking that will be hugely beneficial to the military community, and AUSA Family Programs is excited to support this project as it continues to take shape.

To-Do's for Your Next Move

USAA shares some helpful steps to keep in mind as you get ready to PCS. Organization is key. The steps highlighted include setting a budget, looking for work at your new location as soon as possible, and saving.  Even when the military or another employer covers some costs, moving expenses can set you back thousands of dollars. Shipping charges, personal travel costs, temporary housing expenses and start-up fees at your new residence can add up. Same goes for employment—the service member might know exactly what their next job is, but spouses and other family members aren’t afforded the same security. Begin looking into positions at your next location or following leads on jobs as soon as possible. Read more about these time and money saving tips here.

Army Announces Plans for Longer PCS Cycles

Most military families are familiar with the two-three year moving cycle, but with massive budget cuts, there might be a “new normal” when it comes to PCSing on the horizon.  Duty station tours could be extended to as long as four years in some cases, allowing for funds to be saved and another positive effect: family stability. A reprogramming request now before Congress includes a roughly $100 million reduction in PCS travel, reflecting fewer PCS moves, which in turn will increase time on station at most stateside installations. The Army is looking at ways to increase unit readiness, stability and predictability for soldiers and their family members. Increased time on station means commanders and professional development NCOs have more flexibility in when they slate soldiers for military education courses, or for broadening and career-enhancing assignments that only are available at particular times, such as tours at a major headquarters or with a joint or combined services activity. Family is a factor that plays into a majority of PCS moves, and the “benefit to the family would be tremendous,” said Sgt. Jeremy Pough, who arrived at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., in May from Heidelberg, Germany. It is his fifth PCS in 12 years. “Longer time at a duty assignment will give a new Army spouse time to acclimate to Army life and help all families to fit in to their new community,” he said. Click here to read the full article. 

Make Retirement Planning a Priority

One day you can retire, but are you sure how to get there? Many people find it easier to avoid reality when it comes to planning for retirement. Learn how to prepare for retirement and start taking the necessary steps today.

The Battle over TRICARE Fees Continues

Last week the White House issued a rebuttal to the House's proposed 2014 defense budget (National Defense Authorization Act - H.R. 1960). The administration is not happy with the House's version of the bill in part because it omits the DoD's proposed TRICARE Fee increases and cap on military pay raises in 2014. As expected the WH threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk in its present form. A senate panel has proposed a similar budget. However the Senate version allows for capping the military pay increase at 1% for 2014. 

Retirees May Never See the Back Pay They're Due

Tom Philpott

55,000 'High-3' Retirees Due Back Pay Might Never See it

Last November an independent audit of the Military Retirement Fund uncovered a "significant deficiency" in the way the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has been calculating retired pay for about 15 percent of 370,000 retirees who are under a "High-3" retired pay formula.

The result is that 55,500 retirees who first entered service on or after Sept. 8, 1980, have been getting a little less in retired pay than the law directs. That's because DFAS, for this High-3 generation, has not been applying a pay protection tool from 1975 called the "Tower Amendment."

If DFAS were to apply Tower protection retroactively, as auditors recommend, these retirees could expect a lump sum average payment of about $1000, the Congressional Budget Office reports.  Individual amounts would vary base on time retired, with the largest payments going to those who retired in fall of 2000 with the first wave of "High-3" retirees.

But if the Department of Defense has its way, DFAS will never have to make those payments.  The House Armed Services Committee has included a provision in its fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill (HR 1960) that would revise the law so the Tower Amendment doesn't apply to High-3 retirees.

If the full Congress agrees, DFAS would avoid having to make $60 million in retroactive payments, CBO explains in a June 13 cost analysis of the defense bill.  And future retired pay for impacted High-3 retirees would forever be smaller than current law requires, by an average of $200 a year, saving the Military Retirement Fund more than $10 million annually.

So what is the Tower Amendment?  It requires annuities of military retirees to be recalculated to take account of any cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) they would have received if they were eligible to retire on an earlier date, but did not.  The idea behind the amendment, named after the late Sen. John Tower (R-Texas), was to spare members a financial penalty of lower retired pay from serving longer and missing a significant COLA.

To illustrate, CBO asks us to consider a member who retired in October after exactly 20 years of service.  If initial annuity is $1,000 per month and the first COLA is three percent, retired pay after the January COLA would be $1030.  But if the same member waited to retire until January, and in the intervening three months got an active duty pay raise of 1.5 percent, initial retired pay that January, including the effect of serving three more months, would be $1028.  So the member would have been better off retiring the previous October.

The Tower Amendment requires that "look back" so the retiree always draws the higher amount.  The Military Retirement Fund audit found that DFAS wasn't giving Tower protection to High-3 retirees who would benefit.

"We determined these retiree accounts were eligible under Tower if the retirement date was the first day of a quarter and the retiree had at least 20 years and one day of service," the audit report explained.

Looking at a sampling of 66 High-3 retirees, auditors determined that 13 of them "were underpaid every month."  And the average underpayment wasn't $2 a month but almost $30.  So auditors warned that the "estimated errors could potentially have a significant impact to individual retirees' pay."

Annuities of High-3 retirees already lag those of "Final Pay" retirees who entered service before Sept. 8, 1980.  A Final Pay retiree with 20 years' service draws an annuity equal to 50 percent of final basic pay. A High-3 retiree with 20 years would have the same 50 percent multiplier but it would be applied to average basic pay over final three years of service.

Congress made the change for this generation of retiree before they even entered service simply to curb future retirement costs.  Perhaps unintentionally, DFAS has added insult to the injury by not using the Tower look-back provision since these High-3 members began joining the ranks of military retirees almost 13 years ago.

Auditors who uncovered this advised making retroactive payments and using the look back formula on future payments. Defense officials instead sought legislative relief.  CBO estimates the 10-year savings will total $212 million.  And presumably High-3 retirees won't miss what they never had.

Still to be determined is whether the full Congress will approve this approach or DFAS will have 55,500 retroactive payments to calculate.

It might be argued this is small potatoes compared to provisions in the House committee bill to block most of the Obama administration's proposed increases in TRICARE fees and to reject a cap of one percent on next January's military pay raise.  But we figured it shouldn't escape notice.

Senators Favor Pay Cap: The Senate armed services subcommittee on personnel, in marking up its version of the 2014 defense authorization bill, also declined to support higher TRICARE fees.  But the subcommittee did accept the administration's plan to cap next January's military pay raise at 1 percent versus 1.8 percent.

If the full Senate also supports the pay cap, a House-Senate conference committee would have to decide the size of next year's raise later this year when it meets to work out the differences in the two versions of the bill.  The administration has complained that the larger pay raise would add $600 million to defense spending in fiscal 2014 and $3.5 billion through fiscal 2018, money that military leaders would prefer to spend on higher priorities.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), ranking Republican on the subcommittee, expressed disappointment that colleagues have declined again to embrace any TRICARE fee increases, particularly on working age retirees.  He intended to argue during full committee mark-up of the bill that senators embrace at least "modest adjustments" in fees to ensure that the prized TRICARE benefit is "sustainable" as overall defense budgets slide.

"If we just keep punting this thing," Graham said in a phone interview Wednesday evening, "we're going to have a contest between retiree health care and force readiness, and nobody wants that."

"It's better for a guy like me to talk about it," said Graham, an Air Force Reserve colonel, "because nobody questions whether I'm pro-military."

# # # #

Check out the Military Advantage blog for more about the impact the national defense act may have on your pay and benefits.

Let your elected officials know how you feel about the proposed 2014 defense budget.

To comment, write Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, or email milupdate@aol.com or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update

TRICARE e-Alerts

With the Atlantic hurricane season underway, TRICARE created state-specific e-alerts for beneficiaries who want the latest information about how TRICARE has been affected during and after severe weather in their area. To sign up for state-specific TRICARE severe weather e-alerts, visit the TRICARE website at www.tricare.mil/subscriptions. Hurricane season in the Atlantic began June 1 and ends Nov. 30; in the Eastern Pacific it started May 15 and ends Nov. 30. For more information about hurricane hazards and how to prepare for them, visit the NOAA website or watch the NOAA video on YouTube.

Help for Homeowners in Trouble

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's - Help For Homeowners Event will be held in Columbia, South Carolina on Friday, June 28, 2013. The event is being held at the Columbia Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln Street, Columbia, SC 29201. This is an important opportunity to assist struggling military homeowners to meet one-on-one with mortgage companies and HUD-approved housing experts. For more information, visit MakingHomeAffordable.com.

AAFES to Giveaway 60' Smart TV

Now through June 25, Army and Air Force Exchange Service online shoppers can enter to win a Sharp 60" 3-D LED Smart TV valued at $1199 by visiting the Exchange's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AAFES.BX.PX/app_156476087836710 . Only one entry is allowed per person during the contest period. Also, shop online at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's www.shopmyexchange.com for savings on apparel, technology, home goods and more. Online purchases of $49 and above or paying with the MILITARY STAR(R) card always qualifies orders for free shipping.

Navy Improves Global Weather Predictions

The Navy has adopted a new global weather forecasting model with the support of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The Naval Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) became fully operational this spring, and today serves as a cutting-edge prediction system for Navy planners who depend on reliable weather forecasts. The Navy's Fleet Numerical and Meteorology and Oceanography Center, which provides meteorological data to U.S. Forces, switched over to NAVGEM in March. It is being used to provide detailed, accurate global forecasts up to10 days out. The new system could inform Navy operations for years to come.

Top 10 Military Employers

Forbes, with a research assist from Payscale.com, analyzed companies that employ a large number of veterans and also have jobs available that match military skills and experience -- specifically, skilled labor positions. Top 10 include: Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Department of Defense, BAE Systems, CSC, CACI International and Boeing. Get the full report on Military.com.

Security Clearance Wanted: Companies across the nation want your military skills and are paying top salaries for them. Search for Security Cleared Jobs on Military.com.

Search for Jobs on Military.com with employers seeking military experience.

Spouses React to Attack on Benefits

A Washington Post article on the cost of military benefits has created a firestorm of comments on spouse blogs all over the country. Many are asking if the reporter actually believes our servicemembers and military families are a liability to the American taxpayer and how can so many untruths can get printed in one of the nation's largest newspapers? A recent blog post on the Military Officers Association of America website pointed out that personnel costs are not overwhelming the budget; they remained at the same 30% ratio for the last 30 years. MOAA is encouraging our readers to join them in sending the correct facts to Congress

Stolen Valor Act Becomes Law

On June 3, President Barack Obama signed into law The American Legion-backed Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which now makes it a "federal crime for an individual to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit." Violators could face up to a year in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005, deeming it unconstitutional because it was, in the justices' opinion, too broad in scope and violated the right of free speech. A summary and the text of the Act are available on the Congress.gov website at http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/258.

State Veteran's Benefits

Many states offer veterans benefits. These benefits may include educational grants and scholarships, special exemptions or discounts on fees and taxes, home loans, veteran's homes, free hunting and fishing privileges, and more.

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

Alabama

Louisiana

Ohio

Alaska

Maine

Oklahoma

Arizona

Maryland

Oregon

Arkansas

Massachusetts

Pennsylvania

California

Michigan

Rhode Island

Colorado

Minnesota

South Carolina

Connecticut

Mississippi

South Dakota

Delaware

Missouri

Tennessee

Florida

Montana

Texas

Georgia

Nebraska

Utah

Hawaii

Nevada

Vermont

Idaho

New Hampshire

Virginia

Illinois

New Jersey

Washington

Indiana

New Mexico

West Virginia

Iowa

New York

Wisconsin

Kansas

North Carolina

Wyoming

Kentucky

North Dakota

 

U.S. Territories and Common Wealth's

Territory of Guam

Common Wealth of Puerto Rico

Common Wealth of N. Mariana Islands

US Virgin Islands

Washington D.C.

 

Additional State Veteran Affairs Resources
The National Association of Directors of State Veterans Affairs (NADSVA) maintains a list of 50 state and four territorial (common wealth) Veterans Affairs offices on their website at http://www.nasdva.net/.