Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 6 November 2013 

11/6/2013 

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND STAFF VISIT AUSA ANNUAL MEETING

AUSA hosted numerous members of Congress and key congressional staff members at its 2013 Annual Meeting held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last week.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno outlined the state of the Army to an audience of 700 including 268 Capitol Hill staff members, General Officers and senior AUSA and Army leadership at the Congressional Staff Breakfast.

McHugh discussed the ongoing impact sequestration is having on the Army and warned of the consequences if it continues.  He also touched on the shutdown of the federal government and the effect it had on the Army’s civilian workforce.

Gen. Odierno’s message was much the same.  He said what worries him is how the sequestration cuts “affected our ability to properly train soldiers.”  He would like to see the Congress return to regular order and pass authorization and spending bills in a timely manner. 

The breakfast gave the Army’s top leadership and the congressional staff members an opportunity to discuss many critical issues facing the Army.  After the breakfast, many staff members toured the exhibit hall and viewed the latest technology and programs offered by the top defense industry leaders. 

Members of Congress attending other Annual Meeting events included Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; Roger Williams, R-Texas; Pete Gallego, D-Texas; Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Steve Womack, R-Ark.; Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio; Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.; Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., Jeff Duncan, D-S.C.; Martha Roby, R-Ala.; and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

VETERAN-RELATED BILLS PASS HOUSE AND SENATE

Several bills related to veteran’s issues passed the House of Representatives last week.  Under suspension of the rules, House lawmakers backed six bills that members of both parties called “bipartisan” and “common-sense” proposals.

H.R. 1742, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013, offered by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., would exclude disabled veterans’ service-related benefits and expenses related to in-home care from being considered when calculating income eligibility for Section 8 rental assistance and public housing programs.

Veterans’ Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced H.R. 2189, a bill that would establish a commission to evaluate the backlog of veterans’ disability compensation claims and recommend ways to reduce the number of pending claims.  As of Oct. 21, the number of pending claims reported by the Veterans Affairs Department stood at 717,007— of which over 411,000 have been pending for more than 125 days.

The Veterans Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 2481) would establish the Veterans Economic Opportunity Administration within the Veterans Affairs Department.  The administration would be responsible for overseeing programs related to vocational rehabilitation and employment programs, veterans’ housing loan programs, veterans’ small business programs and educational assistance programs.  The bill was introduced by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas.

Nevada Democrat Dina Titus’ bill (H.R. 1405) would require VA to provide, with notice of each denial on a claim for benefits, a form that may be used to appeal the decision.  The bill also would permit employees of members of Congress and state and local governments to access the VA case-tracking system in order to inform veterans of the status of their benefit claims as they are being reviewed.

The Veterans Advisory Committee on Education Improvement Act (H.R. 2011) would extend the Veterans’ Advisory Committee on Education by two years, until Dec. 31, 2015.  Offered by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., the bill would also expand the committee’s membership to include veterans representative of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Finally, H.R. 3304 would authorize and request the president to award the Medal of Honor to Bennie G. Adkins and Donald P. Sloat of the United States Army for acts of valor during the Vietnam conflict and to authorize the award of the Medal of Honor to certain other veterans who were previously recommended for award of the Medal of Honor.  Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., introduced the legislation.

After the bills were passed, Chairman Miller said, “Today, in a shining example of how our legislative process is supposed to work, Republicans and Democrats came together to support a range of legislation with two overarching goals: helping veterans, while improving accountability and efficiency at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Over on the Senate side, a bill introduced by Veteran’s that provides cost-of-living increases in veterans’ disability payments at the same rate as Social Security benefits passed by unanimous consent.

The Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 (S. 893) would increase veterans’ disability compensation, survivor benefits and clothing allowances by the same percentage as Social Security old age, disability and survivor benefit increases scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.  The bill would also permit the Veterans’ Affairs secretary to administratively adjust benefits for veterans who receive compensation other than service-related disability benefits.

National Military Family Appreciation Month

President Obama has again declared November National Military Family Appreciation Month, saying, "Time and again, our service members and their families have sacrificed to protect the promise that defines our Nation -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As we work to repay this enormous debt of gratitude, I encourage every American to do their part. Together, let us support our military children as they learn, grow, and live their dreams. And let us keep our military families strong and secure." Read the full proclamation here, and stay tuned to Family Readiness all month long for ideas and local events celebrating military families.

Spouse Membership Now Available

AUSA has a new membership category for Spouses! Sign up today to have the opportunity to make your voice heard, get involved at both the national and local level, pass on wisdom to younger spouses, and get involved in issues that you care about.

View the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Family Forums

Thank you for participating at our 2013 Annual Meeting! If you were unable to view our Family Forums live, or would like to watch them again, they are now available to view via playback. Click the link corresponding with the forum you want to view below.

  • Military Family Forum I- Voices from the Top: Senior Leaders Town Hall: This forum features presentations and a town hall style discussion with the Army's senior officials. VIEW FORUM NOW
  • Military Family Forum II- The Performance Triad: A Holistic Approach to Self-Care: This forum explores 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 are discussed. VIEW FORUM NOW
  • Military Family Forum III- Community Resources: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: This forum showcases the growing support of military families by civilian organizations through private /public partnerships with the military community. VIEW FORUM NOW
  • Military Family Forum IV- Expanding Our Reach: Our Neighborhood Knows No Bounds: This forum explores innovative uses of social media and advanced technology in the military family communications arena. Featured speakers share techniques and successful approaches to building a virtual support community. VIEW FORUM NOW

Commissary to Log Your Info When You Shop

Commissary checkers will soon start scanning your ID card when you make a purchase — and logging for later much of the data it contains, commissary officials said Oct. 31.

The program, which started at Fort Lee, Va. Oct. 22, will eventually come to every commissary worldwide. Officials aim to have all stores taking part by mid-January. The roll-out will be done in batches of 20 stores, although commissary officials were not able to tell me which stores will come next. They said shoppers, however, will see signs about the change well before it happens.

When your ID is scanned the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will log a bunch of your information so that they can track who is shopping and where. The card ID number, rank, military status, branch of service, age, household size, and zip codes of residence and duty station of each shopper will all be logged.

With the exception of the household size information and ID number that’s the same kind of information that is collected when you sign-up for one the commissary’s Reward cards. But the Rewards card requires that you opt in for the program — and the ID card scanning program does not.

According to a shopper at Fort Lee who had her ID scanned when she shopped Oct, 30., the process is simple: before your order is processed the checker will scan the back of your ID card on the same scanner she or he uses to scan your groceries. And commissary officials say for those using self check-out the process will be as simple as you scanning your ID yourself. That’s it.

Shoppers I talked to yesterday were overall supportive of the program. They said it didn’t matter if their data is collected because military already does that anyway. But others thought it was an unnecessary further invasion of privacy.

“Call me a conspiracy theorist all you want, but with that information they collect, is it really that much of a reach that they could soon be reporting it and next thing you know you’ve got a nutritionist and/or financial councilor knocking on your door to discuss your spending and eating habits?” Kelly Maskell posted on the Fort Campbell Wives Facebook page. “I’ve got nothing to hide, nor am I doing anything wrong, but is it REALLY anybody’s business how my family operates?”

Most grocery stores already collect this kind of data as well through their own card program which they require for use if a shopper wants any given sale. The commissary doesn’t do that — their card is only used if you want specific additional coupons which, unlike most other stores, cannot be combined with any other paper coupon. Unless you’re shopping at WalMart, which has no card, you’re probably already regularly giving all of this information up.

2013 Holiday Mailing Dates

The United States Postal System (USPS) has announced the recommended mailing dates for packages and envelopes going to APO/FPO/DPO addresses.  Unlike years past, there are really only two sets of dates.

For almost all APO/FPO/DPO addresses:

Priority Mail Express Military Service:  December 17th

First Class mail:  December 10th

Priority mail:  December 10th

PAL mail:  December 3rd

SAM mail:  November 26th

Standard Post:  November 12th

For APO/FPO/DPO addresses that begin with 093:

Priority Mail Express Military Service:  not available

First Class mail:  December 3rd

Priority mail:  December 3rd

PAL mail:  December 3rd

SAM mail:  November 26th

Standard Post:  November 12th

The New Early Bird Brief is Now Available

 WASHINGTON — Fifty years after the Pentagon gave flight to The Early Bird, the popular roundup of global news reports on military, defense and security matters has been sent to the boneyard. The Pentagon’s public affairs office suspended its morning email brief Oct. 1 as part of the government shutdown and does not plan to bring it back.

Generations of military and defense-industry leaders, as well as media members who covered them, consumed the Early Bird as part of their morning routine. Now, like caffeine junkies missing their morning Joe, they find themselves looking for that jolt of niche news that kept them abreast of what was going on in their world, all in one handy report.

Enter Early Bird Brief, the aggregation of international defense and military reports compiled by the staffs of Defense News and Military Times. It’s comprehensive, independent and free to anyone who signs up.

What you need to know.

The Early Bird Brief is well established

Reporters and editors with Defense News and Military Times, sister publications, have for years culled the Pentagon product to provide subscribers with a concise read of the news vital to their communities. Each daily report includes dozens of items from media outlets around the world — news, features, analyses and opinions. Each story is summarized in a paragraph and includes a link to the originating news outlet, whether it be the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Fayetteville Observer, The Times of London, or Defense News and Military Times.

What's new

Now the Early Bird Brief is available to everyone, regardless of whether you’re a subscriber. Defense News and Military Times staff build it from scratch, with no reliance on any Defense Department clipping service. The process goes on nearly nonstop, with world overnight reports added well before the sun rises over the Pentagon as the daily report takes shape by mixing in news scoops, stories of unique interest, blog posts and and more. That includes the latest from Defense News and Military Times, as well as sister publications C4ISR & Networks, Federal Times and Armed Forces Journal.

Early Bird Brief pulls no punches

As government employees, Defense Department public affairs officials — despite their best intentions — were ultimately subject to institutional oversight of the Early Bird. They worked for leadership often concerned with political sensitivities and public perceptions of DoD-related programs, personnel and activities.

By contrast,the Early Bird Brief is compiled by staff members of the largest independent newsroom dedicated to military and defense news. Key word: Independent. Early Bird Brief story selections are made on news value, period.

No noise. No nonsense. Just news

The Early Bird Brief provides the earliest and most comprehensive roundup of global defense industry and military news of consequence. Most importantly, it keeps the focus squarely on the headlines — no wasting readers’ time. The Early Bird Brief starts you off with “Today’s Top 5” highlighting key stories of intrigue and importance. Then you roll into the roundup: Scan through the story summaries and open the full read on items of interest to you.

Here's how you get it

The Early Bird Brief is free. Just sign up by entering your email address at defensenews.com/ebb.

Veterans Day: Discounts and Freebies

The following is a list of Veterans Day discounts on goods, services and dining that have been announced for 2013.

Keep in mind that most businesses require proof of military service, which can include a VA Universal Access Card, Military I.D., DD-214 (Discharge Papers), Veterans Service Organization Card (VSO's include groups like the VFW, DAV, AmVets, MOAA, FRA, and the American Legion), or in some cases businesses will accept a picture of the veteran in uniform.

Note: Not all franchise locations participate in their national chain's Veterans Day programs -- be sure contact your nearest establishment to make sure they are participating.

Sign up for the Military Deals and Discounts Newsletter to get even more discounts and information on how Military Families can save big.

2013 Veterans Day Restaurant Offerings:

Applebees - Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a limited menu, on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11. 

Bar Louie – On Sunday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 11, all Bar Louie locations are offering veterans and military personnel a free meal up to a $12 value. 

California Pizza Kitchen – Veterans and active military receive a free pizza on Monday, Nov. 11.

Champps -- On Monday, Nov. 11, Champps will offer a free handcrafted burger with waffle fries to veterans and active duty military.

Charlie Brown's Steakhouse – Charlie Brown’s is offering a free meal to veterans and active duty military all day on Monday, Nov. 11.

Cheeseburger in Paradise – Veterans and military personnel receive a free All American Burger with fries on Monday, Nov. 11 with the beverage purchase of $1.99.

Chili's – Veterans and active duty can get a free entrée all day from a special limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11.

Denny’s -- Active, inactive and retired military personnel can get free all you can eat pancakes on Veterans Day nationwide.

FATZ – Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free entrée at FATZ, up to a $15 value. Veterans who dine at FATZ on November 11 will also receive a $2 coupon for use on their next visit.

Friendly’s – Veterans and active military receive a free Big Two Do Breakfast and coffee on Monday, Nov. 11.

Golden Corral – Golden Corral is offering a free dinner on Monday Nov. 11, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Military retirees, veterans, active duty, National Guard and Reserves are all welcome.

Hooters –Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal on Monday, Nov. 11.

Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House – Veterans eat for free on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Krispy Kreme – Krispy Kreme stores are offering a free doughnut and small coffee on Monday, Nov. 11 when presenting a military ID or wearing a uniform. 

Little Caesars – Veterans and active military members get a free order of Crazy Bread on Monday, Nov. 11. 

Max and Erma's – On Monday, Nov. 11, participating Max & Erma’s locations are saluting veterans and active military personnel with a free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo meal.

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants – On Sunday, November 10, participating McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants will offer a complimentary entree to vets from a special menu.

Menchi's --  All veterans will receive a free 6 oz. frozen yogurt on Monday, Nov. 11.

O’Charley’s – Veterans and active duty servicemembers get a complimentary meal from a limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11.  

Olive Garden – On Monday, Nov. 11, all veterans and current servicemembers get a free meal from a limited menu. Family dining with them will also receive 10% off their meal.

On the Border – Veterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo menu” on Monday, Nov. 11. 

Paciugo Gelato Caffè – Paciugo is offering a free 12 oz. Gelatte® to veterans and active duty military on Monday, Nov. 11 at participating locations.

Red Robin – Veterans and active duty military get a free Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries on Monday, Nov. 11.   

Shoney's -- Shoney's will be offering a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty servicemembers on Monday, Nov. 11. 

Sizzler – Sizzler is offering active duty and retired military members a free lunch from a limited menu on Monday, Nov. 11 until 4 p.m.

Spaghetti Warehouse – On Sunday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 11, choose one original spaghetti entrée or 15-layer lasagna and get the second entrée free. This deal requires a coupon, which is available starting Nov. 6 at the Spaghetti Warehouse website, the Facebook page, and can be presented from a mobile phone.  

Texas Roadhouse – Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Offer is good for active duty, retired or former U.S. military.

TGIFridays – Veterans and active duty military get a free lunch from a select menu on Monday, Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tucanos Brazilian Grill -- Active duty, reserve and retired military and veterans receive a free Churrasco meal on Monday, Nov. 11. They are also offering 10% off the entire bill for veterans and troops who dine with their families, from Friday, Nov. 8 through Veteran’s Day, Monday, Nov. 11.

Travel Centers of America -- On Monday, Nov. 11, all CDL drivers who are military veterans eat free at participating full-service restaurants. 

Village Inn – All veterans and active military personnel receive a free breakfast on Monday, Nov. 11. Choose between Buttermilk Pancakes, Belgian Waffle, or French Toast. 

2013 Veterans Day Travel and Recreation:

Colonial Williamsburg – Active duty military, reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents receive free weekend-long admission tickets Nov. 8 through Nov. 11.

Knotts Berry Farm – Knott's Berry Farm is offering free admission for veterans and active duty military personnel and one guest from November 4, 2013 to January 5, 2014. 

National Parks - On Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 9-11) veterans will have access to over 100 National Parks that require entrance fees for free.

Red Roof Inn - Red Roof Inn is offering 15% off at more than 350 properties nationwide in the month of November to veterans, active duty military and their families.

Sea World Parks and Entertainment – Veterans and active duty military can get 50% off single-day admission tickets through Nov.11, 2013.

World of Coca-Cola -- Military members receive complimentary admission year-round, but in honor of Veterans Day they also may purchase up to four half-price tickets for their friends and family Nov. 9-17.

2013 Veterans Day Retailer Offerings:

Bed Bath and Beyond – Bed Bath and Beyond is offering veterans 20% off their entire purchase on Nov. 9, 10, and 11. This is good for active duty, DoD, reserves, guard, retirees, veterans, and military spouses.

Dollar General – Veterans, active military, members of the National Guard and Reserve and immediate family members get 11% off the total purchase on Nov. 11.

Grace for Vets - Car washes from around the world who join this program offer free car washes to veterans and servicemembers on Nov. 11.

Great Clips – On Monday, Nov. 11, customers who come in for a service can get a free haircut card to give to their favorite veteran. Veterans can also receive a free haircut or get the free haircut card. Haircuts are redeemable until Dec. 31.

Home Depot  – Home Depot offers a 10% discount to all veterans during Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. Home Depot offers the 10% discount year round to for active duty and retirees.

JCPenney – Veterans, active duty and family members receive an extra 20% off in stores Nov. 6-11 with coupon.

Lowe's – All veterans receive a 10% discount on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The offer is available in stores only.

Massage Envy – Participating Massage Envy locations in the Washington DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia region are offering a complimentary 1-hour massage to active military, veterans and spouses on Monday, Nov. 11.

Sport Clips – Participating locations are offering veterans and active duty servicemembers free haircuts on Monday, Nov. 11.

Walgreens – Walgreens is offering 15% off eligible store items and 20% of Walgreens, Nice! And W brand products on Monday, Nov. 11. This discount is available to all veterans and active duty military personnel.

Other:

America's Parade – Veterans are invited to march in this New York City parade on Nov. 11.

Medal of Honor Stamps -- The U.S. Postal Service will issue special Medal of Honor stamps on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. 

Year-Round Veterans Discounts:

Foot Locker – Veterans, servicemembers (active, guard, and reserve), and their immediate families with a Foot Locker Veterans Advantage Card receive a 20% discount every day of the year. That offer is good both online and at any store location, including Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Footaction and Champs Sports — even on sale items.

Home Depot  – Home Depot offers a 10% discount (up to a $500 maximum) to all active military, reserve, retired or disabled veterans and their family members with a valid military ID. All other veterans qualify for a 10% discount during Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Lowe's – Lowe's offers a year-round 10% discount offer for all active duty, National Guard and Reserve, retirees and disabled servicemembers and their immediate families. All other veterans receive the 10% discount on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The discount is available on in-stock and special-order purchases of up to $5,000. The offer can't be used on sales at Lowes.com, on previous sales or on sales of services or gift cards. You must present a valid military I.D. card to receive the discount.

Retiree COLA Set for 2014

Based on the 2013 Consumer Price Index, military retirees and annuitants will get a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment in their January 2014 retiree checks.

AAFES to Open Doors Early for Thanksgiving

Army and Air Force Exchange customers will not have to wait long to start their holiday shopping as Exchange doors open at 4 a.m. in the United States the day after Thanksgiving. Stores in the Pacific region will open at 7 a.m. while European Exchanges will welcome shoppers at 8 a.m. Authorized shoppers can get a head start on special promotions, updated throughout the holiday season, by visiting the Exchange's "Sale Flyers" page.

AAFES Homeward Bound Contest

In the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's latest contest, a picture and 50 words could be worth $10,000. From Nov. 1-Dec. 31, authorized shoppers can enter the "Homeward Bound" contest by submitting a picture or video of a military welcome home experience, along with a 50-word or less description, for a shot at the $10,000 Exchange gift card grand prize. The "Homeward Bound" contest is open to all authorized Exchange shoppers 18 years or older. Complete rules and entry instructions can be found at www.shopmyexchange.com/homewardbound

Exchanges Baby Photo Contest

Military moms will definitely want to enter the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's latest contest. The "Mom and Baby Photo" sweepstakes will award a 14K 1/10 ct. t.w. diamond Juno Lucina pendant in white gold (retail value $329) to the top ten best photos of mother and baby. From Nov. 1-14, authorized shoppers 18 years and older can enter by submitting a photo of mom and baby to patriotfamily@aafes.com with "Mom and Baby Photo Sweepstakes" in the subject line. Complete details can be found at www.shopmyexchange.com/patriotfamily. Sweepstakes winners will be announced on or about Nov. 15.

The Affordable Care Act, VA, and You

 Enrolled? What You Should Know

Your Enrollment Means You Don’t Need to Take Additional Steps

If you are enrolled in any of VA’s programs below, you have coverage under the standards of the health care law:

·         Veteran’s health care program

·         Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA)

·         Spina bifida health care program

You don’t need to do anything more. The health care law does not change your VA benefits or out-of-pocket costs. You can continue to enjoy VA health care, which means you have:

·         Medical care rated among the best in the U.S.

·         Immediate benefits of health care coverage. Veterans may apply for VA health care enrollment at any time.

·         No enrollment fee, monthly premiums, or deductibles. Most Veterans have no out-of-pocket costs. Some Veterans may have to pay small copayments for health care or prescription drugs.

·         More than 1,700 places available to get your care. This means your coverage can go with you if you travel or move.

·         Met the new requirement to have health care coverage that meets the minimum standard.

The goal of the VA health care system is to achieve excellence in patient care and customer satisfaction. VA’s medical mission is singular — to serve Veterans by providing the highest quality health care available anywhere in the world. America’s Veterans deserve nothing less.

It’s in the Mail

Enrolled Veterans will also receive this information through the mail. The letter from the VA is another means to inform you that there is no need to take any additional steps to obtain health insurance to comply with the health care law coverage standards going into effect in January 2014.

Letters are being mailed in Priority Group order, starting with Veterans in Priority Group 1 through Priority Group 8. The mailings should be complete by the end of October.

For more information about your health benefits, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefitsanytime or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. or Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Eastern.

VA and Other Health Insurance

If you have other forms of health care coverage, such as a private insurance plan, Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE, you can continue to use VA along with these plans. Remember: it is always a good idea to inform your doctors if you are receiving care outside of VA so your health care can be coordinated.

Health Insurance Marketplace

Beginning in October 2013, the Marketplace is a new way to shop for and purchase private health insurance (for example, health coverage other than VA health care programs) that fits your budget and meets your needs. People who purchase insurance through the Marketplace may be able to lower the costs of health insurance coverage by paying lower monthly premiums. For more information, visit www.healthcare.gov.

Family Members and the Marketplace

Even though you are covered by your VA health care enrollment, your family members who are not enrolled in a VA health care program should use the Marketplace to get coverage. They may get lower costs on monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs. They could be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Starting October 1, they can submit an application for health care coverage through the Marketplace, and learn the amount of assistance they are eligible for. For more information, visit www.healthcare.gov.

Canceling Your Enrollment…A Word of Caution

If you choose to cancel your VA health care enrollment, you may reapply for enrollment at any time; however, acceptance for future VA health care enrollment will be based on eligibility factors at the time of application, which may result in a denial of enrollment.

http://www.va.gov/health/aca/EnrolledVeterans.asp

VADIP   Enrollment in 3-yr Dental Pilot Program Begins 15 NOV 

A new VA program will soon allow all enrolled veterans and CHAMPVA beneficiaries to purchase private dental insurance at a reduced cost. Dependents of Veterans, except those eligible under CHAMPVA, are not authorized to participate in VADIP. Those individuals may be eligible for separate dental insurance coverage offered by the carriers. Created by the Caregivers and Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, this three year pilot program known as the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP) will offer a wide array of affordable plans to veterans and eligible dependents through Delta Dental and MetLife. Covered services include diagnostic, preventative, surgical, emergency and endodontic/restorative treatment. Delta Dental and MetLife are offering multiple plans. Each participant pays the fixed monthly premiums for coverage and any copayments required, depending on the type of plan selected. Monthly premiums will range from $8.65 to $52.90, depending on level of coverage selected. The initial participation period will be at least 12 calendar months. Afterward, VADIP beneficiaries can renew their participation for another 12-month period or be covered month-to-month, as long as the participant remains eligible for coverage and VA continues VADIP. Participation in this program is entirely optional and dental service connection is not required. Enrollment begins on Nov. 15, 2013, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

For more information call 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or go to http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vadip 

Your AKO Email

 AccountPlease read this notice carefully. You are receiving it because you have an AKO email address in your myPay Account.

 The U.S. Army will close all retirees' and family members' AKO accounts between Dec. 31, 2013 and Mar. 31, 2014.  Additionally, you can no longer store email in AKO after Dec. 31, 2013.

 If you have listed an AKO email address in your myPay account, you should change it to a personal email account.  This is where you'll receive all future notices from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service as well as notification that Army Echoes is available.

To change your email address in myPay, simply log in at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx.  Then click on "Email Address" and look at "Personal Email Address."  AKO email addresses end in "@us.army.mil." Change the email address if necessary, and click on "Primary." Finally, click "Accept/Submit."

Commissaries Honor Vietnam Vets With Special Events

During the Veterans Day holiday weekend, commissaries worldwide will honor all veterans, particularly those who served during the Vietnam War, with commemorative events, special sales promotions, giveaways and food demos.

The tribute to Vietnam-era veterans is linked to the introduction of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration Flag, said Rogers E. Campbell, DeCA's executive director of sales, marketing and policy. "The flag recognizes the service, valor and sacrifice of our military members who made it possible for America to remain strong and safe as a defender of democracy worldwide," Campbell said. "We hope that every time a Vietnam War veteran and their family sees this flag, they will know that a grateful nation remembers, thanks and honors them."

In addition to commemorative events in the stores, commissary customers will find discounts on name-brand items thanks to special promotions that run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 13. Throughout this promotional period, DeCA's industry partners - vendors, suppliers and brokers - are collaborating with commissaries to offer discounts beyond everyday savings.

Companies participating in this super sale include: Lipton, Bertolli, Hellman's, Breyers, Dove, AXE, Country Crock, Kraft Foods, Healthy Choice Frozen Foods, Marie Callenders, Hunts, Gatorade, Quaker Oats, Tropicana, Aunt Jemima, Smuckers', Martha White, Kellogg's, General Mills, Mid-Valley Produce, Ocean Spray, Hormel, Campbell Soup and Del Monte.

"It is with great honor that your local commissary serves our nation's veterans with dignity and gratitude for everything they have done to keep our country safe," Campbell said. "We cannot thank the Vietnam War veterans and all war veterans enough for what they have done for our country, our Constitution and our families."

Customers should check their local commissary for dates and times of commemorative events and the specific sales events offered at their store.

You can find more information on this commemorative program at
www.vietnamwar50th.com.  

2014 Medicare Rates

Medicare officials announced that monthly premiums for Medicare Part B (outpatient care) will remain the same for beneficiaries in 2014. The basic Medicare Part B premium remains $104.90 a month.

Beneficiaries with 2012 adjusted gross income (plus tax-exempt interest income) over $85,000 — or $170,000 if married filing jointly — will continue to pay higher means-tested premiums.

The means-tested rates also will remain the same in 2014. Means-tested rates range from $146.90 to $335.70 per person per month, depending on income. The Part B annual deductible also will remain at $147.


Officials attribute the flat rates to provider incentives for producing better value for patients, fighting fraud and abuse, and an increase in prescription drug savings.

It was also announced the Medicare Part A deductible – which people pay when admitted to a hospital – will increase $32 in 2014 to $1,216. That deductible covers up to 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care. Beneficiaries will pay $304 a day for days 61 through 90 in 2014 (up from $296 in 2013) and $608 a day for hospital stays beyond 90 days (up from $592 in 2013). The daily coinsurance rate for days 21 through 100 in a skilled-nursing facility rises from $148 to $152.

Please note that because TRICARE For Life (TFL) acts as a supplemental insurance to Medicare, the deductibles for Parts A and B are paid by TFL.

Special Designation  For Veterans on New York Driver License

Senator Cathy Young, 57th District provided the following information  for veterans of New York

Veterans in New York State can now have a special designation added to their State driver’s license providing clear and convenient proof of their service.

Qualified U.S. military veterans who were honorably discharged and have either a driver’s license, learner’s permit, or non-driver State-issued ID, can have the word “VETERAN” printed on their license above their photo.

This simple addition, which I proudly supported in the State Senate, will allow those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms to easily prove their veteran status, while also cutting costs for many local counties who supply special ID cards for veterans.

Since many local businesses across New York provide discounts to veterans, having a driver’s license with this designation will make it easier for our veterans to present proof of their honorable service and receive the thanks they deserve.

As required by legislation we passed last year, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has finished revising their applications and the new veteran’s designation is active and available.

For more information on how to apply, you can check the DMV website at www.dmv.ny.gov/armedforces.htm

Retiree ID Cards Changed

Before Nov. 1, 2012, a military retiree’s ID card had two expiration dates. The date on the front was usually indefinite. The date on the back was the date the retiree’s DOD medical benefits expired -- the last day of the month prior to the retiree’s 65th birthday. This date was necessary to ensure the retiree enrolled in Medicare and provided that information to DEERS. To eliminate confusion, ID cards now have the same expiration date on the front and back. DOD is also replacing retirees’ social security numbers on the front of the ID card with their new DOD ID numbers and adding the retirees’ DOD Benefits ID numbers on the back. Retirees are not required to update their ID cards until the expiration date. However, they may choose to do so when it is convenient for them. Spouse ID cards must still be updated every four years until the 75th birthday. When spouse ID cards are renewed, the retiree’s DOD ID number will replace the SSN on the front and the spouse’s DOD Benefits ID number will be added to the back. For more information about ID cards, please visit https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl/appj/site?execution=e1s1 or call (800) 538-9552.

Thousands of “gray area” Soldiers are missing their retired pay

Each month, about half of all retired pay applications the Reserve Retirements Branch at U. S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) mails to “gray area” Soldiers are returned unopened. This causes a delay in receiving retired pay or no retired pay at all for 400 to 600 Soldiers each month because they did not update their addresses at HRC when they moved. As with active duty Soldiers, Reserve Component Soldiers must apply for retired pay to receive it.

 A month before their 59th birthday, HRC sends all “gray area” Soldiers the forms they need to apply for retired pay at age 60. These forms should be completed and returned to HRC no less than 90 days before the Soldiers turns 60 to ensure their retired pay starts on time. Soldiers whose deployments have earned them the right to retire before age 60 must alert HRC to that fact and request their retired pay applications early.

Soldiers who apply for retired pay after the age of 60 may receive back pay, but only for a maximum of six years. The Barring Act prevents paying older claims. “Gray area” Soldiers should update their retired records at HRC every time they move by calling (888) 276-9472 between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST or by sending an email to askhrc.army@us.army.mil.

Army plans to close retiree AKO accounts by Mar. 31, 2014

On Sept. 20, the Army published its plan to modernize Army Knowledge Online (AKO). The plan transitions business users to a suite of more secure, interoperable Department of Defense (DOD) services. The improved security requires users to have Common Access Cards (CAC) embedded with users’ personal digital certificates.

The Army will close all accounts for military and civilian retirees and family members, who do not have CACs.

The Army plans to close inactive retiree and family member AKO accounts on Dec. 31, 2013. These are accounts that have not had a password change in over 90 days and are not set to automatically forward email to another government account. The Army will also remove email storage for active retiree and family member accounts on this date.

On Mar. 31, 2014, the Army will close all remaining retiree and family member AKO accounts.

To ease the transition, the Army G-6 recently approved an exception to policy that allows retirees and family members to automatically forward their AKO email to a civilian email address until Dec. 31, 2014. However, retirees must set this up in their AKO account profiles before Dec. 31, 2013.

To avoid disruptions to communications and personal accounts, retirees should take the following steps as soon as possible:

• Obtain a personal email address from a civilian provider.

• Replace AKO email addresses in all personal accounts – especially myPay accounts at the Defense Finance and

Accounting Service (https://www.mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx.)

• Obtain a premium DS Logon account. This account allows access to personal benefits records and claims on DOD

and Department of Veterans Affairs websites. See the DS Logon article on the next page for more information.

• Download important emails and files to a personal computer.

 The Army has many sources of information that retirees may access in place of AKO. The Army home page (www.army.mil) provides official Army news and information and links to Army social media sites (Army Facebook, Army Twitter, Army YouTube and Army Flickr.) It also includes links to Army images, audio, video, presentations, and Army Live, the official Army blog. The U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s home page (www.imcom.army.mil) includes links to individual installations and garrisons that provide local information and services to retirees. The Army’s official benefits website is MyArmyBenefits (https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil.)

The Army plan indicated that retirees may share files using free and paid commercial services. The plan also noted retirees may join comment forums at military service organization and commercial websites.

For updated information on the AKO transition, visit http://www.eis.army.mil/ako.

AKO transition affects retirees and annuitants’ myPay accounts

The pending Army Knowledge Online (AKO) transition will affect over 350,000 retirees and annuitants’ myPay accounts. These Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) accounts include AKO email addresses that will not function when the Army closes the last retiree and family member AKO accounts on Mar. 31, 2014.

Unless they update their myPay accounts, these retirees and annuitants will no longer receive email communications from DFAS. These communications include notices about monthly retiree account statements, annual income tax forms, and other important information.

To update your email address, log in to myPay at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx. Then click on “Email Address” and look at “personal email address.” AKO email addresses end in “@us.army.mil.” Change the email address if necessary, and click on “Primary.”

Finally, click “Accept/Submit.”

If you do not have a myPay account, you can register for one at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx. If you need assistance registering or have questions, call myPay at (888) 332-7411.

TRICARE Retiree Dental Program updates

As you may have already read, the Department of Defense has selected Delta Dental of California to continue administering the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) under a new five-year contract effective Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2018.

To maintain your coverage in the TRDP under the new contract, you do not need to take any action. There have been no changes made to the Basic plan benefit design under the new contract. However, here are a few of the exciting changes that take effect for the Enhanced plan on January 1:

• An increase in the annual maximum amount for each person enrolled, to $1,300

• A new coverage year, which will run from January 1 through December 31

• An increase in the annual maximum amount for dental accident coverage for each person enrolled, to $1,200

• An increase in the lifetime orthodontic maximum amount for each person enrolled, to $1,750

• A third cleaning allowed for children and adults with diagnosed Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes

Your current TRDP enrollment card will still be valid under the new contract. However, beginning Dec. 1, 2013, Delta Dental will no longer have the authority to issue new or replacement enrollment cards. If you wish to receive an enrollment card in the future, you will need to contact the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) at www.dmdc.osd.mil . Since Delta Dental uses the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System (DEERS) to verify eligibility for the TRDP, it is important to keep your personal information up to date for each family member. DEERS information may be updated at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/address/index.jsp.

Later this fall, all sponsors currently enrolled in the TRDP will receive detailed information regarding the new contract that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. For more detailed information on the TRDP or to enroll, please visit www.trdp.org or call (888) 838-8737.

TRICARE is minimum essential coverage

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — The Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care reform law, requires you to maintain basic health care coverage—called minimum essential coverage. Beginning in 2014, if you don't have minimum essential coverage, you'll have to pay a fee for each month you aren’t covered.

The TRICARE program is considered minimum essential coverage. If you’re using any of the following health plan options, you have the coverage required by the health care reform law:

 • TRICARE Prime • TRICARE For Life

• TRICARE Prime Remote • TRICARE Reserve Select (if purchased)

• TRICARE Prime Overseas • TRICARE Retired Reserve (if purchased)

• TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas • TRICARE Young Adult (if purchased)

• TRICARE Standard and Extra • U. S. Family Health Plan

• TRICARE Standard Overseas

Health Insurance Marketplace

If you qualify for one of TRICARE’s purchased plan options, you only meet the requirements for minimum essential coverage if you purchase it.

Be sure to check that you’re getting the most affordable coverage for you and your family that best meets your needs. Compare TRICARE’s purchased plan options with your employer’s health insurance or other civilian options offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is a new way to find health coverage that fits your budget and meets your needs. With one application, you can see all your options and enroll. Open enrollment began Oct. 1, 2013 with coverage beginning as early as Jan. 1, 2014. Search online or call (800) 318-2596 to learn more.

 Remember, most TRICARE health plan options already meet the requirements for minimum essential coverage.