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Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 10 September 2015

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Thursday, September 10, 2015

9/10/2015 

 

Message from the President of AUSA 

If battling sequestration and budget caps isn't bad enough, congressional inaction is also a threat to our Army and national security. Soldier bonuses and special pays, even hazardous duty pay, are in jeopardy, and so is the Army’s biggest modernization effort, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. When Congress returns after its summer break, it is really time to get serious about the serious issue of national security funding.

Four Americans and one Brit who last Friday prevented a well-armed gunman from mowing down passengers on a packed, high-speed French train are the heroes of legends. The men—Army National Guard Spc. Aleksander Skarlatos, schoolteacher Mark Moogalian, Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, college student Anthony Sadler who also works in retail, and British information technology consultant Chris Norman—showed raw, native courage in subduing the suspect without stopping to think about the danger. It's fitting that Spc. Skarlatos is receiving the Soldier's Medal and that Airman 1st Class Stone is receiving the Airman's Medal. Their bravery reminds the world it is possible to stop evil through action.

Military Families have until January to Update DEERS Info or face ACA fines

Over 400,000 military households’ DEERS records do not have all their families’ social securitynumbers. If they don’t add them before January they could owe fines through the IRS due to requirements in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare.)

DEERS say they are missing 484,000 social security numbers of military dependents. Starting this year the Pentagon is required to report TRICARE coverage for service members and their dependents. That is because TRICARE qualifies under the ACA as “minimal essential coverage 

In a letter sent to troops on August 13th DoD said:” The IRS will collect fees from individuals who don't have minimum essential coverage, TRICARE verifies and reports minimal essential coverage status based on DEERS records."

All TRICARE enrolled active-duty service members, retirees and their families as well as those covered under purchased Reserve Select, Reserve Retiree and TRICARE Young Adult also meet the ACA’s minimum coverage

However if the Dod report does not cover all family members fines may be imposed.

Many military children are enrolled in DEERS long before they have a social security number and it is easy to forget to include it later. But now military families need to follow through.

 Please note

 “Some TRICARE users don't meet the minimum coverage requirement and will face fines if they do not purchase additional coverage. Guard members and reservists who are receiving TRICARE-provided line of duty care for an injury received during service do not meet the minimum through TRICARE alone. Also, some dependent parents and parents-in-law receive TRICARE as part of the TRICARE Plus program, which allows them to use some military treatment facilities, but does not meet the minimum coverage requirements.”

VA IG: 900k Veterans May be on VHA Waiting Lists

Last week a Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General (VA IG) report said that nearly 900,000 military veterans have officially pending applications for health care from the VA. It then went on to say that "serious" problems with enrollment data make it impossible to determine how many veterans were actively seeking VA health care. It also estimated that nearly one third, or 300,000 veterans, of that group may be dead. There is no way to officially take them off of the list.

The IG report says that "data limitations" prevent investigators from determining how many now-deceased veterans applied for health care benefits or when. The applications go back nearly two decades, and officials said some applicants may have died years ago.

More than half the applications listed as pending as of last year do not have application dates, and investigators "could not reliably determine how many records were associated with actual applications for enrollment" in VA health care, the report said.

 The report also says VA workers incorrectly marked thousands of unprocessed health-care applications as completed and may have deleted 10,000 or more electronic "transactions" over the past five years.

VA's IG said the agency's Health Eligibility Center "has not effectively managed its business processes to ensure the consistent creation and maintenance of essential data" and recommended a multi-year plan to improve accuracy and usefulness of agency records, according to the Associated Press.

The VA has said it has no way to purge the list of dead applicants.

 As of June 30, VA has contacted 302,045 veterans by mail, asking them to submit required documents to establish eligibility. To date, VA has received 36,749 responses and enrolled 34,517 veterans, she said.

Additionally, the Washington Post reported that 34,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are losing their guaranteed five-year eligibility for VA service due to “systematic obstacles.” While combat veterans are not required to verify their income when applying for VA benefits, the enrollment applications of 34,000 such veterans were delayed when the VA system classified them as pending, awaiting income verification.

Needless to say, this has been suspected for years. But to see the rumors verified by the VA's own inspector general makes clear the depth of the problems at the Veterans' Health Administration. The rot goes deep, and strong reforms need to be implemented from both a top-down, as well as a bottom-up perspective.

IMPORTANT: New TRICARE Policy for Prescription Drug Refills Coming

Recently we told you about change in the TRICARE policy for getting maintenance drugs that will go into effect on October 1. On that date many beneficiaries will see a change in how some prescriptions are refilled. Refills purchased at retail pharmacies thereafter without a waiver will come entirely out of the buyers’ pockets.

The new fee plan for prescription drug refills considered "maintenance" medications removes the current subsidy for buying those drugs at a retail pharmacy. The change requires non-active duty beneficiaries to refill select maintenance drugs (maintenance drugs are those that you take regularly for a chronic condition [e.g., drugs to control blood pressure or cholesterol]) through home delivery or at military pharmacies.

If you have a short term prescription, such as an antibiotic or pain medication, you can likely still use a network pharmacy.

In some limited scenarios, you may qualify for a waiver:

•          Emergency

•          Personal needs

•          Special circumstances, such as living in a nursing home

Another waiver may be granted on some name-brand medications if the drugs are back-ordered by the mail-order pharmacy. Rather than force users to pay the full price out of pocket if the drug is on backorder, Express Scripts can grant users an immediate override to allow the medication to be purchased at a retail pharmacy under the current price scheme. The override will be good for 30 days.

You can call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303 to request a waiver. If you get a waiver, you can refill your prescriptions at a network pharmacy without penalty. Waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis.

TRICARE For Life beneficiaries are advised that since you are already required to use the TRICARE For Life Pharmacy Pilot, this change will not affect you. Basically, how you refill prescriptions is now becoming the process for everyone else not on active duty.

VERY IMPORTANT: Big Premium Hikes predicted for Medicare Part B in 2016

Smart money is expecting that Medicare Part B (doctor visits and outpatient treatments) will be increasing by double digits next year if matters do not change. The actual changes will be announced in October and go into effect January 1st.

Remember Part B is the premium that TRICARE for Life (TFL) beneficiaries pay.

The prediction is that premiums will increase 15% for approximately 70% of people using Medicare Part B. If Social Security checks get a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) then it is expected that the monthly premium will go from the present $104.90 to $120.70.

If there is no COLA then there will not be an increase in the Part B premiums for the 70% of Medicare Part B beneficiaries due to the Social Security’s “hold harmless rule.” (If most beneficiaries do not see a Social Security increase they will not be charges a new higher Medicare Part B premium that would cut thereby lower their social security check.)

However 25%-30% of Part B beneficiaries would be charged a much higher premium. These are beneficiaries who:

 •          Who enroll in Part B in 2016

•          People who don't have their premiums deducted from Social Security payments

•          Individuals with annual incomes above $85,000 or couples with annual incomes of $170,000

•          People eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid

For the last group, known as "dual eligibles," Part B premiums are paid by the state where they live.

These beneficiaries will see their premiums rise to $159.30 a month A 52% increase!!!

 PTSD Rates and Gender

Men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to develop post-traumatic stress disorder at about the same rate, according to a study published in Journal of Psychiatric Research. It followed an equal number of men and women for seven years after deployment, finding that 6.7 percent of women and 6.1 percent of men developed PTSD. The study appears to debunk the theory that women are more at risk for PTSD than men after experiencing combat.

What to watch: The PTSD rates in this study are far below the 20 to 30 percent of returning veterans previously reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. More study will be needed to clarify the depth of the problem. 

 Can You Hear Me Now?

The Army in action is filled with noise, which is one of the reasons why hearing loss is a significant problem for soldiers and veterans and also why so much effort is being made into hearing protection. Well-fitted combat earplugs have proven effective; research continues into other ideas, including the possibility of taking medication that would have noise-canceling effects on soldiers.

What to watch: DoD’s Human Performance Resource Center has a lot of advice on minimizing the risk of hearing problems. One of them is to limit exposure to “annoying noise” during normal daily activities—which presumably does not mean avoiding your spouse or supervisor.

Pentagon Warns of Funding, Policy Disruptions While Obama Caps 2016 Military Pay Raise 

With Congress due to return facing just 10 legislative days before the start of the fiscal year, President Barack Obama has taken preemptive action to set the 2016 military raise at 1.3 percent. Pentagon leaders are warning about the potential for severe disruption in weapons programs, including the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

The 1.3 percent military pay raise is less than the 2.3 percent increase service members would receive under the Federal Pay Comparability Act, but it is slightly greater than the 1 percent raise that was received in 2014 and 2015. In a message to Congress explaining his decision, Obama said he remains “strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members,” but “we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course. This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints.” Obama decided federal civilian workers would receive a 1 percent increase in 2016.

The pay raise is not necessarily final because Congress has not completed work on the 2016 defense budget and has been divided about the size of the raise. The House of Representatives stuck with the 1983 federal pay formula, which provides a 2.3 percent increase to match salary growth in the private sector. The Senate backed the DoD and White House plan for the 1.3 percent raise.

While small, a 1.3 percent increase could be equal or greater than inflation, and greater than the cost-of-living adjustment in military and federal civilian retired pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Aug. 19 that consumer prices rose only 0.2 percent in the previous 12 months, largely because lower oil prices had resulted in large drops in energy costs. While food prices have increased 1.6 percent, housing has increased 2.6 percent and medical care has increased 2.3 percent, the 14.8 percent reduction in energy costs has resulted in almost no change in the Consumer Price Index that is used to determine Social Security, military retirement and other entitlement increases. The cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, which is indexed to consumer prices, won’t be announced until October.

Completing defense funding and policy bills by the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year seems unlikely, so congressional staff have been working legislation to keep the government running either for a few weeks, a few months, or maybe even a full year.

Defense and service officials are worried about funding extensions because they impose limitations on programs. For example, the Army would be hurt because no new programs can be started under a temporary funding bill. This would restrict a wide range of things, from military construction to research into area denial capabilities to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army’s major modernization effort.

Among the other problems, authority for the military to pay a wide assortment of bonuses and incentive payments expires at the end of the year, requiring congressional action. At risk are enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses; accession bonuses for officers; and incentives for aviators, health care workers, nuclear-trained officers and hazardous duty.

The Army and DoD have not said they cannot operate under temporary funding. However, they have asked for language that prevents disruptions to be included in whatever measure is passed.

- See more at: http://www.ausa.org/news/2015/Pages/PentagonWarnsofFunding.aspx#sthash.V...

DFAS sends fraud warning to myPay customers

BEWARE! Several myPay customers have informed us that fraudulent SmartDocs email messages are being sent that could put your information and finances at risk.

The reported invalid emails contain what appears to be from a valid SmartDocs email address. The originators of these emails have “spoofed” their messages to hide their true origin and placed the SmartDocs address in the “From” line to make the email appear legitimate.

Valid SmartDocs messages from DFAS are always sent in plain text, do not include attachments and do not ask you to send any information in response. Your email program may automatically convert a valid SmartDocs message into HTML and convert some text into clickable links. We recommend that you do NOT click on any links within any email message.  To access a site referenced in an email, open your browser and type the link (URL) directly into the browser.

Don’t get fooled. If you receive a SmartDocs message that contains a link, don’t click on it.  If a URL is listed in the message type it in manually within your browser.  Delete  unexpected or unsolicited  messages that contain  attachments or that request you to send information back.

 Becoming a victim is easy.  Utilizing a few basic precautions with email handling are critical to protecting your information, finances and identity.

TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Fraudulent Secret Shopper Offer

The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of return envelopes from mailings by a bogus organization. In the letter they identify themselves as TRICARE SURVEY INC., to TRICARE beneficiaries across the country and are attempting to solicit beneficiary to be “Secret Shoppers” for TRICARE. Please know that TRICARE does not employ “Secret Shoppers”.

Enclosed in the mailing is a form letter claiming to be a solicitation for a position as a Trainee Independent Private Evaluator, a counterfeit TRICARE WPS check for $3,775.00, and an instruction/survey form on how the beneficiary gets the check authorized through the company’s agent via phone. Beneficiaries are directed to cash the check at their local bank, retain a percentage of the money and utilize the remaining amount to purchase six “Vanilla Reload” cards at $500.00 apiece at various stores across the country.

The “Secret Shopper” is instructed to provide the company agent with the card numbers once they are bought, complete the survey and mail it, and wait for the next assignment. Once money has been loaded onto the card however, they are immediately available for transfer and the bogus company zeros out the monies on the cards.

DHA PI strongly advises you NOT to participate in this alleged “Secret Shopper” effort. TRICARE will identify the checks as counterfeit through a positive check controls process and return them to the bank in which they were drawn from as non-cashable. Potential exists for the beneficiary to be personally liable for the entire $3,775.00 in restitution to the bank.

Should you receive a letter DHA PI again, strongly advises you not to contact the company or attempt to cash the counterfeit check. Also, please immediately submit a Fraudline report to DHA PI. You can access our Fraud Reporting by clicking the “Report Health Care Fraud” button at www.health.mil/fraud.

Cold War Service Medal bill reintroduced

Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) has once again introduced a bill to create a Cold War Service Medal. It is H.R. 2067. This has been proposed in the last several Congresses and we are trying once again to finally get it passed. The Pentagon has repeatedly opposed the bill saying that it would cost them $400 to create and award the medal.  The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) accepted DoD’s figures and scored the bill’s price as the same $400 million. We believe that this is a horribly inflated number but we know we will have to fight it.

If you are interested in this recognition please speak to your House member and urge him or her to co-sponsor the bill. We want to build energy under it.

Rep. John Kline Plans To Introduce VA Reform Bill

Congressman John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee plans to introduce legislation when the House returns next month to halt “untimely billing practices” by the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs would be granted the "authority to waive a co-payment requirement if the VA erred in not sending out the bill in a timely manner." This would prevent the VA from charging veterans for medical care they received years ago. The bill would require the VA to “inform veterans of their rights to payment plans and waivers if the VA does not meet billing timelines.”

 Back to School with TRICARE

Below is an article from TRICARE that outlines how TRICARE benefits coordinate with school year requirements.

Go Back to School with TRICARE

It’s August and many families have begun their back to school preparations. For younger children and adolescents, this means getting all necessary medical care and screenings. For older children, this means making sure they know how to get the care they need when they are away from home. TRICARE can help as you and your family get ready for the busy back to school season.

TRICARE covers physicals for children age 5-11 if it’s required for school enrollment. Physicals are a great time to talk to your child’s provider about any concerns you have for the upcoming school year. You can also plan a lunch or ice cream date after the appointment to talk to your child about their fears and expectations for the new school year. Many military children will be going to new schools and making new friends. Talk to them to make sure their jitters don’t turn into a more serious anxiety that requires intervention from a mental health provider. If you determine that you would like to seek mental health care for your child, TRICARE covers mental health care that is medically necessary. Check in periodically with your child to make sure they are not perpetrating or experiencing bullying. If you’re concerned about bullying, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website stopbullying.gov for information and resources.

Some children may need immunizations to return to school. You can view your child's immunization record in TOLand see if they are up-to-date. TRICARE covers age-appropriate doses of vaccines.

If your child is going away to college, make sure they know how to get health care services if they need it.  Health plan options depend on where the school is and your sponsor's military status. For information that will help you determine which plan is best for your family, visit the Going to College page on the TRICARE website.

Getting ready for school can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be. TRICARE has the information and services you need to make this annual transition easily. For more information on how TRICARE can help, visit the Back to School page on the TRICARE website.

VA claims backlog now under 100,000 – lowest in department history

From VBA Press Release:

From the Office of the Undersecretary for Veterans' Benefits Allison Hickey:

The VA announced last week that it has reduced the disability claims backlog to 98,535. This is the lowest it has ever been in VA’s history, and it represents an 84-percent reduction from its peak of 611,000 claims in March 2013.

But this milestone is also personal. I am a Veteran, my husband is a Veteran, and I have countless friends and family members who are Veterans. I came to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) four years ago knowing there was no more noble mission than to care for Veterans, Servicemembers, their families and Survivors.

On day one, I knew that demand for compensation and other VA benefits was exploding. The backlog of claims older than 125 days was over half a million and climbing, and the claims inventory was nearly 800,000 and rising. You were waiting too long for your disability claim decisions, and that wasn’t right.

In 2009, VA set a goal to process claims in an average of 125 days. Shortly after my arrival at VBA in 2011, we set in motion the Transformation Plan – a series of people, process, and technology initiatives that, when integrated, would bring the backlog down. Today’s numbers are a reflection of the success of this plan.

It hasn’t only been personal to me. It’s been personal to all VBA employees – 53 percent of whom are Veterans themselves and many more are family members of Veterans—and to Veterans Health Administration physicians and staff and IT colleagues who have gone above and beyond to provide you with the medical examinations needed to support your claims.

It was through the efforts of these employees, our team members and partners that we were able to achieve such a dramatic reduction in the backlog, without sacrificing quality: claims-based quality has risen from 83 percent at the start of transformation to 91 percent today – and holding strong – and on the eight separate quality categories measured within a claim, employees are making the correct decision more than 98% of the time. With the help of the Congress, our partners in Veterans Service Organizations state and county Veterans service departments, and the support of our Labor partners:

We are on track to complete nearly 1.4 million claims this fiscal year – exceeding 1 million claims for the fifth year in a row, and setting a new historical record.

We’re expediting your claims – thanks to you and our VSO partners, nearly half of the claims we receive are Fully Developed Claims – and today, Veterans with a pending claim have been waiting, on average, 105 days for a claim decision, 177 days less than the March 2013 peak of 282 days.

We’ve completed nearly 75 percent more non-rating work than before transformation – and we’ve already completed more non-rating work this year than we did in all of last year. Most non-rating claims are filed after receiving a rating claim decision that opened access to other VA benefits and services, such as adding dependents.

Our appeals rate has remained in the historical average range of 10 to 12 percent amidst our increased production – volume went up, because we decided more claims. When you work a record-setting number of claims, volume goes up. There are only two ways to best tackle appeals – legislative reform or more full-time employees authorized by Congress.

As you can see, many people had a hand in personally helping VA reach this backlog milestone. But I know it’s most personal to each and every one of you.

We (VA) changed for you.

We streamlined our processes; we moved out of antiquated systems; we got away from thousands of tons of paper; we met you online so that you could access us wherever and whenever you needed; and many of you changed right along with us. You’ve embraced new things like filing Fully Developed Claims and using standardized forms. Your teamwork with us as we implemented these changes was significant, and we thank you for doing your part in making VA better for every Veteran.

For the fastest processing, your evidence should be submitted as early as possible in the claims process, but we will always consider additional evidence or new medical conditions you add—no matter how late in the claims process you add that material. We take seriously our legal duty to assist you in fully developing your claim, but there are some instances where your personal circumstances – and our legal duty to assist you – may cause it to take more than 125 days to process your claim:

If you add a new disability to a claim you already submitted to us or submit new, additional evidence for an already submitted claim

If you are unable to make scheduled medical exams for personal reasons, such as travel, living overseas, medical issues, etc.

If VA identifies additional disabilities while we are processing your claim that are related to your service-connected disabilities that you did not claim

If VA identifies additional entitlements, such as adapted housing benefits or additional monetary benefits if you are unable to achieve employment as a result of severe service-connected disabilities, we will still complete your claim but these entitlements may take longer than 125 days.

We anticipate that these categories will only account for approximately 10 percent of all claims we receive – the vast majority of your claims will be decided in 125 days. These situations do not mean we will stop striving to give you the best possible service, or that we no longer need your support.

VA Announces 45 States Are Compliant With New In-State Tuition Rules for Post-9/11 GI Bill Recipients

 from VA Press Release:

The Department of Veterans' Affairs announced last week that 45 states and several territories are now compliant with the provision of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“the Choice Act”) that affects students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill®and Montgomery GI Bill.

Section 702 of the Choice Act requires VA to disapprove programs at public colleges for Post-9/11 GI Bill and MGIB benefits that don’t provide the resident-rate tuition and fee charges tocovered individuals. The disapproval applies to any terms beginning after July 1, 2015. This change affects thousands of Post-9/11 GI Bill and MGIB – AD students. To remain approved for VA’s GI Bill programs, schools must charge in-state tuition and fee amounts to those covered by this law.

Last May Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs Bob McDonald decided to exercise his waiver authority and grant more time for states and territories to comply.

Now nearly 5,000 public schools, covering nearly 93% of the GI Bill student population, are participating. Now, that doesn’t mean that all of their students will qualify; the school still has to verify that someone is a covered individual. But it does demonstrate the breadth and depth of the progress that has been made.

The remaining few non-compliant states and territories have until December 31, 2015, to comply, thanks to the Secretary’s waiver. All of them have indicated they intend to comply.

You can read more about the resident-rate requirements of the Choice Act by visiting our website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp. There you can also track the latest compliance status by state, territory, and school on our map.

Officials: Military likely to open most combat jobs to women

 

© August 19, 2015

From Pilot and wire reports

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy's top officer, says the service plans to open its elite SEAL teams to women who can pass the training regimen.

In an interview with the publication Defense News, Greenert said he and Rear Adm. Brian Losey, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, believe that women should be allowed to serve as SEALs if they can pass the six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

"Why shouldn't anybody who can meet these (standards) be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason," Greenert told Defense News on Tuesday. "So we're on a track to say, 'Hey, look, anybody who can meet the gender-nonspecific standards, then you can become a SEAL.' "

Greenert didn't specify a timeline for allowing women into SEAL training.

 The move to integrate the SEALs comes after a comprehensive review led by Losey that recommended women be allowed under the same standards required of male candidates.

Earlier this week, two women passed the Army's grueling Ranger test, and other military services are poised to let women serve in most front-line combat jobs, including special operations forces, senior officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Based on early talks, officials say the Army and Air Force are unlikely to seek exceptions that close jobs to women. Marine Corps leaders, they say, have expressed concerns about allowing women to serve in infantry jobs and yet may seek an exception.

The services are wrapping up reviews and must make their recommendations to Defense Secretary Ash Carter this fall. The officials spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the internal debate.

Even if Marine leaders object, they are likely to meet resistance from senior Navy and Defense Department officials who want the military to be united on this issue.

Undercutting the Marines' reservations is that Special Operations Command is likely to allow women to compete for the most demanding military commando jobs - including the SEALs and the Army's Delta Force - though with the knowledge that it may be years before women even try to enter those fields.

Women have been steadily moving into previously all-male jobs across the military, including as members of the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, best known as the helicopter crews that flew Virginia Beach-based Navy SEALs into Osama bin Laden's compound. Women are also now serving on Navy submarines and in Army artillery units.

Friday will mark another milestone as two women graduate at Fort Benning, Ga., from the Army Ranger School, a physically and mentally demanding two-month combat leadership course. Completing the course lets the two women wear the coveted Ranger black-and-gold tab, but it does not let them become members of the Ranger regiment. Neither woman has been publicly identified by the military.

Longer term, the uncertainty of the Marine decision underscores the wrenching debates going on within the military over the changing role of women, and it reflects the individual identities of the services and how they view their warrior ethos.

Only a handful of jobs in the Navy and Air Force are closed to women.

Last year, the Navy considered seeking an exception that would have prohibited women from serving on older guided missile frigates, mine-countermeasure ships and patrol coast craft. Some argued that those ships, which are due to be phased out in coming years, would need millions of dollars in construction to add facilities for women, and it wasn't worth the expense.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus withdrew that plan in a memo late last month that was obtained by the AP. Officials said Navy leaders concluded that since women can serve in all the same jobs on other ships, no real exclusion existed.

The Army and Marine Corps, however, have thousands of infantry, artillery and armor jobs that are closed to women.

There has been a lot of study and debate over whether to open those positions because they often involve fighting in small units on the front lines, doing physically punishing tasks.

The Marine Corps set up a task force this year to set gender-neutral job standards and determine whether incorporating women into small squads affected unit cohesion or combat readiness.

Army leaders did similar scientific analysis, reviewing all tasks needed to do the combat jobs and have been creating gender-neutral standards that troops will have to meet to qualify.

In recent days, officials familiar with the discussions said they believe the Army will allow women to seek infantry and armor jobs as well.

Senate Field Hearings on VA Health Care

In the past week, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held two field hearings on access to VA health care and the Veterans Choice Program. In Georgia, Chairman Johnny Isakson heard testimony from the VA, HealthNet and veterans on ways to improve the VA health care system and how the Veterans Choice Program has performed. In Alaska, Senator Dan Sullivan heard testimony from veterans who have utilized the Veterans Choice Program and testimony on how the VA health care system in Alaska is different from VA medical facilities in the continental 48 states. Learn more about these hearings. 

DOD Launches Website on New Prescription Drug Policy

Earlier this month, the VFW reported on a new TRICARE prescription drug policy that will require certain beneficiaries to refill select maintenance medications through home delivery or at military treatment facilities. This week, TRICARE published a summary of the changes on its website, including which beneficiaries will be affected, which medications will fall under the new rules, how to request waivers if necessary and contact information for additional questions. Active duty military personnel are exempt from the new policy. The change will take place on October 1, 2015, and DOD will begin sending letters with additional information to beneficiaries on September 1. View the new TRICARE prescription drug webpage.

GI Bill Covers O&P Training

The Department of Labor wants veterans to know that the Post-9/11 GI Bill also includes the training required to become licensed Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) technicians. O&P is a trending health profession that includes both cutting-edge technology and hands-on patient care. The training, which is only offered at five colleges or universities, includes the evaluation, fabrication, and custom fitting of artificial limbs and orthopedic braces. According to the department, the career field is very marketable in industry, as well as in public, private and government medical facilities. Learn more.

End of WWII 70th Anniversary Commemoration

To commemorate the Allied Forces Victory in the Pacific and the end of World War II, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service will co-host a special V-J Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration on Sept. 2 at 10:30 a.m. at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. WWII veteran and VFW life member Sen. Bob Dole will provide remarks, as will other veterans and dignitaries from our allied nations. More than 400,000 Americans and 60 million people worldwide lost their lives in the deadliest military conflict in human history. The WWII Memorial has very few disability parking spaces, and street parking will be extremely limited since it’s still the tourist season in Washington, D.C., and Sept. 2 is a workday. Taxis to the memorial are plentiful and recommended, and the two closest Metro stations, Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, are both about a half-mile away. To learn more, or to RSVP your attendance, click here.

Sing It America

Visitors to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14 might consider joining thousands of others at the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner. Musicians and choirs will be saluting our National Anthem for a full 24 hours, from Dawn’s Early Light to Dawn’s Early Light. Read more.

Former Vietnam MIA Burial Update

Army Maj. Dale W. Richardson, 28, who was identified earlier this year, will be buried Aug. 29 with full military honors in Mountain View, Ark. He was lost when the UH-1H helicopter he was a passenger in was shot down near the Vietnamese/Cambodian border on May 2, 1970. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Read more.

Study Finds Military Kids at Greater Risk Than Peers 

In the news now is a report based on a survey in Southern California. Steve Smith, a reporter for Medical Daily, had this to say about the findings in his article, “It was also self-reported, which led the authors to believe that the students who’d responded may not have been as truthful as the researchers would have hoped.”

The scale of the study led to the conclusion that efforts in civilian schools and communities could help promote resilience among military children who may cope differently. Smith says, “That non-traditional way may lead to a higher prevalence of adverse outcomes when compared to non-military peers. According to a new study, war-related stressors—separation from parents because of deployment, frequent relocation, and worrying about future deployments—may be the cause of adverse outcomes, even if young children in military families grow up resilient.”

The positive result is the possibility of more awareness and the need for additional research on a larger scale. We should take the time to look around our families, installations, and larger military communities and find ways to help, if needed.

Military children are the most adaptable and resilient members of our community, but they also need our care, attention and support. We stand stronger together.

AUSA’s Family Readiness Directorate offers numerous helpful publications for military families covering topics such as deployment and parenting. Publications and other materials are made available to military personnel and their family members as a courtesy by AUSA’s Family Readiness Directorate.

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