Loading...

Retiree & Veteran Affairs News 25 August 2016

Association of the United States Army Logo - Eagle with Shield, Torch, Olive Branch
Thursday, August 25, 2016

DoD Official: We Want You Back in our Hospitals

According to a report in Military.com, “Shifting military family members back into military hospitals and clinics for health care is a top priority …” for the Defense Health Agency.

For many years, military family members enrolled in Tricare Prime have been referred to civilian health care providers if they cannot receive primary health care in a military treatment facility.

That began to change in 2014 when the Army and Air Force began to move nearly 30,000 Tricare Prime beneficiaries who had been receiving care from civilian providers near their bases/posts back into the military health care system. The Air Force will now be joining in that effort.

Under the Army/Navy effort, Tricare Prime beneficiaries were either involuntarily brought back into the military system, or were “invited” back in through an advertising campaign effort. Recognizing the fact that location close to a health care provider often made the civilian provider more attractive, DoD health care has set up six areas nationally where beneficiaries can see the military health care provider closest to them, regardless of whether the provider is from their service or not.

The Defense Health Agency says it is working on the issues that are of concern to families and their ultimate goal is to have families want to receive their care from a military provider.

Tinnitus is Number One Disability For Veterans

The sounds of gunfire, machinery, aircraft, and much more are part of the everyday lives of servicemembers and they can leave many Veterans with permanent hearing damage. As a result, tinnitus is the number one disability among Veterans and it affects at least one in every 10 American adults.

Some describe ringing sounds, a buzzing sound, a high-pitched whistle, or numerous other sounds. The causes and effects of tinnitus vary from individual to individual. For some people, tinnitus is just a nuisance. For others, it is a life altering condition.

Over 150,000 veterans were diagnosed with tinnitus in 2015 and nearly 1.5 million veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for it.

Can Tinnitus Be Cured?

In most cases, there is no specific cure for tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus is just a nuisance. For others, it is a life altering condition. However, if your doctor finds a specific cause of your tinnitus, they may be able to eliminate it.

One of the options for treating tinnitus is wearing a hearing aid. If you experience hearing loss, a hearing aid may reduce or temporarily eliminate head noise. It is important to set the hearing aid at moderate levels, because excessively loud levels can worsen tinnitus in some cases. You should always discuss the use of a hearing aid with your VA doctor. The VA may be able to provide you with one for free.

However, if that is not an option, there is now an option for a low-cost hearing aid.

More on the new TRICARE Management Contracts

Below is a copy of TRICARE’s explanation of their 2 new regional contracts. There are many links that can give you even more information. We are still waiting to see if there will be contract protests. As we implied last week we expect to see protests; but you never know. Again, more to come.

New Regional Contracts in 2017

The new regional contracts were awarded on July 21, 2016. The East Region Under the new regional contracts, the East Region is a merger of the North and South Regions and includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (Rock Island area), Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri (St. Louis area), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (excluding El Paso area), Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. contract goes to Humana Government Business, Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky, and the West RegionAlaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa (excludes Rock Island arsenal area), Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri (except St. Louis area), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (southwestern corner including El Paso), Utah, Washington and Wyoming. contract goes to Health Net Federal Services, LLC of Rancho Cordova, California.

  • We anticipate the start of health care delivery late 2017. 
  • There will be a 9-month transition period.
  • We have added improvements in the delivery, quality, and cost of your health care from previous contracts. 

Most of these improvements will be behind the scenes. But, some changes you may experience include:

  • Shorter wait times for specialty care appointments
  • Improved communication between your military and civilian providers
  • Easier referral process
You Don't Need to Do Anything Right Now
  • There is a 9-month transition period. 
  • Our goal is to have a smooth transition and to keep you informed.
  • We’ll update this page regularly. 
  • You can sign up now to get transition updates via email. 
What's Changing?

While the TRICARE benefit won’t change, you can expect changes in how you access care and to some processes. Here are the two key changes in the new contract: 

Big Savings on Hearing Aids Now Available

Advances in technology now make hearing aids into high-tech medical devices. The best hearing aids ever made are now in production.

Military retirees from active duty, Guard, and Reserve units who have hearing loss and/or tinnitus are eligible to participate in this program. Retired Commissioned Officers of the US Public Health Service are also eligible for this program at military treatment facilities, under certain conditions.

Dependents of military retirees are ineligible to participate in this program throughout the US. A website with the list of participating sites can be found at the end of this article.

Retirees can obtain hearing aids at significant savings by using this program. Two hearing aids can usually be purchased for less than $2,000. Exact costs are variable and subject to change at any time without notice. Contact your nearest audiology clinic for further details.

 Note: your closest clinic could be located hundreds of miles away from your home. The costs to travel for this program need to be considered versus the availability of an audiologist in your local community to assist you with repairs, warranty repairs, re-programming, etc.

Not every medical facility is able to provide this program. Care of active duty members takes precedent at all MTFs. It is recommended that you contact the appropriate military facility before incurring significant travel expenses. Facilities may discontinue this program for any reason without notice to us.

Retirees can use any military treatment facility which will accept them; you don’t need to return to your service affiliation to participate in this program.

This program is not a TRICARE benefit.

 A current list of sites which provide this program is available at http://militaryaudiology.org/rachap-rhapp-locations/.

Commissary Agency Announces New Way to Determine Customer Savings

We has been actively involved in the effort to save the commissary benefit ever since it has been under attack by some politicians in Congress and by bean counters within the Department of Defense itself. Because of our efforts and the efforts of our sister military and veteran organizations, we have so far defeated the efforts to gut the commissary benefit.

 Late last week the Defense Commissary Agency issued the following news release. This week participated in a conference call with DoD officials regarding this new change. We will keep you updated on this issue as the situation develops further.

Here is the DoD news article:

The Defense Commissary Agency is forming a new approach to calculating customers’ savings, aligning it more closely with private-sector practice, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.

 This better reflects what patrons experience daily with the products they routinely buy in the geographic regions in which they routinely shop, DeCA officials said.

 "We hear from our military families that they sometimes find lower prices on selected items outside the gate," said Joseph H. Jeu, DeCA's director and CEO. "For the first time through this new approach, we will compare our prices with local grocers on a more frequent basis to better inform our customers of potential cost savings over stores in their nearby community."

No Change’ to Customers’ Out-of-Pocket Expense

Jeu added: "Our approach to calculating savings will not impact the prices our customers pay or the dollar benefit that they receive. There will be no change to their out-of-pocket expense."

Through this improved process, officials said, DeCA will calculate and monitor patron savings more frequently than the current practice. Prices will be compared with actual prices at local competitors surrounding each commissary, as well, using a market basket of products that reflect what patrons normally purchase.

Missing Medicare Part B Enrollment Window Can Cost You – 10% For Life

If you or anyone you know has missed their Medicare enrollment window and has been penalized as a result, please reach out to [email protected] to let TREA: The Enlisted Association's Legislative Affairs Office know about it.

Medicare Part A covers hospitalization; Part B covers doctor visits, tests and therapies. Most people do not pay a premium for Part A; part B usually carries a premium, with individuals or couples with higher incomes paying more.

While people are required to sign up for both parts at age 65, they can postpone using Part B. Some do so because they don't want to pay the premium and may have better or less expensive insurance from another source.

The bottom line, though, is most people must sign up for both parts during a specific seven-month window.

We have recently heard that veterans, many of whom are using the VA for their healthcare needs, are being penalized an extra 10 percent on the standard Part B premium for every year, after age 65, that they do not enroll.

That can add up to thousands of extra dollars in Medicare fees over the decades.

Experts are suggesting that Medicare or Social Security agencies should send out detailed announcements about initial enrollment to let people know exactly what decisions they need to make and when they will be effective.

For most people, the seven-month registration window opens three months before their birth month. So, for example, if you were born April 10, you would enroll between Jan. 1 and July 31.

There can be late enrollment penalties in some cases for Part A, but these aren't for the life of the benefit, as they are for Part B.

For more information, contact Social Security at 800-325-0778 or ssa.gov. Medicare can be reached at 800-633-4227 or medicare.gov.

Picking a Post-Service Career

It takes time for people leaving the military to find the right job. Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families reports only 37 percent of veterans said their first post-service job was in their preferred career field. But this grew to 47 percent in the second job, and 54 percent in the third and fourth jobs after military life, the institute found. Less than 40 percent said their first, second or third job even generally related to their military training.

What to watch: The report highlights the fact that many separating soldiers aren’t worried about translating their military occupational specialty into a post-service job. Soldier for Life programs can help plan transition steps to getting the job a soldier has always wanted.

Tri-Agency Partnership Working to Tailor Cancer Care Based on Genes, Proteins

VA, DoD and NCI Create Nation’s First Targeted Screening Program for Cancer Patients

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to tailor cancer care for patients based on the genes and proteins associated with their tumors. The tri-agency program will create the nation’s first system in which cancer patients’ tumors are routinely screened for gene and protein information, with the goal of finding targeted therapies for each individual patient. The process will also continually generate new information to boost clinicians’ ability to treat the disease. 

This new program, the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes consortium, or APOLLO, is part of the wider national Cancer Moonshot initiative. APOLLO will initially focus on lung cancer in patients at VA and DoD medical centers, with plans to eventually include other forms of cancer. Some 8,000 Veterans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the VA system alone.

“APOLLO will create a pipeline to move genetic discoveries from the lab to VA clinics where Veterans receive cutting-edge cancer care,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “This is an example of how we are striving to be an exemplary learning health care system. We are proud to join our federal partners in this exciting initiative, and we expect it will lead to real improvements in the lives of those affected by cancer.”

APOLLO complements other Cancer Moonshot initiatives involving VA. One is a partnership between VA and IBM, in which IBM’s supercomputer Watson will help interpret the results of tumor sequencing by recommending therapies and clinical trials. Also in the works is a partnership between VA and the Department of Energy (DoE, known as MVP CHAMPION (Computational Health Analytics for Medical Precision to Improve Outcomes Now), in which researchers will leverage DoE’s high-capacity computing network to help analyze data from VA’s landmark Million Veteran Program. Prostate cancer is among the health conditions to be targeted in the early phases of that work.

The new effort centers on “proteogenomics”—a blend of genomics (the study of genes and their role in health) and proteomics (the downstream effects of genes), that has recently been demonstrated in NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC).  CPTAC’s “proteogenomics” approach was successful in demonstrating the scientific benefits of integrating proteomics with genomics to produce a more unified understanding of cancer biology and possibly therapeutic interventions for patients.  APOLLO researchers and clinicians will classify Veterans’ lung tumors based on changes in genes in the tumors, and in the levels of proteins. They will use the findings to recommend targeted therapies or refer patients to appropriate clinical trials. The proteogenomics approach promises more precision than looking at genes alone. As the knowledge base grows, it will be widely shared with clinicians and the global cancer community such as through NCI’s Genomic Data Commons to help them learn how to better treat cancer patients in the future.

The APOLLO partnership will leverage the strengths of each agency involved. NCI has cutting-edge expertise in proteogenomics, a relatively new field in science. DoD has a well-established pathology network for receiving and analyzing tissue samples—including DNA and RNA sequencing to identify genes and proteins. VA, as the nation’s largest integrated health care system, offers clinical research expertise and infrastructure plus a large pool of patients with cancer.

Among the benefits of APOLLO are targeted therapy and referrals to clinical trials as part of a larger learning health care system. Once a Veteran’s molecular signature is known—basically, the genes and proteins found in the tumor—he or she could be matched with available clinical trials targeting that signature with an experimental drug.

As part of APOLLO, VA medical centers will expand their participation in NCI’s network of clinical trial sites. They will also partner with other sponsors of clinical trials testing targeted therapies. This will improve Veterans’ access to new therapies through clinical trials.

“A third benefit of APOLLO may be early detection, or even prevention,” said VA Under Secretary for Health David J. Shulkin.  “As researchers and clinicians learn more about which gene and protein signatures are associated with cancer, they may be able to do blood tests to screen at-risk patients. Early detection would help ensure treatment is given as soon as possible.”

United States Department of Labor

Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Newsletter

I truly believe the key to long term success in veteran employment is to engage and mobilize communities to establish collaborative partnerships with coordinated, locally-based support to veterans, servicemembers and their families. Economic opportunity is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be addressed at the local, regional, and national levels. It requires collaboration between federal partners, employers, educators, small businesses, local communities, and more.

Our team at VETS supports the MyVA Community model that includes Community Veteran Engagement Boards (CVEBs) that work to bring together local resources and capabilities to improve the livelihood of veterans, transitioning servicemembers, and those who support them. The CVEBs, which go by different names in each community and are community-led, are designed to bring together all available local resources and capabilities to better support our Veterans. They are also flexible enough to meet the unique needs of each community and facilitate the development of local solutions.

DOL is also partnering with VA and community stakeholders like Workforce Development Boards to provide more coordinated support for Veterans. Through these efforts and existing strategic partnerships, veterans will gain competitive career skills and knowledge in locally high-demand fields. DOL and VA share a common mission to improve economic outcomes for our nation’s veterans, and we understand that leveraging our existing state workforce system and the nearly 2500 American Job Centers (AJCs) in communities across the nation will strengthen community-based support.

I am grateful that our VETS team is also committed to the nation’s goal of ending homelessness among veterans. Our Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) addresses unemployment among one of the most vulnerable veteran populations. The HVRP is the only nationwide federal program focused exclusively on helping homeless veterans reintegrate into the workforce. It provides employment and training services to homeless veterans to support their reintegration into the labor force and to positively affect successful services designed to address the complex problems homeless veterans face.

In the last full program year, VETS’ HVRP grantees placed 69% of the veterans they served into employment. The FY 2017 President’s Budget includes a nearly $12 million increase for HVRP and related programs, growing the program from $38.1M to $50M. VETS estimates this increase in funding would allow us to expand the number of veterans served from approximately 17,000 to approximately 22,000.

VETS now requires all grantees serving homeless veterans to co-enroll participants in the public workforce system through the local AJC while they are receiving services through VETS’ HVRP grantees. The expectation is to create a sustainable community partnership in which participants’ employment needs are met. The AJCs are the heart of the public workforce system, the access point for employers to qualified workers, and the access point for veterans to the employment and related services they need to find meaningful employment.

I am looking forward to the continued work the VETS team has planned to support our collaborative partnerships on behalf of enhancing employment and training services for transitioning servicemembers, veterans and their families. The end result will be a network of stakeholders that are committed to creating economic opportunities for veterans and their families.

Mike Michaud,
Assistant Secretary
@MikeHMichaud

ARMY PLANS ONLY SHOTS, NO NASAL MIST FLU VACCINATIONS

There will be shots but no nasal mist during flu vaccinations from the Army this year following a June decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the popular nasal spray vaccine is less effective.

Army officials have announced they expect 1.6 million injectable flu shots to be given during the 2016–2017 flu season, which usually begins in October and ends in May. Peak flu activity in the U.S. is between December and March, according to the CDC. “The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season,” the CDC says in a statement.

The Army provides flu vaccinations to soldiers, federal civilians and beneficiaries of the Army health care system. This includes Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, retirees and eligible family members.

Army medical officials expect vaccines to start arriving in military treatment facilities in September, and hope to have 90 percent of health care professionals and soldiers immunized by mid-December.

"If people do not get their flu shots by December, we still encourage them to get immunized," Lt. Col. Charlene L. Warren-Davis, pharmacy consultant and distribution operations center director for the Army Medical Materiel Agency, said in a statement.

Being vaccinated is not a guarantee against getting the flu. However, those who get the flu after vaccination generally are less sick, Army officials said.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

Pentagon Makes Push to Educate Troops on New Retirement Plan

Military.com | Aug 11, 2016 | by Brendan McGarry

The U.S. Defense Department is in the midst of a push to educate troops about the military's new blended retirement system.

The Pentagon is making a "full-court press" to bring officers, enlisted personnel and their families up to speed on the new benefit, slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, according to Wayne Boswell, director of financial readiness in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for readiness.

The department's June rollout of the so-called blended retirement system, or BRS, course on the website Joint Knowledge Online and other informational materials on the website Military OneSource marked the "first step in making sure that we reduce the speculation and the rumors, but get the facts out there so that as a force we can move forward into this new era of, I say, self investment," Boswell told reporters at the time.

The retirement overhaul, approved in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, essentially means troops will be offered a slightly smaller defined benefit equal to about 40 percent of pay, rather than 50 percent, after 20 years of service, but also a 401(k)-like defined contribution Thrift Savings Plan with matching contributions up to 5 percent after just two years of service.

Service members who retire after two decades would receive both benefits -- the annuity (calculated by multiplying 2 percent by the number of years' service by the monthly average of the three highest years of basic pay) and the TSP.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of troops -- more than eight in 10 -- who leave the service before the 20-year mark but after two years would receive the fully vested value of the TSP, marking an "opportunity to leave with some financial resources that they can move into another retirement plan in another company," Boswell said. "That's what makes this, I think, very different from the old system."

The new plan also features a mid-career bonus in the form of continuation pay around the 12-year mark to entice troops to stay in the service.

The BRS course for military and civilian leaders is the first in a series of what will be four instructional lessons designed to educate various parts of the military population about different facets of the new plan -- which officials repeatedly emphasized doesn't affect currently serving troops or retirees.

In September, the department plans to offer a "train the trainer" course for financial managers and retirement services officers "who will assist commanders in their training mission."

In January, the department wants to launch an "opt-in" course for service members who will have fewer than 12 years of service by Dec. 31, 2017, and thus the option to switch from the old retirement plan to the new system. Officials couldn't say how many troops fall into this category, but said the choice to change retirement plans would be completely voluntary and theirs to make alone.

"None of our currently serving members are going to be automatically switched into the new system," said Andrew Corso, assistant director of the office of military compensation in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs. "Everyone who is currently serving … will be grandfathered and they will, in many cases, have an option. But nobody is going to be automatically switched."

At the heart of this "opt-in" course will be a calculator to provide comparisons between the two retirement options to help troops make an informed decision, officials said. "The situation for each person is entirely different," Corso said.

In 2018, entrants into the military will take a "new accession" course about the new retirement plan during initial entry training and commissioning education opportunities.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

The Pentagon is closer to extending a generous new benefit to millions of veterans

Plans are progressing to extend online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans, Military Times has learned. 

The Defense Department’s Executive Resale Board voted unanimously Aug. 9 to recommend the policy change, sources said. Extended shopping privileges would apply only to the exchange system's online stores — not brick-and-mortar facilities located on military installations. 

The Pentagon did not immediately confirm the's board move, and its unclear what its next steps will be. Officials have said previously that they'd like to implement the expanded benefit on Veterans Day 2017.   

Exchanges operate as discount department stores for the military community. Currently, access is authorized only for active-duty service members, reservists, National Guard personnel, retirees, veterans who are 100 percent disabled and immediate family members. Officials estimate that's about 10 percent of the nation's 21.7 million veterans.  

If the plan proceeds, the Defense Manpower Data Center would be called on to verify veterans' status so they can shop at the exchange online. 

The idea was proposed in May 2014 by Army and Air Force Exchange Service CEO Tom Shull, who touted it as a way to provide a modest benefit to veterans who didn’t serve long enough to retire from the military, including a number who have served multiple tours in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Navy Exchange Service Command CEO and retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi and Cindy Whitman Lacy, director of the Marine Corps Business and Support Services Division, have said they support the idea. 

This would also benefit those currently serving, officials have said. Any increase in exchange profits would generate more money for the service's morale, welfare and recreation programs. According to one analysis, the exchanges could see an increase of $18 million to $72 million if online shopping is extended to all veterans. 

Generally, about half of the exchanges' profits go to MWR dividends, and the rest goes to capital reinvestment in the exchanges, such as renovations and construction. 

VA to Look for Electronic Health Record Help in Private Sector

 The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is considering companies in the private sector to manage the massive database of veterans’ health records.

The VA asked for “industry feedback, guidance and recommendations” regarding its electronic health record (EHR) system in an official request for information, according to the government contracting website FedBizOps.com.

The VA’s current EHR system has become complex and each region works differently. If the records aren’t easily transferred between hospitals, it undermines a key advantage of electronic records.

While an update to the system is needed, the fact that each region has added its own elements to the software over the years makes “modernization and standardization efforts extremely complicated, expensive and time consuming,” the request says.

We have been pushing for an upgrade, or a replacement, of the existing 1970s-era Vist-A system for seemingly decades now. Hopefully VA finds the information that they need from the new Request for Information (RFI) and VA's EHR system can be brought into the 21st century. We will keep you updated when there is more information.

Immunizations Offer Protection for All Stages of Life

Believe it or not August is National Immunization Awareness Month (as well as American Adventures Month, American Artists Appreciation Month, American Indian Heritage Month,
American History Essay Contest (8/1 - 12/15, Boomers Making A Difference Month,
Bystander Awareness Month ,National Breastfeeding Month as well as National Catfish Month

National Goat Cheese Month, National Panini Month and National Minority Donor Awareness Month) Some topics are much more important than others. And Immunization actually is very important. Below is an article from TRICARE telling you why it is so important.

 August is Immunization Awareness Month and is a great time to find out which vaccines you and your need to be protected at different ages and stages in life. 

Immunization typically starts at birth. At 2 months old, infants start receiving a series of six primary immunizations that protect against disease. 

These diseases can be spread in a variety of ways. Flu and other diseases spread through the air or on surfaces. Hepatitis B is spread through exposure to infectious blood or bodily fluids. Rotavirus is spread when the virus is shed by an infected person and then enters another person’s mouth. Babies frequently use their mouths to explore the world around them, so this vaccine is extremely important. For more information, visit the Rotavirus page on Health.mil. 

Some vaccines require multiple doses for lifelong protection. These may start in infancy and continue in later stages of childhood. Toddlers and school-age children typically get immunized again for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), Hepatitis A and chickenpox. 

Recommendations for middle school aged and older kids include vaccines to enhance protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and protect against meningitis and human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a leading cause of cervical and other cancers.

More vaccines may be needed during adulthood based on factors like age, occupation, lifestyle, high-risk medical conditions, type and locations of travel, and previous vaccine history. For older beneficiaries, vaccines are available and recommended to protect against pneumonia and other infections, as well as shingles, a very painful condition caused by the same virus as chickenpox. 

TRICARE covers, at no cost, age-appropriate doses of vaccines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more information visit the TRICARE website. 

Through the expanded TRICARE pharmacy vaccine program, you may receive certain covered vaccines for zero copayment at participating network pharmacies. For more information, call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303 or search for participating pharmacies online

For more information on immunizations, please visit the DHA Immunization Healthcare Branch’s website at www.health.mil/vaccines

Army prepares to administer 1.6 million flu shots

Here is an article from the Army outlining what they are doing about the flu:

8/11/2016 By: Ellen Crown, USAMRMC Public Affairs  

The Army estimates it will use approximately 1.6 million doses of the injectable influenza vaccine (i.e., flu shot) – more than half of the total number of doses ordered by the Department of Defense annually – to keep both active duty and reserve Soldiers, civilian staff, and family members healthy during the upcoming flu season.  

For the 2016-2017 flu season, only injectable flu shots will be provided to Soldiers, federal civilians, and beneficiaries. No live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), known as FluMist, will be offered based on effectiveness recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The Army's flu shot supplies will start arriving at military medical treatment facilities as early as September.  

While some people only think about flu vaccines during the fall and winter months, Army Flu Manager Miguel Rivera Jr. said preparing is a year-long mission. Each year Rivera, who is assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency which is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, reaches out across the Army to work with other preventive medicine experts and logisticians to estimate the number of vaccines needed for the upcoming season. This calculation starts in February to allow the Defense Logistics Agency enough time to tally the total number of doses needed across the DOD and order supplies.  

The goal is to immunize with flu shots at least 90 percent of service members and health care professionals by Dec. 15, 2016.  

"If people do not get their flu shots by December, we still encourage them to get immunized," said Army Lt. Col. Charlene L. Warren-Davis, USAMMA's Pharmacy Consultant and Distribution Operations Center director. "The flu vaccine is usually viable until June 30." 

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them.  

Most people over the age of six months will benefit from influenza vaccination. In most cases, according to the CDC, the risks of getting vaccinated are significantly lower than the benefits. By getting vaccinated, each person can keep their loved ones safe. Getting vaccinated protects others who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, such as older adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children – especially infants younger than six months old who are too young to get vaccinated. Also vaccination has shown to make the flu milder, which may reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes such as hospitalizations. 

One-stop shop for veterans: Colorado Springs center with 'no wrong door' brings help

By: Tom Roeder 

 August 8, 2016 Updated: August 8, 2016 at 8:48 am

Lost amid the clamor of the presidential election campaign trail was the recent grand opening of a help center in Colorado Springs that has already assisted 950 veterans in getting their lives on track.

As Donald Trump stumped in Colorado Springs, veterans advocates cut the ribbon on the Mount Carmel Center of Excellence on the city's west side. It bills itself as a one-stop shop for veterans in need.

"We're going to keep working to expand," said Bob McLaughlin, the retired Army colonel who runs the place.

Mount Carmel, which began helping veterans this year, is something new for Colorado Springs, a city that's home to nearly 80,000 veterans and 40,000 active-duty troops.

The center is a clearinghouse and landlord that brings together public and private organizations to help troops and veterans in need.

The center is at 530 Communications Circle, just west of South 8th Street.

For example, a veteran who shows up at Mount Carmel's door with a spouse and kids can get behavioral health counseling, family counseling, financial counseling, job referral help, veterans benefits assistance, help with state benefits and a mentor to help with life transitions. He or she - and loved ones - can get all that help in one place and many of the services can begin that same day.

"There's no wrong door," McLaughlin said. "Whoever comes to our center will get the help they need."

Getting all that help delivered means getting nonprofits to work in concert - not a small task in a city where many military-aimed charities compete for donor dollars.

McLaughlin said a key component of the center's success is an agreement among the nonprofits.

"Each partner agency has its own mission and goals and governance, and we must respect each other," he said. "We believe co-locating services is a benefit to our guests."

The agencies and charities have agreed to share information to ensure veterans are getting all the help they need.

"They are integrating services," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the philosophy of one-stop help is something he picked up at Fort Carson, where he helped construct a service center for soldiers when serving there as garrison commander.

"Everything I did as a garrison commander to help soldiers and families directly translated here," he said.

Soon another concept with Army roots will start taking shape at Mount Carmel.

This fall and winter, workers will remodel a nearby building that will house agencies that provide health care services for veterans.

The new facility will include mental health counseling, mind and body therapy and specialists who can provide care that now requires a long wait at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Colorado Springs.

"It is really about (addressing) mind, body and spirit," McLaughlin said.

The VA Releases Comprehensive Veteran Suicide Findings

On Wednesday, a few weeks after releasing initial findings from the most comprehensive study of veteran suicide, the VA released 46 more pages of data from their research. The study examined more than 55 million veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014. Last month’s initial release showed approximately 20 veterans commit suicide each day. On average, 14 of those 20 were not VA users. The new release investigates the breadth and depth of information pertaining to characteristics of suicide in the veteran population. Having this information will allow the VA and DOD to move forward with a better understanding of specifically how to intervene and prevent veteran suicide. In the year 2014, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for the general population, and current Centers for Disease Control data shows that number has been increasing. View the study findings.

Joint Commission’s VHA Special Focused Survey Project

For the past two years, the Joint Commission––an independent not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations throughout the country––has reviewed 189 VA medical facilities to assess areas identified in whistleblower complaints, including timeliness of care, the environment of care, leadership, culture, patient flow, and coordination of care. While the report found VA facilities have improved access to patient appointments, it identified 225 requirements for improvements. The VA has provided evidence that corrective actions have been implemented for all 225 requirements. The report also includes 10 recommendations on how to improve the VA health care system. Read the report and its recommendations.

New TRICARE Contracts

DOD recently announced the winners of the next five-year TRICARE contract, which will begin in late 2017. In an effort to provide more seamless support to service members, retirees and their families, DOD has consolidated the current North and South Regions into one East Region, thus reducing the number of contractors from three to two. Starting next year and after a 9-month transition period, Health Net Federal Services will administer the West Region and Humana Government Business will administer the East Region. The Government Accountability Office has notified the Defense Health Agency that several vendors have filed formal protests against the TRICARE 2017 contract. Protests of previous award decisions led to awardee changes. Read how this change will impact your TRICARE coverage.

Veterans’ Preference Now Extends to Both Parents

New Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance now extends veterans’ preference to both parents of deceased or permanently disabled veterans. Previous law only extended it to mothers of veterans. A July 14 memo from Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said the agency was currently updating the “Delegated Examining Operations Handbook; the Vet Guide; chapter 211 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations; the SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veterans’ Preference; and relevant website pages” to accommodate the new changes.

New Federal Leave Benefit for Disabled Vets

OPM is announcing today a new transition benefit for disabled veterans hired by the federal government after Nov. 5, 2016. The policy will provide new employees up to 104 hours of leave for medical treatment within their first year of employment on qualified service-connected disability ratings of 30 percent or more. The new leave policy is being implemented under the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015. Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said, “We want these veterans to have sufficient leave during their first year of federal service in order to take care of any medical issues related to their service-connected disability.” Learn more.

Purple Heart Phone Scam

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is warning about a telephone scam being conducted in its name. Unknown individuals have been cold-calling people across the United States, often from 315-516-2512, and requesting donations for the upcoming presidential election. The callers say they’re doing so on behalf of MOPH and mention the name of the group’s national commander, Robert Puskar. “These calls are a hoax,” read a MOPH statement, which asks people to contact local authorities if they receive such calls.

MIA Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recently announced the identification of remains of 11 Americans who had been missing in action since World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  • Army Air Forces Flight Officer Judson B. Baskett, 26, of Harris County, Texas, is scheduled to be interred Aug. 12 in Houston. As previously announced, he went missing on Nov. 28, 1946, while piloting a C-47B Dakota aircraft with two other crewmen over Malaysia. He was assigned to the 1305th Army Air Base Unit. Read more.
  • Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Robert L. McIntosh, 21, is scheduled to be interred Aug. 13 in his hometown of Tipton, Ind. On May 12, 1944, McIntosh was piloting a single-seat P-38 aircraft on a strafing mission against an enemy airfield in Piacenza, Italy. As visibility worsened, his formation was ordered to climb above the overcast. McIntosh’s aircraft was observed diving through the clouds and was not seen again. He was assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Ronald M. Sparks, of Cambridge, Mass., is scheduled to be interred Aug. 19 in Everett, Mass. On Feb. 12, 1951, Sparks was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and was declared missing in action when his unit was clearing a roadblock held by enemy forces in the vicinity of Hoengsong, South Korea. Read more.
  • Marine Pvt. Dale R. Geddes, 21, is scheduled to be interred Aug. 22 in his hometown of Grand Island, Neb. In November 1943, Geddes was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Geddes died sometime on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more.
  • Marine Pfc. George H. Traver is scheduled to be interred Aug. 28 in Chatham, N.Y. In November 1943, Traver was assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Over several days of intense fighting, approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Traver died sometime on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Curtis J. Wells, 19, of Huron, Mich., is scheduled to be interred Sept. 10 in Harbor Beach, Mich. In late November 1950, Wells was assigned to Company C, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, when his company joined with Task Force Wilson to fight the Chinese in the vicinity of Unsan, North Korea. Wells was reported missing in action following the engagement. Read more.
  • Army Master Sgt. Charles J. Brown is scheduled to be interred Sept. 26 in Sarasota, Fla. In early November 1950, Brown was a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, when Chinese forces attacked the regiment and forced the unit to withdraw to the village of Ipsok, North Korea. The survivors attempted to set up a defensive perimeter, but many soldiers became surrounded and attempted to escape and evade the enemy. The majority were captured and marched to POW camps. Read more.
  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence J. Smith is scheduled to be interred Sept. 30 in Crowley, La. On Feb. 11, 1951, Smith was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, supporting South Korea’s attack on Chinese forces in an area known as the central corridor. The Chinese launched a massive counterattack, forcing the Americans to fight at Changbong-ni. Smith would be reported as missing the next day. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Frederick G. Collins, 23, was a member of the 263rd Quartermaster Company, Quartermaster Corps, stationed at Nichols Field in Manila, Philippines, when the Japanese invaded on Dec. 8, 1941. Following the April 9, 1942 surrender, Collins and thousands of others began the torturous 65-mile "Bataan Death March" northward. On Nov. 19, 1942, 14 Americans, including Collins, were reported to have died and were buried by their fellow prisoners in a common grave. Interment ceremonies have yet to be announced. Read more.
  • Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Marvin B. Rothman was piloting a single-seat P-47D Thunderbolt on a bomber escort mission over New Guinea, when he was attacked by enemy fighter aircraft. He would be declared missing on April 11, 1944. He was a member of the 311th Fighter Squadron, 58th Fighter Group. Interment ceremonies have yet to be announced. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Larry M. Dunn was a member of Company B, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was fighting through a heavily defended roadblock near Sonchu, North Korea. He would be declared missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950. Interment ceremonies have yet to be announced. Read more.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 4, 2016 The Joint Commission Releases Results of VA Health Care Surveys to VA Surveys

WASHINGTON - The Joint Commission today provided the results of its Special Focused Surveys of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities to VA leadership. The special focused surveys, prompted by reported allegations of scheduling improprieties, delays in patient care and other quality-of-care concerns, were conducted October 2014 to September 2015 and focused on measuring the progress VA has made to improve access to care and barriers that might stand in the way of providing timely care to Veterans. “One of my top five priorities is to seek best practices in research, education, and management. We invited The Joint Commission in to conduct these unannounced focused surveys at 139 medical facilities and 47 community based outpatient clinics (CBOC) across the country, to give a better understanding of areas for improvement and areas where the processes are worth replicating,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin. The Joint Commission assessed the following: Processes related to timely access to care; Processes that may potentially indicate delays in care and diagnosis; Processes related to patient flow and coordination of care; Infection prevention and control The environment of care; and Organizational leadership and culture. VA provided The Joint Commission with organization-specific data addressing performance in the key areas targeted for review. This data allowed surveyors to focus on areas of greatest risk for each organization and to validate whether the VA-provided data reflected observed practice. The Focused Survey project provided an opportunity to see patterns across the organization, to make an assessment about the system in general and most importantly, to identify solutions to system-wide issues that are best addressed through internal processes. “We commend VA for being proactive by requesting The Joint Commission to conduct unannounced site visits at all their medical centers to review and evaluate their efforts to improve access and quality of care. VA was the first system ever to request an assessment with an important focus on access so that deficiencies could be identified and rapidly addressed,” said Mark Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president and CEO of The Joint Commission. Chassin also noted, “The Joint Commission will track and report on the extent to which improvements occurred, when the same facilities undergo their triennial accreditation surveys. To date, results from 57 hospitals that have undergone full accreditation are promising. We are pleased with VA’s ongoing commitment to quality improvement and patient safety.” The full report, with findings and recommendations can be found at: http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Joint-Commisson-Report-Final-Focused-Survey-S... ABOUT THE JOINT COMMISSION The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization, accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards. To continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality

Veteran homelessness drops nearly 50 percent since 2010

By the White House
August 2, 2016

WASHINGTON -- The Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness today announced that the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has been cut nearly in half since 2010.

White House officials said data shows a 17 percent decrease in veteran homelessness between January 2015 and January 2016 -- quadruple the previous year's annual decline -- and a 47 percent decrease since 2010.
Through HUD's annual Point-in-Time estimate of America's homeless population, communities across the country reported that fewer than 40,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness on a given night in January 2016, officials said. The January 2016 estimate found slightly more than 13,000 unsheltered homeless veterans living on their streets, a 56 percent decrease since 2010.

PARTNERSHIPS PRODUCED RESULTS

This progress is a result of partnerships among HUD, VA, USICH, and other federal, state and local partners. These partnerships were sparked by the 2010 launch of Opening Doors, the first strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, officials said.

The initiative's success among veterans can also be attributed to the effectiveness of the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program, which combines HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA, officials added. Since 2008, more than 85,000 vouchers have been awarded and more than 114,000 homeless veterans have been served through the HUD-VASH program.

"We have an absolute duty to ensure those who've worn our nation's uniform have a place to call home," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said. "While we've made remarkable progress toward ending veteran homelessness, we still have work to do to make certain we answer the call of our veterans, just as they answered the call of our nation."

"The dramatic decline in veteran homelessness reflects the power of partnerships in solving complex national problems on behalf of those who have served our nation," VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald said.

"The men and women who have fought for this nation should not have to fight to keep a roof over their head, and I'm pleased that VA is serving more veterans than ever before with heath care, education, job training and wraparound supportive services. While this is very real progress that means tens of thousands more veterans have a place to call home, we will not rest until every veteran in need is permanently housed."

"Together, we are proving that it is possible to solve one of the most complex challenges our country faces," said Matthew Doherty, the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "This progress should give us confidence that when we find new ways to work together and when we set bold goals and hold ourselves accountable, nothing is unsolvable."

ACCELLERATING PROGRESS

In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness with the goal of accelerating progress toward the national goal of ending veteran homelessness. More than 880 mayors, governors, and other local officials have joined the challenge and committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities, White House officials said.

To date, 27 communities and two states have effectively ended veteran homelessness, serving as models for others across the nation.

HUD and VA administer a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including programs that provide health care, housing solutions, job training and education. 

In fiscal year 2015, these programs helped more than 157,000 people -- including 99,000 veterans and 34,000 children -- secure or remain in permanent housing, officials said. Since 2010, more than 360,000 veterans and their families have been permanently housed, rapidly rehoused or prevented from becoming homeless through programs administered by HUD and VA.

VA Releases Report on Nation’s Largest Analysis of Veteran Suicide More than 55 Million Veterans’ Records Reviewed From 1979 to 2014 From Every State in the Nation

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today released its findings from the nation’s most comprehensive analysis of Veteran suicide rates in the United States in which VA examined more than 55 million Veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The effort advances VA’s knowledge from the previous report in 2012, which was primarily limited to information on Veterans who used VHA health services or from mortality records obtained directly from 20 states and approximately 3 million records.. Compared to the data from the 2012 report, which estimated the number of Veteran deaths by suicide to be 22 per day, the current analysis indicates that in 2014, an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide. A link to the report may be found here.

THE REPORT CONCLUDES: Approximately 65 percent of all Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older. Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This is a decrease from 22 percent in 2010. Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23 percent, while Veteran suicides increased 32 percent in the same time period. After controlling for age and gender, this makes the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for Veterans. Since 2001, the rate of suicide among U.S. Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent. In the same time period, the rate of suicide among male Veterans who use VA services increased 11 percent, while the rate of suicide increased 35 percent among male Veterans who do not use VA services. In the same time period, the rate of suicide among female Veterans who use VA services increased 4.6 percent while the rate of suicide increased 98 percent among female Veterans who do not use VA services.

SUICIDE PREVENTION MEASURES BY VA VA is aggressively undertaking a number of new measures to prevent suicide, including: VA has implemented comprehensive, broad-ranging suicide prevention initiatives, including a toll-free Veterans Crisis Line, placement of Suicide Prevention Coordinators at all VA Medical Centers and large outpatient facilities and improvements in case management and tracking. In addition, VA announced this week the creation of a satellite Veterans Crisis Line site in Atlanta, Georgia, for increased staffing capability and geographic redundancy; the satellite site is expected to operational in October 2016 with 200 additional responders. Ensuring same-day access for Veterans with urgent mental health needs at over 1,000 points of care by the end of calendar year 2016. In fiscal year 2015, more than 1.6 million Veterans received mental health treatment from VA, including at over 150 medical centers, 820 community-based outpatient clinics and 300 Vet Centers that provide readjustment counseling. Veterans also enter VA health care through the Veterans Crisis Line, VA staff on college and university campuses, or other outreach points. Using predictive modeling to determine which Veterans may be at highest risk of suicide, so providers can intervene early. Veterans in the top 0.1% of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs. Expanding telemental health care by establishing four new regional telemental health hubs across the VA healthcare system. Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Each responder receives intensive training on a wide variety of topics in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network. Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans. Many of these efforts were catalyzed by VA’s February 2016 Preventing Veteran Suicide—A Call to Action summit, which focused on improving mental health care access for Veterans across the nation and increasing resources for the VA Suicide Prevention Program. Suicide is an issue that affects all Americans. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reported in April 2016 that from 1999 through 2014 (the most recent year with data available from CDC), suicide rates increased 24 percent in the general population for both males and females.

A link to the report may be found at: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf . Other VA mental health information can be found on the VA Mental Health page at: www.mentalhealth.va.gov. Information about the Crisis Line is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net; Veterans in crisis can call Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255. A Suicide prevention fact sheet may be found at www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/Suicide_Prevention_FactSheet_New_... Reporters covering this report are strongly encouraged to visit www.ReportingOnSuicide.Org, for important guidance on ways to communicate suicide. 

DoD releases final rule for TRICARE Mental Health/ Substance Abuse treatment

Last week the Department of Defense (DoD) issued its new final rule for mental health and substance abuse disorders. It is a huge step forward. The change was prompted by the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). After a full review of the TRICARE benefits changes have been made to “meet the spirit and the intent of the Act.”

The new rules bring coverage to parity with TRICARE’s medical/surgical benefit including eliminating limitation on outpatient services including the previous limit of no more than 2 weekly sessions for outpatient services and aligning beneficiary cost-sharing co-pays (example: reduce Retiree and Non Active Duty Dependents’ Prime per diem for partial hospitalization program from $40 inpatient rate billed to outpatient rate of $12 per day)

The new rule also expands mental health and substance abuse disorders (SUD)in numerous ways including:” Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) for mental health & SUD treatment to provide step-down care from acute inpatient/residential care or partial hospitalization programs…Opioid use disorder treatment via Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) and physicians to provide evidence-based medication assisted treatment (i.e., buprenorphine, methadone)…Outpatient SUD treatment by individual providers to enhance access to psychotherapy and family therapy currently only authorized in Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities (SUDRFs)…Non-surgical treatment for gender dysphoria to cover psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, hormone treatment (Note: surgical sex change procedures still excluded by statute)

The new rule also grants the director of the DHA to approve the accrediting agencies for the institutional providers. It also improves and makes more generous the reimbursement rates and co-pays.

These should be major improvements for TRICARE mental health and substance abuse disorder coverage. If you need more information go to the TRICARE website or call/e-mail Deirdre Parke Holleman and we will get you additional information.

VA looking for Nominations for Appointment to the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses

The VA’s Veterans Health Administration is looking for candidates for the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. A majority of the members must be “non-Federal employees, appointed by the Secretary from the general public, serving as Special Government employees.”

Most, but not all, of the Committee members have a medical or legal background. If you may be interested in applying yourself or nominating another person please go to: http://www.va.gov/rac-gwvi/ for much more information on the Commission.

(Federally-registered lobbyists are prohibited from serving on Federal advisory committees in an individual capacity.)

All nominations must be received no later than 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on August 15, 2016. They need to be mailed to Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW., (10P9), Washington, DC 20420, emailed to [email protected], or faxed to (202) 495-6155.

Summer Time is a Great Time for Healthier Eating

Below is useful note from TRICARE:

During the summer, many people spend more time outside whether on vacation or just enjoying the sun. Don’t let this change in routine derail your healthy eating habits.

The summer offers many opportunities to make healthy eating choices. When it’s too hot to cook inside, turn on the grill outside. Grilling is a healthier way to cook food and you can choose from a large variety. Instead of red meat, consider chicken and fish. Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat. The American Heart Association also reports that cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse and the unsaturated fats in fish, such as salmon, actually have health benefits. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for safe grilling. 

You can also grill vegetables. Many vegetables taste great on the grill with minimum seasoning and added fats. Look up some of your favorite veggies to find a recipe that you like. Don’t forget snacks! While playing outside or on a road trip, there are many different fruits that are available over the summer. Fruits don’t require any extra preparation and are the perfect fast food. And also don’t forget to drink plenty of water especially in hot and often humid summer weather. 

Summer passes quickly. Don’t allow three short months ruin your healthy living goals.

Improved Integration between Military Hospitals & Clinics and Civilian Care

The Military Health System (MHS) consists of military hospitals & clinics and civilian care.  There will be improved integration between these components of your health care.

How Will This Affect Me?

Change

Benefit for You 

Processing referrals electronically

  • Decreased wait times to get specialty care
  • Less paperwork

Sharing more data across the enterprise*

*May not apply to non-network providers.

  • Improved health care coordination
  • Improved access to care
  • More access to health records
  • Real time access to data on medical management and utilization

Increasing the use of standardized metrics and analytics

  • Fewer gaps in health care
  • Improved clinical quality
  • Compares military and civilian hospitals and clinics
  • Improved patient safety

Reduction of Three TRICARE Regions to Two

There are currently three TRICARE regions in the United States: North, South, and West. The new regional contracts reduce the number of regions to two. Moving to two regions standardizes how you get your benefit.

  • East Region (merges current North and South Regions)
  • West Region (same as the current West Region)

How Will This Affect Me?

Change 

Impact For You 

North and South Regions merge. 

Your region will change to the East Region.

West Region stays the same.

Your region will remain the West Region.

You may have a new regional contractor.

Stay connected to learn more about your new region. >>Sign up for Email Updates

Your network providers may change.

Stay connected to learn more about your new region. >>Sign up for Email Updates

Your primary care manager may change.

If enrolled in TRICARE Prime, you may have a new primary care manager.

You'll get more seamless support between regions.

You’ll get more support:

  • Particularly when you move 
  • Especially if you’re a family with special needs

President Signs COLA Act of 2016 

President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 on July 22. The act, H.R. 5588, proposed by Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-LA), provides veterans with an increased rate of disability benefits. The new law will go into effect Dec. 1, 2016. The Department of Veterans Affairs will also be required to increase additional compensation for dependents, clothing allowance for certain disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. 

Opioid Addiction, Recovery Addressed in Approved Legislation 

Legislation to address opioid addiction and recovery was signed into law by the president on July 22. This bill is aimed at addressing the overuse of opioids and ways to overcome addiction to them. The VFW applauds this legislation and its answer to improving patient advocacy within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under this new law, an Office of Patient Advocacy will be established, which will remove patient advocates within the VA from their facility’s direct chain of command. The bill will also guarantee the Department of Defense and VA jointly update their Clinical Practice Guidelines to comply with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MIA Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Office announced the identification of remains of one Marine, one sailor and three soldiers who had been missing in action since World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  • Marine Pfc. Charles E. Oetjen, 18, of Blue Island, Ill., will be buried July 30 in Alsip, Ill. In November 1943, Oetjen was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Oetjen died sometime on the first day of battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more
  • Army Cpl. Charles A. White, 20, is being buried today in his hometown of New Lexington, Ohio. On December 3, 1950, White was a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when his company’s position was overrun by the Chinese Communist Forces near Huksu-ri, North Korea. It would be later learned he was captured but died in captivity on May 12, 1951. Read more.
  • Navy Fireman 2nd Class James B. Boring, 21, of Vales Mill, Ohio, will be buried Aug. 6 in Albany, Ohio. On Dec. 7, 1941, Boring was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor when the ship sustained multiple torpedo hits and quickly capsized, resulting in 429 casualties, including Boring. Read more.
  • Army Master Sgt. Ira V. Miss Jr., 23, of Buckeystown, Md., who was declared missing in South Korea on Feb. 5, 1950. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. His burial date and location have yet to be announced.
  • Army Cpl. Curtis J. Wells, 19, of Huron. Mich., who was declared missing in North Korea on Nov. 27, 1950. He was assigned to Company C, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. His burial date and location have yet to be announced.

Bill to Streamline Vet Transition to Rural Medical Fields Heads to Obama's Desk

Last week a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) passed the Senate and will head to President Obama's desk. The Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act streamlines civilian health care training in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act by making it easier for veterans to secure jobs as paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and nurses. The bill would also help to reduce the shortage of much-needed emergency medical personnel in rural communities across the country.

Rural communities have historically faced critical shortages in emergency medical personnel. Meanwhile, thousands of men and women in the military receive emergency medical training as part of their duties. Most Army combat medics are currently certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) at the basic level. When these veterans return to civilian life, however, their military-based medical training is often not counted toward training and certification as civilian paramedics. Many existing programs require all students to begin with an entry-level curriculum.

For veterans, this means spending extra time and money for training that they have already received. The bill authorizes federal grants for universities, colleges, technical schools, and State EMS agencies to develop an appropriate curriculum to train these veterans and fast-track their eligibility for paramedic certification; hopefully this standardized paramedic training program would take one to two years to complete.

Regulators Shut Down Largest For-Profit College Accrediting Agency

A federal panel voted last month to shut down the largest accrediting agency of private sector colleges and universities in the country. The 10-3 decision by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) effectively eliminates access to federal financial aid to hundreds of schools accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) that enroll nearly 800,000 students. Of those 800,000 approximately 35,000 are veterans. This is a major problem, because in the next few months those veterans will find that they are ineligible to receive tuition and BAH payments.

Without those BAH payments many of them may lose their housing.

US News & World Report said that Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, warned during his testimony that the revocation of ACICS’ authority would amount to a collapse of post-secondary vocational training in the U.S. It seems likely that this is an overstatement of reality.

In total, the Department of Education recognizes 37 accrediting agencies that are “gatekeepers” to the federal student loan system. Those agencies review colleges based on a variety of issues, including academic quality, personnel, instructional resources and many others. Using that information, the agencies approve or deny schools access to federal financial aid benefits.

ACICS approves about 725 institutions and last year oversaw $3.3 billion in federal financial aid; it has accredited schools including Corinthian Colleges, which was shut down last year. The fact that Corinthian Colleges was accredited the whole time until it was shut down by regulators was a major part of why NACIQI made the decision to terminate ACICS.

According to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, from 2010 to 2015 ACICS in 90 instances approved and named schools to its honor roll around the same time they were under investigation. The companies that owned those schools, which took in more than $5.7 billion in federal funds over the past three years, represent 52 percent of all federal aid dollars received by ACICS-approved colleges during that period.