VETERAN’S NEWS From the Internet
Gathered by Bob Kinsler, SSG (ret), US Army, DAV, VFW Dist 4 of the Dept. of Oklahoma, PRO/Editor
VFW Salutes Full Funding for VA
CR averts government shutdown, but sequestration still law of the land
WASHINGTON — Congress averted an imminent government shutdown last night by passing a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the federal government for 10 weeks in fiscal year 2017, which begins Saturday. Congress also approved full-year funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which was a significant victory for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
“Stop-gap budget measures harm veterans” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy, “which is why we are glad that Congress agreed and acted on full-year appropriations for the VA, which will allow it to properly plan and execute its numerous programs to better serve wounded, ill and injured veterans, as well as their families and survivors.”
The VA/military construction budget that the president is expected to sign will provide $74.4 billion in discretionary spending to the VA next year. The amount is about a 4-percent increase to 2016 funding levels, but almost $700 million less than what the White House requested earlier this year. The bill also includes $7.72 billion for military construction, which is about 6 percent less than current funding levels, but nearly $300 million more than the White House requested.
Included in the new funding package are a number of VFW-supported initiatives and programs, such as authorizing VA to provide In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and covering the cost of adoptions, eliminating copayments for medications that counter potential opioid overdoses, expanding VA childcare pilot programs and whistleblower protections, and increasing the transparency of VA Office of Inspector General reports. Regarding IVF, which the VFW had been strongly supporting for two years, the legislation will provide urgently needed relief to veterans who suffer from service-connected injuries and illnesses that prevent them from conceiving.
“Veterans with service-connected injuries must be made as whole as possible,” said the VFW national commander, “and helping them to start families — by receiving the same fertility options that would have been afforded to them had they still been in uniform — is the very least a grateful nation can do.”
Although Congress averted a government shutdown and provided full-year funding for veterans programs, it still has a lot of work to do when it reconvenes after the Nov. 8 elections, to include passing a number of important legislation already introduced, and to finally eliminate sequestration, which has been the VFW’s top legislative priority ever since Congress created it with the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“Five years ago the Islamic State didn’t exist, Russia wasn’t in the Ukraine, China wasn’t building islands out of rocks, and Iran and North Korea weren’t as emboldened as they are now,” said Duffy. “Yet here’s this budget axe that was written in a different time that continues to force the Department of Defense to operate with less funding in a worldwide environment of ever-evolving threats. Sequestration also forces the Army, which is already on a glideslope down to 450,000 active-duty soldiers, to drop to 420,000,” he explained.
“A continued sequester weakens America, worries our allies, and threatens lives — American lives,” he said. “Our brave men and women in uniform will continue to perform and excel at every mission, but overtasking with inadequate resourcing is an impending disaster the VFW will not allow. Sequestration must end!”
White House Hosts Suicide Prevention Panel: On Thursday, the White House hosted its fourth panel in the “Making Health Care Better” series which included leaders in suicide prevention research, and prevention and intervention from both the government sector as well as the private and non-profit sectors. In attendance was VA Undersecretary for Health, Dr. David Shulkin, who discussed how VA has been working to partner with more outside sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health to address veteran suicide. VA makes roughly 1.8 million mental health care appointments a year and Dr. Shulkin assured they are doing their best to reduce 20 veteran suicides a day to zero. Some new ways VA has been working on innovations to address veteran suicide has been through implementing suicide specialists within every VA Medical Center by the end of 2016, focusing on meta data for veterans who may be overlooked for high risk of suicide, and adding the option to press the number seven on the Veterans Crisis Line to immediately speak to somebody
Assistance for Veterans with Service-Connected Infertility: Yesterday, the president signed a bill that will authorize VA to provide assisted reproductive technology treatments or cover the cost of adoption for veterans who have lost their ability to conceive due to a service-connected condition. Ensuring veterans with service-connected infertility are afforded the opportunity to start a family has been a VFW policy goal for the past two years. Stay tuned to this column and the Action Corps Weekly for updates on how and when VA implements this much needed benefit.
CVS Dropped from TRICARE Pharmacy Network: Today, Express Scripts, the contractor who manages the TRICARE Pharmacy Network, announced that starting December 1, 2016, service members, retirees and their families will no longer be able to have their prescriptions filled at CVS pharmacy stores. Call 1-877-363-1303 or call 855.778.1417to find another Pharmacy within your network.
Express Scripts will add Walgreens to the TRICARE retail pharmacy network. CVS pharmacies will no longer be in the network. Please take action to begin transferring your prescription drugs to a TRICARE network pharmacy by Dec. 1 to avoid paying the full retail price. •
More than 58,000 pharmacy locations remain in the TRICARE network, including other national chains, grocery chains and independent pharmacies. Find retail pharmacies near you by visiting express-scripts.com/TRICARE. Select “Tools” and then “Find a Pharmacy.” Or download our free mobile app to find a pharmacy when you’re on the go.
On Dec. 1, Walgreens will be included in the pharmacy locator and CVS pharmacies will be removed.
Call your military pharmacy, where there is no cost to fill your prescription drug, and ask whether your drug is available. Visit tricare.mil/mtf for contact information for a local military pharmacy.
TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery
Next to your military pharmacy, Home Delivery is the best option for filling maintenance drugs and you may save money. Formulary generics and standard shipping are free. To learn more, visit express-scripts.com/TRICARE or call 855.778.1417 and a Patient Care Advocate will help transfer your eligible prescriptions.
We’re committed to providing the highest level of service to ease this transition. If you have questions about your TRICARE pharmacy benefit or you need help transferring your prescription drugs, please visit express-scripts.com/TRICARE or call 855.778.1417.
I was hoping to announce a change to the way the VA Shuttle Van that VFW Post 3856 (Antlers) and VFW Post 8316 (Hugo) members drive from Antlers, OK through Hugo, Grant and Paris (at times) to Bonham VA Health Care System Center can be used. But due to North Central Texas VA Health Care System Public Affairs regulations I have to get permission to publish the new information. Hopefully I can announce it next week.
Steve Webb, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, Claims and Benefits Representative schedule has changed a little bit. On Mondays 1st and 3rd week of the month he is a Madill from 9 to 11:30 am (in the Marshall County Courthouse), and Tishomingo from 12:30 to 3:30 pm (at the Johnson Co Courthouse). Mondays 2nd and 4th (possibly 5th) He is at the McAlester Ammo Plant from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm (in Bldg 1). On Tuesdays he is at the Choctaw County Courthouse from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm each week. Wednesdays find him at the Idabel Oklahoma Workforce Office from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. On Thursdays (with the exception of the first week of the month) he is at Antlers VFW from 8:30 am to 12:00 noon and then beginning at 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm he is at the Atoka County Veterans Building. He can be reached at (918)397-2566You can transfer your specialty drugs at any time to Rite-Aid or Walmart since they are part of our specialty select network.
There is a full time Veteran Service Officer at the Bonham VA Health Care System Center (Building 3, room 135 – across from the Eyeglass vendor) his name is Anthony L. Anderson and he can be reached at (903) 583-6390.