VETERAN’S NEWS From the Internet
Gathered by Bob Kinsler, SSG (ret), US Army, DAV, VFW Dept. of Oklahoma, PRO/Editor
From the VFW Weekly Action Corp Newsletter:
Proposed Tricare Changes The Pentagon’s FY2017 budget request once again proposes higher enrollment fees and copayments for working age military retirees and those aged 65 and older. Defense officials say the higher out-of-pocket costs will bring about better service and lower cumulative costs, but only after more details are learned can that judgement be made or disproved. One push DOD is trying to make is to get all beneficiaries to maximize the use of military treatment facilities (MTFs) and Tricare’s mail-order pharmacy. The two current Tricare programs of Prime and Standard/Extra will be renamed Tricare Select and Tricare Choice.
- Active-duty-families: Tricare Select will be available at no cost to active-duty family members provided they use MTFs or network providers. Tricare Choice will also be available at no cost to active-duty family members if they use an MTF, but will add modest copays ranging from $15 for in-network primary care to $50 for in-network emergency care. All active-duty family members would incur a 20-percent copay for using non-network providers regardless of plan.
- Retirees under age 65: The current family rate for those enrolled in Tricare Prime is essentially $565. Under the new Tricare Select, the annual enrollment fee would rise 24 percent to $700. Under Tricare Choice, the family enrollment rate would be $900, whereas the exiting Tricare Standard/Extra programs have no enrollment fee. Regardless of plan, retirees would incur no copay if using an MTF. For network care, select enrollees would incur copays ranging from $20 for primary care to $75 for emergency care, and Choice enrollees would see copays of $25 for primary care and $90 for emergency care. Both plans would see 25 percent copays for non-network care.
- Retirees 65 and older: Retirees in the rank of O-6 and below would pay 0.25 percent of their gross retired pay to enroll in Tricare for Life, which acts as a secondary insurance to Medicare Part B. The quarter-percent enrollment fee would gradually increase to 1 percent by FY 2020. Flag officers, or those in the ranks of O-7 and above, would pay a $100 enrollment fee in FY 2017, which would gradually increase to $400 in FY 2020.
Retiree pharmacy copays: The Pentagon is again pushing the use of Tricare’s mail-order pharmacy, since it provides a three-month supply of medications for the same cost or less than a one-month refill from a network pharmacy.
IOM Report on Gulf War Illness On Thursday, the Institute of Medicine released a new report on the health conditions related to toxic exposure during the Gulf War. Due to the lack of new research since its last report and the fact that the VA has not completed studies that Congress has mandated, IOM was unable to make new determinations on the relationship between health conditions and toxic exposure during the Gulf War. IOM was able to determine that Gulf War Illness is not a psychosomatic illness. However, it recommended that future research acknowledge the interconnection of brain and body for treatment. IOM also recommended that DOD and the VA incorporate emerging technologies and personalized approaches to medical care and biomonitoring in future conflicts to better identify chemical exposures.
The VA Reevaluates Blue Water Navy Definition
A recent Veterans Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision, Gray v. McDonald, required that the VA reevaluate and clarify its definition of “inland waterways.” For purposes of adjudicating disability claims regarding Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, the VA will now determine if a body of water is considered an inland waterway by drawing straight lines across the opening in the landmass leading to the open ocean or other offshore water feature, such as a bay or inlet. The VA’s modified interpretation does not meet the intent of the Gray v. McDonald decision. The VFW is deeply disappointed that the VA’s modified interpretation of inland waterways continues to arbitrarily and unjustly exclude veterans who served aboard ships in the coastal waters of Vietnam and are denied presumptive benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure. For this reason, the VFW will continue to urge Congress to pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates on this change. To receive assistance with a VA disability claim, contact your VFW Service Officer by going to your local VFW. House Hearing on Choice Billing On Thursday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to discuss the VA’s proposal to consolidate its community care programs. Specifically, the committee heard testimony from the VFW, the VA, the VA Inspector General, Government Accountability Office, and the American Legion regarding billing issues veterans and Choice providers have experienced when using the Choice Program. VFW Senior Legislative Associate Carlos Fuentes urged the committee and the VA to fully integrate Choice program providers into the VA health care system to eliminate bureaucratic red tape and allow veterans to move seamlessly between VA medical facilities and community providers without experiencing long delays and being needlessly billed for their care. The VA also introduced a phone number, 877-881-7618, for veterans to call if their credit has been adversely affected by VA billing issues
President’s Budget Request On Tuesday, the administration released its $4.23 trillion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. The request includes $78.7 billion for the VA’s discretionary accounts, which includes $68 billion for medical services. The VFW is pleased with the administration’s overall medical care funding level for FY2017 and the overall discretionary funding level, but believes the advance appropriations proposal for medical services in FY2018 would be woefully inadequate to meet continually growing demand for VA health care services. The VFW also joined its Independent Budget partners to release the IB’s budget recommendations for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. The annual report, which outlines funding requirements for VA programs, proposes $84.4 billion for FY2017, including $72.8 billion for medical services, $3.1 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration and $2.5 billion for construction projects
Does your VFW Post need repairs or a renovation? The Home Depot Foundation is now accepting applications for its Community Impact Grants program. Grants of up to $5,000 are awarded to charitable veteran’s groups like VFW Posts for repair and renovation of their buildings for further information email – Small_Grants@homedepot.com. Telephone calls are not accepted and applications are online.
Did you know your VFW (or Auxiliary) membership could be the ticket to a better life for future generations of your family? Many members of the VFW and its Auxiliary don’t realize their membership automatically qualifies their family for help at the VFW National Home for Children, should they need it. That includes their children, their grandchildren, or even their great-grandchildren and their families.
This Awareness Week (March 20-26), we are kicking off an ongoing campaign called “Did You Know?” to make sure every VFW and Auxiliary member is aware of this important benefit to their membership. If you have questions or want to learn more about the “Did You Know” campaign, please feel free to contact me at any time. Sue Alverson, Associate Development Director, 517-663-7983
AT6 Remembrance Ceremony is coming on February 21. For more information on its location, time and events contact Gloria Howard, the VFW Post 3658 Auxiliary President at 580-271-0448.
By the way, if you want to complain, add your support, or have something you want added to this article contact me at 580-271-0897 or Email me at BobKinsler@aol.com. This is the veterans’ news and if you have something let me know, please.