Category Archives: CURRENT ISSUE

RAO BULLETIN – 08/15/09

RAO BULLETIN

15 August 2009

THIS BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES

==VA Vet Centers [06] —————————– (28 New Centers)

== Alaska Vet Tuition: ——————— (Allowed Resident Rate)

== VA Retro Pay Project [17] ————- (Name Change to CCP)

== DFAS R&A Program: ———————– (Transition to DoD)

== SBP Paid Up Provision[09]  ———– (Dispute Period Closed)

== Reserve Travel Pay ———————— (NG Reimbursement)

== USFSPA & Divorce [09] —————– (DFAS Stats 7/14/09)

== VA National Pharmacy Call Center] ——————- (Coming)

== Mobilized Reserve 11 AUG 09] —————— (885 Increase)

== Tricare Uniform Formulary [30] — (AUG Recommendations)

== Medicare Claim Reimbursement —————- (When & How)

== Reserve Retirement Age [18] ——————— (NDAA Issue)

== Disabled Vet Caregivers ——————– (Unpaid Leave Bill)

== Hospital Survival Tips ————————- (Vigilance is Key)

== National Guard Data Breach ——————– (Stolen Laptop)

== Veteran Legislation 2009 —————– (House Cleared Bills)

== VA Prosthetics [04] ———————————– (Paraplegics)

== GI Bill [54] —————————————- (California Fees)

== Psoriasis [01] —————————————- (Skin Disease)

== TSP [21] —————————————– (July 09 Rebound)

== Health Care Reform [05] —————- (Religious Exemption)

== Health Care Reform [06] ———— (Won’t Impact VA/Tricare)

== Health Care Reform [07] ————————— (Stay Vigilant)

== Tricare User Fee [40] ———————- (NDAA Amendment)

== CA Guard Education Benefit ———— (CNGEAP Approved)

== Bug Bites ———————————————— (What to do)

== Holocaust Memorial Museum ————————- (Overview)

== Career Fairs ——————————- (Self Defeating Actions)

== Veteran Statistics ————————————- (Diminishing)

== Sales Tax Holidays ————————————- (New Link)

== Tax Burden for Florida Retirees ———————– (Overview)

== Veteran Legislation Status 13 Aug 09 ——- (Where we Stand)

== Have You Heard? —————– (Murphy’s Law’s of Combat)

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VA VET CENTERS Update 06: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced 14 AUG that combat Veterans will receive readjustment counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the country where the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will establish Vet Centers in 2010. The community-based Vet Centers — already in all 50 states — are a key component of VA’s mental health program, providing Veterans with mental health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling. The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach to offer counseling on employment, family issues and education to combat Veterans and family members, as well as bereavement counseling for families of servicemembers killed on active duty and counseling for Veterans who were sexually harassed on active duty.

Vet Center services are earned through service in a combat zone or area of hostility and are provided at no cost to Veterans or their families. They are staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams, which may include social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master’s-level counselors and outreach specialists.  Over 70% of Vet Center employees are Veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat zones. The Vet Center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing that many Vietnam Veterans were still having readjustment problems.  In 2008, the Vet Center program provided over 1.1 million visits to over 167,000 Veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500 Veteran families.  More information about Vet Centers can be found at

www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp. Communities receiving the New VA Vet Centers are:

  • American Samoa
  • Arizona — Mohave and Yuma Counties
  • California — San Luis Obispo County
  • Delaware – Sussex County
  • Florida -Marion, Lake, Collier, Okaloosa and Bay Counties
  • Georgia – Muscogee and Richmond Counties
  • Hawaii – Western Oahu
  • Indiana – St. Joseph County
  • Louisiana – Rapides Parish
  • Michigan – Grand Traverse County, also serving Wexford County
  • Missouri – Boone County
  • Montana – Cascade and Flathead Counties
  • Ohio – Stark County
  • Oregon – Deschutes County
  • Pennsylvania – Lancaster County
  • South Carolina – Horry County
  • Texas – Jefferson and Taylor Counties
  • Utah – Washington County
  • Washington – Walla Walla County, also serving Umatilla County, Oregon
  • Wisconsin – LaCrosse County, also serving Monroe County

[Source: VA News Release 14 Aug 09 ++]

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ALASKA VET TUITION: Veterans are now eligible for in-State tuition at any of the University of Alaska’s 16 campuses. Without the policy change, veterans attending UA would have had to come up with the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition themselves, a cost of almost $4,000 per semester. The move was intentionally timed to coincide with the new post-911 GI Bill, which offers eligible veterans generous benefits based on the highest in-state tuition rates in all states, a housing stipend and textbook allowance. Veterans must move to Alaska, but they’re not required to become a resident.  This deal is being extended to eligible veterans, their spouses and their children according to a statement issued 3 AUG.  The Board of Regents approved the tuition break earlier this year.  Non-Vet students from other states must live in Alaska for up to two years and declare their intention to remain there indefinitely to qualify for in-state tuition. For specific enrollment information, visit or call:

[Source: NAUS Weekly Update 14 Aug 09 ++]

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VA RETRO PAY PROJECT Update 17: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) have enacted a program referred to as CRDP/CRSC Processing (CCP), formerly VA Retro, to pay eligible military retirees any retroactive CRSC, CRDP and/or DVA disability compensation due as a result of retroactive increases in their percentage of disability, as determined by the DVA.  The CRDP/CRSC Processing (CCP) program began in SEP 06. Since its’ inception, CCP operations has successfully adjudicated over 386,000 accounts. Currently, the program receives and processes an on-going average of over 13,000 CCP cases each month. Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) and Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP) were programs passed by Congress to allow eligible military retirees to be in receipt of additional monthly entitlements. The purpose of these additional monthly entitlements are to overcome some or the entire offset from retired pay associated with the receipt of disability compensation from the DVA. Prior to the passage of these programs, a retiree was not allowed to receive both military retired pay and DVA disability compensation.

DFAS and the DVA remain in communication with each other in order to continue to successfully recognize and complete these accounts. A retiree may be due funds from DFAS, the DVA or from both agencies. For CCP questions regarding DFAS payment, retirees may call DFAS at 1-877-327-4457. Once your account has been computed by DFAS, the information is forwarded to the DVA for additional validation and possible payment by the DVA. It is normal to experience a lapse in time between the payments from the two different agencies. Questions concerning disability ratings or payments due from the VA can be addressed by calling the DVA at 1-800-827-1000.  Additional information can be found by clicking the CCP FAQs link at www.dfas.mil/retiredpay/ccpfaq.html.   [Source: www.dfas.mil/retiredpay.html Aug 09 ++]

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DFAS R&A PROGRAM: Since JAN 02, the Retired and Annuity Pay (R&A) program at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has been outsourced by a private contractor.  Beginning in early 2010 R&A operations will once again be performed by Department of Defense personnel. Recent Federal legislation has led the Department of Defense to survey all contracted programs and select any that could be returned and operated by the Government, specifically those that have been performed by the Government within the last 10 years.  A recently conducted Business Case Analysis by DFAS determined that the R&A program would be suitable for such a purpose.  DFAS’ intention is that this decision will result in a more securely managed processing environment, that may surpass the current level of quality and efficiency of service to our nation’s military retirees, and potentially save the Government $20 million across the next 10 years. DFAS and its current R&A contractor will provide a seamless transition of functions back to the Government. [Source: DFAS Newsletter Aug 09 ++]

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SBP PAID UP PROVISION Update 09: The deadline to submit a dispute for the Paid-up SBP program was 30 JUN 09. The dispute period is now closed. Forms postmarked prior to 30 JUN 09, will be honored and retiree’s will be notified of the outcome. As a result of the period allowed for challenging the accuracy of DFAS records:

  • 3,998 DD 2656-11 forms were received.
  • 1,416 forms or 35%, required adjustments to their SBP premium counters.
  • 669 or 47% of the adjusted counters were increased.
  • 747 or 53% of the adjusted counters were decreased.
  • 2,582 or 64% of the forms received required no change to their SBP premium counters.
  • 351 members achieved Paid-up SBP status via the dispute process.

[Source: www.dfas.mil/retiredpay.html Aug 09 ++]

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RESERVE TRAVEL PAY: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) continues to champion National Guard interests with the introduction of the Travel Reimbursement for Inactive Duty Training Personnel (TRIP) Act of 2009 (S.1558), co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). S.1558 would authorize reimbursement for round trip ground travel in excess of 100 miles to an inactive duty training location at government rates for private vehicles used by government employees on official business (when a government vehicle is available), and for round trip travel of any distance at a reasonable commercial fare expense if such travel requires a commercial method of transportation to an inactive duty location. The commercial travel section of the bill was inspired by the draft Resolution (J #37) from the Virgin Islands National Guard Association submitted  earlier this year which recommended a tax deduction of travel expenses for members of the National Guard or Reserve who must travel over water to attend Inactive Duty Training (IDT). [Source:  NGAUS Leg Up 12 Aug 09 ++]

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USFSPA & DIVORCE Update 09: The numbers below can be presented to educate your state legislatures about the lifetime impact of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Pro­tection Act (USFSPA) on each state’s veterans, as well as on each state’s economy.  Dollars going elsewhere! Data provided by DFAS Cleveland OH:

As of 7/14/09         As of 1/7/09

State                           #             Amount                   #            Amount

AK                            511        $ 399,288                  493        $  382,427

AL                         1,923        1,607,975                1864        1,553,793

AR                         1,040           793,659                1014            769,005

AZ                         2,959        2,449,049                2908        2,389,019

CA                         7,355        6,083,901                7314        6,033,980

CO                         2,531        2,311,099                2482        2,268,071

CT                             358           287,460                  358            290,231

DC                            121           142,736                  119            142,795

DE                             324           227,121                  325            230,045

FL                          8,535        7,343,775                8347        7,145,981

GA                         3,694        2,936,600                3604        2,857,912

HI                              731           662,089                  714            644,516

IA                             510           370,036                  499            356,097

ID                              640           501,223                  633            494,802

IL                           1,566        1,279,474                1511        1,233,074

IN                           1,090           804,485                1069            791,733

KS                             938           768,738                  910            749,709

KY                         1,293           957,285                1254           932,138

LA                         1,143           873,748                1141            869,015

MA                           476           406,728                  468            396,931

MD                        2,522        2,296,257                2484        2,254,404

ME                            505           385,155                  490            370,093

MI                          1,274           924,163                1241            896,280

MN                           650           483,354                  636            463,789

MO                        1,774        1,311,208                1753        1,296,914

MS                            881           683,865                  853            659,297

MT                           412           322,069                  399            311,540

NC                         3,412        2,764,741                3323        2,684,494

ND                            197           135,681                  193            131,591

NE                             586           496,574                  575            487,516

NH                            359           325,776                  350            321,430

NJ                             684           514,623                  690            521,155

NM                        1,207        1,035,642                1195        1,022,491

NV                         1,518        1,221,834                1512         1,210,897

NY                         1,257           921,575                1220            893,091

OH                         2,084        1,612,393                2010        1,549,437

OK                         1,613        1,230,874                1576        1,203,539

OR                            928           746,612                  923            738,844

PA                         1,513        1,203,494                1471        1,171,947

RI                              192           173,799                  190            172,945

SC                          2,136        1,671,810                2093        1,630,374

SD                             299           235,982                  293            232,890

TN                         2,132        1,667,653                2083        1,639,899

TX                       11,467        9,293,236        11279              9,089,492

UT                            642           519,067                  628            507,291

VA                         7,156        7,399,399                6957        7,192,008

VT                             111             92,492                  113              95,281

WA                       3,737        3,060,853                3673        2,996,425

WI                            775           557,778                  758            544,589

WV                           460           354,786                  448            345,394

WY                           206           159,232                  208            162,065

Total USA         90,420  $75,008,446   88,644  $73,328,674

Territories & Overseas                       #               Amount                    #                  Amount

AA—Armed Forces America               95             91,955    90                    87,218

AE—Armed Forces Europe                621          567,208  603                  549,955

AP—Armed Forces Pacific 483          423,990  458                  392,805

AS—American Forces Samoa              14               9,122    15                      9,459

GU—Guam                                      117                   98,730  116                    98,247

MP—Northern Mariana Islands            9               6,485    10                      7,298

PR—Puerto Rico               115                80,286  112                    78,093

PW—Palau                                          2                     1,731      2                      1,731

VI—Virgin Islands                              15                11,120    15                    10,939

Other Foreign                                 509                434,096  510                  429,199

Total                                           1,980   $1,724,723         1,931            1,664,945

Grand Total                               92,407 $76,733,169       90,575   $74,993,619

Annual Payment                             $920,798,026                               $899,923,425

Increase over 6 months                 1,832             2.3%

Per month                                        305

[Source: ULSG, LLC msg. 13 Aug 09 ++]

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VA NATIONAL PHARMACY CALL CENTER: The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department will open a national call center in Waco, Texas, to help answer questions from veterans and VA pharmacies. U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX-17) announced the new project 12 AUG during a visit by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to Waco’s VA hospital. The Waco Democrat says the center in the hospital complex is expected to employ 224 workers. Edwards says the center will be situated in a building in the Waco VA complex that will undergo a $4.5 million renovation, starting next month.  [Source: AirForceTimes AP article 12 Aug 09 ++]

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MOBILIZED RESERVE 11 AUG 09: The Department of Defense announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 11 AUG 09. The net collective result is 885 more reservists mobilized than last reported in the Bulletin for 1 AUG 09.  At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease.  The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 112,248; Navy Reserve, 6,651; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 14,128; Marine Corps Reserve, 8,744; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 698.  This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 142,413, including both units and individual augmentees.  A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated can be found at  http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Aug 2009/d20090811ngr.pdf.  [Source: DoD News Release No. 609-09 12 Aug 09 ++]

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TRICARE UNIFORM FORMULARY Update 30: The Beneficiary Advisory Panel (BAP) met to provide comments on the Department of Defense (DoD) Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee’s (P&T Committee) recommendations on formulary status, pre-authorizations, and the effective date for a drug’s change from formulary to non-formulary status. Moving a drug to non-formulary status means it will still be available to beneficiaries, but usually at a higher price. It may also require medication authorization. The BAP reviewed current and new drugs and one of their recommendations was to add the Antidepressant I Agent Venlafaxine extended release tablet to the Uniform Formulary. An implementation plan is not necessary. However, Newly Approved Drugs reviewed and recommended for non-formulary status were:

  • Antilipidemic-II Agent: Fenofibrate acid capsules (Trilipix)
  • Overactive Bladder Drug: Fesoterodine extended release tablets (Toviaz)
  • Nasal Allergy Drug: Azelastine with sucralose nasal spray (Astepro)
  • Proton Pump Inhibitor: Dexlansoprazole delayed release capsules (Kapidex)
  • Antiemetic: Granisetron transdermal system (Sancuso). Sancuso is the only antiemetic that comes in a transdermal patch.

All were recommended for a non-formulary implementation time no later than 60-days following the Tricare Management Activity (TMA) Director’s approval. For a complete list of formulary medications, go to: www.tricareformularysearch.org/dod/medicationcenter/default.aspx. For additional information on this or other BAP meetings, refer to www.tricare.mil/pharmacy/bap/. [Source: NMFA Government and You eNews11 Aug 09 ++]

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MEDICARE CLAIM REIMBURSEMENT: If you are in the Original Medicare Plan, providers (e.g., hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and physicians) and suppliers are required by law to file Medicare claims for covered services and supplies that you receive. You should not need to file any Medicare claims. Medicare claims must be filed within one full calendar year following the year in which the services were provided.  If you want Medicare or your health plan to cover your visits to the doctor, it’s important to understand what each requires in order to be reimbursed.

  • If you’re enrolled under original Medicare, participating doctors agree to accept the Medicare-approved amount as payment in full.  When you see a participating doctor you (or your Medigap plan) are only responsible for the co-insurance amount.
  • Under original Medicare you may also see “non-participating” doctors.  They can bill their Medicare patients up to 15% more than the Medicare-approved amount for most services, and can request full payment up front for services.  To file a Medicare claim for reimbursement, you will need to print out and complete the form called Patient’s Request for Medical Payment, Form CMS 1490S. The form is available for download at www.cms.hhs.gov/cmsforms/downloads/cms1490s-english.pdf .
  • There are doctors who have opted out of Medicare altogether.  They can charge their Medicare patients whatever they want.  These providers do not submit any claims to Medicare and are not subject to the Medicare law that limits the amount they may charge patients.  When you see a doctor that has opted out of Medicare, you pay the entire cost of your care.  These doctors should advise you of this and should ask you to sign a private contract that states you understand that you are responsible for the full cost of the service.  Medicare will not pay for any of the cost of services you receive regardless of whether or not you have been advised.
  • If you receive your Medicare services through a private Medicare Advantage plan, many of these plans require that you use the plan’s network physicians in order to receive reimbursement.  If you go to a physician that does not participate in your Medicare Advantage health plan, neither your health plan nor Medicare will cover the cost.

The choice is up to you.  If your health is improving under a non-Medicare physician when other doctors under Medicare have been unable to help you, that’s strong incentive to keep going back to the same one and pay the entire cost of your care.  But you may want to continue to look for another good doctor in your area who accepts Medicare or participates in your health plan. For more information see “Medicare & You 2009,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Publication No. 10050, www.medicare.gov or call (1-800-633-4227).  [Source: TREA social Security and Medical Advisor 14-06 & www.medicare.gov Aug 09 ++

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RESERVE RETIREMENT AGE Update 18: Two years after Congress decided to give credit toward earlier reserve retirement checks for time spent on active duty, the change’s chief sup­porters are still fighting to make the new rules apply retroactively to Guard and reserve members called to active duty immediately after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Congressional negotiators writ­ing a compromise version of the 2010 defense authorization bill will decide whether 600,000 National Guard and reserve mem­bers mobilized between 11 SEP 01, and 27 JAN 08, will be eli­gible to get their retirement checks 90 days before their 60th birthday for every 90 days of mobilization.   The 90-for-90 rule now in law applies only for time spent mobi­lized after 28 JAN 08, when the 2008 Defense Authorization Act became law.

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who have championed legislation to allow reservists to receive retired pay before age 60, initially wanted mobilization credit to apply to any­one called up since 2001. But they were stymied when Congress final­ly got around to approving the ini­tiative because they couldn’t find money to cover the cost, estimated to be about $550 million.  Kerry and Chambliss convinced Senate colleagues to accept an amendment to S 1390, the Sen­ate’s version of the 2010 defense authorization bill, that applies the 90-for-90 rule to mobilization since 11 SEP 01 Inclusion of the amendment in the Senate bill sets the stage for House and Senate negotiators to discuss whether to include retroactive retirement credit in the final defense bill. While the House version of the bill, H.R.2647, includes no similar provision, one of the chief House negotiators on personnel issues, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), unveiled a bill earlier this year that also would make the mobilization credit retroactive to 2001. Wilson was blocked from offering his legislation as an amend­ment to H.R.2647 because budget rules about paying for new initia­tives are stricter in the House than in the Senate. Negotiators are not expected to make final decisions on the defense bill until September. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 17 Aug 09 ++]

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DISABLED VET CAREGIVERS: The two lawmakers primarily responsible for extending Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to military families have taken action to do the same for veterans’ families. The Supporting Military Fami­lies Act of 2009 (H.R.3403 & S.1543), unveiled 30 JUL, would provide up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for family members or caregivers of newly discharged disabled veterans. The time off without fear of los­ing a job would be available for five years after a disabled service member separates or retires from the military. The bill also would amend the family leave program to grant families of deployed or deploying active-duty members the same time off available since January for families of National Guard and reserve members. As part of the change, the bill would redefine the kinds of deployments covered. Current law provides unpaid leave only for contingency operations. The new legislation would cover any overseas deployment. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) are the chief sponsors of the new proposal. They last teamed togeth­er on Family and Medical Leave Act benefits that took effect in late 2008 and early 2009 and expanded leave benefits for Guard and reserve families and for families of severely wounded service members. Dodd said the bill would give the families of active-duty members the same right to time off provided last year for families of Guard and reserve members to take part in deployment-related matters, such as briefings, arrival and departure ceremonies, and the handling of legal or financial matters on behalf of the deployed member. [Source: NavyTimes Rick maze article 17 Aug 09 ++]

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HOSPITAL SURVIVAL TIPS: As many as 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as a result of medical errors, according to an Institute of Medicine report. Some 99,000 people die each year from infections acquired in the hospital, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vigilance is key, says Cindy Sellers O’Brien, president of the mid-Maryland chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association. “The patients that do better are the ones that take an active role in their health care. They have the better outcomes [because] they take more ownership.” The American Hospital Association agrees that patients play a crucial role. “While we are striving for perfection in the way we deliver care, we know we fall short of that mark — but patients can help us get better,” says Nancy Foster, AHA’s vice president for quality and patient safety policy. “They can and should ask a question when something does not seem quite right.”

The consequences of medical errors are especially devastating for children, according to the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals nationwide. The commission has released tips for keeping your child safe in the hospital, noting that according to its figures, one in 15 hospitalized children is harmed by medication errors. Refer to http://www.jointcommission.org/PatientSafety/SpeakUp. A study from the University of Michigan found that nearly two-thirds of parents reported they felt the need to watch over their child’s hospital care to make sure no one made any mistakes.  Given the dangers lurking in hospitals, we asked several nurses to give us their suggestions about what steps to take to protect yourself and your family.  They said:

  1. Bring in a list of the medications you’re taking. This is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your safety, according to a survey of 731 nurses by Consumer Reports. It’s best to have the list in your wallet in case you’re taken to the emergency room.
  2. Make sure the hospital gets your name right. Last year, Michelle Waddy, a freelance pediatric nurse practitioner in Roanoke, Virginia, suffered a drop in hemoglobin and needed four units of blood immediately. “The emergency room nurse entered my name on the computer wrong. I was given blood under another patient’s name,” she wrote to us. Waddy says she caught the error, but the hospital continued to use the wrong name. “Luckily they had to get my blood type before I was given blood, or I wouldn’t be telling this story.”
  3. Ask about every medication they give you. Nurses say to double-check the name, dosage, and timing of every medicine you receive in the hospital. Susan Gonzalez, a nurse in Austell, Georgia, caught a medication error just in time. She was visiting her father in the hospital when a nurse came to give him an intravenous medicine. “I asked them, ‘What are you hanging?’ ” she said. The nurse answered it was ampicillin, an antibiotic. “I was like, ‘My dad is allergic,’ and they said, ‘Oh, you’re right.’ That could have been a fatal outcome.”
  4. Make sure everyone washes hands. In the Consumer Reports survey, 26% of the nurses reported observing hand-washing lapses. “It seems like a simple little thing, but doctors and nurses pick up a lot of nasty germs and then transmit them to other patients,” Dr. Howard Blumstein told Consumer Reports. Blumstein is a vice president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and practices in North Carolina. Since it can be an uncomfortable conversation, Consumer Reports has a list of ways to ask a doctor or nurse to wash up. Refer to http://www.consumerreports.org/health/doctors-hospitals/hospitals/wash-up-doc/hospitals-and-nurses-wash-up-doc.htm.  Advice on preventing hospital infections from the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the National Patient Safety Board can be found at www.npsf.org/paf/i/.
  5. If you think something’s wrong, don’t back down. O’Brien, the nurse from Maryland, said she had to fight to stop her mother from receiving a dangerous medication during an emergency visit to the hospital. She says her mother, who had breast cancer, was supposed to receive a dose of a steroid called Decadron before her chemotherapy sessions. She said someone in the hospital made a mistake and wrote in her mother’s chart that she was supposed to receive Decadron every twelve hours. O’Brien begged the nurses to take her mother off the 12-hour schedule of Decadron, explaining that she was a diabetic and it could hurt her heart. Within 10 minutes of talking to the nurse, her mother experienced chest pain and had a heart attack, O’Brien recalls, adding that her mother survived. O’Brien says don’t give up if you think something’s wrong. “You don’t need to be aggressive, nasty, and mean. Be convincing and confident.”

[Source: CNNhealth.com Elizabeth Cohen article 7 Aug 09 ++]

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NATIONAL GUARD DATA BREACH: The National Guard Bureau (NGB) is contacting 131,000 current and former Guard members who could be affected by the theft of a laptop computer containing personal data, including Social Security numbers. The personal laptop computer belonged to a contractor, but NGB is not saying who the contractor is or where the theft took place, according to a report from the Associated Press. Letters were being sent in early AUG to those whose names were on the computer, which contains names, addresses, Social Security numbers and payment data for those enrolled in the Army National Guard Bonus and Incentives Program. The Guard had no indication that the information had been compromised, according to the wire report. Randy Noller, a public affairs spokesman, said anyone who received enlistment and retention bonuses in recent years should take precautionary steps such as putting fraud alerts on their credit. NGB has established a Web page containing the latest information and advice at www.ng.mil, and the Army Guard has established a  call center at (877) 481-4957. Noller told AP the Guard’s internal investigation is looking into what security policies were breached in the contractor’s handling of the data, which should not have been on an unsecured private laptop. “We know simply by virtue of [the information] being on a personal laptop there were some security protocols violated,” he said. “Exactly which ones, how and why is yet to be determined.” A computer security expert, Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute in Michigan, told the wire service that that amount of data should never be carried on a personal laptop. He said 600,000 laptops are lost annually at airports alone. “To physically carry 131,000 records and use your laptop as a way of manipulating that information, there is never an excuse,” he said. [Source: NGAUS E-Notes 7 Aug 09 ++]

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VETERAN LEGISLATION 2009: The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 which authorizes funding for VA medical accounts two-years in advance passed the House and Senate.  The Senate passed version of the bill carries the same bill number as the House passed bill, HR 1016, but its wording differs somewhat.  Both bills direct congressional appropriators to fund two-year plans for VA health programs to avoid financial and management difficulties that have occurred in past years.  The differences will be worked out in conference when Congress returns in September. It was interesting to see that the Senate also added $2 billion to extend the “Cash For Clunkers” program.  Hopefully Congress can as easily find money for the SBP/DIC Offset elimination and Concurrent Receipt for Chapter 61 medically retired veterans. Other veteran bills of interest to the veteran community that have cleared the House so far in this session of the 111th Congress include:

  • HR 1037 authorizes VA to conduct a five-year pilot project to expand on existing work-study activities and allows student veterans to participate in work-study positions in academic departments.
  • HR 1088 The Mandatory Veteran Specialist Training Act of 2009 provides a one-year period for training (instead of the current three) for new DVOPs and LVOPs through the National Veterans Employment and Training Institute.
  • HR 1089 enforces employment rights of veterans and members of the armed services employed by the Federal Government Services Institute.
  • HR 1170 provides grants up to $200,000 for development of technologies to improve adaptive housing for disabled veterans.
  • HR 1171 reauthorizes the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program through 2014, and also includes special grants to programs and facilities that provide for homeless female veterans and homeless veterans with children.
  • HR 1172 directs VA to include on the Internet website of the Department of Veterans Affairs a list of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans and their survivors.
  • HR 1211 – The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act expands and improves health care services available to women veterans, including studies in barriers to care, mental health services for PTSD, MST and extended health care to newborns of female veterans immediately following birth.
  • HR 1293 increases the amount veterans receive for improvements and structural alterations for home health services.
  • HR 1377 expands veteran eligibility for VA reimbursement for emergency treatment furnished by non-VA facilities.
  • HR 3155 authorizes training, support and medical care to family and non-family caregivers of veterans. It would also create a stipend to cover housing and expenses incurred by primary caregivers to certain veterans.
  • HR 3219 combines provisions from eight other bills, to include establishing a Director of Physician Assistant position within VA; eliminating the deduction in accelerated death payments to terminally-ill veterans and service members under SGLI and VGLI; allows certain veterans to increase the amount of life insurance they carry under VGLI; prohibits catastrophically-disabled veterans from having to pay copayments or other fees for critical medical services; and permanently authorizes hospital care, medical services and nursing home care for Vietnam and Persian Gulf War veterans exposed to herbicides
  • HR 466- The Wounded Veterans’ Job Security Act prohibits discrimination and acts of reprisal against persons who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disabilities incurred in or aggravated by service.

For more on any of the bills type the bill # in the box at: http://thomas.loc.gov. [Source: VFW Washington Weekly7 Aug 09 ++]

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VA PROSTHETICS Update 04: With immobility causing degeneration in the bones, joints, heart, lungs and skin of tens of thousands of disabled veterans, scientists are developing equipment that could get them back on their feet. Ronald Triolo, a senior research scientist with the Veterans Affairs Department, discussed the creation of an innovative bracing system to provide enhanced mobility and improve the quality of life for paraplegics during an 5 AUG webcast of “Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military” on Pentagon Web radio. Hundreds of thousands of people living in the United States have spinal cord injuries, and some 50,000 of those are veterans, said Triolo, who also is a professor at Case Western Reserve University and director of The Cleveland Advanced Platform Technology Center for Excellence and associate director of the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation Center. The ultimate goal of his research, Triolo said, is to develop a hybrid neuroprosthesis – a foot-to-chest orthotic with joints that allows users to stand, walk, and climb stairs safely and efficiently with minimal effort. Hybrid prostheses would allow the interface of electrical stimulation and flexible bracing of muscles to provide strength and structural support to paraplegics in the hope of allowing them to walk.

“With the hybrid approach, [we] take the best of both worlds and make something that’s greater than its individual parts,” said Triolo, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering. “If we can take a brace and make it flexible … and power movement by electrical stimulation, then we can achieve more fluid motion, and maybe achieve such functions as stair climbing.” The main goal is long-distance walking. Currently, braces provide limited speed and motion. To walk faster, the user has to take little steps rather than longer strides. The new hybrid device should allow people to adjust the length of their steps and walk at faster speeds. It also would allow one leg to remain rigid while the other bends, making upward and downward steps possible. The biggest advances have come at the hip and knees. Developments have to start with the hip and move outward to ensure movements are natural and fluid, he explained. The hip device, which Triolo calls his crowning achievement thus far, allows for muscle reciprocation: as the left side moves, the right side moves counter to it, as one’s hip would normally rotate.”The unique thing about this particular design is it allows that coupling between the left and right sides to vary with the task at hand,” he said. “If someone is walking faster, it allows them to take longer steps. If someone wants to keep one leg stiff and flex the other hip and knee to ascend a stair, it allows that to be accomplished.”

Triolo also is working on replacing traditional rigid torso braces with more flexible ones to allow more torso movement, as well as an ankle device that will allow the leg to push off the ground and pick the foot up so it doesn’t drag with each brace-assisted step. As he advances his testing, Triolo said, he wants to recreate a natural walking motion for people suffering from spinal injuries. And for the thousands of people affected by those injuries, it might be a reason — and a method — to stand up and cheer. [Source: AFPS Ian Graham article 7 Aug 09 ++]

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GI Bill Update 54: Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced 4 AUG a joint solution has been reached between the State of California and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) concerning how tuition and fees are determined. The new definition will allow for standardized application under the new Post 9/11 GI Bill and the accompanying Yellow Ribbon program. Shinseki said. “This solution will allow all Veterans who want to attend a California school the same benefits as any other Veteran across the nation.” The Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefit authorizes VA to pay the actual tuition and fees charged by a university up to the maximum in-state tuition and fees charged by the most expensive public university in the state. In interpreting the statute in its implementing regulation, VA determined that it must set separate state maximums for tuition and fees, as opposed to a single combined total. In California, public schools have traditionally charged no tuition but relatively high fees.  Thus a student attending private school in California would receive much less of a basic tuition benefit under the Post 9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon program than students at private schools in other states. Recently, California’s public universities introduced a new billing line item, “Educational Fee/Tuition.”  VA has determined that, under its existing regulations, the Department can consider this new billing line item as “tuition” for the purposes of calculating the state’s maximum payments.

In California alone, approximately 80 schools have entered into more than 235 agreements for the 2009-2010 school year. The new maximum, in-state tuition amount for California public institutions is now $287 per credit hour.  Over 1,100 colleges, universities and schools across the country have entered into more than 3,400 “Yellow Ribbon” program agreements with VA to improve financial aid for Veterans participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  The Yellow Ribbon program, a provision of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, funds tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. Institutions can contribute up to 50% of those expenses, and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. The Yellow Ribbon program is reserved for Veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill at the 100% benefit level.  This includes those who served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury.  Additional information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, as well as VA’s other educational benefits, can be obtained by visiting VA’s Web site www.gibill.va.gov or by calling 1-888-442-4551. Veterans wishing to receive e-mail from VA with the latest news releases and updated fact sheets can subscribe to the VA Office of Public Affairs Distribution List at http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/opa_listserv.asp.  [Source: VA News Release 4 Aug 09 ++]

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PSORIASIS Update 01: According to the National Institutes of Health as many 7.5 million Americans, or 2% of the population, have psoriasis. Each year, one in five people with psoriasis report being discriminated against at a public pool, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, and psoriasis is associated with other serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Tricare is using August to increase awareness about the disease and inform beneficiaries that psoriasis is not contagious.  Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. They usually appear on elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms and feet, but they can show up on other parts of the body. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals speeding up the growth cycle of skin cells. In a process called cell turnover, skin cells that grow deep in your skin rise to the surface. Normally, this takes a month. In psoriasis, it happens in just days because the cells rise too fast. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches or lesions covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells called scale and it can occur on any part of the body.

Treating psoriasis is critical to good disease management and overall health. Working with a doctor is key to finding a treatment—or treatments—to reduce or eliminate symptoms. A psoriasis treatment that works for one person might not work for another.  Psoriasis can be mild, moderate or severe. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, a moderate case of psoriasis involves 3% percent to 10% of the body’s skin. Less than 3% is mild and more than 10% is considered severe. For example: The palm of the hand equals 1% of the body’s skin. However, the severity of psoriasis is also measured by how it affects a person’s life. Psoriasis can have a serious impact on daily activities, even if it involves a small area such as the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Treatment options are:

  • Mild psoriasis options include over-the-counter topicals, topical non-steroids, topical steroids and light therapy.
  • Moderate to severe psoriasis treatment usually involves a combination of treatment strategies. Besides topical treatments, a doctor may prescribe light therapy or phototherapy and/or systemic or biologic medications. Light therapy/phototherapy involves regularly exposing the skin to light, and systemic medications are prescription drugs administered orally or by injection that work throughout the body.
  • Biologic drugs, or “biologics,” are a relatively new class of treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatments. They are given by injection or intravenous infusion. Biologics are prescribed for individuals with moderate to severe cases of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. They are a viable option for those who have not responded to or have experienced harmful side effects from other treatments. Some biologics have also been shown to reduce the progression of joint damage in psoriatic arthritis.

Note: Refer to. http://www.psoriasis.org for additional info [Source: Tricare Press Room News 5 Aug 09 ++]

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TSP Update 21: All 10 funds in the Thrift Savings Plan’s posted gains in July after an anemic June, and continued their upward trend since the beginning of 2009. The breakdown follows:

  • The I Fund, which invests in overseas companies and dropped 1.08% drop in June, had the biggest increase in July, gaining 9.74%. The fund has grown 16.99% since the beginning of 2009, but losses last fall mean the fund is still worth 21.59% less than it was in July 2008, the steepest decline of any of the funds in the TSP during the past year.
  • The S Fund, which invests in small- and mid-size companies and tracks the Dow Jones Wilshire 4500 Index, had the second-largest increase in July, rising 8.66%. The fund’s value is up 17.2% so far in 2009, but still has not recovered from its losses during the worst part of the economic downturn in the fall, and is down 21.08% since July 2008.
  • The C Fund, which invests in common stocks of large companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, rose 7.58% last month and has grown 11.13% so far this year. The fund’s value is still down 19.89% since the same time last year.
  • The F Fund, which invests in fixed-income bonds, inched up 1.59% in July. The fund’s value is up 3.57% in 2009, and it has posted the largest gains of all the funds during the past 12 months, increasing 7.87%.
  • The G Fund, or government securities, is the most stable of the TSP’s options and rose 0.28% in 2009. The fund’s value has increased 1.65% in 2009, and 3.19% since July 2008.

All five of the life-cycle funds grew in July. The L funds are designed to pursue aggressive gains early in an employee’s career and shift to a more conservative mix of investments as employees near retirement. The L 2040 Fund rose 7.01% last month; the L 2030 Fund gained 6.16%; the L 2020 Fund grew 5.16%; the L 2010 Fund rose 2.44%, and the L Income Fund increased 1.94%. The L funds have posted positive returns since the beginning of 2009, though none has recovered yet from last fall’s financial slump, and all are down in value since July 2008. Since January, the L 2040 Fund is up 12.51%; the L 2030 Fund has grown 11.31%; the L 2020 Fund rose 9.79%; the L 2010 Fund is up 5.33%, and the L Income Fund saw a 4.6% hike. Since August 2008, the L 2040 Fund’s value has fallen 14.79%; the L 2030 Fund has decreased 12.12%; the L 2020 Fund has dropped 9.22%; the L 2010 Fund is down 3.03%, and the L Income Fund has dipped 0.06%. To review a monthly listing of the last year’s returns refer to www.myfederalretirement.com/public/237.cfm. [Source: GovExec.com Alex M. Parker article 3 Aug 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 05: One of the central tenets of the health care legislation under construction on Capitol Hill is a mandate that every American be protected by some kind of medical insurance. There’s one exception to the mandate, though: people opposed to buying health coverage for religious reasons. The emerging bills in both the House and Senate include language patterned on an existing “religious conscience” exemption to laws requiring workers to pay taxes for Social Security and Medicare. What’s not clear is whether the exemption, originally designed to apply only to the Old Order Amish, might be used by members of other religious groups — or those who just say they are — in order to evade the insurance mandate. It’s probably not a large group: There are only between 200,000 and 250,000 Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites (with similar beliefs) in the United States, for instance. But data is thin. The IRS and the Social Security Administration say they don’t collate records on who files for the tax exemption or what religious affiliations they claim. Christian Scientists, who believe in spiritual healing rather than traditional medicine, might be able to file for exemptions to the taxes and to the health insurance mandate, but church officials and lobbyists declined several requests to discuss the matter.

According to the Web site of the Church of Christ, Scientist, believers do not object to all medical care or to purchasing health insurance: “Every Christian Scientist makes his or her own financial and health decisions,” the site says, including when and how to seek medical treatment and whether to carry health insurance. In Massachusetts, where the Christian Science church is headquartered, the mandatory state health program offers a religious conscience exclusion, and about 9,700 people applied for it in 2007, the most recent year with complete data. The state program has penalties for those who apply for the exclusion and wind up visiting the doctor or the hospital anyway. According to Robert Bliss of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, two years ago about 700 people who applied for the religious exemption were denied and fined. There is no similar penalty in the proposed language of the federal health care mandate. A senior Democratic aide involved in drafting the Senate bill, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said no member of Congress has pushed for penalties because the number of religious objectors are few and there has been little history of others improperly claiming the exclusion, at least for Social Security and Medicare taxes.

The tax exemption dates to 1965, when Congress included it in the revised Social Security Act (which also created Medicare) to settle a decade-long dispute with the Amish, who believe in a deep division between church and state. The Amish don’t object to paying taxes, and they routinely pay their income, property and other levies to federal and state authorities. But when the IRS began applying the Social Security self-employment tax to farm income in the 1950s — and confiscating farm animals to pay the arrears — the Amish resisted. Amish farmers argued that Social Security was a form of public insurance, and their religious beliefs prevent them from taking part in public or commercial insurance. What the Amish wanted to do, in effect, was opt out of the Social Security and Medicare systems entirely, and after a public backlash over the livestock confiscations, Congress decided to permit a narrow exemption for religious sects “opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any private or public insurance.” To get the exemption, taxpayers must provide evidence they are members of a qualifying sect that has been in existence continuously since 1950. As Roberton Williams, a tax expert at the Urban Institute, put it, “People who try to set up their house as a church, well, that doesn’t fly.  To read the 1017 page bill refer to www.defendyourhealthcare.us/houseandsenatebills.html . [Source: CQ TODAY Online News Maura Reynolds article 3 Aug 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 06: In ongoing discussions about health-care reform, President Barack Obama offered assurance 4 AUG to those receiving medical care through Tricare or the Department of Veterans Affairs: Your benefits are safe. Eligibility for health care under VA or Tricare “will not be affected by our efforts at broader health-care reform,” Obama told military reporters at the White House.  Obama said he also made that point clear after today’s meeting with the American Legion’s national commander, Dave Rehbein, and executive director, Peter Gaytan. “I want to make sure that message gets out to our veterans,” the president said. “I think it’s very important to get the message out: If you are in the VA system and are happy with your care, great. We have no intention of changing your eligibility.” While a new, national program won’t force anyone to change health-care systems, Obama said it could offer benefits or geographic convenience that might make some veterans elect to join it. A national program “will actually give them more choices, more flexibility,” he said.

Obama cited problems in U.S. health-care delivery systems, which he said cost more than other countries’ programs and too often deliver less. The VA “has probably made more progress than most systems out there in increasing quality” during the past 25 years, and could help shed light on better ways of delivering health care, he said. But the cost of delivering that care is high even at VA and Tricare consumes a big piece of the Defense Department’s budget, he said. With the fiscal 2010 budget reflecting the largest VA funding increase in 30 years, Obama told American Legion leaders he is committed to ensuring that VA provides America’s veterans the highest-quality health care possible. Meanwhile, he told reporters VA will increase its outreach to more veterans to make sure they’re aware of their medical benefits and other entitlements. “Although there are hundreds of thousands of veterans who are using our services, we know there are hundreds of thousands more who may not know that benefits are available,” he said. “And we are working really hard to make sure that every single veteran – not just our active force, but also National Guard and reservists, are aware of the benefits that are available to them.”Guiding them through that process, we think, is extraordinarily important.”  [Source: AFPS Donna Miles article 4 Aug 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 07: How national health reform legislation would affect Medicare is a big issue for military retirees and survivors age 65 and over, for whom Tricare For Life is a Medicare supplement. It also has the potential to affect beneficiaries under age 65, since Tricare payment rates are tied to Medicare’s.  President Obama offered assurance 4 AUG to those receiving medical care through Tricare that they are safe and eligibility for health care under VA or Tricare will not be affected by efforts of the broader health-care reform.  However, nobody can be certain what the effects will be at this point, because there are already four 1,000-page bills on the table and at least three more still to come. Three House committees have passed separate versions, and House leaders are now negotiating behind closed doors how to combine those into one. One Senate committee has approved its own bill, and another is working behind closed doors to develop an alternative that could win some bipartisan votes. If and when that happens, Senate leaders will have to find some ground between the two that can win Senate approval. And then House and Senate leaders will have to work out a further compromise that both the House and Senate can pass and that the President will be willing to sign. So everything we may think we know now is subject to change tomorrow.

It’s also essential to keep in mind that Medicare is nearing an extremely serious fiscal sustainability problem. The coming wave of retiring baby boomers, plus the escalating cost of care, will dictate dramatic benefit cuts and/or tax increases in the not-too-distant future unless something else is done to ease the growing mismatch between benefits and funding. Since the population projection isn’t going to change, Congress must find ways to restrain spending growth in the least objectionable way, and that’s what every legislator is trying to do, in his or her own way. Further, the statutory formula for setting Medicare (and Tricare) payments to doctors is broken. Unless Congress passes some kind of fix, Medicare and Tricare rates will be cut 21% this coming January – which would be a disaster, as many doctors would stop seeing elderly and military patients.  What we do know about the health reform bills leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding:

  • They all would at least fix the doctor payment issue for 2010, and some would go beyond that – and that can only be good.
  • All would invest in primary care and wellness initiatives, raising payments up to 10% for primary care providers and eliminating copays for preventive care. The idea is to reduce long-term costs by encouraging preventive care and healthier lifestyles. Another good thing.
  • Constraining cost growth also means constraining future growth in Part B premiums – another good thing, assuming the benefit cost constraints are appropriate.
  • All would reduce or eliminate the extra 14% federal subsidy now provided for Medicare Advantage (HMO) programs.
  • All would extend Medicare therapy cap protections for speech and physical therapy.
  • All would reduce payments to most hospitals (except rural hospitals), and the associations representing hospitals have agreed to accept the cuts – meaning it shouldn’t affect their willingness to accept military/Medicare patients.
  • All would establish “carrot and stick” incentives to encourage hospitals to use best practices and reduce preventable readmissions.
  • All contain language explicitly barring benefits for illegal aliens.

H.R.3200, the core bill in the House, also would:

  • Move vaccines (e.g., shingles) from Part D to Part B, a big plus for TFL-eligibles.
  • Raise payments 5% for providers of psychiatric services to encourage them to see Medicare (and Tricare) patients.
  • Allow a 12-month Part B enrollment period and waive late enrollment penalties for disabled military retirees under 65 – a major plus for wounded warriors.
  • Provide $100 million per year to combat claims fraud and abuse.
  • Constrain growth in durable medical equipment, home health and certain other ancillary care through market basket updates, productivity adjustments, and other adjustments to payment formulas.

The most fiscally austere bill is likely to come from the Senate Finance Committee, where Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is striving behind closed doors to reach a bipartisan agreement with fiscally conservative Republicans and Democrats. Finance staffers have acknowledged that winning that agreement may end up entailing such things as higher copays on lab tests and further means-testing options (e.g., restricting annual inflation adjustments to Part B income thresholds so that more people end up in the higher Part B premium categories). The Finance plan also calls for a commission to review Medicare spending in 2015-16, and, to the extent that it exceeds some inflation-adjusted baseline, propose a set of payment reductions to restore the funding balance. Under that concept, Congress would have a year to pass alternative legislation to achieve the same savings or let the commission-recommended cuts would go into effect.  The Military Officers Association of America’s  (MOAA) bottom line evaluation is:

  • Congress is not going to “kill Medicare” or “kill TFL”.
  • Seniors are the most powerful voting bloc in America, and legislators aren’t going to flagrantly disregard their interests.
  • Many things in the health care reform legislation are positive for Medicare/Tricare beneficiaries and seek reasonable cost constraints that minimize impact on beneficiaries.
  • There also are some things that cause justifiable concern, such as (a) the risk of putting significant power in the hands of a commission or set of administrators who would be empowered to take action that might or might not be draconian at some point in the future, (b) the potential for extending means-tested premiums ever-further down the income scale, and (c) using some Medicare savings to fund universal health care, but applying cost-constraint “hammers” (e.g., a future commission) only to Medicare.
  • There’s no denying that something has to be done to constrain Medicare cost growth, as the alternative (much higher taxes) won’t fly, and that will almost certainly necessitate some “lesser of the evils” choices.
  • There’s no free lunch, especially coming into a new decade in which the country faces massive economic challenges and rising deficits. If something isn’t done now, the task will only get tougher later.
  • Part of the challenge to understanding is that some in both parties and their supporters use rhetoric aimed more at scoring political points than providing factual perspectives.
  • Veterans need to stay vigilant and respond with grassroots action if and when their  legitimate interests come under attack.

[Source:  MOAA Leg Up 7 Aug 09 ++]

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TRICARE USER FEE Update 40: Raising Tricare fees should be the final resort in the effort to hold down military health care costs, the Senate says in a resolution attached to the 2010 defense budget. The resolution, passed by voice vote at the urging of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is not legally binding; it’s more of a warning. For the first time in three years, the Defense Department has not proposed raising Tricare co-pay­ments, deductibles or enrollment fees, so Congress does not have to act on behalf of retirees and their families to block anything. However, Pentagon officials have made clear that the only rea­son they didn’t ask for a fee hike is that they are hoping to work out a compromise to do so in the future.

The House may be ready for an increase. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s mili­tary personnel panel, said some fee hikes may be inevitable as part of a larger compromise that includes other initiatives to hold down costs. She anticipates a dis­cussion about fee hikes will come next year, during debate over the 2011 defense budget. While Davis has not offered a specific proposal, aides said they don’t think it would be out of line to increase Tricare fees to keep pace with any increase in military retired pay. However, linking increases in fees to increases in retired pay might not result in any increase at all. For 2010, government econo­mists are predicting there will be no cost-of-living adjustment in retired pay. That annual adjust­ment is tied to the cost of goods and services, which have been falling, according to the Labor Depart­ment’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Senate seems steadfastly opposed to fee increases except as a last-ditch effort Lautenberg, who led efforts to block proposed fee increases over the past three years, said nothing has changed his view. “We owe our troops and their families the best quality health care at affordable prices,” Lauten­berg said, taking credit for working with the Obama administration to have health care fee increases omitted from the 2010 budget. Lautenberg’s resolution says the Defense Department “has many additional options to constrain the growth of health care spending in ways that do not disadvantage retired members of the armed ser­vices who participate or seek to participate in the Tricare program, and should pursue any and all such options rather than seeking large increases for enrollment fees, deductibles and co-payments.” But by opposing large increas­es, such as the tripling of some Tricare fees proposed by the Pen­tagon over the last few years, the amendment may leave the door open for modest increases. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze Article 10 Aug 09 ++]

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CA GUARD EDUCATION BENEFIT: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced 31 JUL that California will now provide educational benefits to members of the California National Guard, thanks to a provision included in the recently enacted budget.  Before this legislation, California was the only state in the nation that did not offer an education incentive to reward and retain National Guard members. The California National Guard Education Assistance Award Program (CNGEAP) is designed to help nearly 1,000 Guard members pay to attend colleges and universities. It will begin in JAN 10 with $1.8 million to cover the majority of fees associated with attending a public or qualifying private institution. While the new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and Montgomery G.I. Bill provide education benefits for National Guard members who have been deployed on a federal overseas deployment, they do not apply to Guard members who remain at home on state service. The newly enacted bill, ABX4 12, was signed at the State Capitol on 28 JUL and means California Guard members are eligible to apply for education assistance. [Source: CDVA Veteran News Jaime Arteaga article 31 Jul 09 ++]

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BUG BITES: “There are about 10 million insect species, and about 75% of the world’s animals are insects,” says Tim Forrest, Ph.D., a professor of biology at the University of North Carolina, in Asheville. Most people have a reaction to bites and stings — ranging from barely noticeable bumps to saucer-sized welts. But while you can’t escape bugs altogether, there’s plenty you can do to manage them better. To Avoid Bugbites:

  • Dress to repel ~  Bright colors and flowery prints make kids more attractive to insects, as do scented soaps, perfumes and hair sprays, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Stay out of their way ~ Most insects will leave humans alone, Forrest says, “unless you mess with their nest.” Steer clear of known nests and avoid areas near trash cans (beloved by yellow jackets,) stagnant water (mosquito heaven) and fruit trees.
  • Squirt on the good stuff ~ For kids, the AAP recommends products with at least 10% DEET, to be effective but no more than 30%. Spray on only as much as needed to cover skin and clothes, have kids wash with soap and water when they go back inside and wash clothes before wearing again.
  • Make friends with the enemy ~ Children who are excessively frightened by insects tend to overreact and are more likely to be stung. Help your child tap into his curiosity about nature and explore the insect world — on his terms. Watch a spider spinning a web or a bee gathering nectar from a flower. “Just explain that they should be calm and not make any sudden movements,” says Forrest.

How to Handle a Bite or Sting:

  • Go on high alert ~ If your child has been stung, check if there’s a stinger left behind. If so, scrape it away — carefully — with a fingernail or knife blade, says Richard F. Lockey, M.D., a professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Public Health at the University of South Florida. Then wash the area with soap and water, and apply ice to the sting. Watch your child carefully for signs of wheezing or difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, or any dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting. While such intense allergic reactions are relatively uncommon. Only an estimated 3% of adults and 1% of children react that way and they can happen within moments. In rare instances, they can be fatal. If your child has any of these symptoms, head straight to the emergency room.
  • Soothe the sting or bite – If there’s no allergic reaction, continue with occasional ice for 24 hours. There are other things you can use to relieve the swelling and discomfort, but there’s no solid proof that any of them work. Still, it’s worth a try. “Cortisone cream helps some people, and so do antihistamines,” says Lockey. Some people find relief with a paste made from baking soda or meat tenderizer and water. Others find that applying aloe vera, calendula leaves and even a slice of onion can help.
  • Keep an eye on it – As kids scratch, bites can become infected, and some (like certain spider bites) can leave ugly, ulcerated wounds. “Keep it clean and covered,” says Lockey. “And be patient. While there isn’t much you can do to speed healing, it will go away eventually.”

[Source: Parents and Prevention magazines Sarah Mahoney article Aug 09 ++]

==============================

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stimulates leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy. A public-private partnership, federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanence, and donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. Located among our national monuments to freedom on the National Mall at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW Washington, DC 20024-2126, the Museum provides a powerful lesson in the fragility of freedom, the myth of progress, the need for vigilance in preserving democratic values. With unique power and authenticity, it teaches millions of people each year about the dangers of unchecked hatred and the need to prevent genocide. The museum  encourages visitors to act when confronted with hatreds, cultivating a sense of moral responsibility among our citizens so that they will respond to the monumental challenges that confront our world. Today there is an alarming rise in Holocaust denial and antisemitism—even in the very lands where the Holocaust happened—as well as genocide and threats of genocide in other parts of the world. All of this when we are soon approaching a time when Holocaust survivors and other eyewitnesses will no longer be alive.

The Museum works closely with many key segments of society who will affect the future of our nation. Professionals from the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary and the military, as well as diplomacy, medicine, education and religion study the Holocaust, with emphasis on the role of their particular professions and the implications for their own responsibilities. These programs intensify their sense of commitment to the core values of their fields and their roles in the protection of individuals and society. In addition to its leadership training programs, the Museum sponsors on-site and traveling exhibitions, educational outreach, a Website, campus outreach and Holocaust commemorations including the nation’s annual observance in the U.S. Capitol. Its Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies works to ensure the continued growth and vitality of the field of Holocaust studies. As a living memorial to the Holocaust, it works to prevent genocide in the future through their Academy for Genocide Prevention which trains foreign policy professionals. Working with Holocaust survivors and an array of organizations, the Museum is a leader in galvanizing attention to the crisis in Darfur.

Since its dedication in 1993, the Museum has welcomed nearly 30 million visitors, including more than 8 million school children and 85 heads of state. Today 90% of visitors are not Jewish. Its Web site, the world’s leading online authority on the Holocaust, had 15 million visits in 2006 from an average of 100 different countries daily. With hundreds of thousands of online visitors from countries with majority Muslim populations, translating the website into Arabic and Farsi has been a top priority; already, portions are available in more than 20 languages.   Admission to the Museum is free. No passes are necessary for entering the Museum building, special exhibitions, the interactive Wexner Center, and other Museum resources.  Passes are required for visiting the Permanent Exhibition — The Holocaust. The museum is fully closed only on Yom Kippur (September 28, 2009) and Christmas Day (December 25). Overall operating hours are between 1000 & 1630.  However, these operating hours vary dependent on the section of the building and day of the week you intend to visit.  Allow extra time when you first arrive at the Museum to pass through the building entry line that can form during spring and summer. For more information, call (202) 488-0400 or refer to www.ushmm.org . [Source: www.ushmm.org Aug 09 ++]

==============================

CAREER FAIRS: Things vets should AVOID to enhance their chances of employment:

  • Failure to dress properly for the interview when attending a career fair.
  • Failure to present a professional demeanor at and throughout the time at the career fair.
  • Failure to research the potential employers of interest before attending the career fair.
  • Upon introducing oneself to the individual on the other side of the booth, asking what the company does.
  • After shaking hands with the individual on the other side of the booth, handing the resume and asking “How do I fit in?”
  • Not establishing eye contact with the individual on the other side of the table.
  • Not registering “online” ahead of time when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Not establishing a connection (not contact) within the potential organization when possible.
  • Not following-up with the individual quickly with a revised resume more relevant to the specific role discussed.
  • Not following-up with the organization with another copy of the resume after the career fair.
  • Failure to take advantage of the information available from other attendees at the career fair.
  • Persistence in using the same techniques in job search that have been used for the past decade and not using the more current and effective techniques and methodologies.

[Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle 1 Aug 09 ++]

==============================

VETERAN STATISTICS: Today, there are roughly 1.4 million on active duty, less than half the nearly 3.5 million people on active duty we had at the end of the Vietnam War. The estimated population of the United States on 1 JUL 09 was 307,041,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 226,706,000 are in the work force. Throw in another 20,000,000 illegal aliens (no one really knows with certainty how many illegal aliens are in the United States), and you have a population base of roughly 327, 041,000 that is being defended by 1.4 million. That equates to only four tenths of a percent (.4%) of the population is defending the other 99.6%. If you include the 1.3 million in the Guard and Reserve who are now used as if they were active duty forces, there are a total of 2.7 million people defending the 327,041,000, or roughly eight tenths of a percent (.8%) defending the other 99.2%. In 1970, there were over 45 million living veterans in the United States. In 1999 here were nearly 30 million veterans of which 18 million were in the work force. Today, the BLS reports there are 22,196,000 living veterans of which 12,169,000 are in the work force. Depending on the survey, upwards of 1,700 veterans now die each day!

Historically, the unemployment rate for veterans has been one to three percent below the national average. In JUN 09, the unemployment rate for all veterans was 7.8% while the national unemployment rate was 9.5%. These numbers will probably rise in the July unemployment report. Historically, members of the Guard and Reserve faced a full called up during World War II and a partial call up during the Korean War. Of the 37,000 Guard and Reserve members who fought in the Vietnam War, all but about 200 were volunteers. But since 1991, there have been over 20 full call ups of the Guard and Reserve! Many of the activations have been for one and two year periods. Employers look on the component members as their human asset on loan to DOD, not as DOD’s asset. Consequently, employers are quietly fighting back and not supporting the DOD call up policy.  At present it appears that employers want to hire retired military, transitioning military that have completed their obligated service, and make great effort to hire our wounded and disabled warriors. But when it comes to hiring component members of the Guard and Reserve, employers will not hire them for solid economic reasons. This has manifested itself in the many reports from all over the country of companies using the excuse of the recession to target and lay off employees who are active members of the Guard and Reserve. Component Guard or Reserve member who have been laid off are requested to forward the information to contact@vetjobs.com who is collecting real examples for future testimony before Congress

This data has many ramifications. With 37 years of an all volunteer military, America now has two generations of citizens that have no idea of what really goes on in the military and the importance of having a strong military. This lack of understanding impacts political and social attitudes towards the military. The population base for veteran service organizations is dwindling rapidly which is why many are changing their membership rules in order to maintain membership in a rapidly declining demographic environment. Today, there are fewer defenders of our freedoms living who understand the importance of maintaining a strong military. And without a strong military, we cannot maintain our freedoms, our free market capitalist economy and our constitutional republic. Remember these numbers when you talk to your representatives in Congress. [Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle 1 Aug 09 ++]

==============================

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS: A tax holiday is a temporary reduction or elimination of a tax. Governments usually create tax holidays as incentives for business investment. The taxes that are most commonly reduced by national and local governments are sales taxes.  Often, the benefit is limited to a fixed amount and applies only to the purchase of certain items, such as clothes, school supplies, and computers. A new link is available at www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales_holiday_2008.html to enable you to check out if any apply to you. A copy of the current holidays is included as an attachment to the Bulletin. [Source: USA.gov Daily Digest Bulletin 1 Aug 09 ++].

===============================

TAX BURDEN for FLORIDA RETIREES: Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination.  This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack of a state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden. Following are the taxes you can expect to pay if you retire in Florida:

State Sales Tax: 6% (food, prescription and non-prescription drugs exempt). There are additional county sales taxes which could make the combined rate as high as 9.5%.

Fuel & Cigarette Tax:

  • · Gasoline Tax: 34.5 cents/gallon. (Local taxes for gasoline vary from 5.5 cents to 17 cents, plus there is a 2.07% gasoline pollution tax.)
  • Diesel Fuel Tax: 29.8 cents/gallon. (Includes local county taxes)
  • Cigarette Tax: 33.9 cents/pack of 20 ($1.00 surcharge added on each pack in 2010)

Personal Income Taxes:

  • No state income tax.
  • · Retirement Income: Not taxed.  Starting in 2007, individuals, married couples, personal representatives of estates, and businesses are no longer required to file an annual intangible personal property tax return reporting their stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, shares of business trusts, and unsecured notes.  For details refer to http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/ippt.html .

Property Taxes

1.)      All property is taxable at 100% of its just valuation.  In certain counties and cities homeowners 65 and over can receive a homestead exemption from property tax of $25,000 if their household income, as defined by the federal tax code, is at or below $27,539 (single) or $30,917 (couples) per year (2008 figures).  The income limitation is adjusted each year based on the cost of living index.  In many instances the definition of household income excludes Social Security.  Permanent residents may also be entitled to a homestead exemption regardless of age.  Residents 65 and older are entitled to both exemptions ($50,000).  The senior citizen’s homestead exemption applies only to tax millage levied by the county or city, and does not apply to millage of school districts or other taxing authorities.  The homestead exemption for all residents applies to all property taxes, not just city and county taxes. Annual increases in the assessment of homestead property are limited to 3% of the prior year’s assessed value, or if lower, the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for the prior, as long as there was no change in ownership. The real property tax deduction has increased.  As a result of changes made to Federal year law, non-itemizers (those who take the standard deduction) may now increase the standard deduction by up to $500 (if single, head of household, married filing separately) and up to $1,000 (if filing jointly) if they took the real property tax deduction on their Federal tax return as an increase to the standard deduction. Call 202-727-1000 for more information.

2.)      A 2006 law provides a property tax discount on homestead property owned by eligible veterans.  To be eligible, a veteran must have an honorable discharge from military service, be at least 65 years old, be partially disabled with a permanent service connected disability all or a portion of which must be combat-related, and must have been a Florida resident at the time of entering military service.  This discount is in addition to any other exemptions veterans now receive.

3.)      A 2007 law allows local governments to give those age 65 and above – with low incomes – an increased homestead exemption.  Cities and counties have the option of doubling an existing homestead exemption on primary owner-occupied homes from $25,000 to $50,000.  To qualify, taxpayers must have an annual income of $20,000 or less.

4.)      For more details on property taxes refer to http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property, then find the link for the county property appraiser for the county in question. For more information on Florida property tax exemptions refer to http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property/exemptions.html .

Inheritance and Estate Taxes – There is no inheritance tax and only a limited estate tax.

To review information for new residents go to http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/new.html. For general information on Florida taxes, visit the Florida Department of Revenue site http://dor.myflorida.com/dor or call 800-352-3671. [Source: www.retirementliving.com Aug 09 ++]

===============================

VETERAN LEGISLATION STATUS 13 AUG 09: August recess has begun for Congressional members – you will find them in their district offices and/or travelling in their home States. Now is a great time to schedule a meeting and discuss military community goals and key legislation. The August recess runs through Labor Day 3 SEP.  The House and Senate will reconvene on 8 SEP. For or a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community that have been introduced in the 111th Congress refer to the Bulletin’s Veteran Legislation attachment.  Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law.  A good indication on that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it.  To determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d111/sponlst.html.

Grassroots lobbying is perhaps the most effective way to let your Representative and Senators know your opinion. Whether you are calling into a local or Washington, D.C. office; sending a letter or e-mail; signing a petition; or making a personal visit, Members of Congress are the most receptive and open to suggestions from their constituents. The key to increasing cosponsorship on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting legislators know of veteran’s feelings on issues.  You can reach their Washington office via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate on http://thomas.loc.gov your legislator’s phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making.  Refer to http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/cong_schedule.html for dates that you can access your legislators on their home turf.  [Source: RAO Bulletin Attachment 13 Aug 09 ++]

===============================

HAVE YOU HEARD: Murphy’ s Law’s of Combat:

  • You are not a superman; Marines and fighter pilots take note.
  • If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid.
  • Don’t look conspicuous – it draws fire. (This is why aircraft carriers are called bomb magnets.)
  • When in doubt, empty your magazine.
  • Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.
  • Field experience is something you get ten minutes after you need it.
  • The cost of a weapon has a direct correlation with how far you have to send it to get it fixed.
  • Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.
  • Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you are.
  • Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
  • If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
  • No OPLAN ever survives initial contact.
  • If the enemy has done nothing for the past half hour while you dig in it’s probably because they’ve been in the tree line right behind you the whole time.
  • If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.
  • Who cares if a laser guided 500 lb. bomb is accurate to within 9 feet?
  • Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.
  • Any ship can be a minesweeper… once.
  • There is no such thing as a perfect plan.
  • All five-second grenade fuses will burn down in three seconds.
  • Try to look unimportant; the enemy may be low on ammo and not want to waste a bullet on you.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, call in an airstrike.
  • If you are forward of your position, the artillery will fall short.
  • The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.
  • There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.
  • You can win without fighting, but it’s a lot harder to do. And the enemy may not cooperate.
  • A retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.
  • Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do.
  • The important things are always simple; the simple things are always hard.
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • The only terrain that is truly controlled is the terrain upon which you’re standing.
  • The law of the bayonet says the man with the bullet wins.
  • The easy way gets you killed.
  • If you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat.
  • When you have secured an area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  • Never draw fire; it irritates everyone around you.
  • Incoming fire has the right of way.
  • Friendly fire isn’t.
  • Recoilless rifles – aren’t.
  • Suppressive fire – won’t.
  • If the enemy is in range – SO ARE YOU.
  • No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection.
  • No unit that ever passed inspection has passed combat.
  • Things which must be shipped together as a set, aren’t.
  • Things that must work together, can’t be carried to the field that way.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately.
  • Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both.
  • Anything you do can get you killed – including doing nothing.
  • Tracers work both ways.
  • The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  • Make it tough for the enemy to get in and you can’t get out.
  • When both sides are convinced that they are about to lose, they are both right.
  • Professional soldiers are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs.
  • If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will get more than your fair share of objectives to take.
  • Whenever you lose contact with the enemy, look behind you.
  • Military Intelligence is a contradiction.
  • Fortify your front; you’ll get your rear shot up.
  • Weather ain’t neutral.
  • The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map.
  • The quartermaster has only two sizes, too large and too small.
  • If you really need an officer in a hurry, take a nap.
  • There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you, and miss.
  • If your sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
  • If you can’t see the enemy, he still may be able to see you.
  • Ammo is cheap, your life isn’t.
  • The only time you can have too much ammo is when you are drowning or you are on fire.
  • You’ll only remember your hand grenades when the sound is too close to use them.
  • Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
  • The spare batteries for the PRC-whatever your troops have been carrying are either nearly dead or for the wrong radio.
  • The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions: 1.When you’re ready for them. 2.When you’re not ready for them.
  • Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at.
  • If you can’t remember, the claymore is pointed at you.
  • When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.
  • Air defense motto: shoot ’em down; sort ’em out on the ground.
  • ‘Flies high, it dies; low and slow, it’ll go.
  • The Cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue.
  • Napalm is an area support weapon.
  • B-52s are the ultimate close support weapon.
  • Sniper’s motto: reach out and touch someone.
  • Killing for peace is like screwing for virginity.
  • The one item you need is always in short supply.
  • Interchangeable parts aren’t.
  • It’s not the one with your name on it; it’s the one addressed “to whom it may concern” you’ve got to think about.
  • Mines are equal opportunity weapons.
  • A Purple Heart just proves that were you smart enough to think of a plan, stupid enough to try it, and lucky enough to survive.
  • Don’t ever be the first, don’t ever be the last and don’t ever volunteer to do anything.
  • It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.
  • The side with the simplest uniforms wins.
  • Combat will occur on the ground between two adjoining maps.
  • If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs, you may have misjudged the situation.
  • If two things are required to make something work, they will never be shipped together.
  • Why does your 500-watt VRC-26 (real old) not make it across 200 miles while a ham with 50 watts on the same MARS frequency can be heard from Stateside?
  • Murphy was a grunt

===============================

Lt. James “EMO” Tichacek, USN (Ret)

Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & IRS VITA Baguio City RP

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

Tel: (951) 238-1246 in U.S. or Cell: 0915-361-3503 in the Philippines.

Email: raoemo@sbcglobal.net Web: http://post_119_gulfport_ms.tripod.com/rao1.html

AL/AMVETS/DAV/FRA/NAUS/NCOA/MOAA/USDR/VFW/VVA/CG33/DD890/AD37 member

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AMC Passenger Terminal Contact Information

(Rev 7/09)

Andersen AFB, Guam

Web page: http://www.andersen.af.mil/units/734ams/index.asp

E-mail: spacea.signup@andersen.af.mil

Flight Information: 671-366-2095

DSN: 366-2095

Fax: 671-366-3984

Andrews AFB, Maryland

Web page: http://www.andrews.af.mil/units/89aw/spacea

E-mail: passenger@andrews.af.mil

Same Day Flight Information: 301-981-3527

Next Day Flight Information: 301-981-5851

DSN: 312-858-3527/5851

Fax: 301-981-4241

Aviano AB, Italy

Web page: None

E-mail: spacea@aviano.af.mil

Flight Information: 39-0434-30-7680

DSN: 314-632-7680

Fax: 39-0434-30-7782

Baltimore IAP, Det 1

Web page: None

E-mail: bwipax@mcguire.af.mil

Flight Information: 410-918-6900

DSN: 312-243-6900

Fax: 410-918-6932

Cairo IAP, Egypt

Web Page: None

Email: amcegypt@omceg.centcom.mil

Flight Information: 202-2-797-3212

DSN: 725-1440 ext. 3212

Charleston AFB, S.C.

Web page: http://www.charleston.af.mil/library/spacea.asp

E-mail: spacea@charleston.af.mil

Flight Information: (843) 963-3082

DSN: 312-673-3082

Fax: 843-963-2396

Christchurch, New Zealand

Web page: None

E-mail: ken.graf@iac.org.nz

Flight Information: 011-643-358-1455

Diego Garcia

Web page: None

E-mail: lopezd@dg.navy.mil

Flight Information: 246-370-2745

DSN: 315-370-2745

Dover AFB, Delaware

Web page: http://www.dover.af.mil/

E-mail: 436APS.spacea@dover.af.mil

Flight Information: (302) 677-2854

DSN: 312-445-2854

Fax: 302-677-2953

Eielson AFB, Alaska

Web page:

http://www.eielson.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=5342

E-mail: cato.eielson@eielson.af.mil

Flight Information: 317-377-1623

DSN: (317) 377-1854 or 1250

Elmendorf AFB, Alaska

Web page:

http://www.elmendorf.af.mil/units/732ndairmobilitysquadron/index.asp

E-mail: spacea@elmendorf.af.mil

Flight Information: 907-552-4616/8588

DSN: 317-552-4616/8588

Fax: 907-552-3996

Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

Web page: None

E-mail: GF319SPACEA@grandforks.af.mil

Flight Information: 701-747-7105

DSN: 312-362-7105

Fax: 701-747-7200

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Web page: None

E-mail: n30atoc@usnbgtmo.navy.mil

Flight Information: 011-63-99-6408/6204/6325/6364

DSN: 660-3960 ext. 6408/6204/6325/6364

Hickam AFB, Hawaii

Web page:

http://www2.hickam.af.mil/units/735thams

E-mail: spacea@hickam.af.mil

Flight Information: 808-449-6833

DSN: 315-449-6833

Fax: 808-448-1503

Incirlik AB, Turkey

Web page: None

E-mail: spacea@incirlik.af.mil

Flight Information: 90-322-316-6424 or 6425

DSN: 314-676-6424 or 6425

Fax: 90-322-316-3420

Jacksonville NAS, Fla.

Web page:

http://www.nasjax.navy.mil/Command_Information/Space_A/space_a_flights.htm

E-mail: None

Flight Information: 904-542-3956/3825

Fax: 904-542-3257

Kadena AB, Japan

Web page: None

E-mail: space-available@kadena.af.mil

Flight Information: 81-611-734-2159

DSN: 315-634-2159

Fax: 81-611-734-4221

Kunsan AB, Korea

Web page: None

E-mail: spacea@kunsan.af.mil

Flight Information: 82-654-470-4666 or 5403

DSN: 315-782-4666 or 5403

Fax: 82-654-470-7550

Lajes AB, Azores

Web page: None

E-mail: spacea@ams729.lajes.af.mil

Flight Information: 351-295-57-3277

DSN: 314-535-3277

Fax: 351-295-57-5110 MacDill AFB, Fla.

Web page: None

E-mail: spacea@macdill.af.mil

Flight Information: 813-828-2310

DSN: 312-968-2310

McChord AFB, Wash.

Web page: http://public.mcchord.amc.af.mil/library/space-a/index.asp

E-mail: eagle@mcchord.af.mil

Flight Information: 253-982-7268

DSN: 312-382-7268

McGuire AFB, N.J.

Web page: http://www.mcguire.af.mil/

E-mail: wripax@mcguire.af.mil

Flight Information: 800-569-8284 ext 7549950

609-754-9950

DSN: 312-650-5023 or 2864

Fax: 609-754-4621

Misawa AB, Japan

Web page: None

E-mail: None

Flight Information: 011-81-3117-66-2852

DSN: 315-226-2852

Norfolk NAS, Va.

Web page: https://www.airtermnorva.navy.mil/spaceaform.htm

E-mail: spacea@airtermnorva.navy.mil

Flight Information: 757-444-4118 or 4148

DSN: 312-564-4118 or 4148 Fax: 757-445-7501

Osan AB, Korea

Web page: None

E-mail: OsanSpaceA@Osan.af.mil

Flight Information: 011-82-31-661-1854

DSN: 315-784-1854

Fax:82-31-661-4897

Paya Lebar, Singapore

Web page: None

E-mail: amcsingapore.pax@andersen.af.mil

Flight Recording: 011-65-6280-0624

Pope AFB, N.C.

Web page:

http://www.pope.af.mil/library/spaceaflightinformation.asp

E-mail: popespacea@pope.af.mil

Flight Information: 910-394-6527

DSN: 312-424-6527

RAF Mildenhall, England

Web page: None

Email: spacea@mildenhall.af.mil

Flight Information: 44-1638-54-2248 or 2526

DSN: 314-238-2248 or 2526

Fax: 44-1638-54-7426

Ramstein AB, Germany

Web page:

http://www.ramstein.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4997

E-mail: spacea@ramstein.af.mil

Flight Information: 011-49-6371-46-4440

DSN: 314-479-4440

Fax: 49-6371-46-2364

DSN Fax: 314-480-2364

Richmond AB, Australia

Web page: None

E-mail: richmond.spacea@amc.af.mil

Flight Recording: 011-61-2-4587-1661/1662

Fax: 011-61-2-4587-1663

Rota NAS, Spain

Web page:

http://www.spacea.net/amcgrams/amcgramrota.pdf

E-mail: spacearota@eu.navy.mil

Flight Information: 34-956-82-2411 or 2171

DSN: 314-727-2411/2171

Fax: 34-955-84-8008

Scott AFB, Ill.

Web page:

http://www.scott.af.mil/units/spaceavailabletravel/index.asp

E-mail: spacea@scott.af.mil

Flight Information: 618-256-1854

DSN: 312-576-1854

Fax: 618-256-1946

Sigonella NAS, Italy

Web page:

http://www.sicily.navy.mil/cgi-bin/spacea/signup.cgi

E-mail: spacea@nassig.sicily.navy.mil

Flight Information DSN: 624-5576

Fax: 39-095-86-6726

Souda Bay, Crete

Web page: None

E-mail: pax@souda.navy.mil

Phone: 30-2821-02-1387

DSN: 266-1387 Fax:30-2821-02-1525

Spangdahlem AB, Germany

Web page:

http://www.spangdahlem.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=13148

E-mail: Spacea@spangdahlem.af.mil

Flight Information 49-6565-618866/8867

DSN: 314-452-8866/8867

Fax:49-6565-618865

Travis AFB, Calif.

Web page:

http://www.travis.af.mil/library/spaceavailabletravel/index.asp

E-mail: 60aps.websa@travis.af.mil

Flight Information: 707-424-1854

DSN: 312-837-1854

Fax: 707-424-2048

Yokota AB, Japan

Web page:

http://www.yokota.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=9136

E-mail: 730ams.space.available@yokota.af.mil

Flight Information: 011-81-311-755-7111

DSN: 315-225-7111

Fax: 81-311-755-976

Share

RAO BULLETIN – 08/01/09

THIS BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES

== NDAA 2010 —————————– (S.1390 & H.R.2647)

== VA Medicare Subvention [02] ——————– (H.R.3365)

== SSA Compassionate Allowances Prog [02] —— (Hearings)

== Mobilized Reserve 28 JUL 09 ———— (Decrease of 851)

== Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposure [07] —————– (S.1518)

== Space “A” Info [02] ——————— (New AMC Website)

== Credit Card Charges [03] ——————— (Unauthorized)

== Grandparent Scam] ———— (Military Families Targeted)

== Traumatic Brain Injury [09] ———- (Purple Heart Policy)

== VA Third Party Insurers [04] ———— (SSN Requirement)

== Medicare Rates 2010 —————————– (Projections)

== DoD Retiree Employment [01] —- (NDAA 09 Amendment)

== Feres Doctrine [02] —————- (Carmelo Rodriguez Bill)

== ECS 2009 [13] ————————- (Deadline 15 OCT 09)

== Minimum Wage —————————- (JUL 09 Increase)

== Health Care Reform [02] ————— (Absence of Details)

== Health Care Reform [03] ————— (Funding Proposals)

== Health Care Reform [04] ———————- (Scare Tactics)

== VA SAH [05] —————————– (Proposed Increase)

== SBP DIC Offset [19] ————- (Senate Includes in NDAA)

== Saluting the Flag [04] ——————————- (Veterans)

== Prostate Cancer [11] —————– (Ultrasound Treatment)

== Reserve Personnel Cuts [01] —– (Enlistment Age Lowered)

== Medicare Fraud [17] —————– (Los Angeles $597,750)

== VA Women Vet Programs [06] — (HAVC/SVAC Hearings)

== DD-214 Security [01] ——————– (Could be digitized)

== Car Allowance Rebate System ————— (How it Works)

== VA Foreclosed Homes ————- (Available for Purchase)

== FTC Rite Aid Ruling ——————– (Misleading Claims)

== VFW Claim Assistance ——————— (Service Officers)

== VA Hospitals [04] ————— (Female Vets lack Privacy)

== Tricare Regional Contracts ———– (T3 Benefits Initiated)

== Tricare Regional Contracts [01] ———————— (Q&A)

== HVAC [09] ———————————— (Recent Activity)

== Arlington National Cemetery [05] — (Aesthetics Deceptive)

== Tricare Management Activity ————- (New Leadership)

== VA Claims Processing [01] —– (PA Legislator’s Concerns)

== GI Bill [53] —————————————- (Key Details)

== Chapter 61 Disability Pay [05] — (Proposed CRDP Impact)

== Cancer Statistics [01] ——- (Military/Civilian Differences)

== Medicare Fraud [17] —————————– (Linwood NJ)

== Unclaimed Funds [01] ———— (Investor’s Claims Funds)

== Burn Pit Toxic Emissions [10] — (Epidemiologist Appalled)

== Dementia [01] ——————————— (Research News)

== Capitol Flags —————————————– (Overview)

== Tax Burden for DC Retirees ———————– (Overview)

== Military History Anniversaries ——– (Jul 16-31 Summary)

== Veteran Legislation Status 29 Jul 09 —– (Where we Stand)

== Have You Heard? ——————— (Puns for the educated)

==============================

NDAA 2010 Update 01: On 23 JUL the Senate passed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) S.1390 by a vote of 87-7. The House passed their version (H.R.2647) last month. The House and Senate bills include a number of other bills submitted as amendments that will impact favorably on the veteran community if they are not struck down in the compromise committee. Some of these are:

* End the deduction of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities. (Senate only).

* Find other ways of cutting DoD health costs besides shifting costs to retirees.

* Extend eligibility for TRICARE Standard to gray area retirees.

* Enhance transitional dental care for members of the reserve components on active duty for more than 30 days in support of a contingency operation.

* Include service after 11 SEP 01 in determination of reduced eligibility age for receipt of non-regular service retired pay. (S.Amdt: 1661)

* Require DoD to improve access to mental health care for family members of members of the National Guard and Reserve who are deployed overseas. (S.Amdt: 1799)

* Phase out the disability offset for medically retired members regardless of length of service.

* Conduct a study on adding the National D-Day Monument in Bedford Virginia to the National Park System.

* Put service-disabled veteran-run businesses on equal footing in the competition for small business government contracting programs.

* Phase-in the extension of concurrent receipt to all medically retired service members regardless of years of service.

* Eliminate the 2013 COLA delay that Congress passed last year. (House only)

* Allow agency heads to waive the requirement for retirees who are rehired part time to take a cut in their annuity checks. (S.Amdt: 1390)

House and Senate leaders will be appointed to a conference committee to resolve more than a thousand differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the defense bill including difficult issues on procurement, detainees and more. In the past these difficult negotiations have usually dragged on into October or November or beyond. It’s possible that Congress will have an incentive to expedite defense bill negotiations this year in order to clear the legislative decks for action on national health reform. But that remains to be seen. [Source: Various 30 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

VA MEDICARE SUBVENTION Update 02: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee introduced legislation 28 JUL that would allow VA to bill Medicare for third-party reimbursements of eligible veterans for nonservice-connected medical conditions. Currently, VA is prohibited from billing Medicare for third-party reimbursements for the treatment of enrolled, Medicare-eligible veterans for medical conditions that are unrelated to their military service. Since the 1990s, The American Legion has strongly recommended Medicare reimbursements to supplement VA’s health-care annual budget. Through congressional testimony and numerous interviews with the media, the Legion has promoted Medicare reimbursement as a new revenue stream for VA. James Koutz, chairman of the Legion’s National Legislative Commission says, “The only criterion for access to VA health care should be honorable military service. Medicare is just an insurance payer, not a health-care provider.” The measure, “Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2009” (H.R.3365), has been referred to three House committees for consideration.

The day before Filner introduced his Medicare reimbursement bill, the House passed three bills that, if approved by the Senate, would improve benefits and services to veterans provided by VA. The legislation seeks to expand necessary life insurance options for veterans and their families, improve medical services at VA hospitals and clinics around the country, streamline the process for nonprofit research and education corporations to participate in VA endeavors, and provide essential support and training to those caring for wounded veterans. The legislation passed was:

* H.R. 2770, as amended – Veterans Nonprofit Research and Education Corporations Enhancement Act of 2009. This bill would modify and update provisions of law relating to nonprofit research and education corporations, so they can better support VA research.

* H.R. 3155, as amended – Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act. This bill would provide support services to family and non-family caregivers of veterans, including educational sessions and one-stop access to support services at a caregiver support Web site. It would also make counseling and mental health services available to family and non-family caregivers of veterans.

* H.R. 3219 – To make certain improvements in the laws administered by the VA secretary relating to insurance and health care. This comprehensive bill would expand options for veterans and servicemembers to obtain life insurance policies that better fit their needs and the needs of their families. The bill also improves health services for veterans by increasing the participation of physician assistants at the Veterans Health Administration, prohibiting the collection of co-payments for certain veterans who are catastrophically disabled, establishing a Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury, waiving housing-loan fees for some disabled veterans, expanding nursing-home care for certain veterans, and allowing Medal of Honor recipients to receive a priority status for medical services.

[Source: American Legion Online 30 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

SSA COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCES PROGRAM Update 02: In OCT 08, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security’s standards. The program allows SSA to quickly target the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that they can obtain quickly. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security has held four Compassionate Allowance public outreach hearings this year to evaluate additional conditions to add to the list. The first three hearings were on rare diseases, cancers, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. The fourth public outreach hearing took place in Chicago on 29 JUL. Commissioner Astrue was joined by Marie A. Bernard, M.D., Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and other Social Security officials. They heard testimony from some of the nation’s leading experts on early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias about possible methods for identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“This year, through Compassionate Allowances and our Quick Disability Determination process, over 100,000 Americans with severe disabilities will be approved for Social Security disability benefits in a matter of days rather than the months and years it can sometimes take,” said Commissioner Astrue. “We are now looking to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes. With today’s hearing, we are expanding our focus from specific rare diseases and cancers to look at subgroups of much broader conditions. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a rapidly progressive and debilitating disease of the brain that affects individuals between the ages of 50 and 65 and clearly deserves consideration. “With the aging of the baby-boomers, we are beginning to see more, younger working Americans diagnosed with this devastating disease,” Commissioner Astrue said.

The initial list of Compassionate Allowance conditions was developed as a result of information received at previous public outreach hearings, public comment on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, comments received from the Social Security and Disability Determination Service communities, and the counsel of medical and scientific experts. Consideration was given to which conditions most likely met SSA’s current definition of disability. A modest 50 conditions were selected for the initiative’s rollout. The list can be seen at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm and will expand over time. To learn more and to view a web cast of the 29 JUL hearing, refer to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances. [Source: Disability.gov Benefits News & Events Update 29 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

MOBILIZED RESERVE 28 JUL 09: The Department of Defense announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 28 JUL 09. The net collective result is 851 fewer reservists mobilized than last reported in the Bulletin for 15 JUL 09. At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 111,879; Navy Reserve, 6,685; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 13,925; Marine Corps Reserve, 8,341; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 698. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 141,528, including both units and individual augmentees. A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2009/d20090728ngr.pdf. [Source: DoD News Release No. 561-09 29 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

CAMP LEJEUNE TOXIC EXPOSURE Update 07: North Carolina’s senior U.S. senator introduced a bill 28 JUL calling for the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care to veterans and their relatives who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Sen. Richard Burr’s bill, “Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2009 (S.1518),” would grant care at a VA facility to any veteran or family member who was based at Camp Lejeune and suffers from adverse health effects. Burr’s office did not specify what kind of health problems, only that they are connected to exposure to contaminated water. A Marine Corps spokesman, 1st Lt. Brian Block, said the service would study the bill before making a statement. “As far as pending legislation, it is something we’d be very interested in seeing because anything that impacts our former residents and Marines is very important to us,” he said. “Our first concern is taking care of our Marines and their family members.” Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the VA can’t comment on pending legislation. Water was contaminated by dry cleaning solvents and other sources at the base’s major family housing areas: Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. It is impossible to know how many people would qualify, Burr’s office said. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins trichloroethylene (TCE) or perchloroethylene (PCE) before the wells were closed 22 years ago.

“Camp Lejeune veterans and their families deserve closure on this tragic situation,” Burr said in a statement. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine master sergeant who lived at the base, applauded the bill. He said veterans from the base are being diagnosed with cancer and the VA is turning down their claim because it is not service connected. “At least this is a start. We haven’t had that up to this point,” said Ensminger, whose daughter was conceived at Camp Lejeune and died of childhood leukemia in 1985 at age 9. “This legislation is great for providing help to those who need it but it does not by any means exonerate the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps of their culpability on this issue.” He would still like to see a hearing on the issue in front of the full Senate Armed Services Committee. It was not immediately clear how the care offered in Burr’s bill would be funded. Burr’s office said the bill will offer veterans and their families some relief while the problem is studied. “This is kind of a first step in providing the care these folks need,” said David Ward, a Burr spokesman.

People who lived at the base have claimed everything from child leukemia to skin lesions and rashes. A report released earlier this month by the National Academy of Sciences said there are severe challenges in trying to connect the contaminants to any birth defects, cancer and many other ailments suffered by people who lived and worked on base. The 341-page report reviewed past studies of the base’s water and called into question the value of further studies. Burr’s office stressed that the National Research Council report is not the final word on theissue, and he looks forward to seeing the results of the ongoing study of water by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) have also asked the Navy for details about gaps in information. Hagan plans to meet with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in September, according to her office. Veterans who have not already done so should register on the official Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water Registry at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater if they believe there is a possibility they or their family were exposed to the toxins. [Source: AP article 28 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

SPACE “A” INFO Update 02: Air Mobility Command (AMC) recently unveiled its first official, command-level AMC Travel Web site. Members of the military community planning to travel the AMC military travel system can now go to www.amc.af.mil/amctravel/index.asp for the latest in AMC travel information. The site, which officially went live 24 JUL, offers prospective space-available travelers a wealth of information, including an updated AMC passenger terminal contact list (complete with phone, e-mail and Web links). The site also includes more than a dozen travel documents, example letters and brochures. Every day around the world, hundreds of military and military-contracted commercial aircraft travel the world delivering troops and cargo. And each year, hundreds of thousands of military personnel, retirees, and their family members go along for the ride, courtesy of the AMC space-available travel program. Space-available flights, also known as “military hops,” are a unique benefit to U.S. servicemembers, retirees and their families. Under the AMC travel program, unused seats on U.S. military and military-contracted aircraft are made available to non-duty passengers on a space-available basis (once space-required or official-duty passengers and cargo have been accommodated).

Tech. Sgt. Steve Katsonis of the AMC passenger policy branch said, “The site was created to provide our customers a wealth of AMC travel information, which can be counted on to contain the most accurate and up-to-date travel information available. Our customers deserved a Web site where they can obtain travel information that is correct, up to date and validated by AMC. This Web site will give them that … officials understand the massive amount of anxiety and stress felt by space-required and space-available travelers … Our goal is that this site will answer any questions the passengers will have, therefore minimizing their stress before they leave their homes.” In the past, prospective space-available passengers frequently turned to one of several AMC headquarters offices in search of travel information. Although headquarters personnel are trained to respond to these public queries, Katsonis anticipates the new Web site will provide all their information and more. Additionally, he said trained passenger service agents at AMC terminals worldwide are standing by to assist. People searching for up-to-the-minute AMC travel information are encouraged to contact their nearest AMC passenger terminal. A current listing is available on the new AMC Travel site. For a copy of this list refer to the Word attachment to this Bulletin.

Active-duty dependent travel policies have gone through a few significant changes during the past few years. Department of Defense officials now allow unaccompanied travel by dependents when the military spouse is deployed on contingency/exercise/deployment orders, also known as CED orders. When the deployment is for 120 days or more, unaccompanied travel is authorized in category IV; and for deployments of 366 days or more, unaccompanied travel is authorized in the bottom of category III. A list of categories is included in the web site. Space-available travel is a great benefit, but it can be a stressful experience without the proper planning. “AMC never guarantees travel, and passengers need to be prepared for their (space-available) trip to take more time than it would were they traveling commercial,” the sergeant said. He added that not every base is equipped with facilities or lodging capable of handling passengers stranded by a broken or rerouted aircraft. “The most important thing to remember when traveling Space-A is be prepared to fly commercial if problems are encountered. The key to a stress-free trip is to have a plan. Have enough money for all contingencies, and be mentally prepared for disappointment when plans don’t come together.” Note: Another useful source on Space A travel is George Peppard’s Space A message board at http://www.pepperd.com. [Source: AMC News Service Mark Diamond article 29 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

CREDIT CARD CHARGES Update 03: The Senate Commerce Committee chairman issued a subpoena 29 JUL to compel the release of documents in an ongoing investigation into unauthorized credit card charges. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) has asked three companies for documents related to online “discount clubs.” But he only subpoenaed one of them — Vertrue, Inc. The companies offer cash back or coupon rewards to consumers who enroll in their rewards programs. The offers typically occur as pop-ups after the consumer has purchased something from another Web site, including from some large retailers such as Priceline.com, Fandango.com and Staples.com. These retailers receive a payment from the discount club each time a customer enrolls. The pop-up will ask for an e-mail address in order to opt into a rewards program, often in exchange for a fee outlined in fine print. Enrolling in the program then triggers an exchange of credit card information between the two businesses, without any action on the consumer’s part.

Consumer advocates say those who enroll in these programs may not be aware that their credit card will in fact be charged to enroll, since they aren’t asked to cough up a credit card number. Rockefeller has asked for documents related to this practice from “post transaction marketers” Vertrue, WebLoyalty and Affinon, but so far has only subpoenaed Vertrue. In a letter to Vertrue President Gary Johnson, Rockefeller said Vertrue has resisted providing information, including internal discussions about the volume of consumer complaints, discussions with their business partners about unauthorized credit card charges, and the names and contact information of complainants. “You have withheld this information over committee staff’s repeated objections, in an apparent attempt to prevent committee staff from verifying and learning more about dissatisfied customers’ experiences with your company,” the letter read. Johnson must produce the documents by 18 AUG or he will be compelled to appear before the committee on that date for questioning. [Source: CQ Today Midday Update 28 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

GRANDPARENT SCAM: A new scam targeting military families is a good reminder to us all to review the personal infor­mation we put on social network­ing sites. It’s a sordid twist on a longtime scam that targets grandparents. This one specifically targets grandparents of troops deployed to Iraq, most often those who have posted online that their grandson or granddaughter is deployed in the war zone. Here’s how it works: Scam artists gather enough information from social networking sites to contact these grandparents and pose as their grandchildren. They say they’re coming home on leave from Iraq, hoping to surprise their parents, and they ask the grandparents to keep the impend­ing visit a secret. A short time later, the im­poster again contacts the grand­parents to say the visit’s been sidetracked by a broken-down car. The imposter asks the grandparents to wire a large sum of money for car repairs.

Bridget Patton, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Kansas City, Mo., field office, said the office has not had a huge number of reports of this scam but considers even one or two reports to be significant. “Losing $3,000 or $4,000 can devastate someone financially,” she said. Her office issued an alert, which also went out through FBI headquarters, “be­cause we’re trying to be proactive in get­ting the word out,” she said. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, has received about a dozen reports of this military-related grandpar­ent scam, said Brian Hale, a spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. It’s against FBI policy to con­firm or deny ongoing investiga­tive activity. “But in the past, we have launched cyber investiga­tions as a result of reports coming in to IC3,” Hale said. IC3 is a partnership among the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bu­reau of Justice Assistance. Hale said people who believe they may be vic­tims of a scam, or are being lured into a scam, should report it to www.ic3.gov. Depending on the nature of the scam, and how widespread it is, FBI officials might refer it to state law enforcement officials or launch their own investigation. Officials also work with other federal law enforcement authori­ties, such as the military services’ criminal investigative agencies. “A lot of people don’t realize that they’ve put personal infor­mation on the Internet that could lead to identity theft or a scam,” Patton said. “Even in screen names, they use the year they graduated, their school name or other information. “Be very, very careful of what information you put on those sites,” she said. The FBI and the Better Busi­ness Bureau advise military fam­ily members to visit social net­working sites where they have accounts to make sure that no exploitable information is available.“Even though their name is used, many people feel free to post large amounts of information about themselves, including pic­tures of their family, friends and pets, as well as their likes and dis­likes,” said Doug Broten, president of the Better Business Bureau in central California, in an alert to businesses in that area following the FBI alert. “They willingly share very personal data in the in­terests of Internet friendships.”

The FBI also advises verifying the identity of anyone who contacts you by asking specific questions that only that person could answer — especially if the person contact ing you floats the idea of sending him money for any reason. Another option is to develop a specific code word or phrase to make sure the person contacting you is not an imposter. “People are conditioned to pro­tecting themselves in their physi­cal spaces, clutching their purses and their children when ap­proached by a stranger,” the FBI’s Hale said. “Take the same precau­tions in cyberspace as you do in physical space.” [Source: NavyTimes Karen Jowers article 27 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY Update 09: The House version of the 2010 defense authorization bill includes a provision ordering a review of military policies regarding the awarding of Pur­ple Hearts to service members who suffer traumatic brain injuries. The provision, added to the bill at the urging of Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.(D-NJ) is aimed at coming up with a con­sistent policy across the services about whether con­cussions or brain injuries that do not require immediate medical attention rate a medal for combat injury. The review requested by Pascrell would try to determine what level of injury would qualify for an award, a difficult issue because an injury that may seem minor when it occurs could have long-term consequences. Pascrell says he hopes the final policy doesn’t have absolute require­ments — such as seeking medical attention right away — because that would exclude people who do not immediately recognize the harm caused from the blast they just survived in combat. [Source: NavyTimes Fast Track Pay & Benefits 27 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

VA THIRD PARTY INSURERS Update 04: Requiring veterans receiv­ing medical treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department to pro­vide their Social Security number and pertinent information about other health coverage could shave $109 million a year from the VA budget, according to the nonpartisan Congres­sional Budget Office. The Social Secu­rity number could help match the patient with Social Security and feder­al tax records to show whether a vet­eran meets or exceeds income thresh­olds for non-chargeable treatment if he does not have a service-connected medical issue, while insurance information would help bill a third party for care. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has included the pro­posal in an omnibus veteran’s health care bill that is expected to become law later this year. While some veterans may find the questions intrusive, lawmakers believe that ensuring VA is paying only for care it must provide will make cer­tain that veterans who are entitled to non-chargeable treatment are able to receive it. [Source: NavyTimes Fast Track Pay & Benefits 27 Jul 09 ++]

==============================

MEDICARE RATES 2010: Medicare costs are expected to continue to escalate in 2010, but seniors won’t be getting any comparable increase in their annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), government economists say. The Social Security Trustees recently forecast that there would be no COLA in 2010 and 2011 because of extremely low inflation. Due to a special “hold harmless” provision of law, the government estimates that about 30 million Medicare beneficiaries will have no change in their Medicare Part B premium, which is automatically deducted from most people’s Social Security benefits. The little-known provision protects the Social Security benefits of most seniors when the Part B premium increases more than a person’s COLA. If there is no COLA increase in 2010, then there is no Part B premium increase for beneficiaries protected by the hold harmless provision.

The hold harmless protection, however, does not cover about one-quarter of Part B enrollees, and does not apply at all to Part C Medicare Advantage or Part D plan premiums. The senior citizens League (TSCL) estimates that more than 6.8 million Social Security beneficiaries, about one in every seven, could see their Social Security checks (or direct deposits) reduced next year. If individuals have Medicare Advantage or drug plan premiums automatically deducted from their Social Security and the premium increases, then their benefits will be reduced to cover those rising costs. In addition millions of other seniors pay their plans directly. They would also have to pay a bigger portion of their Social Security to cover rising costs and would have less to live on. Medicare Trustees estimate that basic Part B premiums will rise by about $7.80 per month in 2010 (from $96.40 to $104.20), and would jump to $120.20 by 2011 for seniors subject to the increase. Nationwide Part D premiums climbed about 24% on average in 2009 for most beneficiaries, and have increased about 10% per year, on average, since 2006. [Source: TSCL Social Security and Medicare Advisor, Vol. 14, No. 6 dtd 27 Jul 09 ++]

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DOD RETIREE EMPLOYMENT Update 01: Lawmakers withdrew several federal workforce reforms from the Senate’s 2010 Defense Authorization bill in the face of an angry filibuster from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) but a provision to make it easier to rehire annuitants survived in the budget legislation. The Senate approved an amendment from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to S. 1390, which would allow agency heads to waive the requirement for retirees who are rehired part time to take a cut in their annuity checks. The authorization bill passed 87-7. Under current Office of Personnel Management regulations, federal retirees can return to work for government part time, but in most cases their annuities are reduced by the amount they earn on the job, unless they receive a waiver from OPM. Agencies say this makes it harder to bring back experienced staff, especially if they’re needed on short notice. The retiree language originally was part of a larger amendment from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) which included other federal personnel reforms, which management and labor groups supported. But in an unusual move, Coburn filibustered the amendment for an hour and a half, saying its price tag was too steep in a time of recession and high unemployment. After Akaka withdrew his amendment, Collins offered the chapter dealing with rehiring federal retirees as a separate amendment, which was approved by voice vote.

The bill now will go to a conference committee, where its fate is uncertain. The House version of the Defense authorization, which was passed in late June, does not include the language in Collins’ amendment. Despite broad bipartisan support in the Senate, the American Federation of Government Employees and other federal labor unions have spoken out against changing the policy on rehiring annuitants, saying it would put current employees at a disadvantage and circumvent fair hiring practices. By contrast, advocates say the legislation would make it easier to hire talented workers quickly to deal with immediate challenges, such as administering billions of dollars in stimulus funding. In response to union concerns, the legislation includes several limitations on how long rehired annuitants could work for the government, such as a cap of 1,040 hours in a 12-month period. Also, the number of rehired retirees could not exceed 2.5% of an agency’s workforce. The good news for budget hawks is the retiree legislation would not generate substantial personnel costs, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. CBO said the bill primarily would ease the “administrative burden” of obtaining waivers from OPM, but it probably wouldn’t increase the number of retirees in the federal workforce. [Source: GOV.Exec.com Alex M. Parker article 24 Jul 09 ++]

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FERES DOCTRINE Update 02: The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act (S.1347), introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (NY), would restore the protections of the civil justice system to the men and women of our armed forces. The motivation for the bill was the death of Marine Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez. He served his country with honor for nearly a decade, including a tour of duty in Iraq, he lost his life not on the battlefield, but as a result of preventable medical negligence. Upon enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, Rodriguez received a routine medical exam. His doctors diagnosed a blotch on his buttock as melanoma but never told him, and the military never followed up. Over the next eight years, the melanoma continued to grow until, while serving in Iraq, Rodriguez had it examined again. This time, he was told that it was just a wart and that he should have it examined upon returning to the U.S. Tragically, by then, it was too late, and Rodriguez died 18 months later from skin cancer, holding the hand of his seven-year-old son. Despite this medical negligence no action can be taken by the survivors Rodriguez.

While most Americans could pursue justice through our courts, service members like Rodriguez and his family do not have this same right. A 1950 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Feres v. United States prevents service members on active duty from holding the government accountable for non-combat related injuries. This decision strips countless military families of their right to seek redress through our civil justice system. “It is inexcusable that our service men and women, if injured by medical negligence, are denied the same protections that all other citizens enjoy,” said Linda Lipsen, Senior VP of Public Affairs at the American Association for Justice. “This important legislation would restore these rights to these brave heroes, who risk their lives every day in service of our country.”

Those who would like to see this injustice eliminated are urged to support legislation to rectify this situation. To do so you can go to http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13791596&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id], enter your zip code and contact data, and send a preformatted message to your Senators urging they co-sponsor S. 1347 to restore the right of active duty service members to bring suit against the United States for improper medical care from the Department of Defense. For obvious reasons this legislation would not apply to any claim arising out of the combatant activities of the Armed Forces during the time of armed conflict. [Source: USDR Action alert 25 Jul 09 ++]

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ECS 2009 Update 13: The Internal Revenue Service is reminding qualifying retirees and veterans that it is not too late to file for an economic stimulus (ECS) payment and announced it will send a second set of information packets to 5.2 million people who may be eligible but who have not yet filed for their stimulus payment. The packages will contain everything needed by a person who normally does not have a filing requirement but who must file this year in order to receive an economic stimulus payment. There will be instructions, an example Form 1040A return showing the few lines that need to be completed, and a blank Form 1040A. The packages will be mailed over a three-week period starting 21 JUL. “All it takes is a few simple steps, and the payment can be on its way. It’s not too late to file, but the sooner people file, the faster they’ll receive their money,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. The mailing is part of an IRS summer campaign to reach out to those people who have no requirement to file a tax return but who may be eligible for a stimulus payment of up to $300 ($600 for married filing jointly). For those eligible for a payment for themselves, there also is a $300 per child payment for eligible children younger than 17.

The IRS has accounted for about 75% of the approximately 20 million Social Security and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries identified as being potential stimulus recipients. All but 5.2 million of those have either filed a return, filed a joint return or were not eligible for a stimulus payment (for example, they were claimed as a dependent on another’s return). To reach the remaining recipients, the IRS is working with national partners, members of Congress and state and local officials to ensure that assistance to eligible people is available. The agency also reminded people that it has more than 400 local Taxpayer Assistance Centers operating normal business hours Monday through Friday. These centers can provide assistance to retirees and veterans trying to receive their payments. A list of addresses and office hours can be found at www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html.

Receiving the stimulus payment should have no impact on other federal benefits currently being received. The stimulus payment is not taxable. Absent any other filing requirements, filing a tax return to receive a stimulus payment does not mean that retirees and others will have to start filing tax returns again. As of 11 JUL, the IRS had issued 112.4 million payments totaling $91.8 billion. Payments are based on 2007 tax returns being filed this year. People must file by 15 OCT in order to receive a payment in 2008. Those who do not file a tax return to obtain their stimulus payment this year may still receive their stimulus payments by filing a 2008 tax return next spring, but then their stimulus payment would be based on their 2008 qualifying income. [Source: IR-2008-91 Public Service Announcement 21 Jul 09 ++]

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MINIMUM WAGE: The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour effective 24 Jul 09. The federal minimum wage provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Many states also have minimum wage laws. In cases where an employee is subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages. For instance California was $7.50 as of 1 JAN 07 and increased to $8 per hour on 1 JAN 08. For information on your state refer to www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm . The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an employee’s usual or promised wages or commissions in excess of those required by the FLSA. However, some states do have laws under which such claims (sometimes including fringe benefits) may be filed. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the federal minimum wage law. [Source: USA.gov 25 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 02: The absence of details surrounding healthcare reform legislation being considered by Congress has understandably left many military retirees and veterans concerned. Many of these plans are works in progress, and it is unclear how they will affect military beneficiaries and users of VA’s healthcare system. Several lawmakers are working to ensure Tricare beneficiaries and veterans are not adversely affected by the reform effort. They include Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) who on 21 JUL successfully attached an amendment to the House version of the health reform bill (H.R.3200) which passed out of the Education and Labor Committee. According to Rep. Wilson, “The purpose of this amendment is to shield the men and women of our Armed Forces from onerous mandates and possible coverage deterioration as a result of this bill’s complex new health care governing scheme. Specifically, I believe we must exempt Tricare from the “pay or play” employer mandate and other benefit mandates that would place an additional burden on this program that serves military personnel and their families.”

Another representative maneuvering to protect military and healthcare benefits is Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), author of a letter to congressional leaders insisting that veterans and military healthcare benefits must not be taxed or reduced to help pay for health care reform. “We’re not going to pay for healthcare reform on the backs of our troops and veterans,” said Congressman Nye. Nye’s bipartisan letter was signed by 40 Members of Congress. One danger lurking within each of the proposals is the potential for sharp cuts in Medicare Physician Reimbursements. Deep cuts in the physician reimbursement rates, would likely cause a number of doctors either to reduce the number of Medicare and Tricare patients or to refuse seeing them altogether. Should that happen, military retirees, particularly Tricare for Life beneficiaries could suddenly find access to care sharply curtailed. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 24 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 03: Congress is wrestling with the enormously tricky puzzle of how to cut healthcare costs while extending health insurance coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Two options to finance the legislation could hold significant tax consequences for Medicare beneficiaries if written into law. The key proposal to raise revenues for healthcare reform at this writing appears to center on changing the tax exclusion for employer-provided health coverage. This could have widespread repercussions on older workers and retirees who have Medicare supplement coverage through employers. According to one major study, almost one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries receive supplemental Medicare benefits through employer-sponsored plans. Employer plans generally cover Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs by paying some or all of the deductibles and co-payments, as well as filling in gaps in Medicare’s standard package of benefits.

Congress is considering limiting the value of employer-provided health coverage that can be excluded from gross income on income tax returns. Under current law, employees and retirees are not taxed on the value of employer-provided health care. The amount paid by employers for employer-provided health benefits of employees is deductible. And unlike other forms of compensation, if an employer contributes to a plan providing health coverage for employees and their dependents, the contribution and all benefits for medical care under the plan are excludable from the employee’s income for income tax purposes, and excludable from the employees’ wages for payroll tax purposes. There is no limit on the amount of employer-provide health coverage that’s excludable. The new limits under consideration could be based on the value of the Medicare supplement or the income of the insured, or some combination of the two.

Congress is also considering proposals to raise the 7.5% Adjusted Gross Income threshold for deduction for medical expenses on income tax returns, or eliminate the deduction altogether. This would disproportionately affect seniors who tend to have lower incomes and thus would have greater difficulty qualifying for the deduction if the threshold were raised, and who have more medical expenses than younger taxpayers. Altogether these tax proposals are estimated to be worth $51.3 billion in higher revenues. But the new tax proposal would hit senior taxpayers in yet a third way. The effect of limiting the exclusion for employer-provided insurance coverage would increase the amount of taxable income. For seniors, a higher taxable income would subject a bigger portion of their Social Security benefits to tax as well. The result is a triple-whammy tax on benefits that seniors have spent their careers working and paying for. As of this writing it remains unclear whether this approach to financing health care reform will be taken. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said a preliminary report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that his draft health overhaul bill would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years, cover 95% of Americans by 2015 and be fully offset. He said the CBO report is encouraging though it “does not include resolution of several key issues. [Source: TSCL Social Security and Medicare Advisor, Vol. 14, No. 6 dtd 27 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 04: The opponents of health reform will say anything to stop it, no matter how untrue. The latest falsehood alleges that the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (HR 3200) would require older adults to obtain counseling “that will tell them how to end their life sooner,” in the words of Betsy McCaughey, an employee of the conservative Hudson Institute. Representative Virginia Foxx (R- NC) went a step further, implying that the House Democrats’ health reform bill would “put seniors in the position of being put to death by their government.” These falsehoods are designed to scare older adults and gin up opposition to health reform. In fact, HR 3200 provides Medicare coverage for a consultation with a doctor—not a government official—in which the patient can express her preferences regarding end-of-life care. The patient is not required to have this consultation, and there is no mandate for the patient to complete an advance directive (such as a living will) or forego aggressive treatment of a life-threatening illness.

In fact, HR 3200 makes substantial improvements to Medicare. The bill would phase out the Part D “doughnut hole,” the built-in gap in Medicare drug coverage that requires older adults and people with disabilities to pay the full price for their prescriptions while still paying the premiums for the drug plan. Although it would take until 2023 to fully close the doughnut hole, people with Medicare will benefit immediately as the gap is narrowed with each passing year. The enhanced coverage is paid for by securing lower prices for prescription drugs covered under Medicare Part D. In addition, brand-name drugs for people who are in the doughnut hole would be subject to a mandatory 50% discount. The real threat to the lives of older adults and people with disabilities comes when they cannot afford to buy the medicines they need to treat a serious illness. That is happening right now when people enter the doughnut hole. [Source: Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update 30 Jul 09 ++]

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VA SAH Update 05: As ordered reported by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on 15 JUL 09 the Congressional Budget Office provided their cost estimate for the Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009 (H.R.1293). The legislation (if approved) would increase the maximum grant amounts awarded to certain disabled veterans for Special Adaptive Housing (SAH). Those grants are used to improve access to homes and to essential sanitary facilities. CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $20 million over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues. Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may award a maximum of $4,100 to veterans with service-connected disabilities and $1,200 to veterans with nonservice-connected disabilities. The bill would increase those maximum allowable amounts to $6,800 and $2,000, respectively. Based on data from VA on the number and dollar amounts of grants awarded over the 2003-2008 period, CBO estimates that under the bill almost 2,000 veterans with service-connected disabilities would receive an additional $1,900 each year and almost 700 veterans with nonservice-connected disabilities would receive an additional $760 each year, for an annual cost of $4 million. H.R.1293 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments. [Source: CBO Cost estimate 22 Jul 09 ++]

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SBP DIC OFFSET Update 19: The Senate voted 21 JUL to repeal an offset in pay for surviving spouses who are eligible for both military and veterans’ survivor payments — but this is no guarantee extra money is coming. Eliminating the offset in military survivors’ benefits from the Defense Department for those also receiving dependency and indemnity compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department is the top priority of the 34-member Military Coalition, which has been urging Congress to act. So passage by voice vote of an amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that allows full payments of both benefits fulfills a push by the influential collection of military and veterans groups. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) the long-time sponsor of so-called SBP/DIC legislation was the chief sponsor of the amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act S.1390. The amendment was approved by voice vote and without debate.

About 57,000 survivors, mostly widows, would be affected if the provision were to become law. For most, elimination of the offset would result in a more than $1,100 increase in monthly benefits. The Senate has passed similar legislation before only to see it die in negotiations with the House of Representatives over questions of funding —estimated to be between $6 billion and $8 billion over 10 years. The House version of the NDAA does not include a repeal of the SBP/DIC offset. House Democratic leaders have been under intense pressure from military associations and from Republicans to do something about the SBP/DIC offset, leading supporters to hope that Nelson’s amendment would force the House to try again. As in years past, the Senate did not set aside money to pay full SBP to DIC eligible surviving spouses. Lawmakers say they are handcuffed by a pay-as-you- go budget law that requires any new federal entitlements be paid for with a matching reduction in other mandatory spending or entitlement program. So, barring a legislative miracle, Nelson’s amendment will be tossed out again when House-Senate conferees meet later this year to iron out differences in separate versions of the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill.

In June, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that included an extension through 2017 in a special allowance provided to survivors to partly make up for the offset. The allowance, currently $60 a month, is scheduled to increase a little each year until it grows to $310 in 2017, which still falls short of the $1,100 reduction from the offset. Boosting the allowance is one of the options being considered as a less costly alternative to full elimination of the offset, according to congressional aides working on military personnel issues [Source: MarineCorpsTimes Rick Maze article 21 Jul 09 ++]

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SALUTING the FLAG Update 04: Traditionally, members of the nation’s veterans service organizations have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag only while wearing their organization’s official head-gear. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow un-uniformed servicemembers, military retirees, and veterans to render a hand salute during the hoisting, lowering, or passing of the U.S. flag. A later amendment further authorized hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel. This was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on 14 OCT 08. All other persons present should face the flag, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Regarding the Pledge of Allegiance another section of federal code that specifically relates to actions of those reciting the Pledge was not amended. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag (i.e. I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all), should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. It is the belief of some that commissioned Officers of the US military, when in uniform, should not render a salute, nor say the Pledge of Allegiance, but stand at attention with their hands at their sides until the Pledge is completed. The alleged reasoning behind this is that Commissioned officers of the US military are already pledged to a higher “authority” the Constitution, in their oath of office. I could find no credible reference to support this belief. The phrase “under God” was added to the pledge by a Congressional act approved on 14 JUN 54. [Source: Various Jul 09 ++]

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PROSTATE CANCER Update 11: British doctors have developed a third way to treat prostate cancer that takes a middle road between radical treatment and watchful waiting. The procedure, which uses ultrasound to “melt” tumors, is said to be just as effective as radiotherapy or surgery but has a lower risk of causing incontinence, impotence, diarrhea, bleeding, and other side effects. The new technique is called high-intensity focused ultrasound, and men treated with it can be released from the hospital within several hours instead of several days, which is typical with surgery. The technique kills cancer cells by heating them to temperatures from 176 degrees to 194 degrees, which researchers at University College Hospital say can be tolerated by surrounding healthy tissue and also by nerves involved in sexual function. In the initial group of 172 men who took part in the trial, 159 were free of cancer one year later. This rate of cure is virtually the same as the cure rate following surgery and radiotherapy for early prostate cancer. The big difference between the ultrasound technique, surgery, and radiotherapy according to the findings of the study lies in improvement in side effects.

Only one of the 172 ultrasound patients became incontinent, none had bowel problems, and impotence was at a much-reduced rate of 30 percent to 40 percent. The usual rate for incontinence following surgery and radiotherapy is between 5 percent and 20 percent, and the impotence rate is usually 50 percent. When men are treated with radiotherapy, they also can expect bleeding and diarrhea. Lead researcher Dr. Hashim Ahmed said, “Men are being diagnosed earlier with prostate cancer because of increasing awareness with many patients in their fifties and sixties now. It means we are treating them more successfully, but the side effects are a big issue. Having to wear pads because of incontinence is not very nice and neither is sexual dysfunction, as a lot of these patients are still sexually active.” The study suggests that high-intensity focused ultrasound some day might help treat men with early prostate cancer with fewer side effects. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control, 185,895 men in the United States developed prostate cancer in 2005, and 28,905 died from it. Statistics show that one in six men will develop it at some point in their lifetime. [Source: Newswatch.com Health Alert 18 Jul 09 ++]

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RESERVE PERSONNEL CUTS Update 01: The Army National Guard is lowering the maximum enlistment age to 35 from 42, and eliminating medical and bad-conduct waivers – as well as enlistment and retention bonuses for soldiers not presently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The changes mark a shift in policy aimed at reducing Guard end strength to 358,200, from the current 362,493, by the end of the fiscal year on 30 SEP. Soldiers seeking discharges will have an easier time getting their wish. The discharge process has been streamlined. Also, soldiers who are not qualified at basic training within 12 months will face discharge. [Source: Armed Forces News 17 Jul 09 ++]

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MEDICARE FRAUD Update 17: A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the owners and operators of a Los Angeles-area durable medical equipment company of Medicare fraud, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Thomas P. O’Brien; and Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health of Human Services announced 17 JUL. After a one-week trial in federal court in Los Angeles, the jury found Gevork Kartashyan, 45, guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud; and Eliza Shurabalyan, 42, guilty of health care fraud. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of Los Angeles scheduled sentencing for 5 OCT 09. Shubaralyan and Kartashyan owned and operated CHH Medical Supply, a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company. Between January 2005 and June 2008, Shubaralyan and Kartashyan, through CHH Medical Supply, billed Medicare $949,859, and were paid $597,750. Virtually all of these bills were for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories.

At trial, elderly Medicare beneficiaries testified about how they were recruited and taken to Los Angeles-area medical clinics. At the clinics, the beneficiaries turned over their Medicare numbers and other personal identifying information. Some were promised vitamins, diabetic shoes, and other items that they never received. The clinics were in the business of generating fraudulent power wheelchair prescriptions that could be sold to DME company owners who would bill Medicare for the wheelchairs. Many of the beneficiaries did not know they were getting a wheelchair until it was delivered to them by CHH Medical Supply. All of the beneficiaries testified that they did not need or use the wheelchair. Five physicians testified that they never authorized or approved the power wheelchair prescriptions written under their names, often by physician’s assistants. Three of these physicians testified that they never even worked at the clinics listed on phony prescription pads. A government witness, who recently pleaded guilty to health care fraud in connection with one of the clinics at issue in this case, testified that Kartashyan would regularly come into the office where he and others worked in order to pick up power wheelchair prescriptions that he had purchased. Upon delivery, Kartashyan would then generate phony forms stating that the beneficiaries’ homes were appropriate for the use of a power wheelchair, even though no home assessment was done.

Shubaralyan, who was the listed owner of CHH Medical Supply, submitted all of the company’s claims to Medicare. Power wheelchairs and accessories constituted over 98% of the company’s billings to Medicare. In addition, Shubaralyan withdrew over $195,000 in cash from the company’s bank account in order to purchase the power wheelchair prescriptions. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John S. (Jay) Darden and Trial Attorney Jonathan Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with the investigative assistance of the FBI. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Federal Prosecutors have indicted 115 cases with 257 defendants in Miami, Los Angeles, and Detroit since the inception of strike force operations in March 2007. Collectively, these defendants are alleged to have fraudulently billed the Medicare program for more than $600 million. [Source: U.S. Department of Justice PRNewswire 17 Jul 09 ++]

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VA WOMEN VET PROGRAMS Update 06: Citing problems large and small, female veterans say they often feel that the Veterans Affairs Depart­ment is not for them. Two days of hearings before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees revealed a host of hur­dles for women seeking benefits and health care from VA. The testi­mony could be a sign that VA isn’t ready for the flood of women seeking help — and that women aren’t ready to trust VA. A report by the Government Accountability Office, the inves­tigative arm of Congress, says that women often find that not all services are available at all sites, scarce child care makes it hard to keep appointments and privacy isn’t always a priority. And out of 19 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics surveyed in the report, 17 had no sanitary napkins or tampons in their restrooms. Retired Army Capt. Dawn Hal­faker of the Wounded Warrior Pro­ject, wounded in Iraq in 2004, said many female veterans are unaware VA has a women’s health plan or that they are eligible for benefits. Some view VA as being for older veterans — the average male veteran is 61, while the aver­age female vet is 48, and of the 102,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost all are younger than 40.

Former Marine Capt. Anuradha Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Net­work, called VA treatment for women who have suffered sexual trauma “inconsistent at best.” She said there is a shortage of female doctors and counselors, high turnover of residents and often a “poorly trained, apathetic and unprofessional medical staff.” Getting disability compensation for sexual trauma also can be diffi­cult because there are rarely offi­cial records to back up such claims, she said. VA health and benefits officials said they expect a 30% increase in the next five years in women seeking VA services. “We recognize more needs to be accomplished,” said Dr. Lawrence Deyton, the VA’s chief public health officer. Some of the problems faced by women in the VA health care system that were cited at the 16 JUL hearing were:

* Some gynecological exam tables in rooms with no privacy curtains face doors that open to waiting rooms or busy hallways.

* A female Iraq veteran in an inpatient psy­chiatric ward was forced to share a bathroom with male veterans, including one who was a Peeping Tom.

* A female veteran receiving an annual pap smear from a male gynecologist says she asked to have a female staff member present, at which point the doctor left the room and yelled down the hall, “We’ve got another one!”

* Clinic hours for women are often less than for men, with no evening or weekend hours convenient for those who work.

* On-site child care is rarely available, and some clinics refuse to treat women who bring children with them.

[Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 27 Jul 09 ++]

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DD-214 SECURITY Update 01: Simply claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient is one thing. Claiming that status on a falsified government form is another. There’s no way to know how often fakers use falsified forms to illicitly procure government benefits, pref­erence for admission to schools or, as in a recent case in Florida, an undeserved state license plate emblazoned with “Medal of Honor.” That individual has been indict­ed for violating a federal law, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. But news reports and private ­sector military-honors watchdogs indicate the practice is still wide­spread — and that the means is often an altered or counterfeit DD­214, the form distributed upon dis­charge from military service that contains a concise capsule of a ser­vice member ’s career. Many private watchdogs spend long hours hunting down those who for self-aggrandizement claim military service and high decora­tions — to gain an edge in a politi­cal campaign, for instance. But fakers use false DD-214s, easily modified or created using a computer, to get benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department. In a 2007 case, investigators caught eight people who were receiving VA compensation for combat injuries — although none had served in combat and two had never served in the military. Their acts collec­tively cost VA $1.4 million. VA’s inspector general office investigated 96 cases of stolen valor fraud between 1 MAR 08 and 25 FEB 09 which resulted in 48 arrests, $562,888 in recovered funds, and $1.23 million in fines .

Such claims have gained publici­ty in recent years. That’s largely because of the efforts of people such as Doug Sterner, a longtime private watchdog who now maintains the Military Times Hall of Valor data­base, and B.G. Burkett, author of “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History.” The Internet has brought about greater access to public records. Still, James O’Neill, VA’s assis­tant inspector general for investiga­tions, said he hasn’t seen much of an increase in his office’s fraud traf­fic since he began his work in 2004. “It’s been fairly steady,” he said, adding that the use of fraudulent DD-214s is common in such efforts and typically involves an altered or counterfeit document. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, wants a better system and has asked VA to look into the issue of misrepresentation of service. The problem could be easily solved, Sterner maintains, with a public database that any agency could access and, with a couple of keystrokes, check the legitimacy of a person’s claim. In a 2004 National Personnel Records Center feasibility study, the agency concluded that every DD-214 issued since 1947 could be digitized at a cost of $12 million, resulting in $4 million of savings annually, Sterner said. The only missing piece would be the 18 mil­lion military records that were damaged or destroyed in a 1973 fire at the records center in St. Louis. But Sterner said that by digitiz­ing the general orders filed in Col­lege Park, Md., much of the infor­mation lost in the fire could be recovered. “The two [sets of records] could work hand in glove and be very effective in establish­ing a database that would serve multiple purposes,” he said. [Source: NavyTimes William H. McMichael article 27 Jul 09 ++]

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CAR ALLOWANCE REBATE SYSTEM: President Obama signed into law for transactions on and after 1 JUL 09 a program the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is calling the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). This is a federal program that helps you purchase a new, more fuel efficient vehicle when you trade in a less fuel efficient vehicle. For further info refer to www.cars.gov. Following are some rules that apply to this program:

* The amount of the credit is $3,500 or $4,500, and generally depends on the type of vehicle you purchase and the difference in fuel economy between the purchased vehicle and the trade-in vehicle. You may trade in or buy a domestic or a foreign vehicle. Different requirements apply for work trucks.

* You do not need a voucher and you are not required to sign up or enroll in this program. Participating new car dealers will apply a credit, reducing the price you pay at the time of your purchase or lease, provided the vehicle you buy or lease and the vehicle you trade in meet the program requirements. The dealer will then obtain reimbursement from the government.

* The law requires dealers to be registered to participate in the program.

* Your trade-in vehicle must have been manufactured less than 25 years before the date you trade it in, have a “new” combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less, be in drivable condition, and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year preceding the trade-in.

* Under the program, you may purchase a new vehicle or lease a new vehicle up to 1 NOV 09, provided the lease period for the new vehicle is at least five years. The program does not apply to the purchase of used vehicles.

* The new vehicle’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price cannot exceed $45,000. The new vehicle must also achieve minimum combined fuel economy levels. For passenger automobiles, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon. For category 1 trucks, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 18 miles per gallon. For category 2 trucks, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 15 miles per gallon. Category 3 trucks have no minimum fuel economy requirement; however, there are special requirements that apply to the purchase of category 3 vehicles.

* The law requires your trade-in vehicle to be destroyed. Therefore, the value you negotiate with the dealer for your trade-in vehicle is not likely to exceed its scrap value. The law requires the dealer to disclose to you an estimate of the scrap value of your trade-in vehicle.

* The entity crushing or shredding the vehicles in will be allowed to sell some parts of the vehicle prior to crushing or shredding it, but these parts cannot include the engine or the drive train.

* The program does not apply retroactively.

* The CARS Act expressly provides that the credit is not income for the consumer and thus is not taxable. However, the credit will be considered as income for the dealer.

* The CARS Act requires the dealer to use the credit under the program in addition to any rebates or discounts advertised by the dealer or offered by the new vehicle’s manufacturer. The dealer may not use the credit to offset these rebates and discounts.

* Not more than one credit may be issued for single or joint registered owner of a single eligible trade-in vehicle and it can only be used one time.

[Source: www.usa.gov 20 Jul 09 ++]

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VA FORECLOSED HOMES: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA-guaranteed and VA-financed loans. These acquired properties are marketed for sale through a property management services contract that was awarded to BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP. Properties are listed for sale at http://va.reotrans.com and through local Multi Listing Systems (MLS) by local listing agents. By clicking a state on the site’s map the search will return every property in that state. When you have your list, select view to see price and details of the properties selected. You may then email questions directly to the listing agent that is managing the property. You may also contact the real estate broker of your choice to see the property.

The VA has re-opened Vendee Financing to purchasers of Vendee eligible VA REO Properties. Vendee financing offers very reasonable down payment requirements, with an interest rate established by the VA based on market conditions. Any prospective purchaser who requests VA financing to purchase a VA-owned property must have sufficient income to meet the loan payments, maintain the property and pay all taxes, insurance, utilities and other obligations, as well as be an acceptable credit risk. The purchaser must also have enough funds remaining for family support. Any purchaser can apply for Vendee Financing. You do not have to be a Veteran. Vendee financing is a loan product offered to help finance the purchase of VA REO Properties for either owner or non-owner occupied properties. It offers low interest rates, 2.25% VA funding fee, no pre-payment penalties, and no appraisal requirement for underwriting. Some of the guidelines for VA Vendee Financing are:

* Seller may contribute up to 6% of the contract sales price to pay for funding fee, closing costs, prepaid and other expenses.

* Vendee mortgages are assumable by qualification.

* Vendee Financing is not a credit score driven product.

* There are two available terms, a 15 and 30 year fixed rate.

* Owner Occupied Purchase can be financed with as little as 0% down. The loan amount may be increased up to 2% to finance closing costs, prepaids or other expenses. Funding fee may not be financed.

* Non-Owner Occupied Purchase can be financed with as little as 5% down. Investors may use 75% of anticipated rent based on appraiser’s estimate to offset against the subject property monthly payment. Investors must have experience managing rental properties to include anticipated rent on subject property in underwriting. There is no maximum number of investment properties one can acquire.

For additional info or for a no cost pre-qualification call (800) 816-4346 to speak with a qualified Vendee Representative. [Source: www.homeloans.va.gov Jul 09 ++]

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FTC RITE AID RULING: The Rite Aid Corporation has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle FTC charges that it deceptively advertised that its “Germ Defense” tablets and lozenges could prevent, treat, or reduce the severity of colds and the flu. Rite Aid promoted the products by touting their similarity to “Airborne” products. Court documents state that Germ Defense products contained vitamins A, C, and E; minerals, including zinc; electrolytes; amino acids; and a proprietary blend of herbal extracts, including echinacea; and that a “PM” version promoted for nighttime use also included chamomile and valerian. The formulas purportedly replicated those marketed by Airborne Health, Inc., which settled similar charges in 2008. Under the settlement, Rite Aid is required to make refund forms available in its stores on October 1 and consumers will have until December 31 to submit refund requests for up to six packages of Germ Defense. The FTC has also charged Rite Aid’s supplier, Improvita Health Products, Inc., with false and deceptive advertising on its Web site and in promotional materials supplied to Rite Aid. For additional info refer to www.casewatch.org/ftc/news/2009/rite_aid.shtml. [Source: FTC News Release 17 Jul 09 ++]

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VFW CLAIM ASSISTANCE: The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans’ service organization composed of combat veterans and those who currently serve on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation’s largest organization of war veterans and is one of its oldest veterans’ organizations. With almost 2.2 million members located in nearly 7,900 VFW Posts worldwide, the VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to “honor the dead by helping the living” through veterans service, legislative initiatives, youth scholarships, Buddy Poppy and national military service programs. The VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute more than 13 million hours annually in community service to the nation. The organization provides trained Veteran Service Officers (VSO’s) to assist vets and their survivors with submission of VA claims and appeals at no cost. Those seeking assistance can locate their nearest VFW post at http://emem.vfw.org/findpost.aspx by entering their zip code and distance they are willing to travel.

Most every post has a volunteer VSO who is often a claimant’s first contact in the claims process. Post VSO’s are required to attend annual training sponsored by their respective Department Service Officer (DVSO). Costs associated with attending the training are normally borne by the sponsoring VFW Post and are not passed on to those seeking assistance. This Post VSO serves a vital but limited role in the claims process by disseminating VA “how to” information and claim form completion guidance such as ensuring blocks A through Z are answered. Completed claims are mailed directly to a DVSO who works in the nearest VA Regional Office (VARO). The Post VSO has no further role in the process. Should further information be required, the DVSO contacts the claimant directly. There are more than 900 VFW-accredited service officers serving veterans and their families throughout the U.S., the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Europe. These service officers fall largely into two groups: Individuals who work in a VARO, and county and state service officers who work in the field. In 2008, these service officers collectively helped almost 95,000 veterans to recoup more than $1.2 billion in earned compensation and pension.

Only trained and certified VFW professionals work with veterans to ensure their claims are fully developed. They review VA rating decisions for accuracy and argue directly with VA adjudicators when their decisions are wrong. If an appeal is appropriate, they discuss issues with veterans, help develop required information, and represent them at hearings before Decision Review Officers (DSO’s). If VA decisions remain negative, the VFW has a highly skilled staff at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington to help ensure that veterans receive every benefit to which they are entitled under the law. New service officers who work in VARO’s are required to attend a basic benefits boot camp that includes more than 40 hours of detailed training on VA benefits, the claims process, forms completion, the VA rating schedule, accreditation, ethics, and more. The VFW also provides 80 hours of continuing classroom education annually to those service officers. The training syllabus is updated continuously to ensure service officers receive the most current information and skills to go toe-to-toe with VA rating officials. Ninety percent of this training is conducted by some of the best (recently retired) VA rating specialists and DSO’s available. There are lawyers who have created practices to represent veterans, after failed appeals, at the veterans court. Some are pro bono and some collect fees. However, they are too few in number to represent even a small fraction of the nearly 1 million individuals who have claims pending at the VA right now. The VFW along with a number of other Veterans’ Service Organizations provide thousands of professional advocates to serve veterans and their families, and unlike most attorneys who want to be compensated for their work, service organizations do not charge. [Source: VFW Washington Office PAO msg. 13 Jul 09 ++]

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VA HOSPITALS Update 04: Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and clinics aren’t always making sure women veterans have privacy when they bathe and receive exams, government auditors said 15 JUL. As thousands of women veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan and enter the VA’s health system, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic under review is complying fully with federal privacy requirements. GAO investigators found that many VA facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door — including one door that opened to a waiting room. It also found instances where women had to walk through a waiting area to use the restroom, instead of it being next to an exam room as required by VA policy. [Source: Health Information Operations Weekly Update 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE REGIONAL CONTRACTS: The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced new contracts for third generation Tricare (T3) benefits, scheduled to begin immediately. The T3 contracts feature financial incentives to encourage exceptional customer service. These huge contracts are 3 of the 10 largest contracts granted by DoD. They run the civilian portion of Tricare within the United States with 3 regions (North, South and West). TriWest, the present contractor for the west region was awarded the contract again. However, there are new contractor is both the North and South regions. In the North Region Aetna Government Health Plans is replacing HealthNet; while in the South, United Health Military and Veterans Services is replacing Humana. The MCS contractors will assist the military health system in operating an integrated health care delivery system combining resources of the contractor and the military’s direct medical care system to provide health, medical and administrative support services to eligible beneficiaries The work to be performed includes management of provider networks and referrals, medical management, enrollment, claims processing, customer service and access to data, among other requirements, while providing beneficiary satisfaction at the highest level possible through the delivery of world-class health care. The contracts were competitively procured via the Tricare Management Activity e-solicitation Web site with two offers received. Following are some of the details:

* West: TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp., Phoenix, Ariz., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $2,853,810,863. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $16,956,510,153. The West Region includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa (except the Rock Island Arsenal area), Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri (except the St. Louis area), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (areas of Western Texas only), Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

* North: Aetna Government Health Plans, Hartford, Conn., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $2,840,302,541. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $16,678,172,561. The North Region includes the District of Columbia and the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (Rock Island Arsenal area only); Kentucky (except the Fort Campbell area); Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri (St. Louis area only); New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

* South: UnitedHealth Military & Veterans Services, Minnetonka, Minn., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $3,729,016,358. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $21,827,600,469. The South Region includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (the Fort Campbell area only), Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas (excluding areas of Western Texas). The South Region contractor will be responsible for administering and complying with all Continued Health Care Benefit Program requirements in all geographic areas.

[Source: TREA Washington Weekly 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE REGIONAL CONTRACTS Update 01: With the awarding of new Tricare regional contracts and changing contractors the following answers to some questions users may have are provided:

* Will I have to do any paperwork? No, this should be seamless and all enrollment and claims data should be transferred to the new contractors without any action from the beneficiaries.

* Will I have to change doctors? Based on the experience of the last contract change a number of years ago, the vast majority of people shouldn’t have to deal with that, but some may. The new contractors will set up their own networks of physicians. In the past, new contractors have made special efforts to recruit participation of those who were in the previous contractor’s network.

* Who will I submit my claims to? If you use network providers, you won’t have to worry about that, because the provider will file the claim. If you use a provider that doesn’t accept Tricare-allowable charges as full payment and file your own claims, you’ll probably have a new filing address starting next April. As soon as the new addresses are available, the new contractors will publicize them widely.

* Will the contact phone numbers change? Some of the numbers will more than likely change. As these new numbers go into affect beneficiaries will be notified.

* Will this affect where and how I get my medications? No. The pharmacy contractor isn’t changing.

* Will I stay in the same region? For the most part the regions remain the same. There will be a couple changes on the border of the north and south regions in the Fort Campbell area. The new contractors will contact the affected individuals.

* Will I be able to stay in Tricare Prime? If you live near a Military Treatment Facility and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) site, the answer should be “yes” in most cases. But Prime will be discontinued in some other areas, so some number of beneficiaries will need to switch to Tricare Standard or Tricare Extra. The affected beneficiaries will be notified by the new contractors.

* What does this mean in regard to the letters people just received about the 30-minute drive-time standards? The drive-time notices have nothing to do with the new contracts. People who received those letters and want to continue being seen at the military facility still must complete the waiver process by October 1, 2009.

* Will the enrollment fee, deductibles or co-pays change as a result of the new contracts? No.

* When and how will I receive information from the new contractor? It’s too early to say.

* I’m under TriWest – will anything change for me? Some changes will be mandated by the new contract, so even beneficiaries in the West Region which has not changed its contractor may see some changes. Changes will be disseminated when before they go in effect.

* Will this affect my special-needs child care? The new contracts do not change the healthcare benefit.

* I’m in Tricare for Life. Does this affect me? No. TFL is covered by a separate contract.

* I’m overseas, does this affect me? Like TFL, the overseas contracts are separate. However, the current overseas contracts are being consolidated into one, and we should be hearing soon about an award.

* I use the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, will this change? The CHCBP for all geographic areas is administered by the Tricare South Region contractor. United Health Military & Veterans Services will assume this responsibility, and you should see no change other than different contact numbers once the new contractor has fully assumed operations.

[Source: MOAA Leg Up 17 Jul 09 ++]

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HVAC Update 09: The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) has approved several bills including the draft language of an omnibus bill that combines 9 bills. All these bills will now go before the full House for consideration. The omnibus bill included:

* H.R.1197 sponsored by Rep. Harry E. Mitchell’s (D-AZ) which would place Medal of Honor recipients in the same priority as veterans who are former prisoners of war or recipients of the Purple Heart;

* H.R.1293 sponsored by Ranking member Steve Buyer (R-IN) which increases the amount of money veterans can receive for home improvements and structural alterations from home health services ($6,800 for service connected disabled veterans and $2,000 for non-service connected disabled veterans.

* H.R.1302 sponsored by Rep. Phil Hare’s (D-IL) which would create a new position in the VA, Director of Physician Assistant Services;

* H.R.1546 sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) which would create a Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

* H.R.2270 also sponsored by Buyer that would authorize $1000 a month payments to members of 28 groups who fought on behalf of the United States during World War II (examples the Flying Tigers and the Women Airforce Service Pilots); also from Rep. Buyer

* H.R.2379 also sponsored by Buyer which would allow veterans under the age of 60 to increase the amount they carry of VGLI by as much as $25,000 every 5 years till they reach the present maximum of $400,000;

* H.R.2770 sponsored by Chairman Bob Filner’s (D-CA) which updates the law governing the VA’s affiliated non-profit research and education corporations;

* H.R.3155 sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud’s (D-ME) which provides more training, support, medical care and a monthly stipend for veterans’ caregivers.

On 16 JUL the Veteran Affairs Health Subcommittee approved several veterans’ bills. All the bills will now go to the full Veteran Affairs Committee for their consideration. The bills were:

* H.R.1197 which would give Medal of Honor recipients that same priority status in the VA as Purple Heart recipients and Former Prisoners of War;

* H.R.1293 would increase the amount veterans could receive from the Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Program (service connected vets could receive$6,800 up from the present $4,100 and non service connected vets could receive $2,000 up from the present $1,200);

* H.R.1302 would create a director of physician assistant services in the VA’s office of the Undersecretary for Health;

* H.R.1335 which would bar the VA from charging seriously disabled veterans anything for their care in VA hospitals or nursing homes or for other critical medical services.

* H.R.1546 would direct the establishment of a VA Committee on Care of Veterans with TBI;

* H.R.2926 which would require the VA to provide medical care to Vietnam era and Persian Gulf War veterans who were exposed to herbicides;

* A draft bill that would make education sessions available for veterans caretakers.

On 16 JUL the Veteran Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs approved several veterans’ bills. All the bills will now go to the full Veteran Affairs Committee for their consideration. The bills were:

* H.R.2379 to provide certain veterans an opportunity to increase the amount of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

* H.R.2774 to make permanent the extension of the duration of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage for totally disabled veterans.

* H.R.2968 to eliminate the required reduction in the amount of the accelerated death benefit payable to certain terminally-ill persons insured under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance or Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

[Source: TREA Washington Weekly 17 Jul 09 ++]

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ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY Update 05: A criminal investigation and allegations of misplaced bodies and shoddy care have soiled the famous burial ground according to a Salon Media Group, Inc special investigation on Arlington. An Army investigation this year found that the de facto boss of the cemetery, Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, made false statements to Army investigators as they probed what they later classified as wire fraud at Arlington — a female employee’s computer had been tapped into without authorization, and she had been impersonated online. An internal Army memo and an interview with a former Army employee also suggest that high-level Army officials knew for months about problems at Arlington but failed to act. Three former public affairs officers have recently testified under oath about a hostile work environment at Arlington. One was fired after speaking out. The other two quit in disgust. Sadly, Arlington’s internal problems have materialized on the grounds themselves. Despite nearly 10 years and countless dollars spent on computerizing its operations, the cemetery still relies mostly on paper burial records that in some cases do not match the headstones. “There are numerous examples of discrepancies that exist between burial maps, the physical location of headstones, and the burial records/grave cards,” the cemetery admitted in a 2008 report to Congress. And in a relatively remote area of the cemetery, where 600 service members from Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest, personal mementos placed on graves are left out to rot in the rain for days, ruined by workers with power washers, or thrown into a trash bin.

The aesthetics of the cemetery are deceptive,” says Gina Gray, an Army veteran of eight years who served in Iraq and who was the cemetery’s public affairs officer in early 2008, before she was fired over a clash with her boss. “To the naked eye, it is a place of sacred beauty and a tribute to our nation’s heroes,” says Gray, who has been rehired as an Army contractor at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. “But if you scratch below the surface, you will find that it’s really just window dressing. They’ve put these pretty curtains up to hide the ugliness on the inside.” At the center of the chaos is Higginbotham, Gray’s former superior and a focus of the Army investigation. While cemetery Superintendent John Metzler is the titular head at Arlington, Higginbotham runs the show, say current and former employees. A tall and imposing man, Higginbotham has worked at the cemetery since 1965. He started as a security guard and worked his way up to deputy supervisor in 1990. In his current position, he has earned a reputation for running the cemetery with an iron fist. (Higginbotham declined to talk to Salon.)

One of Higginbotham’s failures, say employees, has been his inability to rectify disturbing discrepancies between burial records and information on headstones. For years, Arlington has struggled to replace paper-and-pen burial records with a satellite-aided system of tracking grave locations. “My goal is to have all the gravesites available online to the public, so people can look up a grave from home and print out a map that will show exactly where the gravesite is,” Higginbotham told Government Computer News in APR 06. Such systems are standard at other cemeteries, like the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly identical to Arlington in age and size. Yet an effort begun in 2000 to set up a similar system at Arlington remains unrealized. In 2004 and 2005, Arlington conducted a pilot project to check burial records against headstone information on 300 graves. “The accuracy of interment records and maps that track reserved, obstructed, and occupied graves were proven to have errors,” the project found, according to Arlington National Cemetery budget documents. “For example, gravesites that were marked as obstructed were actually available and information listed on grave cards and burial records were not consistent with the information on the actual headstone.”

The problems continue today. In 2008, Arlington National Cemetery issued a progress report to Congress on the computerization project. “The current way of doing business is mostly manual, complex, redundant and inefficient,” cemetery officials noted, acknowledging continuing discrepancies among burial maps, headstones and burial records. Gray says her conversations with groundskeepers suggest the discrepancies and confusion might not stop at the grave’s edge. “They told me they’ve got people buried there that they don’t know who they are, and then they’ve got the wrong headstones over the graves.” She adds: “I told several Army officials — in one instance, a two-star general — but nothing was ever followed up on.” Salon heard the same claims from current and former cemetery employees, who asked to remain anonymous. Arlington officials insist that there are no cases at Arlington where headstones do not match the remains beneath. “We are not aware of any situation like that,” says cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst.

Gray, who was fired, has a gripe against the cemetery, to be sure. But her complaints against Higginbotham triggered an investigation that exposed criminal acts that question the Army’s oversight of Arlington. In her sworn testimony in the fall, as part of her equal opportunity complaint, which is still pending, Gray stressed “an elitist mentality among cemetery officials.” Kara McCarthy, who held Gray’s job at the cemetery from early 2007 until March 2008, also testified. She said Higginbotham and other top officials at Arlington “could do whatever the hell they wanted and they did, because they had been getting away with it for years.” McCarthy said she also left the cemetery after a year because of the “hostile work environment.” During the Higginbotham investigation, a different kind of crime arose at Arlington. But this one had little to do with the law. In her sworn testimony, Gray criticized the cemetery for disposing of artifacts left in Section 60, where soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. “They throw away things that are left at the gravesites — cards, letters,” Gray said. “They don’t save anything. In a follow-up story, Salon.com notes that the US Department of Veterans Affairs, “which runs 130 cemeteries across the country, asks people not to leave items other than flowers on the graves. But when it does find those items,” the VA “collects and holds them for 30 days in case the family wants to claim them.” [Source: Salon.com Mark Benjamin article 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITY: Bringing ideas and experience aplenty from the West Coast to the nation’s capital, Tricare Management Activity’s new deputy director Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter quickly and easily summed up Tricare’s importance to America’s uniformed service members, retirees and their families. “When you join the military you’re promised a comprehensive health care benefit. We want to ensure it is available in all locations and over all the periods of life”, she said. Now that she is back in the Washington DC area, Hunter said she’s ready to get to work delivering on the promise of Tricare and improving beneficiaries’ health and overall satisfaction. She is also excited to take over the helm of Tricare and face the challenges of her new assignment. To that end, Hunter doesn’t see providing health care to 9.4 million people as a challenge to be surmounted; she sees it as an opportunity for innovation. “We have the chance to set the standard and lead the nation in comprehensive, high-quality health care with universal access,” Hunter said. “We can showcase our successes and learn from others.”

One of the many possibilities Hunter would like to explore to improve the Tricare experience is the “medical home” concept, emphasizing four primary health care pillars: accessibility, continuity, coordination and comprehensiveness. Medical home would give Tricare beneficiaries an enhanced relationship with their providers, ensuring access, continuity, preventive care delivery and disease management. “To implement this concept in our military treatment facilities,” Hunter explained, “we’ll need to provide the right mix of both military and civilian providers and support staff.” In a patient centered medical home, health care providers and patients work together to set attainable goals and manage the patient’s overall health. “If I’m your doctor, and you and I develop a partnership, you are far more likely to accept my advice to stop smoking, get a mammogram, or have a screening colonoscopy.”, Hunter said. With more than 30 years as a physician, Hunter speaks with authority about the importance of the patient-provider relationship. “I treasure what I call the ‘sacred space’ between physician and patient,” Hunter said. “We are allowed incredible access to an individual in some of life’s most private moments.” These moments – of happiness and joy, grief and sadness, confusion and indecision – are the times when a physician can have the greatest impact on a patient or family member’s life, she said. “We’re invited to help guide them on what can be a journey to rebuilding their lives, restoring hope or walking a difficult pathway that maybe doesn’t end in restored health, but is a journey every family must travel at some time,” Hunter said.

As a Naval officer, Hunter has also served as a leader in the military health system at all levels including hospital commander, fleet surgeon, chief of staff at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and most recently, as commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego. As such, she understands the importance of combining good business practices and quality clinical care in military medicine. She is very focused on defining and implementing best business practices with an eye on the future. Consequently, she is a proponent of more wide-spread use of electronic medical records; both within the military health system, and the nation as a whole. “President Obama has emphasized what an electronic medical record can bring in terms of continuity of health care,” Hunter said. “If your provider has access to longitudinal information about your health and information about health trends, then we can partner together to improve individual and group health.”“As our nation takes on health care reform in a major way, we in the Military Health System can share our lessons and learn from that debate,” Hunter said. “We can get involved with other national leaders, working together to forge the way ahead.” [Source: MHS TMA Kevin J. Dwyer article 10 Jul 09 ++]

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VA CLAIMS PROCESSING Update 01: Pittsburgh’s congressional delegation is asking an outside agency to investigate how the Department of Veterans Affairs’ regional office handles their veterans’ benefits claims. In a letter to the Governmental Accountability Office, three congressmen and two senators say an investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General was “incomplete at best.” The inspector general report confirmed allegations that employees deliberately delayed processing some claims in order to obtain $300 performance bonuses, but it didn’t substantiate an allegation that the employees were following orders from their managers when they held up the claims. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) said the Pittsburgh regional office is the fifth-worst of the 56 regional offices in the Veterans Benefits Administration. More than 27% of the 4,850 claims pending at the office are at least six months old. Given the office’s poor performance, the news that some of the delays were deliberate has outraged the congressional delegation, he said. They want the GAO to tell them how to improve the office “so that this situation can’t and won’t happen again,” he said. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-McCandless) said Congress has tried unsuccessfully several times to eliminate a national backlog in veterans’ benefit claims. Hearing that some of the backlog in the Pittsburgh office has been deliberate just adds to lawmakers’ frustration, he said. “It is simply unacceptable that veterans who put their lives on the line to protect their country are being forced to wait for months to receive the benefits they have earned,” Altmire said. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Swissvale) and Sens. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) and Arlen Specter, (D-Philadelphia) also signed onto the investigation request. [Source: TRIBUNE-REVIEW Brian Bowling article 5 Jun 09 ++]

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GI Bill Update 53: Many questions about the Post-9/11 GI Bill were answered in late June when decisions were made on two of the plan’s most important features: transfer of benefits to family members and Yellow Ribbon agreements (see below) that raise the value of the benefit, particularly to attend private colleges. Here’s a summary of how these features will operate, according to DoD and VA policymakers:

1. Transferability

* To be eligible to transfer benefits to a spouse or child, servicemembers must be on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1, 2009 — the date the new GI Bill takes effect. Servicemembers also must have at least six years in service (10 years to transfer benefits to children) and must commit to serve four more years from the date that a transfer of benefits is approved. (See below for exceptions to the four-year rule.)

* Servicemembers will execute transfers through a secure “Transferability of Educational Benefits” Web site, https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/. They can log in using a Common Access Card, a DoD Self-Service User ID, or a PIN for accessing online military pay accounts administered by the Defense Financing and Accounting Service.

* The electronic application will request information from a servicemember to confirm Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility and verify dependency status of a family members to receive transferred benefits. Family members must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). Applicants also will need to designate the number of months of benefit to be transferred and their allocation to family members, if more than one person is to receive educational assistance.

* Completed applications will be reviewed by a servicemember’s branch of service. Once they are approved, new service obligation dates will be set.

* The effective date of transfer will be no earlier than Aug. 1, 2009, regardless of application date. Data from approved applications will be transmitted each evening to the VA. Family members then will apply through a VA Web site, www.gibill.va.gov, for certificates of eligibility to use the transferred education benefits. Spouses and children will be able to use the new GI Bill like any eligible veteran would.

* Servicemembers who have no family members planning to attend college this fall are being asked to delay visiting the transfer Web site until at least July 15 so that applications for fall students can be processed more rapidly.

* Servicemembers can change transfer choices at any time, whether reallocating benefits among eligible family members or revoking transfers to use benefits themselves. Unused GI Bill benefits always will remain the property of the servicemember who earned them.

* Congress designed the transfer feature with some incongruities. For example, any family member not approved for transfer before a servicemember retires or separates from service will be denied the opportunity, unless the servicemember later reenters service. Veterans who remarry or have more children after leaving service will be unable to transfer GI Bill benefits to these new family members. With this limitation in mind, officials are urging servicemembers to transfer at least one month of the GI Bill benefit to each family member before leaving service, to lock in the option to transfer benefits at some later date.

* Another transferability quirk affects spouses of servicemembers on active duty. Those given transferred benefits to attend college, including the most expensive private schools, will have tuition and fees fully covered. But benefits for veterans themselves, or benefits transferred to college-bound children, will be capped so as not to exceed tuition and fees charged by the most expensive public college or university in a state.

* Spouses of active duty servicemembers who use transferred benefits to attend public universities will have a more modest education package than other users of the new GI Bill including, again, children of active duty servicemembers and veterans who earned this education benefit. This is because active duty spouses will not be paid the plan’s monthly living allowance, equal to the local Basic Allowance for Housing for a married E-5, nor will they get the new GI Bill’s $1,000-a-year stipend for books or supplies.

* Spouses of drilling reservists will qualify for both the living allowance and book stipend because reservists, unlike their active duty counterparts, are not paid a monthly housing allowance.

2. Exceptions to the Four-Year Rule

* There is a permanent exception to the additional service requirement for transfer of GI Bill benefits. It applies to servicemembers who have served at least 10 years and are barred by service policy or statute from completing a full four more years.

* Servicemembers facing high-year tenure or mandatory retirement rules still will be able to transfer benefits if they serve the maximum time allowed under law or policy.

* To preserve proper force structure and promotion opportunities, several temporary exceptions to the four-year rule also will apply to servicemembers eligible to retire from Aug. 1, 2009, to Aug. 1, 2012. A servicemember is considered retirement-eligible after completing 20 years of active duty service or 20 qualifying years of reserve service. Based on retirement eligibility dates, these servicemembers will only have to serve one to three additional years from the date benefits are approved for transfer.

3. Yellow Ribbon Agreements. More on Yellow Ribbon colleges and their agreements can be found online at www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/Yellow_ribbon.htm.

* A total of 1165 colleges and universities have signed Yellow Ribbon agreements with the VA for the 2009-10 academic year, making their undergraduate or graduate degree programs more affordable to at least some new GI Bill beneficiaries. That total includes roughly 750 private nonprofit schools, 250 private for-profit schools, and 165 public universities.

* For most users, the new GI Bill covers only tuition and fees up to amounts set for the most expensive public university in their state of residence. Students enrolled in private colleges or attending out-of-state public schools still might face huge out-of-pocket costs. The amounts not covered will vary greatly, too. Texas students, for example, will receive up to $1,333 a credit hour plus $12,130 a year to cover school fees. California students, by contrast, will be reimbursed up to $6,587 in yearly fees but receive no tuition coverage because tuition is free to in-state students at public colleges.

* Under the Yellow Ribbon program, schools are encouraged to waive up to 50 percent of the difference between their tuition and fees and those covered by the new GI Bill. The VA, in turn, will match in higher benefits what the college waived, adding value to the GI Bill for students attending private schools, out-of-state public universities, or state school graduate degree programs.

* The deadline to pen Yellow Ribbon deals for the 2009-10 academic year was June 15. Many schools, with endowments battered by investment losses the past year, decided they couldn’t afford to waive costs too deeply for GI Bill users. Others elected to waive thousands of dollars in costs but only for small numbers of GI Bill students.

* The VA mandates that waivers be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. They cannot be offered, for example, only to students in select fields of study or only to students with the highest grades or test scores.

[Source: MOAA News Exchange Tom Philpott article 15 Jul 09 ++]

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CHAPTER 61 DISABILITY PAY Update 05: This information is based on the H.R.2990 proposed legislation at this point. Everything is subject to change until the draft is signed into law. Based on conversations with potentially affected military members, it helps to start with a few ground rules to make this program easier to understand:

1.) First, forget all you know about your Service pay and concurrent receipt AKA Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP). If you start with a clean slate it’s easier to comprehend. The barracks lawyers are putting out misinformation.

2.) Next, you have to understand the definition of CRDP. This is critical. CRDP only restores Service pay based on your service time. That’s all it has ever restored. It does not restore Service disability pay. The law prohibiting two disability checks is still in force.

3.) Third. Your Chapter 61 Service pay, for CRDP purposes, has two components. Part disability pay and part Service longevity pay; the part based on your years of service. The part based on your service time is figured like any retiree’s retired pay; 2.5% times years of service.

4.) Fourth. Depending on your personal situation under this proposal you may already be getting what CRDP would provide you (in other words, you get nothing extra, no CRDP) or you may get something extra.

Based on the above and the proposed bill here are some examples of how it would impact vets:

Example 1

* Member with 3 years of service, Service disability rating of 60%, and VA rating of 80%.

* Service pay based on $1800 base pay per month at retirement.

* 60% Service rating provides disability retirement of $1080 ($1800 x 60%).

* 80% VA rating pays $1400 a month.

* Currently, member’s entire Service pay docked due to VA comp at a greater amount.

* Under CRDP the member will receive retired pay for years served.

* 3 years multiplied by a 2.5 percent is 7.5%.

* 7.5% times the $1800 base pay is $135 a month in retired pay for years served.

* Member will get VA comp of $1400 plus $135 Service pay (CRDP).

Example 2

* Member with 10 years of service, 90% Service rating, and 90% VA rating.

* Base pay of $6500.

* $6500 base pay at 90% Service rating equals $5850.

* VA comp at 90% $1600.

* Member is receiving $1600 from VA and $4250 from Service ($5850 – $1600).

* Under CRDP there is no change—no CRDP payment since you already receive all of your Service longevity retired pay.

* 10 years of service times 2.5% equals 25% of base pay or $1625; this is the only amount CRDP restores.

* You’re receiving Service pay of $4250 so the VA comp is only docking your Service disability pay and by law the CRDP proposal doesn’t change that.

Example 3

* Member with 18 years’ service, Service rating 50%, and VA rating 90%.

* Base pay $4500 a month.

* 50% Service rating times base pay equals $2250.

* VA comp at 90% is $1600.

* Member receiving $650 from Service (2250 – 1600) and $1600 from VA.

* Under CRDP you have to calculate Service longevity retired pay of 18 years times 2.5% for 45% times $4500 equals $2025. CRDP ensures the member receives this amount due to his vested service time.

* Member is owed $2025 from the Service (CRDP) AND $1600 from the VA.

* Finally, please keep in mind, everyone with less than 90% VA rating will be phased in over time. You will see your CRDP later. See our MOAA Legislative Update for the proposed phase in schedule.

[Source: MOAA News Exchange 15 Jul 09 ++]

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CANCER STATISTICS Update 01: A recent study of Department of Defense and National Cancer Institute statistics shows that active-duty military personnel may have lower risks of developing certain kinds of cancer compared with the general public. These findings came to light after a group of researchers from the Military Health System and the National Institutes of Health compared cancer rates between members of the armed forces and the general U.S. population. “Cancer risk may be affected by multiple factors. It is known that certain behaviors or exposures such as tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, obesity, radiation, and certain chemicals are associated with cancer,” said Dr. Kangmin Zhu, a scientist at the U.S. Military Cancer Institute and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences who led the research project. “The military population may be different from the general population in its exposure to these factors and therefore cancer incidence rates may differ in the two groups,” said Zhu.

Zhu’s team sought to take a broad picture of the effects of cancer on military members by comparing the frequency of six kinds of cancer—lung, colorectal, prostate, breast, testicular and cervical—between military and civilian populations. The study focused on adults aged 20 to 59 years old who were diagnosed with one of the six cancers between 1990 and 2004. Data was taken from two databases: the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute, and the Defense Department’s Automated Central Tumor Registry (ACTUR). The research team found that certain cancers – colorectal, lung and cervical – appeared less frequently in the military population than in the general population. They also found that breast cancer among women and prostate cancer among men are more common in the military than in the general population. Testicular cancer appeared to affect both military and civilian populations equally. Studies on cancer incidence in the U.S. Armed Forces are few and far between. Zhu’s team identified only two previous cancer studies in the military, and both were limited in size and scope. In 1999, a team of researchers conducted a study on the incidence of testicular cancer in the Defense Department. Then in 2006, another more general study was conducted, but only within Air Force personnel.

Although it is unclear why certain groups of military personnel demonstrated different rates, the research team offered some speculation in their article published last month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. According to their interpretation, differing cancer frequencies between military and civilian populations were most likely due to greater access to medical care and higher rates of cancer screening in the military. There also might be different levels of exposure to cancer risks such as smoking, alcohol use, and low physical activity. The differences between the two reporting systems could have also played a role in creating those disparities. All in all, Zhu said, his team plans to continue this kind of analysis after more data has been collected. Descriptive epidemiological studies, he says, may provide clues for further research as well as provide evidence to support existing hypotheses “Analysis of the frequency, distribution and pattern of various cancers can be the first step in understanding their etiology” said Zhu. “In the past, studies of cancer incidence rates in the U.S. military population have been very limited. One of the important research goals of the United States Military Cancer Institute, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and its collaborator, the National Cancer Institute, is to understand cancer patterns in the military. We hoped that this descriptive study would provide basic information on cancer incidence in the military.” [Source: DoD MHS Press Release David Loebsack 15 Jul 09 ++]

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MEDICARE FRAUD Update 17: An Atlantic County New Jersey surgeon, his office manager and the treatment center he owned were indicted on charges they defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers of more than $8.5 million. Dr. Khashayar Salartash, 42, of Linwood; his office manager, Farah Iranipour Houtan, 51, of Egg Harbor Township; and the treatment center owned by Salartash, The Center for Lymphatic Disorders LLC, were variously charged in a state grand jury indictment returned 13 JUL with second-degree conspiracy, three counts of second-degree health care claims fraud, and two counts of third-degree Medicaid fraud. Salartash and Houtan were also charged with second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. The indictment alleges that between AUG 02 and JUN 07, Salartash and Houtan billed Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers for services that were not provided as claimed. “We charge that these defendants collected $8.5 million through false billing, including nearly $5 million from Medicare and half a million dollars from Medicaid,” said Attorney General Anne Milgram. “It’s outrageous that a doctor would fraudulently take millions of dollars from programs that pay for medical care for the elderly and those who can’t afford health insurance. In addition, by defrauding private insurers, he contributed to the high cost of health insurance.”

The Center for Lymphatic Disorders was opened by Salartash on Central Avenue in Egg Harbor Township in AUG 02 to treat patients with lymphedema, which is blockage of the lymph vessels that causes accumulation of fluid and swelling of the arms or legs, and occasionally other parts of the body. Before it closed in 2006, the center opened four additional offices in Atlantic City, Manahawkin, Haddon Heights, and Galloway Township. As a result of alleged fraudulent billing, the Center for Lymphatic Disorders was paid approximately $8,564,622, including $593,363 by Medicaid, $4,703,935 by Medicare, and $3,267,324 by private carriers. The defendants allegedly submitted claims as though Salartash had either personally provided services or directly supervised licensed personnel who rendered services. In fact, services were performed by a physical therapist, a licensed practical nurse or a massage therapist, with essentially no supervision. In addition, Salartash and Houtan allegedly billed for surgery when only physical therapy services were rendered. Salartash allegedly represented in some claims that services were performed in an outpatient hospital facility, when the procedures were performed in a doctor’s office.

In order to support the claims, Salartash certified that the services provided were medically necessary, even though the services were provided for a time period far in excess of what is normal and customary for lymphedema therapy. A normal course of treatment for lymphedema is four weeks, or in very complex cases, eight to 12 weeks. However, an auditor for the Medicaid program determined that most patients of the Center for Lymphatic Disorders were treated for between 18 months and nearly 3 years. Salartash and Houtan allegedly used inappropriate modifiers to billing codes to bill for multiple procedures within a short amount of time, and made written and verbal misrepresentations to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers in order to support claims for payment. [Source: Gloucester County Times article 14 Jul 09 ++]

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UNCLAIMED FUNDS Update 01: A list of the U.S. Security and Exchange commission (SEC) enforcement cases in which a Receiver, Disbursement Agent, or Claims Administrator has been appointed can be found at www.sec.gov/divisions/enforce/claims.htm#BList . Clicking on an alphabetical listing of companies and financial institution you may have lost funds in will reveal if there is a case, its background, the latest action taken, and whether or not an order approving a distribution and authorizing disbursement of funds has been issued. Funds that are recovered and available for investors will be distributed according to an approved plan. If you’re aware of violations of the securities laws, you can report them via the online complaint form. In addition to seeing whether a claims fund has been established, you may want to find out whether a private class action has been filed against the company you invested in. To do so, go to http://securities.stanford.edu. and select “Filings”. If your broker-dealer has gone out of business, you can visit the website of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation www.sipc.org to find out whether your firm is the subject of liquidation proceedings and how you can obtain a claim form. [Source: www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Money_Owed.shtml Jul 09 ++]

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BURN PIT TOXIC EMISSIONS Update 10: When epidemiologist Shira Kramer first saw data about some 400 service members who say they were sickened by open-air burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, she said she was shocked to see how well their symptoms matched up with symptoms associated with toxic exposure. “I was appalled but not surprised to learn that there were so many serious adverse health effects,” she said. “We know open pit burning is very dangerous.” Kramer, who has a doctorate in epidemiology and co-authored a textbook about it, was invited by lawyer Elizabeth Burke to research the burn pits to compile evidence for several class-action lawsuits against military contractor KBR. The military typically disposes of waste in burn pits during contingency operations, but KBR took over burn-pit operations for the largest of the pits at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. In a memo dated 20 DEC 06, Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, former bioenvironmental flight commander at Balad, said the chemicals to which troops there may have been exposed include: dioxin, the same chemical that made Agent Orange so toxic; benzene, an aircraft fuel known to cause leukemia; arsenic; dichlorofluoromethane, or Freon; carbon monoxide; ethyl benzene; formaldehyde; hydrogen cyanide; nitrogen dioxide; sulfuric acid; and xylene.

Kramer said the mix of chemicals, and their combination with particulates such as ash and sand, may have made the problem worse. “You have a toxic brew that is … much more dangerous than individual chemicals alone,” she said. “The absorption onto particulate matter then allows these chemicals not only to deeply penetrate into the lungs, but also to have a dwell time in the lungs.” Air Force officials say the burn pit at Balad has been cleaned up – the 90,000 water bottles a day that were being burned are now recycled, and hazardous materials are no longer making their way to the pit. But even if the pit burned only wood and paper, the troops would still be at risk, Kramer said, noting that burning wood produces dioxin. “Uncontrolled, open burning of any of these materials represents a hazard. The symptoms can be signs of acute respiratory problems and blood cancers… Troops stationed near burn pits who began coughing and spitting up black stuff – ‘plume crud,’ they call it – should have served as a warning to military officials. The acute effects are a tip-off that something quite troubling is going on… Military data showing that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases have risen by 12,000 a year since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began are especially troubling. ..You would not expect to see COPD in a young, healthy population … in this age range,” she said. “It’s extremely unusual and unexpected.” [Source: NavyTimes Kelly Kennedy article 13 Jul 09 ++]

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DEMENTIA Update 01: Dementia can be a devastating illness for patients and their caregivers. Current research is focusing on the causes and manifestations of dementia, new medications and treatments, and education and support for caregivers. News from the various arenas of dementia research and expert advice includes:

* Ongoing studies hope to determine if Alzheimer’s dementia can be predicted and diagnosed by scanning the optic nerve. The same laser technology now used in an ophthalmologist’s office to monitor glaucoma is being used to visualize distinctive optic nerve shapes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

* Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the University of Pittsburgh show the drug memantine (Namenda) might play a valuable role in treating Alzheimer’s dementia, especially when given in combination with other drugs such as Aricept and Exelon.

* The Alzheimer’s Foundation Medical Advisory Board has published reversible risk factors for preventing dementia. Although these factors cannot overrule the role of age, genetics, and medical disease, they are avoidable risks that you have control over. The list includes:

a.) Being a couch potato: Inactivity impedes blood flow to vital organs and the brain, which is necessary to repair and replenish brain cells. So start exercising!

b.) Tipping the scale: Being overweight or obese alters insulin production in the body that can lead to brain inflammation. Obesity also increases the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, and other medical conditions that are risk factors for dementia.

c.) Rising blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the brain and other major organs. However, hypertension can be tricky to diagnose, as there usually are no symptoms until your blood pressure is very high. It is important to have your blood pressure monitored and promptly begin treatment if you’re diagnosed with hypertension.

d.) Drinking alcohol: Prolonged and heavy consumption of alcohol causes a specific type of dementia known as alcohol-related dementia. Researchers also note that individuals with dementia who drink on a regular basis typically have a higher incidence of confusion, delirium, and behavior problems.

* The American Geriatrics Society has reported that 25 percent of dementia diagnoses are missed due to inadequate screening. The organization recommends memory screening for people age 65 or older and those younger than 65 who are at higher risk for dementia. Memory screening is a simple evaluation tool that assesses memory and other intellectual functions and indicates whether further testing is indicated.

* The Caregivers Coalition has posted a set of tips for dementia caregivers:

1.) Prioritize. Learn to put aside rigid schedules and be flexible. Caregivers need to be able to adapt and go with the flow.

2.) Don’t assume your children are too busy to help you. Ask them for assistance, and let them make their own decisions.

3.) Look for community resources. Many caregivers are not aware of the free and low-cost services available in their own communities. Take time to do a little research.

4.) Be aware of your feelings. Your body and your mind will tell you when you need to take a break or get respite. Listen to the subtle signals, and recognize them before it is too late.

For more information on dementia and caregiving research, refer to the following Web sites:

* Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org/index.asp

* The American Geriatrics Society www.americangeriatrics.org

* The Rosalynn Carter Caregiver Institute www.rosalynncarter.org

[Source: MOAA Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan article 17 Jun 09 ++]

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CAPITOL FLAGS: No record has been found for the earliest date the flag was flown over the east and west fronts of the U.S. Capitol. Early engravings and lithographs in the office of the Architect of the Capitol show flags flying on either side of the original low dome above the corridors connecting the areas now known as Statuary Hall and the Old Senate Chamber. After the addition of the new House and Senate wings in the 1850s, even before the great dome was completed in 1863, photographs of the period show flags flying over each new wing and the central east and west fronts. The custom of flying the flags 24 hours a day over the east and west fronts was begun during World War I. This was done in response to requests received from all over the country urging that the flag of the United States be flown continuously over the public buildings in Washington, DC. The east and west front flags, which are 8 x 12 feet, are replaced by new ones when they become worn and unfit for further use. Prior to machine-made flags, individuals were hired by the Congress to hand sew these flags. Presidential proclamations and laws authorize the display of the flag 24 hours a day at the following places:

* Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).

* Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).

* United States Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).

* On the Green of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965).

* The White House, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).

* Washington Monument, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971). Fifty flags of the United States are displayed at the Washington Monument continuously.

* United States Customs Ports of Entry which are continually open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).

* Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).

* Many other places fly the flag at night as a patriotic gesture by custom.

Flags flown over the U.S. Capitol are available for purchase by the general public. All requests for flags must be made through your United States Senator’s or Representative’s offices. The Architect of the Capitol does not accept requests for Capitol flags. To place a flag request refer to the website for your Senator or Representative. Links to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House Representatives can be found at . Many Members of Congress have directions and order forms available online. Complete the form and return with your payment to your Senator or Representative, who will forward your request to the Architect of the Capitol. If instructions for making flag requests are not online, contact your Senator or Representative for instructions. A certificate signed by the Architect of the Capitol accompanies each flag. Flags are available for purchase in sizes of 3′ x 5′ or 5′ x 8′ in fabrics of cotton and nylon. Depending on the size of the flag, the prices range from $13.25 to $22.55 (plus shipping and handling). For additional info on flag issues refer to www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/misc/ourflag/titlepage.htm. [Source: Federal Citizen Info Center FAQ www.pueblo.gsa.gov Jun 09 ++]

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TAX BURDEN for DISTRICT of COLUMBIA RETIREES: Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination. This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack ofa state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden. Following are the taxes you can expect to pay if you retire in Delaware:

State Sales Tax: 5.75% (food, prescription and non-prescription drugs, residential utility services exempt)

Fuel & Cigarette Tax:

* · Gasoline Tax: 20 cents/gallon

* Diesel Fuel Tax: 20 cents/gallon

* Cigarette Tax: $2.00/pack of 20

Personal Income Taxes:

* Tax Rate Range: (2007) Low – 4.0%; High – 8.5%

* Income Brackets: Three. Lowest – $10,000; Highest – $40,000. Note: Excludes Social Security income and maximum $3,000 exclusion on military retired pay, pension income, or annuity income from DC or federal government.

* Personal Exemption: Single – $1,675; Married – $1,675; Dependents – $1,675

* Standard Deduction: Single – $2,000; Married filing joint return – $4,000

* Medical/Dental Deduction: Same as Federal taxes

* Federal Income Tax Deduction: None

* Retirement Income Taxes: Social Security is exempt. Taxpayers 62 and older can exclude $3,000 of military, federal, and state/local pensions. All state government pensions are fully taxed.

* Retired Military Pay: Up to $3,000 of military retirement pay excluded for individuals 62 or older, Survivor benefits are taxable.

* Military Disability Retired Pay: Retirees who entered the military before 24 SEP 75, and members receiving disability retirements based on combat injuries or who could receive disability payments from the VA are covered by laws giving disability broad exemption from federal income tax. Most military retired pay based on service-related disabilities also is free from federal income tax, but there is no guarantee of total protection.

* VA Disability Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA benefits are not taxable because they generally are for disabilities and are not subject to federal or state taxes.

* Military SBP/SSBP/RCSBP/RSFPP: Generally subject to state taxes for those states with income tax. Check with state department of revenue office.

Property Taxes

1.) Property is assessed at 100% of market value. Taxes on owner-occupied real estate are $0.85 per $100 of assessed value. The first $64,000 of assessed value (homestead deduction) is exempt from taxes. Several property tax relief programs are available to assist property owners and first time home buyers. These include a homestead deduction, tax credits for historic properties, senior citizen tax relief and property tax exemptions and deferrals. Homeowners 65 and older with household adjusted gross income of less than $100,000 receive an additional exemption equal to 50% percent of their homestead deduction. For details refer to http://otr.cfo.dc.gov/otr/cwp/view,a,1330,q,594366,otrNav_gid,1679,otrNav,%7C33280%7C.asp

2.) The real property tax deduction has increased. As a result of changes made to Federal year law, non-itemizers (those who take the standard deduction) may now increase the standard deduction by up to $500 (if single, head of household, married filing separately) and up to $1,000 (if filing jointly) if they took the real property tax deduction on their Federal tax return as an increase to the standard deduction. Call 202-727-1000 for more information.

Inheritance and Estate Taxes – There is no inheritance tax and only a limited estate tax.

For further information, refer to the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer site http://cfo.washingtondc.gov/cfo/site/default.asp. [Source: www.retirementliving.com Jul 09 ++]

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MILITARY HISTORY ANNIVERSARIES:

* Jul 16 1779 – Revolutionary War: American troops capture Stony Point, N.Y.

* Jul 16 1945 – WWII: The United States detonates the first atomic bomb in a test at Alamogordo, N. M.

* Jul 17 1898 – Spanish-American War: U.S. troops take Santiago de Cuba.

* Jul 17 1966 – Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh orders a partial mobilization of to defend against American airstrikes.

* Jul 18 1915 – WWI: 2nd Battle of Isonzo begins & ends with loss of 280,000 men

* Jul 18 1942 – WWII: German Me-262, the first jet-propelled aircraft to fly in combat, makes its first flight.

* Jul 18 1971 – Vietnam: New Zealand and Australia announce they will pull their troops out of Vietnam.

* Jul 19 1942 – WWII: German U-boats are withdrawn from positions off the U.S. Atlantic coast due to American anti-submarine countermeasures.

* Jul 20 1917 – WWI: Draft lottery held; #258 is 1st drawn

* Jul 20 1944 – WWII: Adolf Hitler is wounded in an assassination attempt by German Army officers.

* Jul 20 1950 – Korean War: The U.S. Army’s Task Force Smith is pushed back by superior forces.

* Jul 21 1861 – Civil War: In the first major battle of the War, Confederate forces defeat the Union Army along Bull Run near Manassas Junction, Virginia. The battle becomes known as Manassas by the Confederates, while the Union calls it Bull Run

* Jul 21 1944 – WWII: U.S. Army and Marine forces land on Guam in the Marianas.

* Jul 21 1954 – Vietnam: The French sign an armistice with the Viet Minh that ends the war but divides Vietnam into two countries.

* Jul 22 1775 – Revolutionary War: George Washington took command of the Continental Army.

* Jul 22 1814 – Five Indian tribes in Ohio make peace with the United States and declare war on Britain.

* Jul 22 1966 – Vietnam: B-52 bombers hit the DMZ between North and South Vietnam for the first time.

* Jul 22 1987 – Gulf War: US began escorting re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in Persian Gulf

* Jul 23 1944 – WWII: US forces invade Japanese-held Tinian.

* Jul 23 1962 – The Geneva Conference on Laos forbids the United States to invade eastern Laos.

* Jul 24 1990 – Gulf War: U.S. warships in Persian Gulf placed on alert after Iraq masses nearly 30,000 troops near its border with Kuwait

* Jul 25 1944 – WWII: Allied forces begin the breakthrough of German lines in Normandy.

* Jul 25 1990 – Gulf War: U.S. Ambassador tells Iraq, US won’t take sides in Iraq-Kuwait dispute.

* Jul 27 1861 – Civil War: Confederate troops occupy Fort Fillmore, New Mexico

* Jul 27 1944 – WWII: U.S. troops complete the liberation of Guam.

* Jul 27 1953 – Korea: Representatives of the United Nations, Korea and China sign an armistice at Panmunjon ending the war.

* Jul 27 1964 – Vietnam: President Lyndon Johnson sends an additional 5,000 advisers to South Vietnam.

* Jul 28 1914 – WWI: War begins when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia followed by Germany declaring war on France (3 AUG). On 4 AUG Germany invaded Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany, and President Woodrow Wilson declared policy of U.S. neutrality.

* Jul 28 1945 – A B-25 bomber crashes into the Empire State Building in New York City, killing 13 people.

* Jul 28 1965 – Vietnam: LBJ sends 50,000 more soldiers to Vietnam (total of 125,000)

* Jul 29 1915 – U.S. Marines land at Port-au-Prince to protect American interests in Haiti.

* Jul 29 1967 – Fire aboard carrier USS Forrestal in Gulf of Tonkin kills 134. $100 million damage

* Jul 30 1942 – FDR signs bill creating women’s Navy auxiliary agency (WAVES)

* Jul 30 1944 – US 30th division reaches suburbs of St-Lo Normandy

* Jul 30 1945 – WWII: After delivering parts of the first atomic bomb the U.S. cruiser Indianapolis is torpedoed/sinks, 880 die.

* Jul 31 1813 – Revolutionary War: British invade Plattsburgh NY

* Jul 31 1991 – Senate votes to allow women to fly combat aircraft

[Source: Various Jun 09 ++]

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VETERAN LEGISLATION STATUS 29 JUL 09: The next scheduled Congressional recess during which they will not be in session is 6 AUG through 4 SEP. This is referred to as the August recess which runs through Labor Day 3 SEP. For or a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community that have been introduced in the 111th Congress refer to the Bulletin’s Veteran Legislation attachment. Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law. A good indication on that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it. To determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d111/sponlst.html.

Grassroots lobbying is perhaps the most effective way to let your Representative and Senators know your opinion. Whether you are calling into a local or Washington, D.C. office; sending a letter or e-mail; signing a petition; or making a personal visit, Members of Congress are the most receptive and open to suggestions from their constituents. The key to increasing cosponsorship on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting legislators know of veteran’s feelings on issues. You can reach their Washington office via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate on http://thomas.loc.gov your legislator’s phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making. Refer to http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/cong_schedule.html for dates that you can access your legislators on their home turf. [Source: RAO Bulletin Attachment 29 Jul 09 ++]

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HAVE YOU HEARD: Puns for the educated?

* The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference . He acquired his size from too much pi.

* I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

o She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.

o A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

o The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

o No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

o A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

o A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blown apart.

o Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

o Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

o A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

o Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

o Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

o I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

o A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: “Keep off the Grass.”

o A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, “No change yet.”

o A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

o The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

o The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

o A backward poet writes inverse.

o In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

o When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

o Don’t join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

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Lt. James “EMO” Tichacek, USN (Ret)

Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & IRS VITA Baguio City RP

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

Tel: (951) 238-1246 in U.S. or Cell: 0915-361-3503 in the Philippines.

Email: raoemo@sbcglobal.net Web: http://post_119_gulfport_ms.tripod.com/rao1.html

AL/AMVETS/DAV/FRA/NAUS/NCOA/MOAA/USDR/VFW/VVA/CG33/DD890/AD37 member

BULLETIN SUBSCRIPTION NOTES:

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RAO BULLETIN

1 August 2009

Note: Anyone receiving this who does not want it click on the automatic “Change address / Leave mailing list” on the bottom of the message containing this attachment or hit reply and place the word “Remove” in the subject line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES

== NDAA 2010 —————————– (S.1390 & H.R.2647)

== VA Medicare Subvention [02] ——————– (H.R.3365)

== SSA Compassionate Allowances Prog [02] —— (Hearings)

== Mobilized Reserve 28 JUL 09 ———— (Decrease of 851)

== Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposure [07] —————– (S.1518)

== Space “A” Info [02] ——————— (New AMC Website)

== Credit Card Charges [03] ——————— (Unauthorized)

== Grandparent Scam] ———— (Military Families Targeted)

== Traumatic Brain Injury [09] ———- (Purple Heart Policy)

== VA Third Party Insurers [04] ———— (SSN Requirement)

== Medicare Rates 2010 —————————– (Projections)

== DoD Retiree Employment [01] —- (NDAA 09 Amendment)

== Feres Doctrine [02] —————- (Carmelo Rodriguez Bill)

== ECS 2009 [13] ————————- (Deadline 15 OCT 09)

== Minimum Wage —————————- (JUL 09 Increase)

== Health Care Reform [02] ————— (Absence of Details)

== Health Care Reform [03] ————— (Funding Proposals)

== Health Care Reform [04] ———————- (Scare Tactics)

== VA SAH [05] —————————– (Proposed Increase)

== SBP DIC Offset [19] ————- (Senate Includes in NDAA)

== Saluting the Flag [04] ——————————- (Veterans)

== Prostate Cancer [11] —————– (Ultrasound Treatment)

== Reserve Personnel Cuts [01] —– (Enlistment Age Lowered)

== Medicare Fraud [17] —————– (Los Angeles $597,750)

== VA Women Vet Programs [06] — (HAVC/SVAC Hearings)

== DD-214 Security [01] ——————– (Could be digitized)

== Car Allowance Rebate System ————— (How it Works)

== VA Foreclosed Homes ————- (Available for Purchase)

== FTC Rite Aid Ruling ——————– (Misleading Claims)

== VFW Claim Assistance ——————— (Service Officers)

== VA Hospitals [04] ————— (Female Vets lack Privacy)

== Tricare Regional Contracts ———– (T3 Benefits Initiated)

== Tricare Regional Contracts [01] ———————— (Q&A)

== HVAC [09] ———————————— (Recent Activity)

== Arlington National Cemetery [05] — (Aesthetics Deceptive)

== Tricare Management Activity ————- (New Leadership)

== VA Claims Processing [01] —– (PA Legislator’s Concerns)

== GI Bill [53] —————————————- (Key Details)

== Chapter 61 Disability Pay [05] — (Proposed CRDP Impact)

== Cancer Statistics [01] ——- (Military/Civilian Differences)

== Medicare Fraud [17] —————————– (Linwood NJ)

== Unclaimed Funds [01] ———— (Investor’s Claims Funds)

== Burn Pit Toxic Emissions [10] — (Epidemiologist Appalled)

== Dementia [01] ——————————— (Research News)

== Capitol Flags —————————————– (Overview)

== Tax Burden for DC Retirees ———————– (Overview)

== Military History Anniversaries ——– (Jul 16-31 Summary)

== Veteran Legislation Status 29 Jul 09 —– (Where we Stand)

== Have You Heard? ——————— (Puns for the educated)

==============================

NDAA 2010 Update 01: On 23 JUL the Senate passed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) S.1390 by a vote of 87-7. The House passed their version (H.R.2647) last month. The House and Senate bills include a number of other bills submitted as amendments that will impact favorably on the veteran community if they are not struck down in the compromise committee. Some of these are:

· End the deduction of VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from military Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuities. (Senate only).

· Find other ways of cutting DoD health costs besides shifting costs to retirees.

· Extend eligibility for TRICARE Standard to gray area retirees.

· Enhance transitional dental care for members of the reserve components on active duty for more than 30 days in support of a contingency operation.

· Include service after 11 SEP 01 in determination of reduced eligibility age for receipt of non-regular service retired pay. (S.Amdt: 1661)

· Require DoD to improve access to mental health care for family members of members of the National Guard and Reserve who are deployed overseas. (S.Amdt: 1799)

· Phase out the disability offset for medically retired members regardless of length of service.

· Conduct a study on adding the National D-Day Monument in Bedford Virginia to the National Park System.

· Put service-disabled veteran-run businesses on equal footing in the competition for small business government contracting programs.

· Phase-in the extension of concurrent receipt to all medically retired service members regardless of years of service.

· Eliminate the 2013 COLA delay that Congress passed last year. (House only)

· Allow agency heads to waive the requirement for retirees who are rehired part time to take a cut in their annuity checks. (S.Amdt: 1390)

House and Senate leaders will be appointed to a conference committee to resolve more than a thousand differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of the defense bill including difficult issues on procurement, detainees and more. In the past these difficult negotiations have usually dragged on into October or November or beyond. It’s possible that Congress will have an incentive to expedite defense bill negotiations this year in order to clear the legislative decks for action on national health reform. But that remains to be seen. [Source: Various 30 Jul 09 ++]

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VA MEDICARE SUBVENTION Update 02: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee introduced legislation 28 JUL that would allow VA to bill Medicare for third-party reimbursements of eligible veterans for nonservice-connected medical conditions. Currently, VA is prohibited from billing Medicare for third-party reimbursements for the treatment of enrolled, Medicare-eligible veterans for medical conditions that are unrelated to their military service. Since the 1990s, The American Legion has strongly recommended Medicare reimbursements to supplement VA’s health-care annual budget. Through congressional testimony and numerous interviews with the media, the Legion has promoted Medicare reimbursement as a new revenue stream for VA. James Koutz, chairman of the Legion’s National Legislative Commission says, “The only criterion for access to VA health care should be honorable military service. Medicare is just an insurance payer, not a health-care provider.” The measure, “Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2009” (H.R.3365), has been referred to three House committees for consideration.

The day before Filner introduced his Medicare reimbursement bill, the House passed three bills that, if approved by the Senate, would improve benefits and services to veterans provided by VA. The legislation seeks to expand necessary life insurance options for veterans and their families, improve medical services at VA hospitals and clinics around the country, streamline the process for nonprofit research and education corporations to participate in VA endeavors, and provide essential support and training to those caring for wounded veterans. The legislation passed was:

· H.R. 2770, as amended – Veterans Nonprofit Research and Education Corporations Enhancement Act of 2009. This bill would modify and update provisions of law relating to nonprofit research and education corporations, so they can better support VA research.

· H.R. 3155, as amended – Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act. This bill would provide support services to family and non-family caregivers of veterans, including educational sessions and one-stop access to support services at a caregiver support Web site. It would also make counseling and mental health services available to family and non-family caregivers of veterans.

· H.R. 3219 – To make certain improvements in the laws administered by the VA secretary relating to insurance and health care. This comprehensive bill would expand options for veterans and servicemembers to obtain life insurance policies that better fit their needs and the needs of their families. The bill also improves health services for veterans by increasing the participation of physician assistants at the Veterans Health Administration, prohibiting the collection of co-payments for certain veterans who are catastrophically disabled, establishing a Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury, waiving housing-loan fees for some disabled veterans, expanding nursing-home care for certain veterans, and allowing Medal of Honor recipients to receive a priority status for medical services.

[Source: American Legion Online 30 Jul 09 ++]

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SSA COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCES PROGRAM Update 02: In OCT 08, Social Security launched Compassionate Allowances to expedite the processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions by definition meet Social Security’s standards. The program allows SSA to quickly target the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that they can obtain quickly. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security has held four Compassionate Allowance public outreach hearings this year to evaluate additional conditions to add to the list. The first three hearings were on rare diseases, cancers, and traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. The fourth public outreach hearing took place in Chicago on 29 JUL. Commissioner Astrue was joined by Marie A. Bernard, M.D., Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and other Social Security officials. They heard testimony from some of the nation’s leading experts on early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias about possible methods for identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“This year, through Compassionate Allowances and our Quick Disability Determination process, over 100,000 Americans with severe disabilities will be approved for Social Security disability benefits in a matter of days rather than the months and years it can sometimes take,” said Commissioner Astrue. “We are now looking to add more diseases and impairments to these expedited processes. With today’s hearing, we are expanding our focus from specific rare diseases and cancers to look at subgroups of much broader conditions. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a rapidly progressive and debilitating disease of the brain that affects individuals between the ages of 50 and 65 and clearly deserves consideration. “With the aging of the baby-boomers, we are beginning to see more, younger working Americans diagnosed with this devastating disease,” Commissioner Astrue said.

The initial list of Compassionate Allowance conditions was developed as a result of information received at previous public outreach hearings, public comment on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, comments received from the Social Security and Disability Determination Service communities, and the counsel of medical and scientific experts. Consideration was given to which conditions most likely met SSA’s current definition of disability. A modest 50 conditions were selected for the initiative’s rollout. The list can be seen at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm and will expand over time. To learn more and to view a web cast of the 29 JUL hearing, refer to www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances. [Source: Disability.gov Benefits News & Events Update 29 Jul 09 ++]

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MOBILIZED RESERVE 28 JUL 09: The Department of Defense announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 28 JUL 09. The net collective result is 851 fewer reservists mobilized than last reported in the Bulletin for 15 JUL 09. At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 111,879; Navy Reserve, 6,685; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 13,925; Marine Corps Reserve, 8,341; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 698. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 141,528, including both units and individual augmentees. A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2009/d20090728ngr.pdf. [Source: DoD News Release No. 561-09 29 Jul 09 ++]

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CAMP LEJEUNE TOXIC EXPOSURE Update 07: North Carolina’s senior U.S. senator introduced a bill 28 JUL calling for the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care to veterans and their relatives who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Sen. Richard Burr’s bill, “Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2009 (S.1518),” would grant care at a VA facility to any veteran or family member who was based at Camp Lejeune and suffers from adverse health effects. Burr’s office did not specify what kind of health problems, only that they are connected to exposure to contaminated water. A Marine Corps spokesman, 1st Lt. Brian Block, said the service would study the bill before making a statement. “As far as pending legislation, it is something we’d be very interested in seeing because anything that impacts our former residents and Marines is very important to us,” he said. “Our first concern is taking care of our Marines and their family members.” Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the VA can’t comment on pending legislation. Water was contaminated by dry cleaning solvents and other sources at the base’s major family housing areas: Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. It is impossible to know how many people would qualify, Burr’s office said. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins trichloroethylene (TCE) or perchloroethylene (PCE) before the wells were closed 22 years ago.

“Camp Lejeune veterans and their families deserve closure on this tragic situation,” Burr said in a statement. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine master sergeant who lived at the base, applauded the bill. He said veterans from the base are being diagnosed with cancer and the VA is turning down their claim because it is not service connected. “At least this is a start. We haven’t had that up to this point,” said Ensminger, whose daughter was conceived at Camp Lejeune and died of childhood leukemia in 1985 at age 9. “This legislation is great for providing help to those who need it but it does not by any means exonerate the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps of their culpability on this issue.” He would still like to see a hearing on the issue in front of the full Senate Armed Services Committee. It was not immediately clear how the care offered in Burr’s bill would be funded. Burr’s office said the bill will offer veterans and their families some relief while the problem is studied. “This is kind of a first step in providing the care these folks need,” said David Ward, a Burr spokesman.

People who lived at the base have claimed everything from child leukemia to skin lesions and rashes. A report released earlier this month by the National Academy of Sciences said there are severe challenges in trying to connect the contaminants to any birth defects, cancer and many other ailments suffered by people who lived and worked on base. The 341-page report reviewed past studies of the base’s water and called into question the value of further studies. Burr’s office stressed that the National Research Council report is not the final word on theissue, and he looks forward to seeing the results of the ongoing study of water by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) have also asked the Navy for details about gaps in information. Hagan plans to meet with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in September, according to her office. Veterans who have not already done so should register on the official Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water Registry at https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater if they believe there is a possibility they or their family were exposed to the toxins. [Source: AP article 28 Jul 09 ++]

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SPACE “A” INFO Update 02: Air Mobility Command (AMC) recently unveiled its first official, command-level AMC Travel Web site. Members of the military community planning to travel the AMC military travel system can now go to www.amc.af.mil/amctravel/index.asp for the latest in AMC travel information. The site, which officially went live 24 JUL, offers prospective space-available travelers a wealth of information, including an updated AMC passenger terminal contact list (complete with phone, e-mail and Web links). The site also includes more than a dozen travel documents, example letters and brochures. Every day around the world, hundreds of military and military-contracted commercial aircraft travel the world delivering troops and cargo. And each year, hundreds of thousands of military personnel, retirees, and their family members go along for the ride, courtesy of the AMC space-available travel program. Space-available flights, also known as “military hops,” are a unique benefit to U.S. servicemembers, retirees and their families. Under the AMC travel program, unused seats on U.S. military and military-contracted aircraft are made available to non-duty passengers on a space-available basis (once space-required or official-duty passengers and cargo have been accommodated).

Tech. Sgt. Steve Katsonis of the AMC passenger policy branch said, “The site was created to provide our customers a wealth of AMC travel information, which can be counted on to contain the most accurate and up-to-date travel information available. Our customers deserved a Web site where they can obtain travel information that is correct, up to date and validated by AMC. This Web site will give them that … officials understand the massive amount of anxiety and stress felt by space-required and space-available travelers … Our goal is that this site will answer any questions the passengers will have, therefore minimizing their stress before they leave their homes.” In the past, prospective space-available passengers frequently turned to one of several AMC headquarters offices in search of travel information. Although headquarters personnel are trained to respond to these public queries, Katsonis anticipates the new Web site will provide all their information and more. Additionally, he said trained passenger service agents at AMC terminals worldwide are standing by to assist. People searching for up-to-the-minute AMC travel information are encouraged to contact their nearest AMC passenger terminal. A current listing is available on the new AMC Travel site. For a copy of this list refer to the Word attachment to this Bulletin.

Active-duty dependent travel policies have gone through a few significant changes during the past few years. Department of Defense officials now allow unaccompanied travel by dependents when the military spouse is deployed on contingency/exercise/deployment orders, also known as CED orders. When the deployment is for 120 days or more, unaccompanied travel is authorized in category IV; and for deployments of 366 days or more, unaccompanied travel is authorized in the bottom of category III. A list of categories is included in the web site. Space-available travel is a great benefit, but it can be a stressful experience without the proper planning. “AMC never guarantees travel, and passengers need to be prepared for their (space-available) trip to take more time than it would were they traveling commercial,” the sergeant said. He added that not every base is equipped with facilities or lodging capable of handling passengers stranded by a broken or rerouted aircraft. “The most important thing to remember when traveling Space-A is be prepared to fly commercial if problems are encountered. The key to a stress-free trip is to have a plan. Have enough money for all contingencies, and be mentally prepared for disappointment when plans don’t come together.” Note: Another useful source on Space A travel is George Peppard’s Space A message board at http://www.pepperd.com. [Source: AMC News Service Mark Diamond article 29 Jul 09 ++]

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CREDIT CARD CHARGES Update 03: The Senate Commerce Committee chairman issued a subpoena 29 JUL to compel the release of documents in an ongoing investigation into unauthorized credit card charges. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) has asked three companies for documents related to online “discount clubs.” But he only subpoenaed one of them — Vertrue, Inc. The companies offer cash back or coupon rewards to consumers who enroll in their rewards programs. The offers typically occur as pop-ups after the consumer has purchased something from another Web site, including from some large retailers such as Priceline.com, Fandango.com and Staples.com. These retailers receive a payment from the discount club each time a customer enrolls. The pop-up will ask for an e-mail address in order to opt into a rewards program, often in exchange for a fee outlined in fine print. Enrolling in the program then triggers an exchange of credit card information between the two businesses, without any action on the consumer’s part.

Consumer advocates say those who enroll in these programs may not be aware that their credit card will in fact be charged to enroll, since they aren’t asked to cough up a credit card number. Rockefeller has asked for documents related to this practice from “post transaction marketers” Vertrue, WebLoyalty and Affinon, but so far has only subpoenaed Vertrue. In a letter to Vertrue President Gary Johnson, Rockefeller said Vertrue has resisted providing information, including internal discussions about the volume of consumer complaints, discussions with their business partners about unauthorized credit card charges, and the names and contact information of complainants. “You have withheld this information over committee staff’s repeated objections, in an apparent attempt to prevent committee staff from verifying and learning more about dissatisfied customers’ experiences with your company,” the letter read. Johnson must produce the documents by 18 AUG or he will be compelled to appear before the committee on that date for questioning. [Source: CQ Today Midday Update 28 Jul 09 ++]

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GRANDPARENT SCAM: A new scam targeting military families is a good reminder to us all to review the personal infor­mation we put on social network­ing sites. It’s a sordid twist on a longtime scam that targets grandparents. This one specifically targets grandparents of troops deployed to Iraq, most often those who have posted online that their grandson or granddaughter is deployed in the war zone. Here’s how it works: Scam artists gather enough information from social networking sites to contact these grandparents and pose as their grandchildren. They say they’re coming home on leave from Iraq, hoping to surprise their parents, and they ask the grandparents to keep the impend­ing visit a secret. A short time later, the im­poster again contacts the grand­parents to say the visit’s been sidetracked by a broken-down car. The imposter asks the grandparents to wire a large sum of money for car repairs.

Bridget Patton, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Kansas City, Mo., field office, said the office has not had a huge number of reports of this scam but considers even one or two reports to be significant. “Losing $3,000 or $4,000 can devastate someone financially,” she said. Her office issued an alert, which also went out through FBI headquarters, “be­cause we’re trying to be proactive in get­ting the word out,” she said. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, has received about a dozen reports of this military-related grandpar­ent scam, said Brian Hale, a spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. It’s against FBI policy to con­firm or deny ongoing investiga­tive activity. “But in the past, we have launched cyber investiga­tions as a result of reports coming in to IC3,” Hale said. IC3 is a partnership among the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bu­reau of Justice Assistance. Hale said people who believe they may be vic­tims of a scam, or are being lured into a scam, should report it to www.ic3.gov. Depending on the nature of the scam, and how widespread it is, FBI officials might refer it to state law enforcement officials or launch their own investigation. Officials also work with other federal law enforcement authori­ties, such as the military services’ criminal investigative agencies. “A lot of people don’t realize that they’ve put personal infor­mation on the Internet that could lead to identity theft or a scam,” Patton said. “Even in screen names, they use the year they graduated, their school name or other information. “Be very, very careful of what information you put on those sites,” she said. The FBI and the Better Busi­ness Bureau advise military fam­ily members to visit social net­working sites where they have accounts to make sure that no exploitable information is available.“Even though their name is used, many people feel free to post large amounts of information about themselves, including pic­tures of their family, friends and pets, as well as their likes and dis­likes,” said Doug Broten, president of the Better Business Bureau in central California, in an alert to businesses in that area following the FBI alert. “They willingly share very personal data in the in­terests of Internet friendships.”

The FBI also advises verifying the identity of anyone who contacts you by asking specific questions that only that person could answer — especially if the person contact ing you floats the idea of sending him money for any reason. Another option is to develop a specific code word or phrase to make sure the person contacting you is not an imposter. “People are conditioned to pro­tecting themselves in their physi­cal spaces, clutching their purses and their children when ap­proached by a stranger,” the FBI’s Hale said. “Take the same precau­tions in cyberspace as you do in physical space.” [Source: NavyTimes Karen Jowers article 27 Jul 09 ++]

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TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY Update 09: The House version of the 2010 defense authorization bill includes a provision ordering a review of military policies regarding the awarding of Pur­ple Hearts to service members who suffer traumatic brain injuries. The provision, added to the bill at the urging of Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.(D-NJ) is aimed at coming up with a con­sistent policy across the services about whether con­cussions or brain injuries that do not require immediate medical attention rate a medal for combat injury. The review requested by Pascrell would try to determine what level of injury would qualify for an award, a difficult issue because an injury that may seem minor when it occurs could have long-term consequences. Pascrell says he hopes the final policy doesn’t have absolute require­ments — such as seeking medical attention right away — because that would exclude people who do not immediately recognize the harm caused from the blast they just survived in combat. [Source: NavyTimes Fast Track Pay & Benefits 27 Jul 09 ++]

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VA THIRD PARTY INSURERS Update 04: Requiring veterans receiv­ing medical treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department to pro­vide their Social Security number and pertinent information about other health coverage could shave $109 million a year from the VA budget, according to the nonpartisan Congres­sional Budget Office. The Social Secu­rity number could help match the patient with Social Security and feder­al tax records to show whether a vet­eran meets or exceeds income thresh­olds for non-chargeable treatment if he does not have a service-connected medical issue, while insurance information would help bill a third party for care. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has included the pro­posal in an omnibus veteran’s health care bill that is expected to become law later this year. While some veterans may find the questions intrusive, lawmakers believe that ensuring VA is paying only for care it must provide will make cer­tain that veterans who are entitled to non-chargeable treatment are able to receive it. [Source: NavyTimes Fast Track Pay & Benefits 27 Jul 09 ++]

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MEDICARE RATES 2010: Medicare costs are expected to continue to escalate in 2010, but seniors won’t be getting any comparable increase in their annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), government economists say. The Social Security Trustees recently forecast that there would be no COLA in 2010 and 2011 because of extremely low inflation. Due to a special “hold harmless” provision of law, the government estimates that about 30 million Medicare beneficiaries will have no change in their Medicare Part B premium, which is automatically deducted from most people’s Social Security benefits. The little-known provision protects the Social Security benefits of most seniors when the Part B premium increases more than a person’s COLA. If there is no COLA increase in 2010, then there is no Part B premium increase for beneficiaries protected by the hold harmless provision.

The hold harmless protection, however, does not cover about one-quarter of Part B enrollees, and does not apply at all to Part C Medicare Advantage or Part D plan premiums. The senior citizens League (TSCL) estimates that more than 6.8 million Social Security beneficiaries, about one in every seven, could see their Social Security checks (or direct deposits) reduced next year. If individuals have Medicare Advantage or drug plan premiums automatically deducted from their Social Security and the premium increases, then their benefits will be reduced to cover those rising costs. In addition millions of other seniors pay their plans directly. They would also have to pay a bigger portion of their Social Security to cover rising costs and would have less to live on. Medicare Trustees estimate that basic Part B premiums will rise by about $7.80 per month in 2010 (from $96.40 to $104.20), and would jump to $120.20 by 2011 for seniors subject to the increase. Nationwide Part D premiums climbed about 24% on average in 2009 for most beneficiaries, and have increased about 10% per year, on average, since 2006. [Source: TSCL Social Security and Medicare Advisor, Vol. 14, No. 6 dtd 27 Jul 09 ++]

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DOD RETIREE EMPLOYMENT Update 01: Lawmakers withdrew several federal workforce reforms from the Senate’s 2010 Defense Authorization bill in the face of an angry filibuster from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) but a provision to make it easier to rehire annuitants survived in the budget legislation. The Senate approved an amendment from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to S. 1390, which would allow agency heads to waive the requirement for retirees who are rehired part time to take a cut in their annuity checks. The authorization bill passed 87-7. Under current Office of Personnel Management regulations, federal retirees can return to work for government part time, but in most cases their annuities are reduced by the amount they earn on the job, unless they receive a waiver from OPM. Agencies say this makes it harder to bring back experienced staff, especially if they’re needed on short notice. The retiree language originally was part of a larger amendment from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) which included other federal personnel reforms, which management and labor groups supported. But in an unusual move, Coburn filibustered the amendment for an hour and a half, saying its price tag was too steep in a time of recession and high unemployment. After Akaka withdrew his amendment, Collins offered the chapter dealing with rehiring federal retirees as a separate amendment, which was approved by voice vote.

The bill now will go to a conference committee, where its fate is uncertain. The House version of the Defense authorization, which was passed in late June, does not include the language in Collins’ amendment. Despite broad bipartisan support in the Senate, the American Federation of Government Employees and other federal labor unions have spoken out against changing the policy on rehiring annuitants, saying it would put current employees at a disadvantage and circumvent fair hiring practices. By contrast, advocates say the legislation would make it easier to hire talented workers quickly to deal with immediate challenges, such as administering billions of dollars in stimulus funding. In response to union concerns, the legislation includes several limitations on how long rehired annuitants could work for the government, such as a cap of 1,040 hours in a 12-month period. Also, the number of rehired retirees could not exceed 2.5% of an agency’s workforce. The good news for budget hawks is the retiree legislation would not generate substantial personnel costs, according to a Congressional Budget Office study. CBO said the bill primarily would ease the “administrative burden” of obtaining waivers from OPM, but it probably wouldn’t increase the number of retirees in the federal workforce. [Source: GOV.Exec.com Alex M. Parker article 24 Jul 09 ++]

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FERES DOCTRINE Update 02: The Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act (S.1347), introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (NY), would restore the protections of the civil justice system to the men and women of our armed forces. The motivation for the bill was the death of Marine Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez. He served his country with honor for nearly a decade, including a tour of duty in Iraq, he lost his life not on the battlefield, but as a result of preventable medical negligence. Upon enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, Rodriguez received a routine medical exam. His doctors diagnosed a blotch on his buttock as melanoma but never told him, and the military never followed up. Over the next eight years, the melanoma continued to grow until, while serving in Iraq, Rodriguez had it examined again. This time, he was told that it was just a wart and that he should have it examined upon returning to the U.S. Tragically, by then, it was too late, and Rodriguez died 18 months later from skin cancer, holding the hand of his seven-year-old son. Despite this medical negligence no action can be taken by the survivors Rodriguez.

While most Americans could pursue justice through our courts, service members like Rodriguez and his family do not have this same right. A 1950 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Feres v. United States prevents service members on active duty from holding the government accountable for non-combat related injuries. This decision strips countless military families of their right to seek redress through our civil justice system. “It is inexcusable that our service men and women, if injured by medical negligence, are denied the same protections that all other citizens enjoy,” said Linda Lipsen, Senior VP of Public Affairs at the American Association for Justice. “This important legislation would restore these rights to these brave heroes, who risk their lives every day in service of our country.”

Those who would like to see this injustice eliminated are urged to support legislation to rectify this situation. To do so you can go to http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13791596&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id], enter your zip code and contact data, and send a preformatted message to your Senators urging they co-sponsor S. 1347 to restore the right of active duty service members to bring suit against the United States for improper medical care from the Department of Defense. For obvious reasons this legislation would not apply to any claim arising out of the combatant activities of the Armed Forces during the time of armed conflict. [Source: USDR Action alert 25 Jul 09 ++]

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ECS 2009 Update 13: The Internal Revenue Service is reminding qualifying retirees and veterans that it is not too late to file for an economic stimulus (ECS) payment and announced it will send a second set of information packets to 5.2 million people who may be eligible but who have not yet filed for their stimulus payment. The packages will contain everything needed by a person who normally does not have a filing requirement but who must file this year in order to receive an economic stimulus payment. There will be instructions, an example Form 1040A return showing the few lines that need to be completed, and a blank Form 1040A. The packages will be mailed over a three-week period starting 21 JUL. “All it takes is a few simple steps, and the payment can be on its way. It’s not too late to file, but the sooner people file, the faster they’ll receive their money,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. The mailing is part of an IRS summer campaign to reach out to those people who have no requirement to file a tax return but who may be eligible for a stimulus payment of up to $300 ($600 for married filing jointly). For those eligible for a payment for themselves, there also is a $300 per child payment for eligible children younger than 17.

The IRS has accounted for about 75% of the approximately 20 million Social Security and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries identified as being potential stimulus recipients. All but 5.2 million of those have either filed a return, filed a joint return or were not eligible for a stimulus payment (for example, they were claimed as a dependent on another’s return). To reach the remaining recipients, the IRS is working with national partners, members of Congress and state and local officials to ensure that assistance to eligible people is available. The agency also reminded people that it has more than 400 local Taxpayer Assistance Centers operating normal business hours Monday through Friday. These centers can provide assistance to retirees and veterans trying to receive their payments. A list of addresses and office hours can be found at www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html.

Receiving the stimulus payment should have no impact on other federal benefits currently being received. The stimulus payment is not taxable. Absent any other filing requirements, filing a tax return to receive a stimulus payment does not mean that retirees and others will have to start filing tax returns again. As of 11 JUL, the IRS had issued 112.4 million payments totaling $91.8 billion. Payments are based on 2007 tax returns being filed this year. People must file by 15 OCT in order to receive a payment in 2008. Those who do not file a tax return to obtain their stimulus payment this year may still receive their stimulus payments by filing a 2008 tax return next spring, but then their stimulus payment would be based on their 2008 qualifying income. [Source: IR-2008-91 Public Service Announcement 21 Jul 09 ++]

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MINIMUM WAGE: The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour effective 24 Jul 09. The federal minimum wage provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Many states also have minimum wage laws. In cases where an employee is subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages. For instance California was $7.50 as of 1 JAN 07 and increased to $8 per hour on 1 JAN 08. For information on your state refer to www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm . The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an employee’s usual or promised wages or commissions in excess of those required by the FLSA. However, some states do have laws under which such claims (sometimes including fringe benefits) may be filed. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the federal minimum wage law. [Source: USA.gov 25 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 02: The absence of details surrounding healthcare reform legislation being considered by Congress has understandably left many military retirees and veterans concerned. Many of these plans are works in progress, and it is unclear how they will affect military beneficiaries and users of VA’s healthcare system. Several lawmakers are working to ensure Tricare beneficiaries and veterans are not adversely affected by the reform effort. They include Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) who on 21 JUL successfully attached an amendment to the House version of the health reform bill (H.R.3200) which passed out of the Education and Labor Committee. According to Rep. Wilson, “The purpose of this amendment is to shield the men and women of our Armed Forces from onerous mandates and possible coverage deterioration as a result of this bill’s complex new health care governing scheme. Specifically, I believe we must exempt Tricare from the “pay or play” employer mandate and other benefit mandates that would place an additional burden on this program that serves military personnel and their families.”

Another representative maneuvering to protect military and healthcare benefits is Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), author of a letter to congressional leaders insisting that veterans and military healthcare benefits must not be taxed or reduced to help pay for health care reform. “We’re not going to pay for healthcare reform on the backs of our troops and veterans,” said Congressman Nye. Nye’s bipartisan letter was signed by 40 Members of Congress. One danger lurking within each of the proposals is the potential for sharp cuts in Medicare Physician Reimbursements. Deep cuts in the physician reimbursement rates, would likely cause a number of doctors either to reduce the number of Medicare and Tricare patients or to refuse seeing them altogether. Should that happen, military retirees, particularly Tricare for Life beneficiaries could suddenly find access to care sharply curtailed. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 24 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 03: Congress is wrestling with the enormously tricky puzzle of how to cut healthcare costs while extending health insurance coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Two options to finance the legislation could hold significant tax consequences for Medicare beneficiaries if written into law. The key proposal to raise revenues for healthcare reform at this writing appears to center on changing the tax exclusion for employer-provided health coverage. This could have widespread repercussions on older workers and retirees who have Medicare supplement coverage through employers. According to one major study, almost one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries receive supplemental Medicare benefits through employer-sponsored plans. Employer plans generally cover Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs by paying some or all of the deductibles and co-payments, as well as filling in gaps in Medicare’s standard package of benefits.

Congress is considering limiting the value of employer-provided health coverage that can be excluded from gross income on income tax returns. Under current law, employees and retirees are not taxed on the value of employer-provided health care. The amount paid by employers for employer-provided health benefits of employees is deductible. And unlike other forms of compensation, if an employer contributes to a plan providing health coverage for employees and their dependents, the contribution and all benefits for medical care under the plan are excludable from the employee’s income for income tax purposes, and excludable from the employees’ wages for payroll tax purposes. There is no limit on the amount of employer-provide health coverage that’s excludable. The new limits under consideration could be based on the value of the Medicare supplement or the income of the insured, or some combination of the two.

Congress is also considering proposals to raise the 7.5% Adjusted Gross Income threshold for deduction for medical expenses on income tax returns, or eliminate the deduction altogether. This would disproportionately affect seniors who tend to have lower incomes and thus would have greater difficulty qualifying for the deduction if the threshold were raised, and who have more medical expenses than younger taxpayers. Altogether these tax proposals are estimated to be worth $51.3 billion in higher revenues. But the new tax proposal would hit senior taxpayers in yet a third way. The effect of limiting the exclusion for employer-provided insurance coverage would increase the amount of taxable income. For seniors, a higher taxable income would subject a bigger portion of their Social Security benefits to tax as well. The result is a triple-whammy tax on benefits that seniors have spent their careers working and paying for. As of this writing it remains unclear whether this approach to financing health care reform will be taken. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said a preliminary report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that his draft health overhaul bill would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years, cover 95% of Americans by 2015 and be fully offset. He said the CBO report is encouraging though it “does not include resolution of several key issues. [Source: TSCL Social Security and Medicare Advisor, Vol. 14, No. 6 dtd 27 Jul 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM Update 04: The opponents of health reform will say anything to stop it, no matter how untrue. The latest falsehood alleges that the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (HR 3200) would require older adults to obtain counseling “that will tell them how to end their life sooner,” in the words of Betsy McCaughey, an employee of the conservative Hudson Institute. Representative Virginia Foxx (R- NC) went a step further, implying that the House Democrats’ health reform bill would “put seniors in the position of being put to death by their government.” These falsehoods are designed to scare older adults and gin up opposition to health reform. In fact, HR 3200 provides Medicare coverage for a consultation with a doctor—not a government official—in which the patient can express her preferences regarding end-of-life care. The patient is not required to have this consultation, and there is no mandate for the patient to complete an advance directive (such as a living will) or forego aggressive treatment of a life-threatening illness.

In fact, HR 3200 makes substantial improvements to Medicare. The bill would phase out the Part D “doughnut hole,” the built-in gap in Medicare drug coverage that requires older adults and people with disabilities to pay the full price for their prescriptions while still paying the premiums for the drug plan. Although it would take until 2023 to fully close the doughnut hole, people with Medicare will benefit immediately as the gap is narrowed with each passing year. The enhanced coverage is paid for by securing lower prices for prescription drugs covered under Medicare Part D. In addition, brand-name drugs for people who are in the doughnut hole would be subject to a mandatory 50% discount. The real threat to the lives of older adults and people with disabilities comes when they cannot afford to buy the medicines they need to treat a serious illness. That is happening right now when people enter the doughnut hole. [Source: Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update 30 Jul 09 ++]

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VA SAH Update 05: As ordered reported by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on 15 JUL 09 the Congressional Budget Office provided their cost estimate for the Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009 (H.R.1293). The legislation (if approved) would increase the maximum grant amounts awarded to certain disabled veterans for Special Adaptive Housing (SAH). Those grants are used to improve access to homes and to essential sanitary facilities. CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $20 million over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues. Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may award a maximum of $4,100 to veterans with service-connected disabilities and $1,200 to veterans with nonservice-connected disabilities. The bill would increase those maximum allowable amounts to $6,800 and $2,000, respectively. Based on data from VA on the number and dollar amounts of grants awarded over the 2003-2008 period, CBO estimates that under the bill almost 2,000 veterans with service-connected disabilities would receive an additional $1,900 each year and almost 700 veterans with nonservice-connected disabilities would receive an additional $760 each year, for an annual cost of $4 million. H.R.1293 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments. [Source: CBO Cost estimate 22 Jul 09 ++]

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SBP DIC OFFSET Update 19: The Senate voted 21 JUL to repeal an offset in pay for surviving spouses who are eligible for both military and veterans’ survivor payments — but this is no guarantee extra money is coming. Eliminating the offset in military survivors’ benefits from the Defense Department for those also receiving dependency and indemnity compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department is the top priority of the 34-member Military Coalition, which has been urging Congress to act. So passage by voice vote of an amendment to the 2010 defense authorization bill that allows full payments of both benefits fulfills a push by the influential collection of military and veterans groups. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) the long-time sponsor of so-called SBP/DIC legislation was the chief sponsor of the amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act S.1390. The amendment was approved by voice vote and without debate.

About 57,000 survivors, mostly widows, would be affected if the provision were to become law. For most, elimination of the offset would result in a more than $1,100 increase in monthly benefits. The Senate has passed similar legislation before only to see it die in negotiations with the House of Representatives over questions of funding —estimated to be between $6 billion and $8 billion over 10 years. The House version of the NDAA does not include a repeal of the SBP/DIC offset. House Democratic leaders have been under intense pressure from military associations and from Republicans to do something about the SBP/DIC offset, leading supporters to hope that Nelson’s amendment would force the House to try again. As in years past, the Senate did not set aside money to pay full SBP to DIC eligible surviving spouses. Lawmakers say they are handcuffed by a pay-as-you- go budget law that requires any new federal entitlements be paid for with a matching reduction in other mandatory spending or entitlement program. So, barring a legislative miracle, Nelson’s amendment will be tossed out again when House-Senate conferees meet later this year to iron out differences in separate versions of the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill.

In June, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that included an extension through 2017 in a special allowance provided to survivors to partly make up for the offset. The allowance, currently $60 a month, is scheduled to increase a little each year until it grows to $310 in 2017, which still falls short of the $1,100 reduction from the offset. Boosting the allowance is one of the options being considered as a less costly alternative to full elimination of the offset, according to congressional aides working on military personnel issues [Source: MarineCorpsTimes Rick Maze article 21 Jul 09 ++]

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SALUTING the FLAG Update 04: Traditionally, members of the nation’s veterans service organizations have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag only while wearing their organization’s official head-gear. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 contained an amendment to allow un-uniformed servicemembers, military retirees, and veterans to render a hand salute during the hoisting, lowering, or passing of the U.S. flag. A later amendment further authorized hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel. This was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on 14 OCT 08. All other persons present should face the flag, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Regarding the Pledge of Allegiance another section of federal code that specifically relates to actions of those reciting the Pledge was not amended. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag (i.e. I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all), should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. It is the belief of some that commissioned Officers of the US military, when in uniform, should not render a salute, nor say the Pledge of Allegiance, but stand at attention with their hands at their sides until the Pledge is completed. The alleged reasoning behind this is that Commissioned officers of the US military are already pledged to a higher “authority” the Constitution, in their oath of office. I could find no credible reference to support this belief. The phrase “under God” was added to the pledge by a Congressional act approved on 14 JUN 54. [Source: Various Jul 09 ++]

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PROSTATE CANCER Update 11: British doctors have developed a third way to treat prostate cancer that takes a middle road between radical treatment and watchful waiting. The procedure, which uses ultrasound to “melt” tumors, is said to be just as effective as radiotherapy or surgery but has a lower risk of causing incontinence, impotence, diarrhea, bleeding, and other side effects. The new technique is called high-intensity focused ultrasound, and men treated with it can be released from the hospital within several hours instead of several days, which is typical with surgery. The technique kills cancer cells by heating them to temperatures from 176 degrees to 194 degrees, which researchers at University College Hospital say can be tolerated by surrounding healthy tissue and also by nerves involved in sexual function. In the initial group of 172 men who took part in the trial, 159 were free of cancer one year later. This rate of cure is virtually the same as the cure rate following surgery and radiotherapy for early prostate cancer. The big difference between the ultrasound technique, surgery, and radiotherapy according to the findings of the study lies in improvement in side effects.

Only one of the 172 ultrasound patients became incontinent, none had bowel problems, and impotence was at a much-reduced rate of 30 percent to 40 percent. The usual rate for incontinence following surgery and radiotherapy is between 5 percent and 20 percent, and the impotence rate is usually 50 percent. When men are treated with radiotherapy, they also can expect bleeding and diarrhea. Lead researcher Dr. Hashim Ahmed said, “Men are being diagnosed earlier with prostate cancer because of increasing awareness with many patients in their fifties and sixties now. It means we are treating them more successfully, but the side effects are a big issue. Having to wear pads because of incontinence is not very nice and neither is sexual dysfunction, as a lot of these patients are still sexually active.” The study suggests that high-intensity focused ultrasound some day might help treat men with early prostate cancer with fewer side effects. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control, 185,895 men in the United States developed prostate cancer in 2005, and 28,905 died from it. Statistics show that one in six men will develop it at some point in their lifetime. [Source: Newswatch.com Health Alert 18 Jul 09 ++]

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RESERVE PERSONNEL CUTS Update 01: The Army National Guard is lowering the maximum enlistment age to 35 from 42, and eliminating medical and bad-conduct waivers – as well as enlistment and retention bonuses for soldiers not presently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The changes mark a shift in policy aimed at reducing Guard end strength to 358,200, from the current 362,493, by the end of the fiscal year on 30 SEP. Soldiers seeking discharges will have an easier time getting their wish. The discharge process has been streamlined. Also, soldiers who are not qualified at basic training within 12 months will face discharge. [Source: Armed Forces News 17 Jul 09 ++]

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MEDICARE FRAUD Update 17: A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the owners and operators of a Los Angeles-area durable medical equipment company of Medicare fraud, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Thomas P. O’Brien; and Glenn R. Ferry, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Los Angeles Region of the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health of Human Services announced 17 JUL. After a one-week trial in federal court in Los Angeles, the jury found Gevork Kartashyan, 45, guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud; and Eliza Shurabalyan, 42, guilty of health care fraud. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of Los Angeles scheduled sentencing for 5 OCT 09. Shubaralyan and Kartashyan owned and operated CHH Medical Supply, a durable medical equipment (DME) supply company. Between January 2005 and June 2008, Shubaralyan and Kartashyan, through CHH Medical Supply, billed Medicare $949,859, and were paid $597,750. Virtually all of these bills were for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories.

At trial, elderly Medicare beneficiaries testified about how they were recruited and taken to Los Angeles-area medical clinics. At the clinics, the beneficiaries turned over their Medicare numbers and other personal identifying information. Some were promised vitamins, diabetic shoes, and other items that they never received. The clinics were in the business of generating fraudulent power wheelchair prescriptions that could be sold to DME company owners who would bill Medicare for the wheelchairs. Many of the beneficiaries did not know they were getting a wheelchair until it was delivered to them by CHH Medical Supply. All of the beneficiaries testified that they did not need or use the wheelchair. Five physicians testified that they never authorized or approved the power wheelchair prescriptions written under their names, often by physician’s assistants. Three of these physicians testified that they never even worked at the clinics listed on phony prescription pads. A government witness, who recently pleaded guilty to health care fraud in connection with one of the clinics at issue in this case, testified that Kartashyan would regularly come into the office where he and others worked in order to pick up power wheelchair prescriptions that he had purchased. Upon delivery, Kartashyan would then generate phony forms stating that the beneficiaries’ homes were appropriate for the use of a power wheelchair, even though no home assessment was done.

Shubaralyan, who was the listed owner of CHH Medical Supply, submitted all of the company’s claims to Medicare. Power wheelchairs and accessories constituted over 98% of the company’s billings to Medicare. In addition, Shubaralyan withdrew over $195,000 in cash from the company’s bank account in order to purchase the power wheelchair prescriptions. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John S. (Jay) Darden and Trial Attorney Jonathan Baum of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with the investigative assistance of the FBI. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Federal Prosecutors have indicted 115 cases with 257 defendants in Miami, Los Angeles, and Detroit since the inception of strike force operations in March 2007. Collectively, these defendants are alleged to have fraudulently billed the Medicare program for more than $600 million. [Source: U.S. Department of Justice PRNewswire 17 Jul 09 ++]

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VA WOMEN VET PROGRAMS Update 06: Citing problems large and small, female veterans say they often feel that the Veterans Affairs Depart­ment is not for them. Two days of hearings before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees revealed a host of hur­dles for women seeking benefits and health care from VA. The testi­mony could be a sign that VA isn’t ready for the flood of women seeking help — and that women aren’t ready to trust VA. A report by the Government Accountability Office, the inves­tigative arm of Congress, says that women often find that not all services are available at all sites, scarce child care makes it hard to keep appointments and privacy isn’t always a priority. And out of 19 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics surveyed in the report, 17 had no sanitary napkins or tampons in their restrooms. Retired Army Capt. Dawn Hal­faker of the Wounded Warrior Pro­ject, wounded in Iraq in 2004, said many female veterans are unaware VA has a women’s health plan or that they are eligible for benefits. Some view VA as being for older veterans — the average male veteran is 61, while the aver­age female vet is 48, and of the 102,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost all are younger than 40.

Former Marine Capt. Anuradha Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Net­work, called VA treatment for women who have suffered sexual trauma “inconsistent at best.” She said there is a shortage of female doctors and counselors, high turnover of residents and often a “poorly trained, apathetic and unprofessional medical staff.” Getting disability compensation for sexual trauma also can be diffi­cult because there are rarely offi­cial records to back up such claims, she said. VA health and benefits officials said they expect a 30% increase in the next five years in women seeking VA services. “We recognize more needs to be accomplished,” said Dr. Lawrence Deyton, the VA’s chief public health officer. Some of the problems faced by women in the VA health care system that were cited at the 16 JUL hearing were:

· Some gynecological exam tables in rooms with no privacy curtains face doors that open to waiting rooms or busy hallways.

· A female Iraq veteran in an inpatient psy­chiatric ward was forced to share a bathroom with male veterans, including one who was a Peeping Tom.

· A female veteran receiving an annual pap smear from a male gynecologist says she asked to have a female staff member present, at which point the doctor left the room and yelled down the hall, “We’ve got another one!”

· Clinic hours for women are often less than for men, with no evening or weekend hours convenient for those who work.

· On-site child care is rarely available, and some clinics refuse to treat women who bring children with them.

[Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 27 Jul 09 ++]

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DD-214 SECURITY Update 01: Simply claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient is one thing. Claiming that status on a falsified government form is another. There’s no way to know how often fakers use falsified forms to illicitly procure government benefits, pref­erence for admission to schools or, as in a recent case in Florida, an undeserved state license plate emblazoned with “Medal of Honor.” That individual has been indict­ed for violating a federal law, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. But news reports and private ­sector military-honors watchdogs indicate the practice is still wide­spread — and that the means is often an altered or counterfeit DD­214, the form distributed upon dis­charge from military service that contains a concise capsule of a ser­vice member ’s career. Many private watchdogs spend long hours hunting down those who for self-aggrandizement claim military service and high decora­tions — to gain an edge in a politi­cal campaign, for instance. But fakers use false DD-214s, easily modified or created using a computer, to get benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department. In a 2007 case, investigators caught eight people who were receiving VA compensation for combat injuries — although none had served in combat and two had never served in the military. Their acts collec­tively cost VA $1.4 million. VA’s inspector general office investigated 96 cases of stolen valor fraud between 1 MAR 08 and 25 FEB 09 which resulted in 48 arrests, $562,888 in recovered funds, and $1.23 million in fines .

Such claims have gained publici­ty in recent years. That’s largely because of the efforts of people such as Doug Sterner, a longtime private watchdog who now maintains the Military Times Hall of Valor data­base, and B.G. Burkett, author of “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History.” The Internet has brought about greater access to public records. Still, James O’Neill, VA’s assis­tant inspector general for investiga­tions, said he hasn’t seen much of an increase in his office’s fraud traf­fic since he began his work in 2004. “It’s been fairly steady,” he said, adding that the use of fraudulent DD-214s is common in such efforts and typically involves an altered or counterfeit document. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, wants a better system and has asked VA to look into the issue of misrepresentation of service. The problem could be easily solved, Sterner maintains, with a public database that any agency could access and, with a couple of keystrokes, check the legitimacy of a person’s claim. In a 2004 National Personnel Records Center feasibility study, the agency concluded that every DD-214 issued since 1947 could be digitized at a cost of $12 million, resulting in $4 million of savings annually, Sterner said. The only missing piece would be the 18 mil­lion military records that were damaged or destroyed in a 1973 fire at the records center in St. Louis. But Sterner said that by digitiz­ing the general orders filed in Col­lege Park, Md., much of the infor­mation lost in the fire could be recovered. “The two [sets of records] could work hand in glove and be very effective in establish­ing a database that would serve multiple purposes,” he said. [Source: NavyTimes William H. McMichael article 27 Jul 09 ++]

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CAR ALLOWANCE REBATE SYSTEM: President Obama signed into law for transactions on and after 1 JUL 09 a program the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is calling the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). This is a federal program that helps you purchase a new, more fuel efficient vehicle when you trade in a less fuel efficient vehicle. For further info refer to www.cars.gov. Following are some rules that apply to this program:

· The amount of the credit is $3,500 or $4,500, and generally depends on the type of vehicle you purchase and the difference in fuel economy between the purchased vehicle and the trade-in vehicle. You may trade in or buy a domestic or a foreign vehicle. Different requirements apply for work trucks.

· You do not need a voucher and you are not required to sign up or enroll in this program. Participating new car dealers will apply a credit, reducing the price you pay at the time of your purchase or lease, provided the vehicle you buy or lease and the vehicle you trade in meet the program requirements. The dealer will then obtain reimbursement from the government.

· The law requires dealers to be registered to participate in the program.

· Your trade-in vehicle must have been manufactured less than 25 years before the date you trade it in, have a “new” combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less, be in drivable condition, and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year preceding the trade-in.

· Under the program, you may purchase a new vehicle or lease a new vehicle up to 1 NOV 09, provided the lease period for the new vehicle is at least five years. The program does not apply to the purchase of used vehicles.

· The new vehicle’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price cannot exceed $45,000. The new vehicle must also achieve minimum combined fuel economy levels. For passenger automobiles, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 22 miles per gallon. For category 1 trucks, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 18 miles per gallon. For category 2 trucks, the new vehicle must have a combined fuel economy value of at least 15 miles per gallon. Category 3 trucks have no minimum fuel economy requirement; however, there are special requirements that apply to the purchase of category 3 vehicles.

· The law requires your trade-in vehicle to be destroyed. Therefore, the value you negotiate with the dealer for your trade-in vehicle is not likely to exceed its scrap value. The law requires the dealer to disclose to you an estimate of the scrap value of your trade-in vehicle.

· The entity crushing or shredding the vehicles in will be allowed to sell some parts of the vehicle prior to crushing or shredding it, but these parts cannot include the engine or the drive train.

· The program does not apply retroactively.

· The CARS Act expressly provides that the credit is not income for the consumer and thus is not taxable. However, the credit will be considered as income for the dealer.

· The CARS Act requires the dealer to use the credit under the program in addition to any rebates or discounts advertised by the dealer or offered by the new vehicle’s manufacturer. The dealer may not use the credit to offset these rebates and discounts.

· Not more than one credit may be issued for single or joint registered owner of a single eligible trade-in vehicle and it can only be used one time.

[Source: www.usa.gov 20 Jul 09 ++]

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VA FORECLOSED HOMES: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA-guaranteed and VA-financed loans. These acquired properties are marketed for sale through a property management services contract that was awarded to BAC Home Loan Servicing, LP. Properties are listed for sale at http://va.reotrans.com and through local Multi Listing Systems (MLS) by local listing agents. By clicking a state on the site’s map the search will return every property in that state. When you have your list, select view to see price and details of the properties selected. You may then email questions directly to the listing agent that is managing the property. You may also contact the real estate broker of your choice to see the property.

The VA has re-opened Vendee Financing to purchasers of Vendee eligible VA REO Properties. Vendee financing offers very reasonable down payment requirements, with an interest rate established by the VA based on market conditions. Any prospective purchaser who requests VA financing to purchase a VA-owned property must have sufficient income to meet the loan payments, maintain the property and pay all taxes, insurance, utilities and other obligations, as well as be an acceptable credit risk. The purchaser must also have enough funds remaining for family support. Any purchaser can apply for Vendee Financing. You do not have to be a Veteran. Vendee financing is a loan product offered to help finance the purchase of VA REO Properties for either owner or non-owner occupied properties. It offers low interest rates, 2.25% VA funding fee, no pre-payment penalties, and no appraisal requirement for underwriting. Some of the guidelines for VA Vendee Financing are:

· Seller may contribute up to 6% of the contract sales price to pay for funding fee, closing costs, prepaid and other expenses.

· Vendee mortgages are assumable by qualification.

· Vendee Financing is not a credit score driven product.

· There are two available terms, a 15 and 30 year fixed rate.

· Owner Occupied Purchase can be financed with as little as 0% down. The loan amount may be increased up to 2% to finance closing costs, prepaids or other expenses. Funding fee may not be financed.

· Non-Owner Occupied Purchase can be financed with as little as 5% down. Investors may use 75% of anticipated rent based on appraiser’s estimate to offset against the subject property monthly payment. Investors must have experience managing rental properties to include anticipated rent on subject property in underwriting. There is no maximum number of investment properties one can acquire.

For additional info or for a no cost pre-qualification call (800) 816-4346 to speak with a qualified Vendee Representative. [Source: www.homeloans.va.gov Jul 09 ++]

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FTC RITE AID RULING: The Rite Aid Corporation has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle FTC charges that it deceptively advertised that its “Germ Defense” tablets and lozenges could prevent, treat, or reduce the severity of colds and the flu. Rite Aid promoted the products by touting their similarity to “Airborne” products. Court documents state that Germ Defense products contained vitamins A, C, and E; minerals, including zinc; electrolytes; amino acids; and a proprietary blend of herbal extracts, including echinacea; and that a “PM” version promoted for nighttime use also included chamomile and valerian. The formulas purportedly replicated those marketed by Airborne Health, Inc., which settled similar charges in 2008. Under the settlement, Rite Aid is required to make refund forms available in its stores on October 1 and consumers will have until December 31 to submit refund requests for up to six packages of Germ Defense. The FTC has also charged Rite Aid’s supplier, Improvita Health Products, Inc., with false and deceptive advertising on its Web site and in promotional materials supplied to Rite Aid. For additional info refer to www.casewatch.org/ftc/news/2009/rite_aid.shtml. [Source: FTC News Release 17 Jul 09 ++]

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VFW CLAIM ASSISTANCE: The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans’ service organization composed of combat veterans and those who currently serve on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves. Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation’s largest organization of war veterans and is one of its oldest veterans’ organizations. With almost 2.2 million members located in nearly 7,900 VFW Posts worldwide, the VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to “honor the dead by helping the living” through veterans service, legislative initiatives, youth scholarships, Buddy Poppy and national military service programs. The VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute more than 13 million hours annually in community service to the nation. The organization provides trained Veteran Service Officers (VSO’s) to assist vets and their survivors with submission of VA claims and appeals at no cost. Those seeking assistance can locate their nearest VFW post at http://emem.vfw.org/findpost.aspx by entering their zip code and distance they are willing to travel.

Most every post has a volunteer VSO who is often a claimant’s first contact in the claims process. Post VSO’s are required to attend annual training sponsored by their respective Department Service Officer (DVSO). Costs associated with attending the training are normally borne by the sponsoring VFW Post and are not passed on to those seeking assistance. This Post VSO serves a vital but limited role in the claims process by disseminating VA “how to” information and claim form completion guidance such as ensuring blocks A through Z are answered. Completed claims are mailed directly to a DVSO who works in the nearest VA Regional Office (VARO). The Post VSO has no further role in the process. Should further information be required, the DVSO contacts the claimant directly. There are more than 900 VFW-accredited service officers serving veterans and their families throughout the U.S., the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Europe. These service officers fall largely into two groups: Individuals who work in a VARO, and county and state service officers who work in the field. In 2008, these service officers collectively helped almost 95,000 veterans to recoup more than $1.2 billion in earned compensation and pension.

Only trained and certified VFW professionals work with veterans to ensure their claims are fully developed. They review VA rating decisions for accuracy and argue directly with VA adjudicators when their decisions are wrong. If an appeal is appropriate, they discuss issues with veterans, help develop required information, and represent them at hearings before Decision Review Officers (DSO’s). If VA decisions remain negative, the VFW has a highly skilled staff at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington to help ensure that veterans receive every benefit to which they are entitled under the law. New service officers who work in VARO’s are required to attend a basic benefits boot camp that includes more than 40 hours of detailed training on VA benefits, the claims process, forms completion, the VA rating schedule, accreditation, ethics, and more. The VFW also provides 80 hours of continuing classroom education annually to those service officers. The training syllabus is updated continuously to ensure service officers receive the most current information and skills to go toe-to-toe with VA rating officials. Ninety percent of this training is conducted by some of the best (recently retired) VA rating specialists and DSO’s available. There are lawyers who have created practices to represent veterans, after failed appeals, at the veterans court. Some are pro bono and some collect fees. However, they are too few in number to represent even a small fraction of the nearly 1 million individuals who have claims pending at the VA right now. The VFW along with a number of other Veterans’ Service Organizations provide thousands of professional advocates to serve veterans and their families, and unlike most attorneys who want to be compensated for their work, service organizations do not charge. [Source: VFW Washington Office PAO msg. 13 Jul 09 ++]

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VA HOSPITALS Update 04: Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and clinics aren’t always making sure women veterans have privacy when they bathe and receive exams, government auditors said 15 JUL. As thousands of women veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan and enter the VA’s health system, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic under review is complying fully with federal privacy requirements. GAO investigators found that many VA facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door — including one door that opened to a waiting room. It also found instances where women had to walk through a waiting area to use the restroom, instead of it being next to an exam room as required by VA policy. [Source: Health Information Operations Weekly Update 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE REGIONAL CONTRACTS: The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced new contracts for third generation Tricare (T3) benefits, scheduled to begin immediately. The T3 contracts feature financial incentives to encourage exceptional customer service. These huge contracts are 3 of the 10 largest contracts granted by DoD. They run the civilian portion of Tricare within the United States with 3 regions (North, South and West). TriWest, the present contractor for the west region was awarded the contract again. However, there are new contractor is both the North and South regions. In the North Region Aetna Government Health Plans is replacing HealthNet; while in the South, United Health Military and Veterans Services is replacing Humana. The MCS contractors will assist the military health system in operating an integrated health care delivery system combining resources of the contractor and the military’s direct medical care system to provide health, medical and administrative support services to eligible beneficiaries The work to be performed includes management of provider networks and referrals, medical management, enrollment, claims processing, customer service and access to data, among other requirements, while providing beneficiary satisfaction at the highest level possible through the delivery of world-class health care. The contracts were competitively procured via the Tricare Management Activity e-solicitation Web site with two offers received. Following are some of the details:

· West: TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp., Phoenix, Ariz., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $2,853,810,863. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $16,956,510,153. The West Region includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa (except the Rock Island Arsenal area), Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri (except the St. Louis area), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (areas of Western Texas only), Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

· North: Aetna Government Health Plans, Hartford, Conn., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $2,840,302,541. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $16,678,172,561. The North Region includes the District of Columbia and the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa (Rock Island Arsenal area only); Kentucky (except the Fort Campbell area); Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri (St. Louis area only); New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

· South: UnitedHealth Military & Veterans Services, Minnetonka, Minn., is being awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide managed care support (MCS) to the Department of Defense Tricare program. The instant award will comprise a base period plus one option period for $3,729,016,358. The total potential contract value, including the 10-month base period (transition-in) and five one-year option periods for health care delivery, plus a transition-out period, is estimated at $21,827,600,469. The South Region includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (the Fort Campbell area only), Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas (excluding areas of Western Texas). The South Region contractor will be responsible for administering and complying with all Continued Health Care Benefit Program requirements in all geographic areas.

[Source: TREA Washington Weekly 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE REGIONAL CONTRACTS Update 01: With the awarding of new Tricare regional contracts and changing contractors the following answers to some questions users may have are provided:

· Will I have to do any paperwork? No, this should be seamless and all enrollment and claims data should be transferred to the new contractors without any action from the beneficiaries.

· Will I have to change doctors? Based on the experience of the last contract change a number of years ago, the vast majority of people shouldn’t have to deal with that, but some may. The new contractors will set up their own networks of physicians. In the past, new contractors have made special efforts to recruit participation of those who were in the previous contractor’s network.

· Who will I submit my claims to? If you use network providers, you won’t have to worry about that, because the provider will file the claim. If you use a provider that doesn’t accept Tricare-allowable charges as full payment and file your own claims, you’ll probably have a new filing address starting next April. As soon as the new addresses are available, the new contractors will publicize them widely.

· Will the contact phone numbers change? Some of the numbers will more than likely change. As these new numbers go into affect beneficiaries will be notified.

· Will this affect where and how I get my medications? No. The pharmacy contractor isn’t changing.

· Will I stay in the same region? For the most part the regions remain the same. There will be a couple changes on the border of the north and south regions in the Fort Campbell area. The new contractors will contact the affected individuals.

· Will I be able to stay in Tricare Prime? If you live near a Military Treatment Facility and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) site, the answer should be “yes” in most cases. But Prime will be discontinued in some other areas, so some number of beneficiaries will need to switch to Tricare Standard or Tricare Extra. The affected beneficiaries will be notified by the new contractors.

· What does this mean in regard to the letters people just received about the 30-minute drive-time standards? The drive-time notices have nothing to do with the new contracts. People who received those letters and want to continue being seen at the military facility still must complete the waiver process by October 1, 2009.

· Will the enrollment fee, deductibles or co-pays change as a result of the new contracts? No.

· When and how will I receive information from the new contractor? It’s too early to say.

· I’m under TriWest – will anything change for me? Some changes will be mandated by the new contract, so even beneficiaries in the West Region which has not changed its contractor may see some changes. Changes will be disseminated when before they go in effect.

· Will this affect my special-needs child care? The new contracts do not change the healthcare benefit.

· I’m in Tricare for Life. Does this affect me? No. TFL is covered by a separate contract.

· I’m overseas, does this affect me? Like TFL, the overseas contracts are separate. However, the current overseas contracts are being consolidated into one, and we should be hearing soon about an award.

· I use the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, will this change? The CHCBP for all geographic areas is administered by the Tricare South Region contractor. United Health Military & Veterans Services will assume this responsibility, and you should see no change other than different contact numbers once the new contractor has fully assumed operations.

[Source: MOAA Leg Up 17 Jul 09 ++]

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HVAC Update 09: The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) has approved several bills including the draft language of an omnibus bill that combines 9 bills. All these bills will now go before the full House for consideration. The omnibus bill included:

· H.R.1197 sponsored by Rep. Harry E. Mitchell’s (D-AZ) which would place Medal of Honor recipients in the same priority as veterans who are former prisoners of war or recipients of the Purple Heart;

· H.R.1293 sponsored by Ranking member Steve Buyer (R-IN) which increases the amount of money veterans can receive for home improvements and structural alterations from home health services ($6,800 for service connected disabled veterans and $2,000 for non-service connected disabled veterans.

· H.R.1302 sponsored by Rep. Phil Hare’s (D-IL) which would create a new position in the VA, Director of Physician Assistant Services;

· H.R.1546 sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) which would create a Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

· H.R.2270 also sponsored by Buyer that would authorize $1000 a month payments to members of 28 groups who fought on behalf of the United States during World War II (examples the Flying Tigers and the Women Airforce Service Pilots); also from Rep. Buyer

· H.R.2379 also sponsored by Buyer which would allow veterans under the age of 60 to increase the amount they carry of VGLI by as much as $25,000 every 5 years till they reach the present maximum of $400,000;

· H.R.2770 sponsored by Chairman Bob Filner’s (D-CA) which updates the law governing the VA’s affiliated non-profit research and education corporations;

· H.R.3155 sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud’s (D-ME) which provides more training, support, medical care and a monthly stipend for veterans’ caregivers.

On 16 JUL the Veteran Affairs Health Subcommittee approved several veterans’ bills. All the bills will now go to the full Veteran Affairs Committee for their consideration. The bills were:

· H.R.1197 which would give Medal of Honor recipients that same priority status in the VA as Purple Heart recipients and Former Prisoners of War;

· H.R.1293 would increase the amount veterans could receive from the Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Program (service connected vets could receive$6,800 up from the present $4,100 and non service connected vets could receive $2,000 up from the present $1,200);

· H.R.1302 would create a director of physician assistant services in the VA’s office of the Undersecretary for Health;

· H.R.1335 which would bar the VA from charging seriously disabled veterans anything for their care in VA hospitals or nursing homes or for other critical medical services.

· H.R.1546 would direct the establishment of a VA Committee on Care of Veterans with TBI;

· H.R.2926 which would require the VA to provide medical care to Vietnam era and Persian Gulf War veterans who were exposed to herbicides;

· A draft bill that would make education sessions available for veterans caretakers.

On 16 JUL the Veteran Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs approved several veterans’ bills. All the bills will now go to the full Veteran Affairs Committee for their consideration. The bills were:

· H.R.2379 to provide certain veterans an opportunity to increase the amount of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

· H.R.2774 to make permanent the extension of the duration of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage for totally disabled veterans.

· H.R.2968 to eliminate the required reduction in the amount of the accelerated death benefit payable to certain terminally-ill persons insured under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance or Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

[Source: TREA Washington Weekly 17 Jul 09 ++]

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ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY Update 05: A criminal investigation and allegations of misplaced bodies and shoddy care have soiled the famous burial ground according to a Salon Media Group, Inc special investigation on Arlington. An Army investigation this year found that the de facto boss of the cemetery, Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, made false statements to Army investigators as they probed what they later classified as wire fraud at Arlington — a female employee’s computer had been tapped into without authorization, and she had been impersonated online. An internal Army memo and an interview with a former Army employee also suggest that high-level Army officials knew for months about problems at Arlington but failed to act. Three former public affairs officers have recently testified under oath about a hostile work environment at Arlington. One was fired after speaking out. The other two quit in disgust. Sadly, Arlington’s internal problems have materialized on the grounds themselves. Despite nearly 10 years and countless dollars spent on computerizing its operations, the cemetery still relies mostly on paper burial records that in some cases do not match the headstones. “There are numerous examples of discrepancies that exist between burial maps, the physical location of headstones, and the burial records/grave cards,” the cemetery admitted in a 2008 report to Congress. And in a relatively remote area of the cemetery, where 600 service members from Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest, personal mementos placed on graves are left out to rot in the rain for days, ruined by workers with power washers, or thrown into a trash bin.

The aesthetics of the cemetery are deceptive,” says Gina Gray, an Army veteran of eight years who served in Iraq and who was the cemetery’s public affairs officer in early 2008, before she was fired over a clash with her boss. “To the naked eye, it is a place of sacred beauty and a tribute to our nation’s heroes,” says Gray, who has been rehired as an Army contractor at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. “But if you scratch below the surface, you will find that it’s really just window dressing. They’ve put these pretty curtains up to hide the ugliness on the inside.” At the center of the chaos is Higginbotham, Gray’s former superior and a focus of the Army investigation. While cemetery Superintendent John Metzler is the titular head at Arlington, Higginbotham runs the show, say current and former employees. A tall and imposing man, Higginbotham has worked at the cemetery since 1965. He started as a security guard and worked his way up to deputy supervisor in 1990. In his current position, he has earned a reputation for running the cemetery with an iron fist. (Higginbotham declined to talk to Salon.)

One of Higginbotham’s failures, say employees, has been his inability to rectify disturbing discrepancies between burial records and information on headstones. For years, Arlington has struggled to replace paper-and-pen burial records with a satellite-aided system of tracking grave locations. “My goal is to have all the gravesites available online to the public, so people can look up a grave from home and print out a map that will show exactly where the gravesite is,” Higginbotham told Government Computer News in APR 06. Such systems are standard at other cemeteries, like the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly identical to Arlington in age and size. Yet an effort begun in 2000 to set up a similar system at Arlington remains unrealized. In 2004 and 2005, Arlington conducted a pilot project to check burial records against headstone information on 300 graves. “The accuracy of interment records and maps that track reserved, obstructed, and occupied graves were proven to have errors,” the project found, according to Arlington National Cemetery budget documents. “For example, gravesites that were marked as obstructed were actually available and information listed on grave cards and burial records were not consistent with the information on the actual headstone.”

The problems continue today. In 2008, Arlington National Cemetery issued a progress report to Congress on the computerization project. “The current way of doing business is mostly manual, complex, redundant and inefficient,” cemetery officials noted, acknowledging continuing discrepancies among burial maps, headstones and burial records. Gray says her conversations with groundskeepers suggest the discrepancies and confusion might not stop at the grave’s edge. “They told me they’ve got people buried there that they don’t know who they are, and then they’ve got the wrong headstones over the graves.” She adds: “I told several Army officials — in one instance, a two-star general — but nothing was ever followed up on.” Salon heard the same claims from current and former cemetery employees, who asked to remain anonymous. Arlington officials insist that there are no cases at Arlington where headstones do not match the remains beneath. “We are not aware of any situation like that,” says cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst.

Gray, who was fired, has a gripe against the cemetery, to be sure. But her complaints against Higginbotham triggered an investigation that exposed criminal acts that question the Army’s oversight of Arlington. In her sworn testimony in the fall, as part of her equal opportunity complaint, which is still pending, Gray stressed “an elitist mentality among cemetery officials.” Kara McCarthy, who held Gray’s job at the cemetery from early 2007 until March 2008, also testified. She said Higginbotham and other top officials at Arlington “could do whatever the hell they wanted and they did, because they had been getting away with it for years.” McCarthy said she also left the cemetery after a year because of the “hostile work environment.” During the Higginbotham investigation, a different kind of crime arose at Arlington. But this one had little to do with the law. In her sworn testimony, Gray criticized the cemetery for disposing of artifacts left in Section 60, where soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. “They throw away things that are left at the gravesites — cards, letters,” Gray said. “They don’t save anything. In a follow-up story, Salon.com notes that the US Department of Veterans Affairs, “which runs 130 cemeteries across the country, asks people not to leave items other than flowers on the graves. But when it does find those items,” the VA “collects and holds them for 30 days in case the family wants to claim them.” [Source: Salon.com Mark Benjamin article 17 Jul 09 ++]

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TRICARE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITY: Bringing ideas and experience aplenty from the West Coast to the nation’s capital, Tricare Management Activity’s new deputy director Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter quickly and easily summed up Tricare’s importance to America’s uniformed service members, retirees and their families. “When you join the military you’re promised a comprehensive health care benefit. We want to ensure it is available in all locations and over all the periods of life”, she said. Now that she is back in the Washington DC area, Hunter said she’s ready to get to work delivering on the promise of Tricare and improving beneficiaries’ health and overall satisfaction. She is also excited to take over the helm of Tricare and face the challenges of her new assignment. To that end, Hunter doesn’t see providing health care to 9.4 million people as a challenge to be surmounted; she sees it as an opportunity for innovation. “We have the chance to set the standard and lead the nation in comprehensive, high-quality health care with universal access,” Hunter said. “We can showcase our successes and learn from others.”

One of the many possibilities Hunter would like to explore to improve the Tricare experience is the “medical home” concept, emphasizing four primary health care pillars: accessibility, continuity, coordination and comprehensiveness. Medical home would give Tricare beneficiaries an enhanced relationship with their providers, ensuring access, continuity, preventive care delivery and disease management. “To implement this concept in our military treatment facilities,” Hunter explained, “we’ll need to provide the right mix of both military and civilian providers and support staff.” In a patient centered medical home, health care providers and patients work together to set attainable goals and manage the patient’s overall health. “If I’m your doctor, and you and I develop a partnership, you are far more likely to accept my advice to stop smoking, get a mammogram, or have a screening colonoscopy.”, Hunter said. With more than 30 years as a physician, Hunter speaks with authority about the importance of the patient-provider relationship. “I treasure what I call the ‘sacred space’ between physician and patient,” Hunter said. “We are allowed incredible access to an individual in some of life’s most private moments.” These moments – of happiness and joy, grief and sadness, confusion and indecision – are the times when a physician can have the greatest impact on a patient or family member’s life, she said. “We’re invited to help guide them on what can be a journey to rebuilding their lives, restoring hope or walking a difficult pathway that maybe doesn’t end in restored health, but is a journey every family must travel at some time,” Hunter said.

As a Naval officer, Hunter has also served as a leader in the military health system at all levels including hospital commander, fleet surgeon, chief of staff at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and most recently, as commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego. As such, she understands the importance of combining good business practices and quality clinical care in military medicine. She is very focused on defining and implementing best business practices with an eye on the future. Consequently, she is a proponent of more wide-spread use of electronic medical records; both within the military health system, and the nation as a whole. “President Obama has emphasized what an electronic medical record can bring in terms of continuity of health care,” Hunter said. “If your provider has access to longitudinal information about your health and information about health trends, then we can partner together to improve individual and group health.”“As our nation takes on health care reform in a major way, we in the Military Health System can share our lessons and learn from that debate,” Hunter said. “We can get involved with other national leaders, working together to forge the way ahead.” [Source: MHS TMA Kevin J. Dwyer article 10 Jul 09 ++]

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VA CLAIMS PROCESSING Update 01: Pittsburgh’s congressional delegation is asking an outside agency to investigate how the Department of Veterans Affairs’ regional office handles their veterans’ benefits claims. In a letter to the Governmental Accountability Office, three congressmen and two senators say an investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General was “incomplete at best.” The inspector general report confirmed allegations that employees deliberately delayed processing some claims in order to obtain $300 performance bonuses, but it didn’t substantiate an allegation that the employees were following orders from their managers when they held up the claims. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) said the Pittsburgh regional office is the fifth-worst of the 56 regional offices in the Veterans Benefits Administration. More than 27% of the 4,850 claims pending at the office are at least six months old. Given the office’s poor performance, the news that some of the delays were deliberate has outraged the congressional delegation, he said. They want the GAO to tell them how to improve the office “so that this situation can’t and won’t happen again,” he said. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-McCandless) said Congress has tried unsuccessfully several times to eliminate a national backlog in veterans’ benefit claims. Hearing that some of the backlog in the Pittsburgh office has been deliberate just adds to lawmakers’ frustration, he said. “It is simply unacceptable that veterans who put their lives on the line to protect their country are being forced to wait for months to receive the benefits they have earned,” Altmire said. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Swissvale) and Sens. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) and Arlen Specter, (D-Philadelphia) also signed onto the investigation request. [Source: TRIBUNE-REVIEW Brian Bowling article 5 Jun 09 ++]

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GI Bill Update 53: Many questions about the Post-9/11 GI Bill were answered in late June when decisions were made on two of the plan’s most important features: transfer of benefits to family members and Yellow Ribbon agreements (see below) that raise the value of the benefit, particularly to attend private colleges. Here’s a summary of how these features will operate, according to DoD and VA policymakers:

1. Transferability

· To be eligible to transfer benefits to a spouse or child, servicemembers must be on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1, 2009 — the date the new GI Bill takes effect. Servicemembers also must have at least six years in service (10 years to transfer benefits to children) and must commit to serve four more years from the date that a transfer of benefits is approved. (See below for exceptions to the four-year rule.)

· Servicemembers will execute transfers through a secure “Transferability of Educational Benefits” Web site, https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/. They can log in using a Common Access Card, a DoD Self-Service User ID, or a PIN for accessing online military pay accounts administered by the Defense Financing and Accounting Service.

· The electronic application will request information from a servicemember to confirm Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility and verify dependency status of a family members to receive transferred benefits. Family members must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS). Applicants also will need to designate the number of months of benefit to be transferred and their allocation to family members, if more than one person is to receive educational assistance.

· Completed applications will be reviewed by a servicemember’s branch of service. Once they are approved, new service obligation dates will be set.

· The effective date of transfer will be no earlier than Aug. 1, 2009, regardless of application date. Data from approved applications will be transmitted each evening to the VA. Family members then will apply through a VA Web site, www.gibill.va.gov, for certificates of eligibility to use the transferred education benefits. Spouses and children will be able to use the new GI Bill like any eligible veteran would.

· Servicemembers who have no family members planning to attend college this fall are being asked to delay visiting the transfer Web site until at least July 15 so that applications for fall students can be processed more rapidly.

· Servicemembers can change transfer choices at any time, whether reallocating benefits among eligible family members or revoking transfers to use benefits themselves. Unused GI Bill benefits always will remain the property of the servicemember who earned them.

· Congress designed the transfer feature with some incongruities. For example, any family member not approved for transfer before a servicemember retires or separates from service will be denied the opportunity, unless the servicemember later reenters service. Veterans who remarry or have more children after leaving service will be unable to transfer GI Bill benefits to these new family members. With this limitation in mind, officials are urging servicemembers to transfer at least one month of the GI Bill benefit to each family member before leaving service, to lock in the option to transfer benefits at some later date.

· Another transferability quirk affects spouses of servicemembers on active duty. Those given transferred benefits to attend college, including the most expensive private schools, will have tuition and fees fully covered. But benefits for veterans themselves, or benefits transferred to college-bound children, will be capped so as not to exceed tuition and fees charged by the most expensive public college or university in a state.

· Spouses of active duty servicemembers who use transferred benefits to attend public universities will have a more modest education package than other users of the new GI Bill including, again, children of active duty servicemembers and veterans who earned this education benefit. This is because active duty spouses will not be paid the plan’s monthly living allowance, equal to the local Basic Allowance for Housing for a married E-5, nor will they get the new GI Bill’s $1,000-a-year stipend for books or supplies.

· Spouses of drilling reservists will qualify for both the living allowance and book stipend because reservists, unlike their active duty counterparts, are not paid a monthly housing allowance.

2. Exceptions to the Four-Year Rule

· There is a permanent exception to the additional service requirement for transfer of GI Bill benefits. It applies to servicemembers who have served at least 10 years and are barred by service policy or statute from completing a full four more years.

· Servicemembers facing high-year tenure or mandatory retirement rules still will be able to transfer benefits if they serve the maximum time allowed under law or policy.

· To preserve proper force structure and promotion opportunities, several temporary exceptions to the four-year rule also will apply to servicemembers eligible to retire from Aug. 1, 2009, to Aug. 1, 2012. A servicemember is considered retirement-eligible after completing 20 years of active duty service or 20 qualifying years of reserve service. Based on retirement eligibility dates, these servicemembers will only have to serve one to three additional years from the date benefits are approved for transfer.

3. Yellow Ribbon Agreements. More on Yellow Ribbon colleges and their agreements can be found online at www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/Yellow_ribbon.htm.

· A total of 1165 colleges and universities have signed Yellow Ribbon agreements with the VA for the 2009-10 academic year, making their undergraduate or graduate degree programs more affordable to at least some new GI Bill beneficiaries. That total includes roughly 750 private nonprofit schools, 250 private for-profit schools, and 165 public universities.

· For most users, the new GI Bill covers only tuition and fees up to amounts set for the most expensive public university in their state of residence. Students enrolled in private colleges or attending out-of-state public schools still might face huge out-of-pocket costs. The amounts not covered will vary greatly, too. Texas students, for example, will receive up to $1,333 a credit hour plus $12,130 a year to cover school fees. California students, by contrast, will be reimbursed up to $6,587 in yearly fees but receive no tuition coverage because tuition is free to in-state students at public colleges.

· Under the Yellow Ribbon program, schools are encouraged to waive up to 50 percent of the difference between their tuition and fees and those covered by the new GI Bill. The VA, in turn, will match in higher benefits what the college waived, adding value to the GI Bill for students attending private schools, out-of-state public universities, or state school graduate degree programs.

· The deadline to pen Yellow Ribbon deals for the 2009-10 academic year was June 15. Many schools, with endowments battered by investment losses the past year, decided they couldn’t afford to waive costs too deeply for GI Bill users. Others elected to waive thousands of dollars in costs but only for small numbers of GI Bill students.

· The VA mandates that waivers be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. They cannot be offered, for example, only to students in select fields of study or only to students with the highest grades or test scores.

[Source: MOAA News Exchange Tom Philpott article 15 Jul 09 ++]

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CHAPTER 61 DISABILITY PAY Update 05: This information is based on the H.R.2990 proposed legislation at this point. Everything is subject to change until the draft is signed into law. Based on conversations with potentially affected military members, it helps to start with a few ground rules to make this program easier to understand:

1.) First, forget all you know about your Service pay and concurrent receipt AKA Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP). If you start with a clean slate it’s easier to comprehend. The barracks lawyers are putting out misinformation.

2.) Next, you have to understand the definition of CRDP. This is critical. CRDP only restores Service pay based on your service time. That’s all it has ever restored. It does not restore Service disability pay. The law prohibiting two disability checks is still in force.

3.) Third. Your Chapter 61 Service pay, for CRDP purposes, has two components. Part disability pay and part Service longevity pay; the part based on your years of service. The part based on your service time is figured like any retiree’s retired pay; 2.5% times years of service.

4.) Fourth. Depending on your personal situation under this proposal you may already be getting what CRDP would provide you (in other words, you get nothing extra, no CRDP) or you may get something extra.

Based on the above and the proposed bill here are some examples of how it would impact vets:

Example 1

· Member with 3 years of service, Service disability rating of 60%, and VA rating of 80%.

· Service pay based on $1800 base pay per month at retirement.

· 60% Service rating provides disability retirement of $1080 ($1800 x 60%).

· 80% VA rating pays $1400 a month.

· Currently, member’s entire Service pay docked due to VA comp at a greater amount.

· Under CRDP the member will receive retired pay for years served.

· 3 years multiplied by a 2.5 percent is 7.5%.

· 7.5% times the $1800 base pay is $135 a month in retired pay for years served.

· Member will get VA comp of $1400 plus $135 Service pay (CRDP).

Example 2

· Member with 10 years of service, 90% Service rating, and 90% VA rating.

· Base pay of $6500.

· $6500 base pay at 90% Service rating equals $5850.

· VA comp at 90% $1600.

· Member is receiving $1600 from VA and $4250 from Service ($5850 – $1600).

· Under CRDP there is no change—no CRDP payment since you already receive all of your Service longevity retired pay.

· 10 years of service times 2.5% equals 25% of base pay or $1625; this is the only amount CRDP restores.

· You’re receiving Service pay of $4250 so the VA comp is only docking your Service disability pay and by law the CRDP proposal doesn’t change that.

Example 3

· Member with 18 years’ service, Service rating 50%, and VA rating 90%.

· Base pay $4500 a month.

· 50% Service rating times base pay equals $2250.

· VA comp at 90% is $1600.

· Member receiving $650 from Service (2250 – 1600) and $1600 from VA.

· Under CRDP you have to calculate Service longevity retired pay of 18 years times 2.5% for 45% times $4500 equals $2025. CRDP ensures the member receives this amount due to his vested service time.

· Member is owed $2025 from the Service (CRDP) AND $1600 from the VA.

· Finally, please keep in mind, everyone with less than 90% VA rating will be phased in over time. You will see your CRDP later. See our MOAA Legislative Update for the proposed phase in schedule.

[Source: MOAA News Exchange 15 Jul 09 ++]

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CANCER STATISTICS Update 01: A recent study of Department of Defense and National Cancer Institute statistics shows that active-duty military personnel may have lower risks of developing certain kinds of cancer compared with the general public. These findings came to light after a group of researchers from the Military Health System and the National Institutes of Health compared cancer rates between members of the armed forces and the general U.S. population. “Cancer risk may be affected by multiple factors. It is known that certain behaviors or exposures such as tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, obesity, radiation, and certain chemicals are associated with cancer,” said Dr. Kangmin Zhu, a scientist at the U.S. Military Cancer Institute and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences who led the research project. “The military population may be different from the general population in its exposure to these factors and therefore cancer incidence rates may differ in the two groups,” said Zhu.

Zhu’s team sought to take a broad picture of the effects of cancer on military members by comparing the frequency of six kinds of cancer—lung, colorectal, prostate, breast, testicular and cervical—between military and civilian populations. The study focused on adults aged 20 to 59 years old who were diagnosed with one of the six cancers between 1990 and 2004. Data was taken from two databases: the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute, and the Defense Department’s Automated Central Tumor Registry (ACTUR). The research team found that certain cancers – colorectal, lung and cervical – appeared less frequently in the military population than in the general population. They also found that breast cancer among women and prostate cancer among men are more common in the military than in the general population. Testicular cancer appeared to affect both military and civilian populations equally. Studies on cancer incidence in the U.S. Armed Forces are few and far between. Zhu’s team identified only two previous cancer studies in the military, and both were limited in size and scope. In 1999, a team of researchers conducted a study on the incidence of testicular cancer in the Defense Department. Then in 2006, another more general study was conducted, but only within Air Force personnel.

Although it is unclear why certain groups of military personnel demonstrated different rates, the research team offered some speculation in their article published last month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. According to their interpretation, differing cancer frequencies between military and civilian populations were most likely due to greater access to medical care and higher rates of cancer screening in the military. There also might be different levels of exposure to cancer risks such as smoking, alcohol use, and low physical activity. The differences between the two reporting systems could have also played a role in creating those disparities. All in all, Zhu said, his team plans to continue this kind of analysis after more data has been collected. Descriptive epidemiological studies, he says, may provide clues for further research as well as provide evidence to support existing hypotheses “Analysis of the frequency, distribution and pattern of various cancers can be the first step in understanding their etiology” said Zhu. “In the past, studies of cancer incidence rates in the U.S. military population have been very limited. One of the important research goals of the United States Military Cancer Institute, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and its collaborator, the National Cancer Institute, is to understand cancer patterns in the military. We hoped that this descriptive study would provide basic information on cancer incidence in the military.” [Source: DoD MHS Press Release David Loebsack 15 Jul 09 ++]

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MEDICARE FRAUD Update 17: An Atlantic County New Jersey surgeon, his office manager and the treatment center he owned were indicted on charges they defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers of more than $8.5 million. Dr. Khashayar Salartash, 42, of Linwood; his office manager, Farah Iranipour Houtan, 51, of Egg Harbor Township; and the treatment center owned by Salartash, The Center for Lymphatic Disorders LLC, were variously charged in a state grand jury indictment returned 13 JUL with second-degree conspiracy, three counts of second-degree health care claims fraud, and two counts of third-degree Medicaid fraud. Salartash and Houtan were also charged with second-degree misconduct by a corporate official. The indictment alleges that between AUG 02 and JUN 07, Salartash and Houtan billed Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers for services that were not provided as claimed. “We charge that these defendants collected $8.5 million through false billing, including nearly $5 million from Medicare and half a million dollars from Medicaid,” said Attorney General Anne Milgram. “It’s outrageous that a doctor would fraudulently take millions of dollars from programs that pay for medical care for the elderly and those who can’t afford health insurance. In addition, by defrauding private insurers, he contributed to the high cost of health insurance.”

The Center for Lymphatic Disorders was opened by Salartash on Central Avenue in Egg Harbor Township in AUG 02 to treat patients with lymphedema, which is blockage of the lymph vessels that causes accumulation of fluid and swelling of the arms or legs, and occasionally other parts of the body. Before it closed in 2006, the center opened four additional offices in Atlantic City, Manahawkin, Haddon Heights, and Galloway Township. As a result of alleged fraudulent billing, the Center for Lymphatic Disorders was paid approximately $8,564,622, including $593,363 by Medicaid, $4,703,935 by Medicare, and $3,267,324 by private carriers. The defendants allegedly submitted claims as though Salartash had either personally provided services or directly supervised licensed personnel who rendered services. In fact, services were performed by a physical therapist, a licensed practical nurse or a massage therapist, with essentially no supervision. In addition, Salartash and Houtan allegedly billed for surgery when only physical therapy services were rendered. Salartash allegedly represented in some claims that services were performed in an outpatient hospital facility, when the procedures were performed in a doctor’s office.

In order to support the claims, Salartash certified that the services provided were medically necessary, even though the services were provided for a time period far in excess of what is normal and customary for lymphedema therapy. A normal course of treatment for lymphedema is four weeks, or in very complex cases, eight to 12 weeks. However, an auditor for the Medicaid program determined that most patients of the Center for Lymphatic Disorders were treated for between 18 months and nearly 3 years. Salartash and Houtan allegedly used inappropriate modifiers to billing codes to bill for multiple procedures within a short amount of time, and made written and verbal misrepresentations to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers in order to support claims for payment. [Source: Gloucester County Times article 14 Jul 09 ++]

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UNCLAIMED FUNDS Update 01: A list of the U.S. Security and Exchange commission (SEC) enforcement cases in which a Receiver, Disbursement Agent, or Claims Administrator has been appointed can be found at www.sec.gov/divisions/enforce/claims.htm#BList . Clicking on an alphabetical listing of companies and financial institution you may have lost funds in will reveal if there is a case, its background, the latest action taken, and whether or not an order approving a distribution and authorizing disbursement of funds has been issued. Funds that are recovered and available for investors will be distributed according to an approved plan. If you’re aware of violations of the securities laws, you can report them via the online complaint form. In addition to seeing whether a claims fund has been established, you may want to find out whether a private class action has been filed against the company you invested in. To do so, go to http://securities.stanford.edu. and select “Filings”. If your broker-dealer has gone out of business, you can visit the website of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation www.sipc.org to find out whether your firm is the subject of liquidation proceedings and how you can obtain a claim form. [Source: www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Money_Owed.shtml Jul 09 ++]

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BURN PIT TOXIC EMISSIONS Update 10: When epidemiologist Shira Kramer first saw data about some 400 service members who say they were sickened by open-air burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, she said she was shocked to see how well their symptoms matched up with symptoms associated with toxic exposure. “I was appalled but not surprised to learn that there were so many serious adverse health effects,” she said. “We know open pit burning is very dangerous.” Kramer, who has a doctorate in epidemiology and co-authored a textbook about it, was invited by lawyer Elizabeth Burke to research the burn pits to compile evidence for several class-action lawsuits against military contractor KBR. The military typically disposes of waste in burn pits during contingency operations, but KBR took over burn-pit operations for the largest of the pits at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. In a memo dated 20 DEC 06, Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, former bioenvironmental flight commander at Balad, said the chemicals to which troops there may have been exposed include: dioxin, the same chemical that made Agent Orange so toxic; benzene, an aircraft fuel known to cause leukemia; arsenic; dichlorofluoromethane, or Freon; carbon monoxide; ethyl benzene; formaldehyde; hydrogen cyanide; nitrogen dioxide; sulfuric acid; and xylene.

Kramer said the mix of chemicals, and their combination with particulates such as ash and sand, may have made the problem worse. “You have a toxic brew that is … much more dangerous than individual chemicals alone,” she said. “The absorption onto particulate matter then allows these chemicals not only to deeply penetrate into the lungs, but also to have a dwell time in the lungs.” Air Force officials say the burn pit at Balad has been cleaned up – the 90,000 water bottles a day that were being burned are now recycled, and hazardous materials are no longer making their way to the pit. But even if the pit burned only wood and paper, the troops would still be at risk, Kramer said, noting that burning wood produces dioxin. “Uncontrolled, open burning of any of these materials represents a hazard. The symptoms can be signs of acute respiratory problems and blood cancers… Troops stationed near burn pits who began coughing and spitting up black stuff – ‘plume crud,’ they call it – should have served as a warning to military officials. The acute effects are a tip-off that something quite troubling is going on… Military data showing that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases have risen by 12,000 a year since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began are especially troubling. ..You would not expect to see COPD in a young, healthy population … in this age range,” she said. “It’s extremely unusual and unexpected.” [Source: NavyTimes Kelly Kennedy article 13 Jul 09 ++]

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DEMENTIA Update 01: Dementia can be a devastating illness for patients and their caregivers. Current research is focusing on the causes and manifestations of dementia, new medications and treatments, and education and support for caregivers. News from the various arenas of dementia research and expert advice includes:

· Ongoing studies hope to determine if Alzheimer’s dementia can be predicted and diagnosed by scanning the optic nerve. The same laser technology now used in an ophthalmologist’s office to monitor glaucoma is being used to visualize distinctive optic nerve shapes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

· Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the University of Pittsburgh show the drug memantine (Namenda) might play a valuable role in treating Alzheimer’s dementia, especially when given in combination with other drugs such as Aricept and Exelon.

· The Alzheimer’s Foundation Medical Advisory Board has published reversible risk factors for preventing dementia. Although these factors cannot overrule the role of age, genetics, and medical disease, they are avoidable risks that you have control over. The list includes:

a.) Being a couch potato: Inactivity impedes blood flow to vital organs and the brain, which is necessary to repair and replenish brain cells. So start exercising!

b.) Tipping the scale: Being overweight or obese alters insulin production in the body that can lead to brain inflammation. Obesity also increases the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, and other medical conditions that are risk factors for dementia.

c.) Rising blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the brain and other major organs. However, hypertension can be tricky to diagnose, as there usually are no symptoms until your blood pressure is very high. It is important to have your blood pressure monitored and promptly begin treatment if you’re diagnosed with hypertension.

d.) Drinking alcohol: Prolonged and heavy consumption of alcohol causes a specific type of dementia known as alcohol-related dementia. Researchers also note that individuals with dementia who drink on a regular basis typically have a higher incidence of confusion, delirium, and behavior problems.

· The American Geriatrics Society has reported that 25 percent of dementia diagnoses are missed due to inadequate screening. The organization recommends memory screening for people age 65 or older and those younger than 65 who are at higher risk for dementia. Memory screening is a simple evaluation tool that assesses memory and other intellectual functions and indicates whether further testing is indicated.

· The Caregivers Coalition has posted a set of tips for dementia caregivers:

1.) Prioritize. Learn to put aside rigid schedules and be flexible. Caregivers need to be able to adapt and go with the flow.

2.) Don’t assume your children are too busy to help you. Ask them for assistance, and let them make their own decisions.

3.) Look for community resources. Many caregivers are not aware of the free and low-cost services available in their own communities. Take time to do a little research.

4.) Be aware of your feelings. Your body and your mind will tell you when you need to take a break or get respite. Listen to the subtle signals, and recognize them before it is too late.

For more information on dementia and caregiving research, refer to the following Web sites:

· Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org/index.asp

· The American Geriatrics Society www.americangeriatrics.org

· The Rosalynn Carter Caregiver Institute www.rosalynncarter.org

[Source: MOAA Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan article 17 Jun 09 ++]

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CAPITOL FLAGS: No record has been found for the earliest date the flag was flown over the east and west fronts of the U.S. Capitol. Early engravings and lithographs in the office of the Architect of the Capitol show flags flying on either side of the original low dome above the corridors connecting the areas now known as Statuary Hall and the Old Senate Chamber. After the addition of the new House and Senate wings in the 1850s, even before the great dome was completed in 1863, photographs of the period show flags flying over each new wing and the central east and west fronts. The custom of flying the flags 24 hours a day over the east and west fronts was begun during World War I. This was done in response to requests received from all over the country urging that the flag of the United States be flown continuously over the public buildings in Washington, DC. The east and west front flags, which are 8 x 12 feet, are replaced by new ones when they become worn and unfit for further use. Prior to machine-made flags, individuals were hired by the Congress to hand sew these flags. Presidential proclamations and laws authorize the display of the flag 24 hours a day at the following places:

· Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).

· Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).

· United States Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington, Virginia (Presidential Proclamation No. 3418, June 12, 1961).

· On the Green of the Town of Lexington, Massachusetts (Public Law 89-335, approved November 8, 1965).

· The White House, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).

· Washington Monument, Washington, DC. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971). Fifty flags of the United States are displayed at the Washington Monument continuously.

· United States Customs Ports of Entry which are continually open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).

· Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).

· Many other places fly the flag at night as a patriotic gesture by custom.

Flags flown over the U.S. Capitol are available for purchase by the general public. All requests for flags must be made through your United States Senator’s or Representative’s offices. The Architect of the Capitol does not accept requests for Capitol flags. To place a flag request refer to the website for your Senator or Representative. Links to the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House Representatives can be found at . Many Members of Congress have directions and order forms available online. Complete the form and return with your payment to your Senator or Representative, who will forward your request to the Architect of the Capitol. If instructions for making flag requests are not online, contact your Senator or Representative for instructions. A certificate signed by the Architect of the Capitol accompanies each flag. Flags are available for purchase in sizes of 3′ x 5′ or 5′ x 8′ in fabrics of cotton and nylon. Depending on the size of the flag, the prices range from $13.25 to $22.55 (plus shipping and handling). For additional info on flag issues refer to www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/misc/ourflag/titlepage.htm. [Source: Federal Citizen Info Center FAQ www.pueblo.gsa.gov Jun 09 ++]

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TAX BURDEN for DISTRICT of COLUMBIA RETIREES: Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination. This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack ofa state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden. Following are the taxes you can expect to pay if you retire in Delaware:

State Sales Tax: 5.75% (food, prescription and non-prescription drugs, residential utility services exempt)

Fuel & Cigarette Tax:

· Gasoline Tax: 20 cents/gallon

· Diesel Fuel Tax: 20 cents/gallon

· Cigarette Tax: $2.00/pack of 20

Personal Income Taxes:

· Tax Rate Range: (2007) Low – 4.0%; High – 8.5%

· Income Brackets: Three. Lowest – $10,000; Highest – $40,000. Note: Excludes Social Security income and maximum $3,000 exclusion on military retired pay, pension income, or annuity income from DC or federal government.

· Personal Exemption: Single – $1,675; Married – $1,675; Dependents – $1,675

· Standard Deduction: Single – $2,000; Married filing joint return – $4,000

· Medical/Dental Deduction: Same as Federal taxes

· Federal Income Tax Deduction: None

· Retirement Income Taxes: Social Security is exempt. Taxpayers 62 and older can exclude $3,000 of military, federal, and state/local pensions. All state government pensions are fully taxed.

· Retired Military Pay: Up to $3,000 of military retirement pay excluded for individuals 62 or older, Survivor benefits are taxable.

· Military Disability Retired Pay: Retirees who entered the military before 24 SEP 75, and members receiving disability retirements based on combat injuries or who could receive disability payments from the VA are covered by laws giving disability broad exemption from federal income tax. Most military retired pay based on service-related disabilities also is free from federal income tax, but there is no guarantee of total protection.

· VA Disability Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA benefits are not taxable because they generally are for disabilities and are not subject to federal or state taxes.

· Military SBP/SSBP/RCSBP/RSFPP: Generally subject to state taxes for those states with income tax. Check with state department of revenue office.

Property Taxes

1.) Property is assessed at 100% of market value. Taxes on owner-occupied real estate are $0.85 per $100 of assessed value. The first $64,000 of assessed value (homestead deduction) is exempt from taxes. Several property tax relief programs are available to assist property owners and first time home buyers. These include a homestead deduction, tax credits for historic properties, senior citizen tax relief and property tax exemptions and deferrals. Homeowners 65 and older with household adjusted gross income of less than $100,000 receive an additional exemption equal to 50% percent of their homestead deduction. For details refer to http://otr.cfo.dc.gov/otr/cwp/view,a,1330,q,594366,otrNav_gid,1679,otrNav,%7C33280%7C.asp

2.) The real property tax deduction has increased. As a result of changes made to Federal year law, non-itemizers (those who take the standard deduction) may now increase the standard deduction by up to $500 (if single, head of household, married filing separately) and up to $1,000 (if filing jointly) if they took the real property tax deduction on their Federal tax return as an increase to the standard deduction. Call 202-727-1000 for more information.

Inheritance and Estate Taxes – There is no inheritance tax and only a limited estate tax.

For further information, refer to the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer site http://cfo.washingtondc.gov/cfo/site/default.asp. [Source: www.retirementliving.com Jul 09 ++]

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MILITARY HISTORY ANNIVERSARIES:

· Jul 16 1779 – Revolutionary War: American troops capture Stony Point, N.Y.

· Jul 16 1945 – WWII: The United States detonates the first atomic bomb in a test at Alamogordo, N. M.

· Jul 17 1898 – Spanish-American War: U.S. troops take Santiago de Cuba.

· Jul 17 1966 – Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh orders a partial mobilization of to defend against American airstrikes.

· Jul 18 1915 – WWI: 2nd Battle of Isonzo begins & ends with loss of 280,000 men

· Jul 18 1942 – WWII: German Me-262, the first jet-propelled aircraft to fly in combat, makes its first flight.

· Jul 18 1971 – Vietnam: New Zealand and Australia announce they will pull their troops out of Vietnam.

· Jul 19 1942 – WWII: German U-boats are withdrawn from positions off the U.S. Atlantic coast due to American anti-submarine countermeasures.

· Jul 20 1917 – WWI: Draft lottery held; #258 is 1st drawn

· Jul 20 1944 – WWII: Adolf Hitler is wounded in an assassination attempt by German Army officers.

· Jul 20 1950 – Korean War: The U.S. Army’s Task Force Smith is pushed back by superior forces.

· Jul 21 1861 – Civil War: In the first major battle of the War, Confederate forces defeat the Union Army along Bull Run near Manassas Junction, Virginia. The battle becomes known as Manassas by the Confederates, while the Union calls it Bull Run

· Jul 21 1944 – WWII: U.S. Army and Marine forces land on Guam in the Marianas.

· Jul 21 1954 – Vietnam: The French sign an armistice with the Viet Minh that ends the war but divides Vietnam into two countries.

· Jul 22 1775 – Revolutionary War: George Washington took command of the Continental Army.

· Jul 22 1814 – Five Indian tribes in Ohio make peace with the United States and declare war on Britain.

· Jul 22 1966 – Vietnam: B-52 bombers hit the DMZ between North and South Vietnam for the first time.

· Jul 22 1987 – Gulf War: US began escorting re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers in Persian Gulf

· Jul 23 1944 – WWII: US forces invade Japanese-held Tinian.

· Jul 23 1962 – The Geneva Conference on Laos forbids the United States to invade eastern Laos.

· Jul 24 1990 – Gulf War: U.S. warships in Persian Gulf placed on alert after Iraq masses nearly 30,000 troops near its border with Kuwait

· Jul 25 1944 – WWII: Allied forces begin the breakthrough of German lines in Normandy.

· Jul 25 1990 – Gulf War: U.S. Ambassador tells Iraq, US won’t take sides in Iraq-Kuwait dispute.

· Jul 27 1861 – Civil War: Confederate troops occupy Fort Fillmore, New Mexico

· Jul 27 1944 – WWII: U.S. troops complete the liberation of Guam.

· Jul 27 1953 – Korea: Representatives of the United Nations, Korea and China sign an armistice at Panmunjon ending the war.

· Jul 27 1964 – Vietnam: President Lyndon Johnson sends an additional 5,000 advisers to South Vietnam.

· Jul 28 1914 – WWI: War begins when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia followed by Germany declaring war on France (3 AUG). On 4 AUG Germany invaded Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany, and President Woodrow Wilson declared policy of U.S. neutrality.

· Jul 28 1945 – A B-25 bomber crashes into the Empire State Building in New York City, killing 13 people.

· Jul 28 1965 – Vietnam: LBJ sends 50,000 more soldiers to Vietnam (total of 125,000)

· Jul 29 1915 – U.S. Marines land at Port-au-Prince to protect American interests in Haiti.

· Jul 29 1967 – Fire aboard carrier USS Forrestal in Gulf of Tonkin kills 134. $100 million damage

· Jul 30 1942 – FDR signs bill creating women’s Navy auxiliary agency (WAVES)

· Jul 30 1944 – US 30th division reaches suburbs of St-Lo Normandy

· Jul 30 1945 – WWII: After delivering parts of the first atomic bomb the U.S. cruiser Indianapolis is torpedoed/sinks, 880 die.

· Jul 31 1813 – Revolutionary War: British invade Plattsburgh NY

· Jul 31 1991 – Senate votes to allow women to fly combat aircraft

[Source: Various Jun 09 ++]

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VETERAN LEGISLATION STATUS 29 JUL 09: The next scheduled Congressional recess during which they will not be in session is 6 AUG through 4 SEP. This is referred to as the August recess which runs through Labor Day 3 SEP. For or a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community that have been introduced in the 111th Congress refer to the Bulletin’s Veteran Legislation attachment. Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law. A good indication on that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it. To determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d111/sponlst.html.

Grassroots lobbying is perhaps the most effective way to let your Representative and Senators know your opinion. Whether you are calling into a local or Washington, D.C. office; sending a letter or e-mail; signing a petition; or making a personal visit, Members of Congress are the most receptive and open to suggestions from their constituents. The key to increasing cosponsorship on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting legislators know of veteran’s feelings on issues. You can reach their Washington office via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate on http://thomas.loc.gov your legislator’s phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making. Refer to http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/cong_schedule.html for dates that you can access your legislators on their home turf. [Source: RAO Bulletin Attachment 29 Jul 09 ++]

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HAVE YOU HEARD: Puns for the educated?

· The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference . He acquired his size from too much pi.

· I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

· She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.

· A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

· The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

· No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

· A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

· A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blown apart.

· Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

· Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

· A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

· Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

· Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

· I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

· A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: “Keep off the Grass.”

· A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, “No change yet.”

· A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

· The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

· The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

· A backward poet writes inverse.

· In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

· When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

· Don’t join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

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Lt. James “EMO” Tichacek, USN (Ret)

Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & IRS VITA Baguio City RP

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

Tel: (951) 238-1246 in U.S. or Cell: 0915-361-3503 in the Philippines.

Email: raoemo@sbcglobal.net Web: http://post_119_gulfport_ms.tripod.com/rao1.html

AL/AMVETS/DAV/FRA/NAUS/NCOA/MOAA/USDR/VFW/VVA/CG33/DD890/AD37 member

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VETERAN AND CITIZENS WARDEN MESSAGE

THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES IS TRANSMITTING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION THROUGH THE EMBASSY WARDEN SYSTEM AS A PUBLIC SERVICE TO AMERICAN CITIZENS IN THE PHILIPPINES.  PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS MESSAGE TO ALL U.S. CITIZENS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION OR NEIGHBORHOOD.  THANK YOU.

Worldwide Caution

July 29, 2009

The Department of State has issued this Worldwide Caution to update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against American citizens and interests throughout the world.  In some countries, the worldwide recession has contributed to political and economic instability and social unrest.  American citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.  This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated February 2, 2009 to provide updated information on security threats and terrorist activities worldwide.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas.  Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.  Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.  The July 17 bombing of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia, where at least nine people were killed and six Americans were among the 50 or more injured; the February 2009 kidnapping of an American UNHCR official in Pakistan; the kidnapping of four European tourists in January on the Mali-Niger border; the kidnapping of two Canadian diplomats in Niger in December 2008; and the kidnapping of NGO workers along the Kenya-Somali border in July 2009 all illustrate the continuing desire of extremists to strike Western targets and perceived interests.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests.  Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, and restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and locales where Americans gather in large numbers, including during holidays.  Terrorists attacked two hotels, a railway station, restaurant, hospital, and other locations frequented by Westerners in Mumbai, India, on November 26, 2008.  Over 170 persons are believed to have been killed, including six Americans, and hundreds were injured.  On September 20, 2008, terrorists bombed the Islamabad Marriott Hotel killing two U.S. Department of Defense employees and one Department of State contractor.  One private American sustained minor injuries.  A July 9, 2008, terrorist attack on Turkish police guarding the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey, killed three police officers and wounded other police personnel.  The March 15, 2008, bombing of an Italian restaurant in Islamabad, Pakistan, injured several Americans.

Americans are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems.  Bombs exploded near city buses in Tripoli, Lebanon, on August 13 and September 29, 2008, killing twenty-one people.  Other incidents include multiple anti-personnel mine detonations on passenger buses in June 2008 in Sri Lanka,  multiple terrorist attacks on trains in India in 2006, the July 2005 London Underground bombings, and the March 2004 train attacks in Madrid.  Extremists also may select aviation and maritime services as possible targets, such as the August 2006 plot against aircraft in London, or the December 2006 bomb at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport.  In June 2007, a vehicle was driven into the main terminal at Glasgow International Airport and burst into flames, but the bomb failed to detonate.

The Middle East and North Africa

Credible information indicates terrorist groups seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa.  Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings, and assassinations.  While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents, must be considered a possible threat.  Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.  Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, and public areas where people congregate, including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas.

In January 2009, unidentified gunmen opened fire outside the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.  No injuries were reported. On September 17, 2008, armed terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, killing several Yemeni personnel, one embassy security guard, and a few individuals waiting to gain entry to the embassy.  On January 15, 2008, a roadside explosion in Beirut, Lebanon killed three Lebanese and injured an American citizen.  On December 11, 2007, two vehicle-borne explosive devices were detonated at the UN headquarters in Algiers and the Algerian Constitutional Council.  There were a series of bombings in Morocco in March and April 2007, two of which occurred simultaneously outside the U.S. Consulate General and the private American Language Center in Casablanca.  Additionally, an attack took place on the American International School in Gaza in April 2007.  These events underscore the intent of terrorist entities to target facilities perceived to cater to Westerners.

Potential targets are not limited to those companies or establishments with overt U.S. ties.  For instance, terrorists may target movie theaters, liquor stores, bars, casinos, or any similar type of establishment, regardless of whether they are owned and operated by host country nationals.  Due to varying degrees of security at all such locations, Americans should be particularly vigilant when visiting these establishments.

The violence in Iraq and conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has the potential to produce demonstrations and unrest throughout the region.  The armed conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 raised tensions and sparked demonstrations throughout the world.  The Department of State continues to warn of the possibility for violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests in the region.  Anti-American violence could include possible terrorist actions against aviation, ground transportation, and maritime interests, specifically in the Middle East, including the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa.

The Department is concerned that extremists may be planning to carry out attacks against Westerners and oil workers on the Arabian Peninsula.  Armed attacks targeting foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia that resulted in many deaths and injuries, including U.S. citizens, appear to have been preceded by extensive surveillance.  On February 22, 2009, there was a bomb attack targeting a popular tourist destination in Cairo, Egypt’s Old City.  Tourist destinations in Egypt frequented by Westerners were also attacked in April 2006 resulting in many deaths and injuries, including Americans.  Extremists may be surveilling Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas, and rental car facilities.  Potential targets may include U.S. contractors, particularly those related to military interests.  Financial or economic venues of value also could be considered as possible targets; the failed attack on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia in late February 2006 and the September 2006 attack on oil facilities in Yemen are examples.

East Africa

A number of al-Qaida operatives and other extremists are believed to be operating in and around East Africa.  As a result of the conflict in Somalia, some of these individuals may seek to relocate elsewhere in the region.  Americans considering travel to the region and those already there should review their plans carefully, remain vigilant with regard to their personal security, and exercise caution.  Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings, or targeting maritime vessels.  Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.  Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists to seek softer targets such as hotels, beach resorts, prominent public places, and landmarks.  In particular, terrorists and like-minded extremists may target international aid workers, civil aviation, and seaports in various locations throughout East Africa, including Somalia. On July 17, three NGO workers were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from their base in Mandera, Kenya, located on the border with Somalia.  Americans in remote areas or border regions where military or police authority is limited or non-existent could also become targets.

Americans considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there has been a notable increase in armed attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom at sea by pirates in recent months.  Merchant vessels continue to be hijacked in Somali territorial waters, while others have been hijacked as far as 300 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya in international waters.

The U.S. Government maritime authorities advise mariners to avoid the port of Mogadishu, and to remain at least 200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.  In addition, when transiting around the Horn of Africa or in the Red Sea, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, and maintain good communications contact at all times.  Americans traveling on commercial passenger vessels should consult with the shipping or cruise ship company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid hijacking incidents.  Commercial vessels should review the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration‘s suggested piracy countermeasures for vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden.

West Africa

The terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has become increasingly active in the West African countries of Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, as well as in parts of North Africa.  AQIM uses regions of these countries as safe havens and platforms from which to conduct operations.  Formerly known as GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), AQIM has been designated a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.

AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western interests and targets.  AQIM is known to operate in the northern region of Mali, the southeastern region of Mauritania, and along the border between Niger and Mali.  In addition to being a threat to Westerners, AQIM contributes to civil unrest and banditry, which reinforce longstanding security concerns in West Africa.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid travel to these areas.  U.S. government personnel are required to obtain advance written approval to travel to these areas.  For additional information about travel in this region, please consult the Country Specific Information (CSI) for Mauritania, Mali, and Niger.

South and Central Asia

The U.S. Government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South and Central Asia may be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. Government facilities, American citizens, or American interests.  The presence of al-Qaida, Taliban elements, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terror organizations, many of which are on the U.S. Government’s list of foreign terror organizations, poses a potential danger to American citizens in the region.  Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.  Their actions may include, but are not limited to, vehicle-born explosives, improvised explosive devices, assassinations, carjacking, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings.

In June 2009, gunmen stormed the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, and detonated a bomb that resulted in several deaths and scores of injuries.  In February 2009, Taliban insurgents conducted a coordinated terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, which resulted in the death of at least 26 and the wounding of 50 individuals.  Between October 2008 and June 2009, several American citizens were kidnapped in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In November 2008, coordinated terrorist attacks on luxury hotels, a Jewish community center, a restaurant, train station, hospital, and other facilities frequented by foreigners in Mumbai, India, killed more than 170, including six Americans.  On November 12, 2008, an American government contractor and his driver in Peshawar, Pakistan, were shot and killed in their car.  In September 2008, more than fifty people, including three Americans, were killed and hundreds were injured when a suicide bomber set off a truck filled with explosives outside a major international hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan.  In August 2008, gunmen stopped and shot at the vehicle of an American diplomat in Peshawar.  Also in August, three western non-governmental organization (NGO) employees, along with their Afghan driver, were gunned down as they traveled south of Kabul, Afghanistan.  On June 2, 2008, a large bomb exploded in front of the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing at least six people and wounding nearly 20.  In May 2008, a series of coordinated bombings occurred in market and temple areas of the tourist city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India.  In Afghanistan, kidnappings and terrorist attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests continue.

Previous terrorist attacks conducted in Central Asia have involved improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers and have targeted public areas, such as markets, local government facilities, and, in 2004, the U.S. and Israeli Embassies in Uzbekistan.  In addition, hostage-takings and skirmishes have occurred near the Uzbek-Tajik-Kyrgyz border areas.

Before You Go

U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site to obtain updated information on travel and security.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.  For additional information, please refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad“.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.  These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents.  In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays.)

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Disruptive Anger in the Workplace

By Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF

www.ami-tx.com

soundoffhomepageThe workplace is a melting point of people from different backgrounds, cultures and communities. Conflicts and differences of opinion are bound to occur. Add to that deadlines, work pressures and responsibilities and you get an entire workplace drama.

Newspapers frequently enumerate stories of employees going over the edge and shooting their colleagues or destroying company property. Ex-employees turn out to be spiteful and reveal confidential information to competitors. Some retaliate by wiping out years of company data and wrecking back-up files.

Manpower is a resource that has to be handled with care. Rough handling can be highly detrimental to the morale and productivity of the organization as a whole.

Workplace anger is experienced at all levels beginning from line staff and ending with executives and managers. However, it has been observed that lower levels of the hierarchy react more violently as compared to higher level executives. Perhaps, this is due to lack of proper training and orientation. Top executives on the other hand get more exposure to soft skills and communication programs. Prompting strikes and damaging property is more frequent among factory workers and daily wage earners. Executives retaliate differently. They may resort to back-biting, manipulation, intimidation and spite to release their resentment. It’s difficult to say which is the lesser of the two evils: getting violent or acting malicious.

Both are detrimental to the overall work environment. While violence is dangerous to lives and property, silent sufferance creates a negative atmosphere and dampens morale.

Reasons for Workplace Anger: Listed below are of the common reasons for anger at the workplace:

Leaves not granted

Regular overtime at the workplace

No appreciation for good performance

Promotions awarded to yes men as opposed to good performers

Salary hikes not approved

Overly critical supervisors or managers

Partiality towards certain employees

Termination of employment

Steps to curb Workplace Anger: Managers should be cognizant of the first signs of aggression. Absenteeism, late-coming, tardiness and deterioration in performance are some warning signals.

Organizations should invest in Anger Management Programs at regular intervals to enable employees to express feelings and release pent-up emotions.

One-to-one sessions with employees should take place regularly even when no problems are apparent. This helps prevent any lurking anger issues that may blow up later.

Active listening and conversations in informal settings should be encouraged to make people feel at ease and open up.

Proper systems for complaints and grievances must be established. Every complaint must be dealt with within a specified time frame.

If an employee has to be terminated; it has to be done as civilly as possible. They should not be made to feel small and humiliated.

Stress Management to control Workplace Anger: Most of our stress is associated with work. Work pressure is on the rise. We are expected to be faster, brighter and more efficient than we already are. A disappointment with our job leads to depression and anger. Hence, controlling stress helps in controlling workplace anger. Being on cordial terms with our colleagues and superiors helps minimize stress at work. It’s not possible to be on good terms with everybody at the workplace. However, even a couple of supportive co-workers can prevent work from becoming a living hell.

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Ancient Empires

ancient-empires-iAncient Empires

Man’s civilizing efforts, as detailed and very advanced though they have been at certain times, have been interrupted, quite abruptly, by natural seismic occurrences on our planet. Entire continents moving thousands of miles in a period of a few days can produce earthquakes more severe than anything Richter has been working on as a scale! Between five and 25,000 years seems to be the interval between these seismic reapportionments of the Earth’s land masses, wherein the entire crust slips into a new position on the underlying magma of the planet. Every part of the world is affected by such an event.

76000 – 24000 B.C. Lemurian Civilization:
Lemuria was an island which embraced all of present-day Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Oceania, western North America, and everything between. It was destroyed by earthquakes and then submerged about 26,000 years ago. Man’s first civilization arose on the continent of Lemuria 78,000 years ago and reached heights so great that our present civilization can barely be considered a civilization when compared to it. Government, religion, and science achieved such perfection as to be far beyond our present comprehension. Western Civilization is only about 2,500 years old and has narrowly survived its power-seeking rulers and priests. Our science and technology are but in their infancy and as yet consist of but relatively few rediscoveries. The religion of Lemuria was established on the laws of the universe by Christ Himself when He ruled Lemuria under the name Melchizedek.

22500 – 8500 B.C. Atlantean Civilization:
After the destruction of Lemuria, Atlantis grew to be a great nation, which subsequently proved to be the world’s second-ranking civilization. It flourished for some 14,000 years until its submersion about 10,500 years ago. The name of this nation was Poseid, and it was the offspring of the colony which the Pfrees (overly practical) had originally established.

The nation of Poseid was inventive far beyond the wildest imaginings of modern scientists. Their fantastically advanced technology afforded consummate leisure, comfort, and a vast abundance of material things. Unfortunately, the people were much too preoccupied with the pursuit of physical pleasures and with the accumulation of luxurious possessions to take advantage of the opportunity to attain citizenship, and this shortcoming ultimately resulted in their downfall. Internal conflict arose when large numbers of Katholis (overly idealistic) deserted their cities in South and Central America and migrated to Poseid in order to escape their savagely warlike neighbors. The Katholi priests set about to bring Poseid under their sway, but they only succeeded in destroying the governmental and economic system which produced the wealth and luxuries they sought to usurp. Civil and religious warfare vexed the land until it submerged beneath the ocean waves.

When Atlantis sank in a localized earthquake, it left all the rest of the globe impoverished so far as technology was concerned. Nobody else knew how to duplicate that technology; so many of the things that had been used world-wide simply didn’t exist any longer. Even though technology gradually diminished in the rest of the world, they managed to be civilized towards one another. But then 3,000 years after the sinking of Atlantis came a world-wide reapportionment of the land masses.

5500 B.C. Osirian and Rama Nations:
The third greatest civilization was the pre-dynastic Egyptian culture, known as Osiris, which was greatly different from the records that we are able to find of the various dynasties. The fourth greatest civilization was the Rama Empire in the Indian sub-continent. The common people in India then had an entirely different philosophy than the educated ruling families who, incidentally, were members of the Brotherhoods.

The pre-dynastic Egyptian culture was concurrent with the Rama Empire and both were concurrent with the end times of the Atlantean civilization. They were known as the three kings. Atlantis was predominantly a very practical group of people. The people in the Rama Empire of India were much more idealistic than they were either practical or mentally oriented. The Osirian nation was primarily noted for its use of mental techniques in a positive way.

The ancient Rama Empire in India became the fourth-ranking civilization under a dynasty of enlightened leaders who for a period of several centuries suppressed the priesthood. The Rama regime and predynastic Egypt had both managed to salvage some of their culture after the fall of Atlantis, but the rest of the world was reduced to a condition of brutal struggle for survival. The colonies of the world were irretrievably shut off from the technology of Atlantis, and in a few generations they reverted to a stone age-existence. The few manufacturing facilities not destroyed by world-wide earthquakes and tidal waves soon deteriorated from lack of raw materials to feed them. Stone replaced smelted metals for tools, and all too soon subsequent generations couldn’t believe anything other than stone had ever been used. Egypt and India were precariously spared from the far-reaching upheaval, and their weakened governments gradually succumbed to evil priests and war lords.

That last reapportionment 7,500 years ago put an end to the Rama Empire in India as well as the Osirian nation in the Mediterranean basin. Today, what we consider ancient history only goes back to about that cataclysm. What we commonly refer to as the “cradle” of civilization in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers of today was people coming back to some semblance of civilization and culture.

The Adelphi Organization

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The Origin of the Rastafarian Movement

rastThe Rastafarian movement was born in Jamaica in 1930 when news of the crowning of Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie) as King of Ethiopia, attracted the attention of various Jamaicans who had been to some extent influenced by Marcus Garvey.   Haile Selassie is known to be JAH because of his direct descendancy to King Menelik, (son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba) and King David and because of his inherited title, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, which identifies him as the living JAH whose coming was foretold in the Bible, Psalm 68.4, Revelation 5:2-5, 19:16, 22:16,.

Various persons connected Garvey’s prophecies of the crowning of a black king who would deliver black people from their oppressors, with certain biblical passages that confirmed to them that Selassie was indeed the Messiah.

Interestingly, these persons are said to have reached this conclusion quite independently of each other.

Among the key figures in this birth of the Rastafarian philosophy were Leonard P. Howell, Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert, H. Archibald Dunkley and Robert Hinds. All were ministers, who formed separate groups based on this revelation.

Howell is the man most credited with the initial spreading of the Rastafarian way of life.  He was a well travelled man and was reported to have fought on African soil and to have command of several African languages.

Howell had stationed himself for a period of time in North America where the social ravages of racism were common practice.  This directed his intent in working for necessary reforms.  He began his ministry in the slums of Western Kingston, Jamaica.

Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert was a member of the Ancient Mystic Order of Ethiopia, a secret society, who after spending many years in Panama returned to Jamaica and began preaching of Emperor Haile Selassi as the returned Messiah.   Hinds were his deputy.   Hebbert started his mission in St. Andrew, and came to Kingston to find Howell preaching the same doctrine.

H. Archibald Dunkley, a Jamaican seaman, studied the Bible independently for over two years and concluded that Haile Selassie was indeed the Messiah that Marcus Garvey had prophesied.  He started his mission in Port Antonio, Jamaica but soon moved to Kingston.

There were several other Ministers and preachers that preached the words and truth of Rastafarian as they perceived it, such as Paul Erlington, Vernal Davis and Ferdinand Ricketts.

By 1934, a solid nucleus of Rastafarian had been established in Kingston.  Howell and Dunkley, in trumpeting the cause of Rastafarian, both paid penance.  They were jailed and became targets of repeated harassment, with Dunkley also being committed to an asylum.

These encroachments on their personal freedom only ignited the ideologies and practical solutions that Garvey had offered and along with Mortimer Planno, one of Bob’s first Rasta mentors gave Bob Marley the yearning to embrace the Rastafarian way of life while still in his teens.

Mortimer Planno not only influenced Bob Marley but also was the liaison between the establishment and many of the Rastafarian community.  Planno a well educated articulate Rasta gained even more credibility when he greeted Haile Selassie upon his arrival to Jamaica in 1966.

Rastafarian is a challenge to Eurocentric values and a highly motivated thrust that seeks within its members its own cultural identity. The eye of the storm of Rastafarian is focused on the inherent right of a people who have long been “depressed”, to reposition themselves within the realms of the laws set by JAH.

Within Rastafarian teachings there are a few differences in terms of practice and structure, but all uphold his Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie as the return of the true Messiah.  It should be pointed out that while the fountain flows with many streams of water it does not change the substance of the matter that spurts forward.  Or you have many roads that lead to the promise land but only positive souls are allowed to ride on it to JAH’s house.

So it does not matter if you seek the truth about Rastafarian from the teaching of the Divine Theocracy Order of Nyabinghi, The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Ethiopia African International Congress, Ethiopian World Federation, Rastafarian Movement Association, Judah Coptic or the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, all follow the teachings of Ras Tafari.  Example, Baptists, Protestants, Catholics and Methodists all follow the Christian teaching, through the spirit of Love and reality; there is an oneness in recognition of one JAH. (GOD)

Rastafarian is not dreadlocks and a spliff (joint).  It is a way of life that is not dependent on feigned social freedoms.  Rastafarian prefers to opt instead for something less material and more meaningful-truths and rights. In other words…being in the world but not of it.

Herb, Marijuana, Collie or Ganja are considered a Sacrament to Rastafarians and is used to act as a channel to a calm and conscious temporal spirit much as Christians and Jews use red wine.  Rasta’s believe that this use of Ganja was granted to them by the words of Jesus in the fields of Zion, ” God gives man all green herbs, trees and plants bearing fruit with seeds”  This he did while standing in a field of Cannabis. Genesis Book 1 verses 11, 12, 29.    Rasta’s also believe that smoking Ganjas will allow them to use positive common consciousness.

To arrive at a clear and realistic view of Rastafarian, one has to see it for what it is – a way of life: not a myth, cult, sect or figment of any one individual’s imagination.  Rastafarian is the adherence to basic life principles and the expression of them through positive means.

Socialization within the prescribed norms of the general populace has not been the aim of the Rastafarian. Thus, what has developed from Rastafari’s concerted effort to change is a more definitive and heightened cultural awareness through language, mode of dress, natural eating habits and seeking of a clear channel away from confines of captivity.

The Rastafarian way of life has taken up where the dread middle passage voyages sought to disconnect.  The uncut, uncombed growth of hair or “dreadlocks” as it is commonly referred to be said to be the crowning antenna that keeps Rastafarian in tune.  Sharp perceptions and warnings of predatory dangers are the benefits.

Locks are not plaited, waxed or mixed with cow dung as many misinformed rumors have spread.  Nor are they the habitations of the creeping creature known as the “forty Legs” or centipede.

There are many that through circumstances or choice do not wear the covenant, but are nonetheless principled.  Of course there are also many in disguise that are masquerading charlatans and utilize that appearance to do other than good deeds.  Dreadlocks are traceable to early civilizations of Africa, such as the Masai warriors along with other indigenous tribes.

The Rastafarian way of speaking or “reasoning” is not illiteracy as some would have you believe, but the tailoring of the European language for more identifiable self expression and modification of it to highlight the positive.

Changes in vocabulary and syntax are also a conscious act of protest against the established mores of “Babylon”.   Babylon is an evil force, be it a place, person or persons, way of life or anything dealing with negativity and hate.

Babylon is ant progressive, its sole mission is to confuse and persuade the positive loving righteous to change their way of believing.

One refers to one self as “I and I” to express divinity of the God that is ever present and within the individual.  “I” is an assertion of individuality and of the importance of JAH.

“I” is substituted for all pronouns, such as “me”, “you”, “we”, “them”, which, are considered, too be detached.  Because “I” is so important, the first syllables of certain words are replaced by the sound; so that “vital becomes “Ital.”, “ever” becomes “Iver”, “Ethiopia” becomes “Ithiopia”, “creation” becomes “Ireation”.

Rastafarian dress codes usually emphasize a prominence of the identity colors and styles. The Colors Red, Gold & Green play a significant part in the Rastafarian doctrine.  Red is for the blood shed by the people, Gold is for wealth granted to his people and Green is for the Fertility of the Earth.

While Rastafarian continues to generate debate, its numbers are ever increasing. What more is left for foes of Rastafarian to do but stand aside and marvel at the sight of those who have endured innumerable indignities as they step progressively towards Zion.  It seems to be in the interest of “men” manipulators (those of cowardly persuasion); to keep the righteous ignorant of whom they are and to brainwash them to deny all existence of their originality.

But Rastafarian “brethren and sistren remain fastened to that which claims and no disowns them.

I hope this summary gives people a better understanding of the Roots and meanings of the Rastafarian Movement

From the writing of Malika Lee Whitney, Dermott Husssey, with excerpts from the Torah and the Bible. Summarized by Sirron Kyles, Executive Producer Annual Bob Marley Festival Tour 1998

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Veterans – 40 years later

veteranUnderstanding the Impact 40 Years Later

U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange:

National Organization on Disability

With funding from the Ford Foundation

Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin


The following paper was commissioned by the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin and written by the National Organization on Disability (NOD). The paper benefits extensively from independent research conducted for NOD in 2008 by Mary Carstensen, U.S. Army, Colonel (retired) and from additional research and analysis in 2008 and 2009 by Mary E. Dolan-Hogrefe, Vice President and Senior Advisor, NOD.

The production of this paper was inspired in part by NOD’s participation in the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, a bilateral citizens’ group of five Vietnamese and five Americans convened by the Ford Foundation (further information is available at www.fordfound.org/programs/signature/agentorange/issue). One goal of the Dialogue Group is to make the U.S. public aware of the continuing environmental and health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from use of Agent Orange by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. A second goal is to mobilize resources and build effective public-private partnerships to respond to those consequences without further delay. This paper adds to those efforts by examining where we are in our own country relative to the affects of Agent Orange on our soldiers and their families.

Although these issues date back more than 40 years, they remain critically important for at least two reasons. First, it is still not too late to correct lapses in the nation’s treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War. Many of them began reporting high rates of illness and disability soon after their wartime service, and yet waited many years (and in some cases are still waiting) for a fair resolution to their concerns. Those concerns now extend to health effects among their children and grandchildren. Many of the effects are still poorly understood and officially unrecognized.

The second reason these issues continue to resonate is that the use of chemicals on the world’s battlefields has only increased in the years since the Vietnam War ended. One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of using such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations, long after the original causes of conflict have been resolved.

It is timely for our nation to address war legacies, past and present, and make good on our promise to care for our own.

————————————————

U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange:

Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later

Between 1962 and 1971, the United States sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated herbicides over some 6 million acres of Vietnamese terrain. Among these was a compound known as Agent Orange, named for the orange stripe on its label (other varieties were marked with different colors but were less widely used). These chemicals wiped out forests and crops that were used by opposition forces for cover and food. In the course of this, hundreds of thousands of U.S. service personnel and millions of Vietnamese were exposed to the chemicals in the air, water, and soil and through food raised on contaminated farms.[1]

Agent Orange consisted mainly of two weed killers in common commercial use at the time. One of these contained small amounts of a contaminant technically named 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, or TCDD, known to be toxic in humans. TCDD accumulates in human fatty tissue, where it is neither readily metabolized nor excreted, so its effects can linger and build over time. In April 1970, the federal government found evidence that TCDD had caused birth defects in laboratory mice (it was later linked to other conditions as well). Yet  Agent Orange continued to be used  in Vietnam for another eight months.

By the time the war ended in May 1975, more than 2.5 million American military personnel had served in Vietnam’s combat zones. The precise number of Americans, Vietnamese, and people of other nationalities who were directly exposed to Agent Orange — like much else about the herbicide and its effects — is not documented anywhere. Yet the wholesale use of the chemical across the entire theater, together with its long-term persistence at several former US military bases in Vietnam, makes it highly likely that a significant percentage of the 2-3 million combat veterans came into some contact with Agent Orange during their service.

The many uncertainties surrounding wartime use of Agent Orange — over the exact number of people exposed, the level of exposure likely to be harmful, and the specific conditions that could result — hampered both medical care and policymaking for years. Nearly two decades after the war’s end, the Agent Orange Act of 1991 sought to cut through the medical and scientific quandaries by establishing two official presumptions: that veterans who served in Vietnam from 1962 to the end of the war were exposed to Agent Orange, and that those diagnosed with certain illnesses associated with TCDD would have developed those illnesses at least partly as a result of their service in Vietnam. Yet 15 years after the law was passed, fewer than half a million Vietnam veterans had undergone the standard Agent Orange examination offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify possible effects of their exposure.

Veterans who ask for and receive the official exam are entered into an Agent Orange Registry that started in 1978. It contained 490,000 names as of 2007, along with useful demographic and medical information. But there is no database listing the other, unexamined veterans who, by law, were presumptively exposed to poison. The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a nominal outreach effort to alert such veterans and to help them navigate the process of examination, diagnosis, applications, and care that could help them. But veterans and their advocacy organizations report that the service is not widely used or effective, so the universe of unserved veterans remains something of a mystery. There is not even a source of data on the number of Vietnam veterans who are already receiving compensation or medical care for conditions related to Agent Orange, unless they happen to have undergone the official exam.

There is, in short, a presumed entitlement to care, services, and monetary assistance for America’s Agent Orange victims, but no overarching system for fulfilling that entitlement except the private knowledge, initiative, and perseverance of each individual veteran. More than 50 voluntary organizations — nearly all of them formed by veterans themselves — manage to reach and help many former service members. But these Veterans Service Organizations have many competing priorities and limited resources, and are responding to the consequences of more recent wars.

Meanwhile, the official list of diseases that are recognized as herbicide-related has grown only sporadically, in response to an underfunded and uneven process of epidemiological research and bureaucratic deliberation. More than a decade after the war’s end, only one illness — the disfiguring skin disease chloracne — was officially recognized as connected to wartime Agent Orange exposure. Others have since been added, little by little, often after prolonged scientific and governmental debate. Many illnesses that Vietnam veterans suspect are associated with contaminated herbicides, such as brain or testicular cancer, still are not considered service-related and thus are not eligible for benefits.

To be sure, epidemiological research is slow by nature, and some delay in identifying the effects of Agent Orange exposure would have been unavoidable. Certain symptoms may take years to develop, and patterns and connections sometimes become apparent only over long periods. Any process of recognizing conditions and assessing their degree of connection to dioxin (rather than, say, to individual circumstances like heredity or tobacco use) would have taken time. But research on Agent Orange was riddled with challenges from the start – scientific, political and financial.  The result was to transform a necessarily painstaking process into one with even greater — and partly avoidable — delays. For veterans and their families, struggling with unexplained illnesses, disabilities, and death, every needless delay poses a severe cost that cannot be repaid later.

The harm resulting from dioxin use now extends well beyond the generation that fought in Vietnam. In 2007, the VA[2] reported that 1,200 children of exposed veterans had some degree of disability resulting from Spina Bifida, a birth defect closely associated with TCDD. Some 200 of these disabilities were severe. Many of these children became eligible for compensation thanks to a 1996 act of Congress. But other birth defects, learning disabilities, and childhood illnesses are not recognized, even though recent evidence shows several of them to be more common among the offspring of exposed Vietnam veterans. Little research has been done to establish which of these conditions may be related to Agent Orange, which means that no basis yet exists for determining how and whether the affected families may ever become eligible for support. Despite evidence of cross-generational effects of Agent Orange dating back nearly four decades, there remains no routine means of examining the children or grandchildren of Vietnam veterans, nor any system of compensation or support for the vast majority of children and their families.

At a minimum, men and women who risked their lives for the U.S. war effort in Vietnam — and who in the process were exposed not only to enemy hostility but to poison from their own side — are entitled to a simple, consistent way of learning about and receiving the compensation and support to which the law already entitles them. But more broadly, the process by which eligible illnesses are recognized and addressed under this law should not be mired in technical disputes and plodding deliberation nearly 35 years after the war’s end. Research and data-gathering need to accelerate to a pace that begins to make up for decades of procedural delay and that fills in the gaps in basic information on exposure, medical consequences, and benefits delivered.

Most far-reaching of all, veterans’ children and (it now seems) grandchildren who are born with the effects of inherited contamination should have a clear, reliable source of medical and social services. The sluggish pace of research on Agent Orange contamination has meant that, for decades, parents have been unaware of the risks that they and their children would face, and thus have raised families without essential information, much less services, that might have reduced suffering and improved opportunity for unknown thousands of children.

This paper concludes with a more specific list of recommendations and gaps to be filled. But first it is useful to survey, briefly, how matters got to their present state, and how veterans currently fare in the complex process of learning about, diagnosing, treating, and living with the lingering effects of Agent Orange.

The Early Years: A Trickle of Information and Tentative Responses

By the mid-1970s, returning Vietnam veterans were experiencing higher-than-average rates of certain disabling and life-threatening illnesses, including diabetes and various cancers, that were later shown to be associated with TCDD and Agent Orange. Increasingly unwell, and often unable to work, many sought information from established veterans’ organizations or the Veterans Administration, usually to little avail. One early source of information, an Agent Orange Hotline organized with Ford Foundation support in the late 1970s, brought forth a flood of inquiries. It received 50,000 calls in its first year, most from veterans with unexplained illnesses or concerns about their health who had no source of information on what was happening to them or what to do about it.

Even once they were armed with preliminary information, concerned veterans still had few opportunities for comparing notes, organizing, and collectively making their concerns known. The formation of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) in 1978 provided an important network of support and advocacy, and it remains one of the Veterans’ Service Organizations chartered by Congress to prepare, present, and prosecute claims for services and benefits. At the time, herbicide-related illnesses were beginning to appear in large numbers, however, these organizations were new and still gathering resources to take up the cause.

Four other developments, beginning around the same time that VVA was founded, helped form a critical basis of fact and law to buttress veterans’ fears that exposure to Agent Orange was damaging their health and that of their children. One was a class-action product liability lawsuit that was filed in 1978 against five manufacturers (two others were added later) involved in the production of tainted herbicides or their components. The suit was settled six years later for $180 million, though the companies expressly denied liability or wrongdoing and maintained that “this action is without merit.”[3]

A portion of that sum was paid out as cash benefits to veterans who could demonstrate “total disability” at any time between 1971 and 1994 — a group that ended up comprising about 50,000 people, a small minority of the plaintiff class. Nor were the payments to this group large: Initial checks, mailed in 1989, ranged between $340 and $3,400[4], the equivalent of $560 to $5,600 in 2007 dollars. Over time, the average benefit was estimated to be $5,700 in 1989 dollars, roughly $9,500 today. Those who developed illnesses and became disabled after 1994 — a common outcome, given the durability of TCDD in the body and the slow onset of many related illnesses — were not covered and received nothing.

More than a quarter of the total settlement was paid not to veterans, but to health and human service organizations, including veterans’ groups, that offered outreach, respite care and other support services, case management, and treatment for veterans and their families. The service grants, called the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, helped to demonstrate the effectiveness of local outreach, case management, and community-based service delivery to veterans’ whole families as a way of reaching and serving those suffering from the lingering effects of exposure — a lesson the Veterans Administration later incorporated into other programs.

Also in the late ’70s, two studies began that would eventually provide a body of evidence on the effects of dioxin contamination. One, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, focused on workers in private industry, not on military personnel. But the number of people in the study, more than 5,000, made it by far the largest examination of dioxin exposure yet undertaken. A report from this study, released in the 1990s, found evidence of a link between dioxin and diabetes.

A second and better-known study, an epidemiological analysis commissioned by the U.S. Air Force, focused on some of the most intensively exposed veterans: 1,200 members of Operation Ranch Hand, the team that conducted much of the actual spraying of herbicides in Vietnam. Early results of the Ranch Hand study, published in 1984, contained findings that the Air Force described as “reassuring” to the exposed veterans, showing little difference between their health and that of other service members.

A decade later, however, an investigative report in the San Diego Union-Tribune revealed far more disturbing data from the Ranch Hand research that the Air Force had chosen not to publish. Among other things, the scientists conducting the analysis had actually found, in the newspaper’s words, “that the Ranch Hand veterans were, by a ratio of 5 to 1, ‘less well’ than the comparison group.” Study participants, according to the article, had also reported “significantly more birth defects among their children than did the other veterans

To clarify the facts, the Yale School of Nursing later examined birth defects among the children of Ranch Hand veterans. In 2003 the Yale researchers reported “evidence of a connection between Vietnam veterans’ exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange in Southeast Asia and the occurrence of birth defects and developmental disabilities in their children.” It concluded that “the children of Vietnam veterans constitute a likely vulnerable population as a consequence of their fathers’ potential Vietnam service dioxin exposure.”[5]

In later years, Air Force reports from the Ranch Hand study would eventually furnish further evidence of health consequences for veterans themselves. A Ranch Hand report in 2000, for example, produced what researchers characterized as “the strongest evidence to date that herbicide exposure [was] associated with diabetes and some of its known complications.” The Air Force research that began in the 1970s continued for nearly three decades, ending in 2006. Its resulting trove of survey and medical data and biospecimens from study participants remains in the custody of the National Academy of Sciences. It may therefore be available for further research — a resource that will figure in the recommendations later in this paper.

A fourth significant development of the late 1970s was the Veterans Administration’s creation of the Agent Orange Registry and the assignment of a “Registry Physician” at every VA medical center to administer a standard, extensive examination to veterans concerned about their exposure to Agent Orange. The registry is a computer database containing the results of these exams, along with other information on the veterans. But more fundamentally, the creation of the Registry system was the government’s first major effort to offer dedicated medical attention to veterans specifically focused on their exposure to tainted herbicides. It set the precedent for offering treatment for herbicide-related illnesses to veterans — though not to their families and, most critically, not to children and grandchildren who may also be affected. Patients who undergo the Registry exams get regular updates on Agent Orange from the Department of Veterans Affairs. These provided a useful, if limited, network of communication in what was otherwise a near-total information void in much of the 1970s and ’80s.

All the same, in these early years, the effects and extent of exposure to Agent Orange were still widely disputed. There was no presumptive eligibility for treatment. Veterans who came forward for Registry exams were generally those who had become convinced, mostly on their own, that they had reason for concern. And it was then their responsibility to convince the government. There was no routine outreach to other veterans, most of whom would have had no way of knowing, beyond voluntary organizations and the informal veterans’ grapevine, that their illnesses, or those of their children, might be related to herbicides in Vietnam.

Although the Registry is meant as a clinical resource, not a research tool, it contains a wealth of data on nearly half a million Vietnam veterans presumably exposed to Agent Orange, and could provide a useful basis for future study. Properly expanded, with extensive outreach to more veterans and inclusion of spouses, children, and grandchildren, it could become the kind of central information source for policy and services that has been lacking for more than three decades. But even in its rudimentary form, like the liability litigation and the early epidemiological research, the Registry established a platform for inquiry, policy, and action. Unfortunately, little was built on that platform, and much remains to be built to this day.

A Decade of Lost Time, then the Start of an Organized Response

At the end of the 1970s, the White House and the Veterans Administration each established interdisciplinary groups to investigate and develop policy on exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. The Carter and Reagan Administrations had interagency teams charged with identifying areas that need study, reporting the results of research, and formulating recommendations. The Veterans Administration established an Advisory Committee on Health-Related Effects of Herbicides, which met three times a year throughout the 1980s. The VA also began publishing an annual survey of scientific and clinical literature on herbicides, which it updated regularly until 1994. Midway through the decade, Congress mandated the creation of yet another VA Advisory Committee, this one focused on disability compensation for Agent Orange exposure, among other environmental hazards.

Yet despite all this seemingly high-level attention, the ’80s saw little practical progress in officially recognizing the effects of herbicide exposure, responding to the escalating reports of illnesses among veterans and their children, or formulating any deliberate plans or policies for doing so. One exception was in 1981, when Congress made it explicit that veterans exposed to Agent Orange would be presumed eligible for VA health care services, unless their condition was shown to be the result of something other than herbicides. This made it possible for veterans to seek treatment for conditions they regarded as related to wartime exposure, though the standard for whether any particular condition would qualify for treatment remained somewhat ambiguous. In any event, the law dealt only with eligibility for medical care; it did not address the question of whether disabilities resulting from herbicide exposure should entitle exposed veterans, or their survivors, to disability compensation.

In 1984, another law, the Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act, likewise seemed, at first, to be a step forward in dealing with the mounting reports of harm from Vietnam-era pesticides. The express purpose of the act was “to ensure that disability compensation is provided to veterans for all disabilities arising after [service in Vietnam] that are connected, based on sound scientific and medical evidence, to such service.”[6] Among other things, the new law mandated that the Veterans Administration establish an advisory committee to review scientific literature and recommend new rules to govern claims for dioxin-related illnesses and disabilities. Unfortunately, after more than a year of study and consultation, the VA issued new regulations in 1986 reasserting that only one disease, chloracne, met the law’s standard of “sound scientific and medical evidence.”

Meanwhile official studies were purporting to conclude that all was well with herbicide exposure, and that veterans had nothing to fear from their service in Vietnam.[7] Yet according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s review of this period, more alarming information was already beginning to emerge from the Ranch Hand study — for example, data showing above-average rates of birth defects among the children of Ranch Hand veterans. But this information did not become public for nearly another decade.

The main progress on Agent Orange in the 1980s took place largely outside of government. The most immediately significant was the settlement of the product liability lawsuit in 1984, with the consequent funding of compensation and services, five years later, for a limited number of veterans. Toward the end of the decade, two other sources of information lent further strength to the concerns about inherited effects of herbicide exposure among children of Vietnam veterans. The first was a literature survey by the Agent Orange Scientific Task Force, jointly sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the National Veterans’ Legal Services Project. Its 1990 report found evidence of a link between Agent Orange exposure and several birth defects, including Spina Bifida, oral clefts, cardiovascular defects, hip dislocations, and malformations of the urinary tract. In the same year, the National Birth Defect Registry, maintained by the nonprofit Association for Birth Defect Children, began collecting data on the children of Vietnam veterans. Two years later, the Association reported to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that “a pattern of functional problems in Vietnam veterans’ children is emerging” in the registry data, including high levels of learning, attention, and behavioral disorders. The data also suggested a high incidence of skin and allergic disorders, asthma, immune deficiencies, and tooth problems. Though information in the registry is self-reported, the results provide a useful basis for further research.

Perhaps the most consequential event of the 1980s occurred at the very end of the decade, when a federal district court in California ruled that the VA had for years been using “too restrictive a standard to determine whether a disease is sufficiently linked to Agent Orange to qualify as service-connected.”[8] In the first of several rulings in the case of Nehmer v. U.S. Veterans’ Administration, the court ordered the VA to rescind its 1986 regulation limiting Agent Orange disability claims solely to cases of chloracne and voided all decisions on disability claims that had been made under that regulation. Together with a subsequent Stipulation and Order, the ruling required the VA to use a more flexible standard in determining which conditions were connected to herbicide exposure in military service, and then, when new conditions were recognized, to award retroactive benefits dating back to the time the veteran originally filed a claim.

Veterans’ dissatisfaction with the government’s slow, halting evaluation of herbicide-related conditions — a dissatisfaction that the court ratified in Nehmer, and that members of Congress increasingly shared — finally led to significant legislative action in 1991. In the Agent Orange Act, Congress began by declaring that veterans “who, during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era” would now be presumed to have been exposed to dioxin-contaminated herbicides. Any disease recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as associated with herbicide exposure would thus be presumed to be service-related, so that veterans with resulting disabilities would automatically be eligible for compensation. In the Act, Congress specified two forms of cancer — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and some soft-tissue sarcomas — that would, along with chloracne, now be presumed to be the result of wartime exposure to dioxin.

Though the act expanded eligibility for compensation, the number of veterans and families who benefited from it was not large — approximately 2,300 veterans and 1,400 survivors. But the Agent Orange Act also took an important scientific step by directing that the National Academy of Sciences take over the responsibility for reviewing research on the health effects of herbicide and dioxin exposure and synthesizing it, every two years, into findings and recommendations. These biennial reports have since become the basis for most future decisions on whether a given disease would be formally recognized as herbicide-related. The Academy’s independence, and its experience in conducting, managing, and reviewing high-quality research, brought a level of credibility, consistency, and authority to the research on Agent Orange that had been lacking for decades. But it also brought a degree of academic caution and a hesitancy in the face of methodological obstacles that have continued to frustrate veterans — many of whom had already been waiting a decade for a response to their conditions, and whose children and grandchildren would still be waiting many years longer.

Science and Eligibility: Piecemeal Expansion

Twice in the 1990s, the Clinton Administration enlarged the list of conditions recognized as herbicide-related, so that by 1996 the number had tripled. Just as significant, following a 1996 report of the Institute of Medicine (the arm of the National Academy of Sciences designated to carry out Agent Orange research), Congress authorized a monthly monetary allowance, along with health care and vocational training, for male Vietnam veterans’ children who were born with Spina Bifida. It was the first time federal policy had recognized a cross-generational effect of herbicide contamination and made the affected children eligible for benefits.

Other childhood illnesses and disabilities, however, were not included, and it is likely that many affected children remain ineligible. In 2000, Congress extended benefits to children with certain other birth defects and childhood disabilities, provided that they are the offspring of women who served in Vietnam. The effects of dioxin on the children of male veterans, other than Spina Bifida, remains a heavily debated question with no consensus in view.

Even as the list of compensable conditions was gradually expanding throughout the ’90s, the probability that Vietnam veterans would actually receive benefits for the illnesses they and their children were experiencing remained low. The San Diego Union-Tribune, in its 1998 exposé on Agent Orange, attempted to quantify the odds: Of more than 92,000 herbicide-related claims from veterans and their survivors as of that year, the Department of Veterans Affairs had approved fewer than 6,000, or about 6 percent. Yet even those numbers understate the imbalance between the universe of veterans with health concerns and those receiving benefits. Given that, according to Vietnam Veterans of America, close to 80 percent of veterans receive their health care outside the VA system — from doctors who may have limited knowledge of Agent Orange, its possible effects, or the availability of benefits — it is likely that the number of applicants was considerably smaller than it would have been if all veterans were aware of the risks and the possibility of receiving help. Nor had scientists and federal officials yet reached conclusions on many other illnesses that Vietnam veterans and their families were experiencing and that were widely suspected of being connected to dioxin.

One prime suspect, as the 1990s were drawing to a close, was Type 2 diabetes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in its study of civilian manufacturing employees, had found a connection between dioxin exposure and diabetes, but the Institute of Medicine had not found sufficient evidence of such a connection in the case of veterans. However, the Institute left open the possibility of reevaluating that conclusion, and in 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked it to convene a special committee to study the question. A year later, a new Air Force report based on analysis of the Ranch Hand data presented what it called the “strongest evidence to date” of a link between herbicides and diabetes. That report was likewise sent to the Institute for review. Finally, in late 2000, the verdict was reached: The Institute of Medicine concluded that there was “limited/suggestive evidence” of a link between herbicide or dioxin exposure and diabetes — though it cautioned that other factors like heredity, physical inactivity, and obesity tended to outweigh the odds of increased risk from herbicide exposure. In the end, the Clinton Administration took its cue from the earlier studies and added Type 2 diabetes to the list of eligible conditions.

And so it has gone, year by year: an outpouring of concern from veterans and their families, followed by years of conflicting studies and methodological disputes, ending — sometimes — with a referee’s decision by the VA. By this route, chronic lymphocytic leukemia was added to the presumptive-eligibility list in 2003; primary amyloidosis followed three years later. Meanwhile, Congress and successive administrations have periodically called for additional studies, and surveys of studies, often with results that fail to resolve the underlying controversies.

For veterans, their children, and their grandchildren, of course, the unresolved questions are neither abstract nor remote. A comment on a veterans’ advocacy blog, from a Vietnam veteran identified only as Freddy, tells a typical story of alarm and frustration over children who share their father’s illnesses, but are barred from VA treatment or other benefits:

I have two children whom I’ve told repeatedly to be screened for AO [Agent Orange] because they have rashes that break out in areas that change randomly, it seems. I have the same. The difference is that the VAMC [VA Medical Center] recognizes mine but will not screen them. I know of or have heard of many, many children of Vietnam vets who suffer from a whole host of health issues who are in need of recognition, admission, and treatment.

In another veterans’ blog, Racheal Zimmerman, the daughter of a Marine who served in Vietnam in the 1960s, describes the confusion and fear that her generation has experienced, both in its own right and as parents of a third generation starting its life under the Agent Orange cloud:

I am getting the same problems as the actual veterans [exposed to] Agent Orange have. From very early on in life, I would get these horrible sores under my arms that later spread to my face. I think it is chloracne. I have scars from it. I also have had gastrointestinal problems and numbness in my hands and feet. … I now have two children, they are 6 and 8, and now they are getting rashes on their skin. My father has renal clear cell carcinoma, which is not listed as one of the cancers on the Agent Orange list. … Today I made a call to the Department of Defense and the local VA, and both places told me they have never heard of any of the children of the veterans having any problems. … It’s hard to get a diagnosis when doctors don’t realize anything much about Agent Orange.

The current pattern of episodic research and reactive policy has left several unanswered questions — a series of gaps in knowledge and service into which Freddy and Racheal Zimmerman and many thousands of other veterans and their relatives continue to fall. For some issues, considerably more data will be required to reach a solid conclusion. For other matters, however, valuable data already exists and needs only to be put to systematic, deliberate use.

The Fate of the ‘Ranch Hand’ Data

For more than 25 years, the Air Force collected data and specimens from service members who had been among the most severely exposed to Agent Orange. The uses of that information, as we have seen, were not always consistent or persuasive. Yet the data and specimens themselves, which include information on 8,100 live births to Ranch Hand parents, are tremendously valuable: they constitute the only body of epidemiological information, gathered consistently over time, on a group known to be at high risk.

In the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003, Congress asked the Institute of Medicine whether the collected information — serial survey data, health examination records, and serial biospecimens — ought to be preserved. The IOM responded in 2006 that these assets should be maintained and made available for future research by a wider range of scientists. A year later, at Congress’ instruction, the Air Force sent the Institute’s Medical Follow-Up Agency electronic copies of the survey and health-exam data and moved the specimens into a newly renovated biospecimen bank at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The agency’s current mandate is to facilitate research on the material through federal fiscal year 2012.

Unfortunately, it has yet to receive dedicated money with which to manage a research program. A section of the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the money for maintenance and new research. As this is written, the Institute is pursuing that funding.

The value of continued use of this information is illustrated by a study published in March 2008, based on earlier years of work on the Ranch Hand data.[9] By sorting the data according to how long each veteran had been exposed to spraying, and the total length of time each had served in Vietnam, among other things, the researchers discovered that findings in earlier studies had understated the risk veterans faced from prolonged exposure. Opening the data to further independent inquiry would almost certainly help in filling in information and addressing still-unexamined questions. But first, the funding for storing the data and managing researchers’ access would have to be assured.

Even more valuable would be the collection of additional, more recent information from the study participants and their families. But that would add a considerable layer of complexity and cost. Now that the study has been discontinued, all the original participants would have to be re-contacted and agree to renewed participation. All the privacy and ethical issues surrounding human-subject research would have to be confronted anew, with no clear source of money to pay for the process. Yet even without addressing those challenges, for now it would be valuable simply to know that research will continue on the information already collected, and that researchers of many kinds will have access to it beyond 2012.

The Situation Today: Who is Eligible?

As of the end of 2008, disabilities connected with the following conditions were recognized as service-related for most[10] Vietnam veterans, based on their presumed wartime exposure to dioxin-contaminated herbicides:

  • Chloracne (must occur within one year of exposure to herbicides)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Soft tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, omesothelioma)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda (must occur within one year of exposure)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Respiratory cancers, including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
  • Prostate cancer
  • Acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy (must appear within one year of exposure and resolve within two years of onset)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Primary (AL) amyloidosis

For children of Vietnam veterans[11], Spina Bifida (but not Spina Bifida Occulta) is recognized as linked to their parents’ exposure to herbicides. For the children of female veterans only, a wide variety of birth defects and childhood disabilities is recognized as service-related, including these:

  • Achondroplasia
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
  • Esophageal and intestinal atresia
  • Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
  • Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
  • Hypospadias
  • Imperforate anus
  • Neural tube defects
  • Poland syndrome
  • Pyloric stenosis
  • Sundactyly (fused digits)
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula
  • Undescended testicle
  • Williams syndrome

Although Vietnam veterans are presumed eligible for benefits if they are disabled by these illnesses, that does not mean that enrolling for benefits is easy or automatic. Veterans must apply specifically for disability compensation; participation in a health registry, for example, does not substitute for filing a claim. The claim process can be complex and time consuming, particularly if the claim is initially denied and appeals become necessary.

It is difficult to know just how big a population is included in today’s sphere of eligibility. No publicly accessible database tracks the number of Vietnam veterans receiving disability compensation or medical care for conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. While information on medical conditions, disability compensation, average income, and education levels is available for Vietnam-era veterans generally, the data do not identify those whose claims are connected to Agent Orange.

Once a service member is discharged, he or she becomes a private citizen. From that point, military records are closed, unless veterans contact the VA on their own. Even when they do, the Veterans Benefit Administration and the Veterans Health Administration (both divisions of the Department of Veterans Affairs) maintain separate information systems, which are not linked. The resulting fragmentation is more than just an obstacle to research. In this system, veterans may be diagnosed with and receive care for a debilitating injury by one of the Department’s branches, but due to the lack of a common database to monitor care and benefits, they may not receive the full array of benefits, or even have contact with the potential sources of those benefits.

Identifying the children of Vietnam veterans is an even greater challenge. The main systems and organizations that serve children — school systems, health care, state and local governments — do not typically ask if a child’s parent is a veteran. Some might well consider the question intrusive. Meanwhile, the VA system would also not collect this information, given that it is responsible for veterans’ health and benefits, not those of their families. Any attempt to find and assess the grandchildren of veterans clearly becomes even more difficult in the absence of any regular source of information.

The Available Benefits and Services

The level of disability benefits for veterans with Agent Orange–related conditions depends on the severity of the disability. These are the amounts for which veterans were eligible in 2008:

Monthly VA Disability

Compensation Rates

2008 [12]

Percent Disabled

No Family

Veteran & Spouse

10%

$       123

20%

243

30%

376

$       421

40%

541

601

50%

770

845

60%

974

1,064

70%

1,228

1,333

80%

1,427

1,547

90%

1,604

1,739

100%

2,673

2,823

The number of Vietnam veterans receiving disability compensation specifically because of Agent Orange is not published, nor is the level of their disabilities and the benefits they receive. The Institute for Defense Analyses estimated in 2006 that Vietnam veterans generally received an average annual compensation of $11,670, tax free. Compensation for children is offered in three levels, based on the severity of the condition rather than on a percentage of disability. Benefits range from $270 a month at the lowest level to a maximum of $1,586 monthly.

Veterans who are not rated as 100 percent disabled, yet are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities, can qualify for compensation at the 100 percent rate under a program called Individual Unemployability. To qualify, the veteran must have either

  • one service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or higher, or
  • two or more such disabilities, at least one of which is rated at 40 percent or higher, and all of which add up to a combined rating of 70 percent or higher.

Of all the veteran cohorts receiving compensation, those who served during the Vietnam era are the most frequent recipients of Individual Unemployability benefits — more than 12 percent of Vietnam-era veterans receive these payments, compared with an average of 8.4 percent. The average level of benefits in this program is $29,035 a year in 2008.

Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam are also eligible for cost-free hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for any disease on the approved list, depending on the veteran’s income and the amount of money available in the VA budget. In the Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996, Congress mandated that priority hospital and medical care be offered to certain categories of veterans, specifically including those who had been exposed to herbicides in Vietnam. It established seven levels of priority for various groups of veterans, and assigned those exposed to Agent Orange to the second-lowest priority level, unless their particular condition happened to qualify them for a higher tier. Even so, having a place in the priority hierarchy assures Vietnam veterans of a secure route to health care, provided they enroll with the Veterans Health Administration. Even enrolled veterans whose illness have not been recognized as herbicide-related nonetheless have priority access to medical care and hospital services, though nursing home care is available to them only if they qualify as low-income and VA resources are available. Children with Spina Bifida, and children with certain other disabilities whose mothers are veterans, likewise have explicit access to care. Other children, however — including many children of male veterans who have disabilities that are suspected of being related to their fathers’ wartime service — are not eligible for VA medical care at all.

Veterans with service-connected disabilities such as the diseases on the Agent Orange list may also be eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. The available services include job-search assistance, vocational evaluation and training, and supportive rehabilitation services. The program provides up to 48 months of free tuition plus textbooks and a monthly stipend of $541 for a single veteran and $791 for those with two family members. The stipend is in addition to disability compensation. For those whose disabilities are severe, the Department also offers help in living as independently as possible. Eligibility for these services is generally available for 12 years from the time the Department determines that they have at least a ten percent rating for a service-connected disability.

Some children may be eligible for education benefits — a fixed monthly payment for up to 45 months — if their veteran parent meets certain criteria. For example, a child could receive these benefits if his or her parent is determined to be 100 percent disabled due to a service-incurred disability that is rated permanent, or if the child’s parent dies while such a rating was in effect. If the parent’s cause of death was a service-related disability, or if the parent was a service member who died in the line of duty, those circumstances would also make the child eligible for education benefits.

Like all veterans, those with disabilities related to herbicide exposure in Vietnam can apply for benefits. They have access to VA-guaranteed mortgages that are generally available to veterans, as well as a special one-time grant to help severely disabled veterans pay for adaptations to their homes to accommodate their disability. A service-connected disability also may qualify a veteran for one-time financial assistance in buying a car equipped to accommodate the disability. Life insurance, up to a maximum benefit of $10,000, is also available to those with a service-connected disability, though the premium calculation is complicated relative to the size of the benefit. Some of these benefits are means-tested, meaning that they are available only to veterans whose income is low enough to qualify.

What’s Needed: Five Recommendations for Greater Clarity and Justice

Although the list of possible benefits available to a veteran exposed to Agent Orange may seem long, many are of modest scale at best. Yet the problem is not solely, or even primarily, the adequacy of the benefits. The greater problem lies in the many obstacles that keep people from receiving support that they need and for which their service to the nation has qualified them — or ought to qualify them. This is not a problem limited solely to those exposed to herbicides in Vietnam. Veterans who served in other wars, including those returning from the Persian Gulf with Gulf War Syndrome and other illnesses, have encountered the same problems and share many of the needs raised in this paper.

A coherent, deliberate policy toward veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other battlefield toxins would be a matter not simply of good government, but of justice. It would recognize, in more than the current piecemeal way, a national responsibility to those who have risked their health and livelihoods, and the health of their children, and in some cases shortened their lives, by unknowingly being exposed to harmful chemicals from their own side. At a minimum, it would remove from these veterans’ shoulders the sole responsibility for finding out what risks they face, what remedies they can pursue, and what help may be available to them and their families along the way.

The following five recommendations would constitute at least a significant step toward achieving that goal. Each would require significant cooperation, both strategic and financial, from government, academia, and civil society — a level of cooperation that, though not easy, fairly reflects the common stake that all Americans bear in bringing the long, frustrating history of Agent Orange to a more equitable conclusion.

  1. Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families: There should be a well-organized, national campaign to bring information on Agent Orange to every veteran exposed to contaminated herbicides, as well as to their spouses, children, and grandchildren. The information should cover the likelihood of exposure during service in Vietnam, the health conditions known — or suspected — to be related to that exposure, the risk of exposure for veterans’ offspring, the range of benefits available from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other public agencies, and the process of applying and determining eligibility for these benefits. Particular effort will be needed for reaching those who are least well served today, including very low-income veterans and those with serious illnesses and disabilities. To that end, the outreach must be widespread and repetitive, and will need to be conducted partly by unconventional means, using channels of communication well outside the normal public health and military networks. The information provided to veterans and their families should also include a complete list of disability-related services, including medical, educational, employment, and income benefits, that may be available to the veterans’ children.

2.   Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies: Merely ensuring that veterans are better informed about herbicides and dioxin won’t be helpful if the civilian agencies and doctors seeing the majority of Vietnam veterans and their families are uninformed, under-informed, or misinformed about the health consequences of exposure. According to Vietnam Veterans of America, roughly 80 percent of U.S. Veterans don’t use VA medical centers. Their primary care providers are medical practitioners who may have little, if any, information about the health consequences or the trans-generational implications of exposure to Agent Orange. Support should be given to campaigns to get information on herbicide exposure, VA benefits, and eligibility to health care practitioners outside the Veterans Affairs system who serve the majority of Vietnam veterans and family members. The Vietnam Veterans of America has recently established a Veterans Health Council that is undertaking some of this kind of outreach. Similarly, agencies that provide services to people with disabilities should receive similar information, including information on the intergenerational consequences of Agent Orange exposure. Such agencies should include schools, vocational rehab programs, and organizations that serve people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, among others. To be effective, this outreach should be frequent, updated regularly, and incorporate new information as research and policy evolve. It also needs to be conducted by people and organizations who are the most knowledgeable about the health consequences of Agent Orange exposure and are familiar with the range of practitioners and agencies that need to be contacted.

  1. Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren: Evidence increasingly suggests that wartime exposure to Agent Orange is affecting a second and perhaps even a third generation. The vast majority of Vietnam veterans are now in their 60s or older; most therefore have grown children and are now reporting disabilities and health conditions among their grandchildren. Consequently, the Department of Veterans Affairs should extend its outreach and medical services to children and grandchildren of exposed veterans, when their illnesses or disabilities are shown to be related to parental exposure to herbicides.
  1. A Fresh Approach to Research: Many of the gaps in service to veterans are the results of missing or inconclusive research — a scarcity of data, funding, or will to pursue evidence that could settle many questions once and for all. A coordinated, adequately funded regimen of Agent Orange research might incorporate three key elements, among many other things:
    1. A scientific consensus on unanswered questions and means of addressing them. The National Academy of Sciences, or some other trusted, independent body, should map the full range of pressing questions on Agent Orange that have not been answered, identify the obstacles to answering them, and propose solutions for overcoming the obstacles. These should include often-cited conditions that are not currently on the list of recognized illnesses, as well as the effects of parental — including paternal — dioxin exposure on children and grandchildren.
    2. Broad, well-supported use of existing data for further research —particularly information from the Ranch Hand study and the industrial worker data collected by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Additional research should include exploration of ways to update these databases, particularly with respect to late-onset diseases and the health of children and grandchildren.
    3. Expansion of the Agent Orange Registry into a complete database of affected veterans and their offspring. In order to gather complete information, as well as to find and serve those living with the consequences of Agent Orange exposure, it is essential to reach exposed veterans who have not yet come forward for examination and treatment. Children and grandchildren who may be suffering the consequences of veterans’ exposure to herbicides should also be included in an expanded database and treatment program. A deliberate campaign to urge veterans to register themselves and their offspring might include the establishment of a nongovernmental e-Registry — an online point of contact where veterans and their families can enter basic data and receive information in return. One of the purposes of the e-Registry would be to help identify patterns among the problems that veterans and their families are facing, thus helping to clarify which issues still require more research, and which problems are not being adequately addressed by current policy.
    4. Coordination of Data Across the Whole Spectrum of Veterans Services: The fragmentation of data among the main branches of the Department of Veterans Affairs makes it difficult to track who is receiving (and not receiving) which benefits. Within all these databases, there is also little or no information to identify which conditions and needs may have arisen specifically because of wartime exposure to toxins, rather than from other causes. These gaps in information not only impose severe limits on research, but also on clinical practice. A single, consistent, system-wide database for all veterans’ services — with particular identification of benefits that are the result of service-related exposure to harmful chemicals — would enrich the information available both to policymakers and to those providing care and services to veterans and their families.

5. Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities: The experience of the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, initially funded from the manufacturers’ liability settlement in the 1980s, demonstrated that focused case management, carried out by voluntary and community-based organizations, can make a material difference in the likelihood that veterans and offspring with herbicide-related conditions can take advantage of care and services available to them, manage their health, learn skills, and lead productive lives. Although that program ended when the settlement money ran out, the needs that it uncovered have not disappeared, and in many cases have grown more severe. A renewed and enlarged commitment to maintaining a network of such services, nationwide, would go a long way toward closing the gap between the minority of veterans and their families who are knowledgeable and well organized and the much greater number who have little idea of where to turn or what help they might be able to seek.

For some 35 years and counting, Americans who served their country in combat have lived with illnesses and uncertainties resulting from an avoidable harm done to them by their own government. If the harm cannot be undone, the uncertainties should at least be dispelled. Scientific and clinical questions about the causes and prognoses of their illnesses, and the risks to later generations, can mostly be answered, and should be. Compensation for their illnesses and those of their children and grandchildren — along with health care, vocational services, and other standard benefits for people with service-related disabilities — ought to be readily available to them, without exceptional hurdles, confusion, or red tape.

These principles are not fundamentally in dispute. Yet remarkably, the ability to make them a reality has eluded the American government and civil society for decades. There should be no further delay. It is possible to fill the gap in information, outreach, and services in relatively short time. All that is required is a marshaling of resources, both financial and intellectual, an exertion of will, and a recognition that Americans’ debt to Vietnam-era veterans is by now long past due.


[1] VA Compensation and Pension Payment, effective 12/1/08, Rates posted at http://www.vba.va.gov/BLN/21/rates/comp01.htm

[2] In March 1989, the Veterans Administration was elevated to Cabinet rank and became the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, following both common and official use, this paper refers to the agency and its programs by the initials VA, regardless of whether the reference is to events before or after 1989.

[3] “Agent Orange” Product Liability Litigation, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 597 F. Supp. 740; 1984 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23337, MDL No. 381, September 25, 1984, Opinion by Chief Judge Weinstein.

[4] “Payments for Families of Defoliant’s Victims,” by the Associated Press, The New York Times, March 3, 1989, at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6DF1630F930A35750C0A96F948260&scp=2&sq=agent+orange&st=nyt

[5] Yale University Office of Public Affairs, “Yale Data Analysis Shows Birth Defects Resulting from Vietnam Veterans’ Exposure to Agent Orange,” Aug. 25, 2003, available at http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=3022.

[7] AP, New York Times, March 23, 1988 at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE6DC173DF930A15750C0A96E948260

[8] Nehmer v. U.S. Veterans Administration, 712 F. Supp. 1409 (N.D. Cal. 1989)

[9] Joel Michalek and Marian Pavuk, “Diabetes and Cancer in Veterans of Operation Ranch Hand After Adjustment for Calendar Period, Days of Spraying, and Time Spent in Southeast Asia,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 50, issue 3, pp. 330-340.

[10] Presumptive eligibility for benefits currently extends only to those who served on land, not the “Blue Water” veterans whose service was in the waters outside Vietnam. Although some “Blue Water” veterans received benefits in the 1990s, the Department of Veterans Affairs restricted eligibility to land service as of 2002, except for those with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

[11] Eligible “children” may be adults. The term is defined in law as any natural offspring of a Vietnam veteran, regardless of age or marital status, who was conceived after the veteran first entered Vietnam.

[12] VA Compensation and Pension Payment, effective 12/1/08, Rates posted at http://www.vba.va.gov/BLN/21/rates/comp01.htm

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VETERAN LEGISLATION

Of the 2865 House and 1257 Senate pieces of legislation introduced in the 111th Congress to date, the following are of interest to the non-active duty veteran community.  Bill titles in green are new additions to this summary.  A good indication on the likelihood a bill of being forwarded to the House or Senate for passage and subsequently being signed into law by the President is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. An alternate way for it to become law is if it is added as an addendum to another bill such as the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and survives the conference committee assigned to iron out the difference between the House and Senate bills. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s text, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, who your representative is and his/her phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it.  To separately determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d111/sponlst.html.  To review a numerical list of all bills introduced refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/111search.html. The key to increasing cosponsorship is letting legislators know of their constituent’s views on issues.  Those bills that include a website in red are being pushed by various veterans groups for passage and by clicking on that website you can forward a preformatted message to your legislator requesting he/she support the bill.

House

H.R.23 : Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (168)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/13/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/naus/issues/alert/?alertid=12497121

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H.R.32 : Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.315

Sponsor: Rep McIntyre, Mike [NC-7] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.33 : Disability Benefit Fairness Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the 5-month waiting period for entitlement to disability benefits and to eliminate reconsideration as an intervening step between initial benefit entitlement decisions and subsequent hearings on the record on such decisions.

Sponsor: Rep McIntyre, Mike [NC-7] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.82 : Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2009 to expand retroactive eligibility of the Army Combat Action Badge to include members of the Army who participated in combat during which they personally engaged, or were personally engaged by, the enemy at any time on or after December 7, 1941.

Sponsor: Rep Brown-Waite, Ginny [FL-5] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (15)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.84 :  Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to establish standards of access to care for veterans seeking health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Brown-Waite, Ginny [FL-5] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.108 : Disabled Veterans Commissary and Exchange Store Benefits Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to extend military commissary and exchange store privileges to veterans with a compensable service-connected disability and to their dependents.

Sponsor: Rep Fortenberry, Jeff [NE-1] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.114 : Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition Business Benefit Act to allow veterans to elect to use, with the approval of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, certain financial educational assistance to establish and operate certain business, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Fortenberry, Jeff [NE-1] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.147 : Designate a Portion of Tax Payment for Homeless Vets. To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Israel, Steve [NY-2] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (60)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12922516&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.161 : Social Security Beneficiary Tax Reduction Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the 1993 increase in taxes on Social Security benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.162 : Senior Citizens’ Tax Elimination Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the inclusion in gross income of Social Security benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.174 : Colorado Vet Cemetery. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery for veterans in the southern Colorado region.

Sponsor: Rep Salazar, John T. [CO-3] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.177 : Depleted Uranium Screening and Testing Act to provide for identification of members of the Armed Forces exposed during military service to depleted uranium, to provide for health testing of such members, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.190 : Veterans Health Equity Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to ensure that veterans in each of the 48 contiguous States are able to receive services in at least one full-service hospital of the Veterans Health Administration in the State or receive comparable services provided by contract in the State. Companion Bill S.239.

Sponsor: Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.198 : Health Care Tax Deduction Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a deduction for amounts paid for health insurance and prescription drug costs of individuals.

Sponsor: Rep Stearns, Cliff [FL-6] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.208 : National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces who have served on active duty or performed active service since September 11, 2001, in support of a contingency operation or in other emergency situations receive credit for such service in determining eligibility for early receipt of non-regular service retired pay, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.644.

Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (58)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials

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H.R.210 : Vet Cemetery South Carolina Land Acquisition Study. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study on the acquisition of a parcel of land adjacent to Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.217 : Vet Cemetery South Carolina Land Acquisition Purchase. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to acquire a parcel of land adjacent to Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, South Carolina.

Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

________________________________________

H.R.228 : Visual Impairment VA Scholarship Program to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a scholarship program for students seeking a degree or certificate in the areas of visual impairment and orientation and mobility.

Sponsor: Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] (introduced 1/7/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Forwarded by Subcommittee to Full Committee by Voice Vote.

________________________________________

H.R.236 : Social Security Protection Act to amend the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to protect Social Security beneficiaries against any reduction in benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Brown-Waite, Ginny [FL-5] (introduced 1/7/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Rules; House Budget

Latest Major Action: 1/7/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Rules, and in addition to the Committee on the Budget, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

________________________________________

H.R.237 : Military Retiree Health Care Relief Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a refundable credit to military retirees for premiums paid for coverage under Medicare Part B.

Sponsor: Rep Emerson, Jo Ann [MO-8] (introduced 1/7/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/7/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12921516&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

________________________________________

H.R.247 : Protect Our Veterans Memorials Act of 2009 to amend section 1369 of title 18, United States Code, to extend Federal jurisdiction over destruction of veterans’ memorials on State or local government property.

Sponsor: Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] (introduced 1/7/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 2/9/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

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H.R.270 : TRICARE Continuity of Coverage for National Guard and Reserve Families Act of 2009 to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for continuity of TRICARE Standard coverage for certain members of the Retired Reserve. Companion Bill S.731.

Sponsor: Rep Latta, Robert E. [OH-5] (introduced 1/7/2009)      Cosponsors (61)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12923561&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id] or http://www.ngaus.org/content.asp?bid=1805&False&False

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H.R.293 : Homeless Women Veteran and Homeless Veterans with Children Reintegration Grant Program Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Labor to carry out a grant program to provide reintegration services through programs and facilities that emphasize services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.294 : Veteran Owned Small Business Promotion Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the reauthorization of the Department of Veterans Affairs small business loan program, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (15)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

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H.R.295 : More Jobs for Veterans Act of 2009 to authorize appropriations for the veterans’ workforce investment programs.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (11)

Committees: House Education and Labor

Latest Major Action: 1/8/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness.

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H.R.296 : Armed Forces Disability Retirement Enhancement Act of 2009 to amend title 10, United States Code, to revise the process by which a member of the Armed Forces is retired for disability and becomes eligible for retirement pay, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.297 : Veteran Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Subsistence Allowance Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase in the amount of subsistence allowance payable by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to veterans participating in vocational rehabilitation programs, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.514

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.303 : Retired Pay Restoration Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit additional retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and to eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (79)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/30/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.309 : American Heroes’ Homeownership Assistance Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow certain current and former service members to receive a refundable credit for the purchase of a principal residence.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/8/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.333 : Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation, to eliminate the phase-in period for concurrent receipt, to extend eligibility for concurrent receipt to chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Marshall, Jim [GA-8] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (88)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12406456&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id] and  http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12888756

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H.R.341 : Suspend Limitations Period for Tax Refund on VA Retroactive Payments. To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to suspend the running of periods of limitation for credit or refund of overpayment of Federal income tax by veterans while their service-connected compensation determinations are pending with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsor: Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/8/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.347 : Congressional Gold Medal Award. To grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

Sponsor: Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] (introduced 1/8/2009)      Cosponsors (297) – Related bill S.1055

Committees: House Financial Services; House Administration

Latest Major Action: 5/18/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

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H.R.379 : State and Local Sales Tax Deduction Expansion Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to ensure that all taxpayers have the ability to deduct State and local general sales taxes. Companion Bill S.35.

Sponsor: Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (26)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.394 : Medal of Honor Pension. To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the amount of the Medal of Honor special pension provided under that title by up to $1,000.

Sponsor: Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

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H.R.403 : Homes for Heroes Act of 2009 to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Green, Al [TX-9] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (41)

Committees: House Financial Services; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.423 : Samuel B. Moody Bataan Death March Compensation Act to provide compensation for certain World War II veterans who survived the Bataan Death March and were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese.

Sponsor: Rep Mica, John L. [FL-7] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.433 : Ready Employers Willing to Assist Reservists’ Deployment (REWARD) Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow employers a credit against income tax equal to 50 percent of the compensation paid to employees while they are performing active duty service as members of the Ready Reserve or the National Guard and of the compensation paid to temporary replacement employees.

Sponsor: Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (32)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.442 : Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act of 2009 to provide an amnesty period during which veterans and their family members can register certain firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Rehberg, Denny [MT] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (100)

Committees: House Judiciary; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/9/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

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H.R.449 : Health Care for America’s Heroes Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the availability of health care provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs by adjusting the income level for certain priority veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.456 : Disabled Veteran Small Business Eligibility Expansion Act of 2009 to amend the Small Business Act to make service-disabled veterans eligible under the 8(a) business development program.

Sponsor: Rep Wittman, Robert J. [VA-1] (introduced 1/9/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Small Business

Latest Major Action: 1/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Small Business.

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H.R.466 : Wounded Veteran Job Security Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to prohibit discrimination and acts of reprisal against persons who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disabilities incurred in or aggravated by service in the uniformed services.

Sponsor: Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] (introduced 1/13/2009)      Cosponsors (8)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/9/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.482 : Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act to authorize the rededication of the District of Columbia War Memorial as a National and District of Columbia World War I Memorial to honor the sacrifices made by American veterans of World War I.

Sponsor: Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] (introduced 1/13/2009)      Cosponsors (28)

Committees: House Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 2/4/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

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H.R.484 : Chiropractic Health Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act to require the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a plan to provide chiropractic health care services and benefits for certain new beneficiaries as part of the TRICARE program.

Sponsor: Rep Rogers, Mike D. [AL-3] (introduced 1/13/2009)      Cosponsors (32)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.531 : Social Security Number Fraudulent Use Notification Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to require that the Commissioner of Social Security notify individuals of improper use of their Social Security account numbers.

Sponsor: Rep Myrick, Sue Wilkins [NC-9] (introduced 1/14/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/14/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.568 : Veterans Health Care Quality Improvement Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the quality of care provided to veterans in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, to encourage highly qualified doctors to serve in hard-to-fill positions in such medical facilities, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] (introduced 1/15/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Oversight and Government Reform

Latest Major Action: 1/15/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.593 : CRSC for DoD Disability Severances Pay. To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand the authorized concurrent receipt of disability severance pay from the Department of Defense and compensation for the same disability under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover all veterans who have a combat-related disability, as defined under section 1413a of such title.

Sponsor: Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] (introduced 1/15/2009)      Cosponsors (40)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12918951&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.598 : American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009 to provide for a portion of the economic recovery package relating to revenue measures, unemployment, and health.

Sponsor: Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] (introduced 1/16/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Energy and Commerce; House Science and Technology; House Education and Labor; House Financial Services

House Reports: 111-8 Part 1, 111-8 Part 2

Latest Major Action: 1/28/2009 Supplemental report filed by the Committee on Ways and Means, H. Rept. 111-8, Part II.

Note: For further action, see H.R.1, which became Public Law 111-5 on 2/17/2009.

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H.R.612 : Disabled Veterans Insurance Act of 2009 to amend section 1922A of title 38, United States Code, to increase the amount of supplemental insurance available for totally disabled veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] (introduced 1/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.613 : Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for forgiveness of certain overpayments of retired pay paid to deceased retired members of the Armed Forces following their death.

Sponsor: Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] (introduced 1/21/2009)      Cosponsors (53)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12489731&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.620 : Jobs for Veterans Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow an increased work opportunity credit with respect to recent veterans.

Sponsor: Rep King, Peter T. [NY-3] (introduced 1/21/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.627 : Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 to amend the Truth in Lending Act to establish fair and transparent practices relating to the extension of credit under an open end consumer credit plan, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] (introduced 1/22/2009)      Cosponsors (128)  Related Bill S.235   Companion Bill S.414

Committees: House Financial Services

House Reports: 111-88

Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 111-24

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H.R.656 : Unemployed Early Retirement Plan Withdrawal without Penalty. To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow certain individuals who have attained age 50 and who are unemployed to receive distributions from qualified retirement plans without incurring a 10 percent additional tax.

Sponsor: Rep Platts, Todd Russell [PA-19] (introduced 1/22/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/22/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.667 : Heroes at Home Act of 2009 to improve the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury in members and former members of the Armed Forces, to review and expand telehealth and telemental health programs of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Salazar, John T. [CO-3] (introduced 1/23/2009)      Cosponsors (38)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.668 : Critical Access Hospital Flexibility Act of 2009 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide flexibility in the manner in which beds are counted for purposes of determining whether a hospital may be designated as a critical access hospital under the Medicare Program and to exempt from the critical access hospital inpatient bed limitation the number of beds provided for certain veterans. Companion Bill S.307

Sponsor: Rep Walden, Greg [OR-2] (introduced 1/23/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 1/23/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.671 : In Memory Medal for Forgotten Veterans Act to direct the Secretary of Defense to issue a medal to certain veterans who died after their service in the Vietnam War as a direct result of that service.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 1/26/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.731 : Jenny’s Law to amend title 38, United States Code, to exclude individuals who have been convicted of committing certain sex offenses from receiving certain burial-related benefits and funeral honors which are otherwise available to certain veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and related individuals, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Shadegg, John B. [AZ-3] (introduced 1/27/2009)      Cosponsors (21)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/27/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.746 : Safeguarding America’s Seniors and Veterans Act of 2009 to provide for economic recovery payments to recipients of Social Security, railroad retirement, and veterans disability benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Adler, John H. [NJ-3] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (11)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/28/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.761 : Vet Parent Burial in National Cemeteries. To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the eligibility of parents of certain deceased veterans for interment in national cemeteries.

Sponsor: Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/28/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.775 : Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act to repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan to offset the receipt of veterans dependency and indemnity compensation. Companion Bill S.535

Sponsor: Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. [TX-27] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (250)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/17/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/alert/?alertid=12848666&type=CO or  http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12541746

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H.R.784 : VA Reports to Congress. To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress quarterly reports on vacancies in mental health professional positions in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

Sponsor: Rep Tsongas, Niki [MA-5] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/3/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.785 : VA Outreach Training. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide outreach and training to certain college and university mental health centers relating to the mental health of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.543

Sponsor: Rep Tsongas, Niki [MA-5] (introduced 1/28/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/3/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.806 : TRICARE Mail-Order Pharmacy Pilot Program Act to establish a mail-order pharmacy pilot program for TRICARE beneficiaries.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 2/3/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/24/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.809 : Widow Remarriage Age Decrease for DIC. To amend title 38, United States Code, to reduce from age 57 to age 55 the age after which the remarriage of the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran shall not result in termination of dependency and indemnity compensation otherwise payable to that surviving spouse.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 2/3/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=12993371

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H.R.811 : Retired Pay Restoration Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation. Companion Bill S.546

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 2/3/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/24/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.816 : Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to prohibit certain increases in fees for military health care.

Sponsor: Rep Edwards, Chet [TX-17] (introduced 2/3/2009)      Cosponsors (156)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 2/24/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12591151&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id] or http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=12603596 or http://capwiz.com/naus/issues/alert/?alertid=12607551 or http://capwiz.com/trea/issues/alert/?alertid=12710751

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H.R.819 : POW DIC Eligibility Date. To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the payment of dependency and indemnity compensation to the survivors of former prisoners of war who died on or before September 30, 1999, under the same eligibility conditions as apply to payment of dependency and indemnity compensation to the survivors of former prisoners of war who die after that date.

Sponsor: Rep Holden, Tim [PA-17] (introduced 2/3/2009)      Cosponsors (15)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.870 : Medicare Medically Necessary Dental Care Act of 2009 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage under part B for medically necessary dental procedures.

Sponsor: Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] (introduced 2/4/2009)      Cosponsors (17)

Committees: House Energy and Commerce; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.879 : Affordable Health Care Expansion Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow individuals a refundable credit against income tax for the purchase of private health insurance.

Sponsor: Rep Granger, Kay [TX-12] (introduced 2/4/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.883 : Social Security 1993 Tax Increase Repeal. To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the 1993 increase in income taxes on Social Security benefits.

Sponsor: Rep King, Peter T. [NY-3] (introduced 2/4/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.917 : Combat-Related Injury Death Dependent Health Benefits. To increase the health benefits of dependents of members of the Armed Forces who die because of a combat-related injury.

Sponsor: Rep Guthrie, Brett [KY-2] (introduced 2/9/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.919 : Veterans’ Medical Personnel Recruitment and Retention Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs to recruit and retain nurses and other critical health-care professionals, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] (introduced 2/9/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.929 : VA Vet Training Program. To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a program of training to provide eligible veterans with skills relevant to the job market, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Welch, Peter [VT] (introduced 2/9/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.931 : Veterans Employment Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow the work opportunity credit with respect to certain unemployed veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Nye, Glenn C., III [VA-2] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.942 : Veterans Self-Employment Act of 2009 to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a pilot project on the use of educational assistance under programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs to defray training costs associated with the purchase of certain franchise enterprises.

Sponsor: Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Forwarded by Subcommittee to Full Committee (Amended) by Voice Vote .

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H.R.944 : Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide improved benefits for veterans who are former prisoners of war.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.950 : Vet Distance Learning Assistance. To amend chapter 33 of title 38, United States Code, to increase educational assistance for certain veterans pursuing a program of education offered through distance learning.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.952 : Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the meaning of “combat with the enemy” for purposes of service-connection of disabilities.

Sponsor: Rep Hall, John J. [NY-19] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (94)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Voice Vote.

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H.R.953 : Veterans Travel Tax Relief Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a deduction for travel expenses to medical centers of the Department of Veterans Affairs in connection with examinations or treatments relating to service-connected disabilities.

Sponsor: Rep Heller, Dean [NV-2] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (17)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.954 : Social Security Benefits Fairness Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to provide that a monthly insurance benefit thereunder shall be paid for the month in which the recipient dies, subject to a reduction of 50 percent if the recipient dies during the first 15 days of such month, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Holden, Tim [PA-17] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.972 : Retired Reserve Age for Health Benefits. To amend title 10, United States Code, to eliminate the requirement that certain former members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces be at least 60 years of age in order to be eligible to receive health care benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/17/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=12992881

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H.R.1004 : Veterans Health Care Full Funding Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide an enhanced funding process to ensure an adequate level of funding for veterans health care programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to establish standards of access to care for veterans seeking health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Smith, Christopher H. [NJ-4] (introduced 2/11/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/11/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1016 : Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide advance appropriations authority for certain medical care accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (121)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Voice Vote.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12704096

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H.R.1017 : Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act of 2001 and title 38, United States Code, to require the provision of chiropractic care and services to veterans at all Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and to expand access to such care and services.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (20) – Related bill S.1204

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1036 : Veterans Physical Therapy Services Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to establish the position of Director of Physical Therapy Service within the Veterans Health Administration and to establish a fellowship program for physical therapists in the areas of geriatrics, amputee rehabilitation, polytrauma care, and rehabilitation research.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1037 : Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2009 to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a five-year pilot project to test the feasibility and advisability of expanding the scope of certain qualifying work-study activities under title 38, United States Code.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/22/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.1038 : Shingles Prevention Act to amend part B of title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide coverage for the shingles vaccine under the Medicare Program.

Sponsor: Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (11)

Committees: House Energy and Commerce; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.1042 : Enemy POW Hospitalization Policy. To prohibit the provision of medical treatment to enemy combatants detained by the United States at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the same facility as a member of the Armed Forces or Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility.

Sponsor: Rep Miller, Jeff [FL-1] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.1075 : Restoring Essential Care for Our Veterans for Effective Recovery (RECOVER) Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand access to hospital care for veterans in major disaster areas, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Scalise, Steve [LA-1] (introduced 2/13/2009)      Cosponsors (14)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/13/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1088 : Mandatory Veteran Specialist Training Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for a one-year period for the training of new disabled veterans’ outreach program specialists and local veterans’ employment representatives by National Veterans’ Employment and Training Services Institute.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 2/13/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1089 : Veterans Employment Rights to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the enforcement through the Office of Special Counsel of the employment and unemployment rights of veterans and members of the Armed Forces employed by Federal executive agencies, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 2/13/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1098 : Veterans’ Worker Retraining Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to increase the amount of educational assistance payable by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to certain individuals pursuing internships or on-job training.

Sponsor: Rep Perriello, Thomas S.P. [VA-5] (introduced 2/13/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Voice Vote.

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H.R.1114 : National Cemetery Availability. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a process for determining whether a geographic area is sufficiently served by the national cemeteries located in that geographic area.

Sponsor: Rep Rehberg, Denny [MT] (introduced 2/23/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/23/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1163 : Establish Nebraska National Cemetery. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery in the Sarpy County region to serve veterans in eastern Nebraska, western Iowa, and northwest Missouri.

Sponsor: Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2] (introduced 2/24/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 2/24/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.1168 : Veterans Retraining Act of 2009 to amend chapter 42 of title 38, United States Code, to provide certain veterans with employment training assistance.

Sponsor: Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/22/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.1169 : VA Adapted Housing/Automobile Assistance. To amend title 38, United States Code, to increase the amount of assistance provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to disabled veterans for specially adapted housing and automobiles and adapted equipment.

Sponsor: Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/25/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1170 : Adapted Housing Technology Grants. To amend chapter 21 of title 38, United States Code, to establish a grant program to encourage the development of new assistive technologies for specially adapted housing.

Sponsor: Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1171 : Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to reauthorize the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for fiscal years 2010 through 2014.

Sponsor: Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/31/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1172 : VA Website Scholarship Info Addition. To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include on the Internet website of the Department of Veterans Affairs a list of organizations that provide scholarships to veterans and their survivors.

Sponsor: Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Voice Vote.

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H.R.1182 : Military Spouses Residency Relief Act to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to guarantee the equity of spouses of military personnel with regard to matters of residency, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (112)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/25/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

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H.R.1197 : Medal of Honor Health Care Equity Act of 2009 to assign a higher priority status for hospital care and medical services provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs to certain veterans who are recipients of the medal of honor.

Sponsor: Rep Mitchell, Harry E. [AZ-5] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/25/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.1203 : Federal and Military Retiree Health Care Equity Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for TRICARE supplemental premiums. Companion Bill S.491

Sponsor: Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] (introduced 2/25/2009)      Cosponsors (169)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Oversight and Government Reform; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/31/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12787701&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1211 : Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand and improve health care services available to women veterans, especially those serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.597

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 2/26/2009)      Cosponsors (50)

Last Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported (Amended) by Voice Vote.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12833716&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1232 : Far South Texas Veterans Medical Center Act of 2009 to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to construct a full service hospital in Far South Texas.

Sponsor: Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. [TX-27] (introduced 2/26/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/26/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.1263 : Federal Retirement Reform Act of 2009 to amend title 5, United States Code, to provide for the automatic enrollment of new participants in the Thrift Savings Plan, and to clarify the method for computing certain annuities based on part-time service; to allow certain employees of the District of Columbia to have certain periods of service credited for purposes relating to retirement eligibility; and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9] (introduced 3/3/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: House Oversight and Government Reform; House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.1289 : Social Security Fairness for the Terminally Ill Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the five-month waiting period in the disability insurance program, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Wilson, Charles A. [OH-6] (introduced 3/3/2009)      Cosponsors (11)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1293 : Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase in the amount payable by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to veterans for improvements and structural alterations furnished as part of home health services.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 3/4/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

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H.R.1305 : Perpetual Purple Heart Stamp Act to provide for the issuance of a forever stamp to honor the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the armed forces who have been awarded the Purple Heart. Companion Bill S.572

Sponsor: Rep King, Peter T. [NY-3] (introduced 3/4/2009)      Cosponsors (74)

Committees: House Oversight and Government Reform

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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H.R.1317 : Mortgage Payment Tax Credit. To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax credit to individuals who pay their mortgages on time.

Sponsor: Rep Shuster, Bill [PA-9] (introduced 3/4/2009)      Cosponsors (14)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1335 : VA Catastrophically Disabled Copay. To amend title 38, United States Code, to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from collecting certain copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled.

Sponsor: Rep Halvorson, Deborah L. [IL-11] (introduced 3/5/2009)      Cosponsors (38)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.1336 : Veterans Education Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the basic educational assistance program administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 3/5/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1377 : VA Emergency Treatment Reimbursement to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for emergency treatment furnished in a non-Department facility, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.404.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 3/6/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/31/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13048301&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1388 : Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act to reauthorize and reform the national service laws. Passed 321-105 and placed on the Senate calendar.

Sponsor: Rep McCarthy, Carolyn [NY-4] (introduced 3/9/2009)      Cosponsors (37)  Related Bills: H.RES.250, H.RES.296, S.277

Committees: House Education and Labor,

House Reports: 111-37

Latest Major Action: Became Public Law No: 111-13

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H.R.1401 : VET Corps Act of 2009 to create a service corps of veterans called Veterans Engaged for Tomorrow (VET) Corps focused on promoting and improving the service opportunities for veterans and retired members of the military by engaging such veterans and retired members in projects designed to meet identifiable public needs with a specific emphasis on projects to support veterans, including disabled and older veterans and retired members of the military.

Sponsor: Rep Sarbanes, John P. [MD-3] (introduced 3/9/2009)      Cosponsors (14)

Committees: House Education and Labor

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities.

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H.R.1416 : Southern New Jersey Veterans Comprehensive Health Care Act to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to expand the capability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide for the medical-care needs of veterans in southern New Jersey.

Sponsor: Rep LoBiondo, Frank A. [NJ-2] (introduced 3/10/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/13/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.1428 : VA Parkinson’s Disease Compensation. To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide wartime disability compensation for certain veterans with Parkinson’s disease.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 3/11/2009)      Cosponsors (31)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/13/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12986021&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1474 : Servicemembers Access to Justice Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.263.

Sponsor: Rep Davis, Artur [AL-7] (introduced 3/12/2009)      Cosponsors (25)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services; House Oversight and Government Reform

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1478 : Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009 to amend chapter 171 of title 28, United States Code, to allow members of the Armed Forces to sue the United States for damages for certain injuries caused by improper medical care, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] (introduced 3/12/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 5/19/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Forwarded by Subcommittee to Full Committee (Amended).

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H.R.1496 : Child Health Care Affordability Act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow individuals a credit against income tax for medical expenses for dependents.

Sponsor: Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] (introduced 3/12/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1513 : Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009 to increase, effective as of December 1, 2009, the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Kirkpatrick, Ann [AZ-1] (introduced 3/16/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/31/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13048376&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1519 : Social Security Benefits Tax Relief Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the 1993 income tax increase on Social Security benefits.

Sponsor: Rep Johnson, Sam [TX-3] (introduced 3/16/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/16/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1522 : United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act to provide that service of the members of the organization known as the United States Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II constituted active military service for purposes of laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsor: Rep Lowey, Nita M. [NY-18] (introduced 3/16/2009)      Cosponsors (15)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/22/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.1532 : CMOH Statute of Limitations Elimination. To amend title 10, United States Code, to eliminate the statute of limitations on the award of the congressional medal of honor.

Sponsor: Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] (introduced 3/16/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1544 : Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for unlimited eligibility for health care for mental illnesses for veterans of combat service during certain periods of hostilities and war.

Sponsor: Rep Driehaus, Steve [OH-1] (introduced 3/17/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/17/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1546 : Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Sponsor: Rep McNerney, Jerry [CA-11] (introduced 3/17/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/20/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.1592 : Pay Increase Guarantee. To amend title 37, United States Code, to guarantee a pay increase for members of the uniformed services for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 of one-half of one percentage point higher than the Employment Cost Index.

Sponsor: Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9] (introduced 3/18/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=13002241

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H.R.1600 : TRICARE Autism Care. To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the treatment of autism under TRICARE.

Sponsor: Rep Sestak, Joe [PA-7] (introduced 3/18/2009)      Cosponsors (14)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1647 : Veterans’ Employment Transition Support Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow employers a credit against income tax for hiring veterans.

Sponsor: Rep McCotter, Thaddeus G. [MI-11] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/19/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1657 : Notification of Exposure to Harmful Material/Contaminants. To direct the Secretary of Defense to notify members of the Armed Forces and State military departments of exposure to potentially harmful materials and contaminants.

Sponsor: Rep Schrader, Kurt [OR-5] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1658 : Veterans Healthcare Commitment Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to prohibit the recovery by the United States of charges from a third party for hospital care or medical services furnished to a veteran for a service-connected disability.

Sponsor: Rep Tiahrt, Todd [KS-4] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/19/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.1681 : Veterans Transitional Assistance Act of 2009 to improve the coordination between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to better provide care to members and the Armed Forces and veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] (introduced 3/24/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1695 : Reserve Retired Pay Age Reduction. To amend title 10, United States Code, to reduce the minimum age for receipt of military retired pay for non-regular service from 60 to 55.

Sponsor: Rep LoBiondo, Frank A. [NJ-2] (introduced 3/24/2009)      Cosponsors (23)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1701 : PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review For Heroes Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Defense to establish a special review board for certain former members of the Armed Forces with post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1708 : Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to phase out the 24-month waiting period for disabled individuals to become eligible for Medicare benefits, to eliminate the waiting period for individuals with life-threatening conditions, and for other purposes. Companion Bill S.700.

Sponsor: Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (79)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Energy and Commerce; House Transportation and Infrastructure

Latest Major Action: 3/26/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

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H.R.1712 : Savings for Seniors Act of 2009 to amend title II of the Social Security Act to establish a Social Security Surplus Protection Account in the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund to hold the Social Security surplus, to provide for suspension of investment of amounts held in the Account until enactment of legislation providing for investment of the Trust Fund in investment vehicles other than obligations of the United States, and to establish a Social Security Investment Commission to make recommendations for alternative forms of investment of the Social Security surplus in the Trust Fund.

Sponsor: Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (19)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/25/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1716 : Property Tax Relief Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow the deduction for real property taxes on the principal residences to all individuals whether or not they itemize other deductions.

Sponsor: Rep Hill, Baron P. [IN-9] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (8)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/25/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1767 : Fair Housing Tax Credit Extension Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make the first-time homebuyer credit retroactive to the beginning of 2008 and to permanently extend the credit.

Sponsor: Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] (introduced 3/26/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 3/26/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1804 : Federal Retirement Reform Act of 2009 to amend title 5, United States Code, to make certain modifications in the Thrift Savings Plan, the Civil Service Retirement System, and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY-10] (introduced 3/31/2009)      Cosponsors (4) Related Bill H.R.108

Committees: House Oversight and Government Reform; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/1/2009 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13048556&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.1809 : TRICARE Prime Geographic Expansion. To amend title 10, United States Code, to expand the geographical coverage of TRICARE Prime to include Puerto Rico and Guam.

Sponsor: Rep Pierluisi, Pedro R. [PR] (introduced 3/31/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1818 : Disabled Veterans Commissary and Exchange Store Benefits Act to amend title 10, United States Code, to extend military commissary and exchange store privileges to veterans with a compensable service-connected disability and to their dependents.

Sponsor: Rep Burton, Dan [IN-5] (introduced 3/31/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1849 : World War I Memorial and Centennial Act of 2009 to designate the Liberty Memorial at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, as the National World War I Memorial, to establish the World War I centennial commission to ensure a suitable observance of the centennial of World War I, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] (introduced 4/1/2009)      Cosponsors (11)   Related Bill S.760

Committees: House Oversight and Government Reform; House Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 4/6/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

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H.R.1851 : DOL Transitional Services. To amend title 10, United States Code, to require that certain members of the Armed Forces receive employment assistance, job training assistance, and other transitional services provided by the Secretary of Labor before separating from active duty service.

Sponsor: Rep Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie [SD] (introduced 4/1/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1872 : Secure Electronic Military Separation Act to require the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to develop and implement a secure electronic method of forwarding the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD Form 214) to the appropriate office of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the State or other locality in which a member of the Armed Forces will first reside after the discharge or release of the member from active duty.

Sponsor: Rep Space, Zachary T. [OH-18] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (14)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1879 : National Guard Employment Protection Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for employment and reemployment rights for certain individuals ordered to full-time National Guard duty.

Sponsor: Rep Coffman, Mike [CO-6] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/22/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via www.ngaus.org/content.asp?bid=1805

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H.R.1902 : Providing Real Outreach for Veterans Act of 2009 to provide veterans with individualized notice about available benefits, to streamline application processes for the benefits, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Brown-Waite, Ginny [FL-5] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1919 : Federal Withholding Tax Repeal Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the withholding of income and social security taxes.

Sponsor: Rep Foxx, Virginia [NC-5] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 4/2/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.1963 : Military Separation Transitional Services. To amend title 10, United States Code, to ensure that members of the Armed Forces who are being separated from active duty receive comprehensive employment assistance, job training assistance, and other transitional services, to require that such members receive a psychological evaluation in addition to the physical examination they receive as part of their separation from active duty, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.1982 : Veterans Entitlement to Service (VETS) Act of 2009 to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge the receipt of medical, disability, and pension claims and other communications submitted by veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Kilpatrick, Carolyn C. [MI-13] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/22/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

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H.R.1994 : Citizen Soldier Equality Act of 2009 to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide equity between active and reserve component members of the Armed Forces in the computation of disability retired pay for members wounded in action.

Sponsor: Rep Davis, Geoff [KY-4] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

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H.R.2014 : WASP Gold Medal Award.  To award a congressional gold medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (“WASP”).

Sponsor: Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana [FL-18] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (334) – Companion Bill S.614

Committees: House Financial Services; House Administration

Latest Major Action: 4/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on House Administration, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2017 : MOAA Federal Charter. To amend title 36, United States Code, to grant a Federal charter to the Military Officers Association of America, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (51) – Companion Bill S.832

Committees: House Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 5/26/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.

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H.R.2059 : SBP Disabled Child Trust. To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the payment of monthly annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan to a supplemental or special needs trust established for the sole benefit of a disabled dependent child of a participant in the Survivor Benefit Plan.

Sponsor: Rep Foster, Bill [IL-14] (introduced 4/23/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/15/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2127 : Veterans Travel Equity Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to eliminate the income eligibility and service-connected disability rating requirements for the veterans beneficiary travel program administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsor: Rep Souder, Mark E. [IN-3] (introduced 4/27/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/1/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.2138 : Services, Education, and Rehabilitation for Veterans Act to provide grants to establish veteran’s treatment courts.

Sponsor: Rep Kennedy, Patrick J. [RI-1] (introduced 4/28/2009)      Cosponsors (7) – Related Bill S.902

Committees: House Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 5/26/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy.

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H.R.2180 : Disabled Vet Housing Loan Fee Waiver. To amend title 38, United States Code, to waive housing loan fees for certain veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active service.

Sponsor: Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] (introduced 4/29/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported by Voice Vote.

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H.R.2243 : Surviving Spouses Benefit Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase in the amount of monthly dependency and indemnity compensation payable to surviving spouses by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (50)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13303636&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.2244 : Single Parent Protection Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow an individual who is entitled to receive child support a refundable credit equal to the amount of unpaid child support and to increase the tax liability of the individual required to pay such support by the amount of the unpaid child support.

Sponsor: Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 5/5/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.2254 : The Agent Orange Equity Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam.

Sponsor: Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (29)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your legislators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13301656&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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H.R.2257 : Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (None) – Related Bill S.315

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/5/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2263 : Disability Equity Act to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the waiting periods for people with disabilities for entitlement to disability benefits and Medicare, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Sutton, Betty [OH-13] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 5/5/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.2270 : Benefits for Qualified World War II Veterans Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the establishment of a compensation fund to make payments to qualified World War II veterans on the basis of certain qualifying service.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 5/6/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Forwarded by Subcommittee to Full Committee by Voice Vote .

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H.R.2302 : Military Retired Pay Fairness Act of 2009 to amend title 10, United States Code, to limit recoupments of separation pay, special separation benefits, and voluntary separation incentive from members of the Armed Forces subsequently receiving retired or retainer pay.

Sponsor: Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] (introduced 5/7/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2342 : Wounded Warrior Project Family Caregiver Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a family caregiver program to furnish support services to family members certified as family caregivers who provide personal care services for certain disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] (introduced 5/11/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/15/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.2365 : Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act of 2009 to require the establishment of a Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers to compute cost-of-living increases for Social Security and Medicare benefits under titles II and XVIII of the Social Security Act.

Sponsor: Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] (introduced 5/12/2009)      Cosponsors (33)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Energy and Commerce; House Education and Labor

Latest Major Action: 5/12/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2379 : Veterans’ Group Life Insurance Improvement Act of 2009 to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide certain veterans an opportunity to increase the amount of Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

Sponsor: Rep Buyer, Steve [IN-4] (introduced 5/13/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/13/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2389 : Veterans’ Group Life Insurance Improvement Act of 2009 to require the Secretary of Defense to establish registries of members and former members of the Armed Forces exposed in the line of duty to occupational and environmental health chemical hazards, to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide health care to veterans exposed to such hazards, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Hill, Baron P. [IN-9] (introduced 5/13/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/15/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.2405 : Richard Helm Veterans’ Access to Local Health Care Options and Resources Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans enrolled in the health system of the Department of Veterans Affairs the option of receiving covered health services through facilities other than those of the Department.

Sponsor: Rep Latham, Tom [IA-4] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/15/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.

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H.R.2412 : Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas.

Sponsor: Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 5/14/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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H.R.2419 : Military Personnel War Zone Toxic Exposure Prevention Act to require the Secretary of Defense to establish a medical surveillance system to identify members of the Armed Forces exposed to chemical hazards resulting from the disposal of waste in Iraq and Afghanistan, to prohibit the disposal of waste by the Armed Forces in a manner that would produce dangerous levels of toxins, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Readiness.

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H.R.2429 : Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act of 2009 to require the establishment of a Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers to compute cost-of-living increases for Social Security benefits under title II of the Social Security Act.

Sponsor: Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. [TX-20] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: House Ways and Means; House Education and Labor

Latest Major Action: 5/14/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2474 : Veterans Educational Equity Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide that in the case of an individual entitled to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance program who is enrolled at an institution of higher education in a State in which the public institutions charge only fees in lieu of tuition, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall allow the individual to use all or any portion of the amounts payable for the established charges for the program of education to pay any amount of the individual’s tuition or fees for that program of education.

Sponsor: Rep McKeon, Howard P. “Buck” [CA-25] (introduced 5/19/2009)      Cosponsors (44)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/19/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2486 : Vet Organization Funeral Detail Support. To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for support of funeral ceremonies for veterans provided by details that consist solely of members of veterans organizations and other organizations, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Gohmert, Louie [TX-1] (introduced 5/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2504 : Homeless Vet VA Appropriation Increase. To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase in the annual amount authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] (introduced 5/19/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/19/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2505 : Reaching Rural Veterans through Telehealth Act to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to utilize tele-health platforms to assist in the treatment of veterans living in rural areas who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

Sponsor: Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] (introduced 5/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/19/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2506 : Veterans Hearing and Assessment Act to direct the Secretary of Defense to ensure the members of the Armed Forces receive mandatory hearing screenings before and after deployments and to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to mandate that tinnitus be listed as a mandatory condition for treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs Auditory Centers of Excellence and that research on the preventing, treating, and curing of tinnitus be conducted.

Sponsor: Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] (introduced 5/19/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs; House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2546 : Right to Display Service Flag. To ensure that the right of an individual to display the Service flag on residential property not be abridged.

Sponsor: Rep Boccieri, John A. [OH-16] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Financial Services

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.

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H.R.2553 : Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act to authorize the award of a military service medal to members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in the testing of nuclear weapons or under other circumstances.

Sponsor: Rep Tiahrt, Todd [KS-4] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (8) – Related bill S.1128

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2559 : Help Our Homeless Veterans Act to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a national media campaign directed at homeless veterans and veterans at risk for becoming homeless.

Sponsor: Rep Hare, Phil [IL-17] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2573 : Atomic Veterans Relief Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2583 : Women Veterans Access to Care Act to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to improve health care for women veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2585 : Protecting the Retirement of Our Troops by Ensuring Compensation is Timely Act to delay any presumption of death in connection with the kidnapping in Iraq or Afghanistan of a retired member of the Armed Forces to ensure the continued payment of the member’s retired pay.

Sponsor: Rep Broun, Paul C. [GA-10] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

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H.R.2586 : Honor Guard 13-fold Flag Recitation Option. To prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from authorizing honor guards to participate in funerals of veterans interred in national cemeteries unless the honor guards may offer veterans’ families the option of having the honor guard perform a 13-fold flag recitation, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Broun, Paul C. [GA-10] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (45)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2594 : Dependent State Plot VA Allowance. To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide a plot allowance for spouses and children of certain veterans who are buried in State cemeteries.

Sponsor: Rep Garrett, Scott [NJ-5] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (44)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2598 : Bataan/Corregidor/Luzon Gold Medal. To grant a congressional gold medal to American military personnel who fought in defense of Bataan/Corregidor/Luzon between December 7, 1941 and May 6, 1942.

Sponsor: Rep Heinrich, Martin [NM-1] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (21)

Committees: House Financial Services; House Administration

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on House Administration, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2621 : Travel Expense Reimbursement Time Requirement. To amend title 10, United States Code, to use a time requirement for determining eligibility for the reimbursement of certain travel expenses.

Sponsor: Rep McCarthy, Kevin [CA-22] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

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H.R.2638 : Veterans Stamp to Honor American Veterans Act to provide for the issuance of a veterans health care stamp.

Sponsor: Rep Shuler, Heath [NC-11] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Oversight and Government Reform; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2642 : Veterans Missing in America Act of 2009 to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to assist in the identification of unclaimed and abandoned human remains to determine if any such remains are eligible for burial in a national cemetery, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Tiberi, Patrick J. [OH-12] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2647 : National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2010 for military activities of the Department of Defense, to prescribe military personnel strengths for fiscal year 2010, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Skelton, Ike [MO-4] (by request) (introduced 6/2/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/11/2009 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Forwarded by Subcommittee to Full Committee (Amended) by Voice Vote .

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H.R.2672 : Help Veterans Own Franchises Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow credits for the establishment of franchises with veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Schock, Aaron [IL-18] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.2673 : Surviving Spouse Pension Upgrade. To amend title 38, United States Code, to match the pension amount paid to surviving spouses of veterans who served during a period of war to the pension amount paid to such veterans.

Sponsor: Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2683 : To establish the American Veterans Congressional Internship Program.

Sponsor: Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: House Administration

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on House Administration.

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H.R.2689 : D-Day Memorial. To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, as a unit of the National Park System.

Sponsor: Rep Perriello, Thomas S.P. [VA-5] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (7) – Related bill S.1207

Committees: House Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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H.R.2696 : Servicemembers’ Rights Protection Act to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide for the enforcement of rights afforded under that Act.

Sponsor: Rep Miller, Brad [NC-13] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2698 : Veterans’ and Survivors’ Behavioral Health Awareness Act to improve and enhance the mental health care benefits available to veterans, to enhance counseling and other benefits available to survivors of veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Giffords, Gabrielle [AZ-8] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2699 : Armed Forces Behavioral Health Awareness Act to improve the mental health care benefits available to members of the Armed Forces, to enhance counseling available to family members of members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Giffords, Gabrielle [AZ-8] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Armed Services; House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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H.R.2713 : Disabled Veterans Life Insurance Enhancement Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the service disabled veterans’ insurance program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsor: Rep Donnelly, Joe [IN-2] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2734 : Health Care for Family Caregivers Act of 2009 to amend section 1781 of title 38, United States Code, to provide medical care to family members of disabled veterans who serve as caregivers to such veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Perriello, Thomas S.P. [VA-5] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2735 : Homeless Vet Service Program Improvements. To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements to the comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Rodriguez, Ciro D. [TX-23] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2738 : Family Caregiver Travel Expense Compensation. To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide travel expenses for family caregivers accompanying veterans to medical treatment facilities.

Sponsor: Rep Teague, Harry [NM-2] (introduced 6/4/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/4/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2756 : Veterans Home Loan Refinance Opportunity Act of 2009 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow eligible veterans to use qualified veterans mortgage bonds to refinance home loans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Davis, Susan A. [CA-53] (introduced 6/8/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: House Ways and Means

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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H.R.2771 : Military Overpayment Fairness Act of 2009 to amend titles 10 and 37, United States Code, to provide a more equitable process by which the military departments may recover overpayments of military pay and allowances erroneously paid to a member of the Armed Forces when the overpayment is due to no fault of the member, to expand Department discretion regarding remission or cancellation of indebtedness, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] (introduced 6/9/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: House Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.

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H.R.2774 : Families of Veterans Financial Security Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to make permanent the extension of the duration of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage for totally disabled veterans.

Sponsor: Rep Halvorson, Deborah L. [IL-11] (introduced 6/9/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/9/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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H.R.2788 : Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act to designate a Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California.

Sponsor: Rep Calvert, Ken [CA-44] (introduced 6/10/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 6/10/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

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H.R.2830 : Medical Care for Unemployed Priority 8 Vets. To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to give priority to unemployed veterans in furnishing hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care to certain veterans assigned to priority level 8.

Sponsor: Rep Courtney, Joe [CT-2] (introduced 6/11/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: House Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/11/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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Senate

S.35 : IRS Sales Tax Permanent Deduction. A bill to provide a permanent deduction for State and local general sales taxes. Companion Bill H.R.369.

Sponsor: Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.66 : Disabled Vet Space A. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit former members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated as total to travel on military aircraft in the same manner and to the same extent as retired members of the Armed Forces are entitled to travel on such aircraft.

Sponsor: Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

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S.67 :  Disabled POW Commissary/Exchange Use. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to authorize certain disabled former prisoners of war to use Department of Defense commissary and exchange stores.

Sponsor: Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

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S.68 : Filipino Service Certification. A bill to require the Secretary of the Army to determine the validity of the claims of certain Filipinos that they performed military service on behalf of the United States during World War II.

Sponsor: Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.94 : Long-Term Care Family Accessibility Act. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a nonrefundable tax credit for long-term care insurance premiums.

Sponsor: Sen Vitter, David [LA] (introduced 1/6/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 1/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Major Action: 1/13/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.239 : Veterans Health Equity Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to ensure that veterans in each of the 48 contiguous States are able to receive services in at least one full-service hospital of the Veterans Health Administration in the State or receive comparable services provided by contract in the State. Companion Bill H.R.190.

Sponsor: Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] (introduced 1/14/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/14/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.246 : Veterans Health Care Quality Improvement Act. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the quality of care provided to veterans in Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, to encourage highly qualified doctors to serve in hard-to-fill positions in such medical facilities, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (introduced 1/14/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 1/14/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.252 : Veterans Health Care Authorization Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs to recruit and retain nurses and other critical health-care professionals, to improve the provision of health care veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 1/15/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.

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S.263 : Servicemembers Access to Justice Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.1474.

Sponsor: Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] (introduced 1/15/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.274 : Veterans Jobs Opportunity Act of 2009. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide an incentive to hire unemployed veterans.

Sponsor: Sen Baucus, Max [MT] (introduced 1/16/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 1/16/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.296 : Fair Tax Act of 2009. A bill to promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.

Sponsor: Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] (introduced 1/22/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 1/22/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.307 : Critical Access Hospital Flexibility Act of 2009. A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide flexibility in the manner in which beds are counted for purposes of determining whether a hospital may be designated as a critical access hospital under the Medicare program and to exempt from the critical access hospital inpatient bed limitation the number of beds provided for certain veterans. Companion Bill H.R.668

Sponsor: Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] (introduced 1/22/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 1/22/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.315 : Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.32

Sponsor: Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] (introduced 1/26/2009)      Cosponsors (1)  Related Bill H.R.2257

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.347 : Vet Hand Loss Traumatic Injury Protection. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to distinguish between the severity of a qualifying loss of a dominant hand and a qualifying loss of a non-dominant hand for purposes of traumatic injury protection under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Ensign, John [NV] (introduced 1/29/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.402 : Keeping Our Promise to America’s Military Veterans Act. A bill to improve the lives of our Nation’s veterans and their families and provide them with the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

Sponsor: Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.404 : Veterans’ Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for emergency treatment furnished in a non-Department facility, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.1377.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/10/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators refer to http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13048301&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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S.407 : Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009. A bill to increase, effective as of December 1, 2009, the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 2/10/2009)      Cosponsors (17)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/11/2009 Held at the desk.

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S.423 : Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize advance appropriations for certain medical care accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs by providing two-fiscal year budget authority, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 2/12/2009)      Cosponsors (49)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12703276

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S.491 : Federal and Military Retiree Health Care Equity Act. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Federal civilian and military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and to allow a deduction for TRICARE supplemental premiums. Companion Bill H.R.1203.

Sponsor: Sen Webb, Jim [VA] (introduced 2/26/2009)      Cosponsors (36)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 2/26/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.498 : Vet Dental Insurance. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize dental insurance for veterans and survivors and dependents of veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Burr, Richard [NC] (introduced 2/26/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 2/26/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.514 : Veterans Rehabilitation and Training Improvements Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance vocational rehabilitation benefits for veterans, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.297.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 3/3/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.535 : SBP DIC Offset Elimination. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to repeal requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan by veterans’ dependency and indemnity compensation, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.775.

Sponsor: Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] (introduced 3/5/2009)      Cosponsors (47)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/5/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senator send a message via http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/alert/?alertid=12848666&type=CO

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S.543 : Veteran and Servicemember Family Caregiver Support Act of 2009. A bill to require a pilot program on training, certification, and support for family caregivers of seriously disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces to provide caregiver services to such veterans and members, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.785.

Sponsor: Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] (introduced 3/6/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/6/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.546 : Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service of Combat-Related Special Compensation. Companion Bill H.R.811.

Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry [NV] (introduced 3/9/2009)      Cosponsors (38)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/9/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=12904686&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

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S.572 : Purple Heart Forever Stamp. A bill to provide for the issuance of a “forever stamp” to honor the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the armed forces who have been awarded the Purple Heart. Companion Bill H.R.1305.

Sponsor: Sen Webb, Jim [VA] (introduced 3/11/2009)      Cosponsors (11)

Committees: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/23/2009 Referred to Senate subcommittee. Status: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs referred to Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security.

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S.597 : Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand and improve health care services available to women veterans, especially those serving in operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.1211

Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 3/16/2009)      Cosponsors (19)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/16/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.606 : Veterans Corps Program. A bill to amend the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to establish a Veterans Corps program.

Sponsor: Sen Warner, Mark R. [VA] (introduced 3/17/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Latest Major Action: 3/17/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

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S.614 : WASP Gold Medal Award. A bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (“WASP”).

Sponsor: Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX] (introduced 3/17/2009)      Cosponsors (75)  – Companion Bill H.R.2014

Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on House Administration, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

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S.642 : Health Care for Members of the Armed Forces Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009. A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to establish registries of members and former members of the Armed Forces exposed in the line of duty to occupational and environmental health chemical hazards, to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide health care to veterans exposed to such hazards, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Bayh, Evan [IN] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/19/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

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S.644 : National Guard and Reserve Retired Pay Equity Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to include service after September 11, 2001, as service qualifying for the determination of a reduced eligibility age for receipt of non-regular service retired pay. Companion Bill H.R.208. Related Bill S.831

Sponsor: Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (12)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/19/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via http://capwiz.com/ncoausa/issues/alert/?alertid=12995086&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id] or  http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/?bill=12960556

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S.658 : Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve health care for veterans who live in rural areas, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Tester, Jon [MT] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (6)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/19/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.663 : Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund to provide benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.

Sponsor: Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE] (introduced 3/19/2009)      Cosponsors (30)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.669 : Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the conditions under which certain persons may be treated as adjudicated mentally incompetent for certain purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Burr, Richard [NC] (introduced 3/23/2009)      Cosponsors (15)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.

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S.691 : Colorado National Cemetery for Veterans. A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery for veterans in southern Colorado region, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

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S.699 : South Texas Veterans’ Hospital. A bill to provide for the construction by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs of a full service hospital in Far South Texas.

Sponsor: Sen Cornyn, John [TX] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/25/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.700 : Ending the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2009. A bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to phase out the 24-month waiting period for disabled individuals to become eligible for Medicare benefits, to eliminate the waiting period for individuals with life-threatening conditions, and for other purposes. Companion Bill H.R.1708.

Sponsor: Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] (introduced 3/25/2009)      Cosponsors (16)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 3/25/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

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S.728 : Veterans’ Insurance and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance veterans’ insurance benefits, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 3/26/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Ordered to be reported with an amendment favorably.

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S.731 : TRICARE Coverage For “Gray Area” Reservists. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for continuity of TRICARE Standard coverage for certain members of the Retired Reserve. Companion Bill H.R.270

Sponsor: Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE] (introduced 3/26/2009)      Cosponsors (20)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 3/26/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services. ‘

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via http://www.ngaus.org/content.asp?bid=1805&False&False

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S.734 : Rural Veterans Health Care Access and Quality Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs to recruit and retain physicians in Health Professional Shortage Areas and to improve the provision of health care to veterans in rural areas, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 3/30/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 3/30/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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S.746 : Nebraska National Cemetery. A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a national cemetery in the Sarpy County region to serve veterans in eastern Nebraska, western Iowa, and northwest Missouri.

Sponsor: Sen Nelson, E. Benjamin [NE] (introduced 3/31/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

________________________________________

S.760 : National World War I Memorial. A bill to designate the Liberty Memorial at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, as the “National World War I Memorial”.

Sponsor: Sen McCaskill, Claire [MO] (introduced 4/1/2009)      Cosponsors (1) – Related Bill H.R.1849

Committees: Senate Energy and Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 4/1/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

________________________________________

S.768 : Bataan Gold Medal Initiative. A bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the soldiers from the United States who were prisoners of war at Bataan during World War II.

Sponsor: Sen Udall, Tom [NM] (introduced 4/1/2009)      Cosponsors (7)

Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/1/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

________________________________________

S.772 : Honor Act of 2009. A bill to enhance benefits for survivors of certain former members of the Armed Forces with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, to enhance availability and access to mental health counseling for members of the Armed Forces and veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Bond, Christopher S. [MO] (introduced 4/1/2009)      Cosponsors (10)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/1/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

________________________________________

S.793 : Department of Veterans Affairs Vision Scholars Act of 2009. A bill to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a scholarship program for students seeking a degree or certificate in the areas of visual impairment and orientation and mobility.

Sponsor: Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/2/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

________________________________________

S.801 : Family Caregiver Program Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to waive charges for humanitarian care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to family members accompanying veterans severely injured after September 11, 2001, as they receive medical care from the Department and to provide assistance to family caregivers, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (9)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13104956&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

________________________________________

S.820 : Veterans Mobility Enhancement Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance the automobile assistance allowance for veterans, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

________________________________________

S.821 : VA Copay Collection Prohibition. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from collecting certain copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] (introduced 4/2/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/2/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read the second time and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

________________________________________

S.831 : National Guard and Reserve Retired Pay Equity Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to include service after September 11, 2001, as service qualifying for the determination of a reduced eligibility age for receipt of non-regular service retired pay.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/20/2009)      Cosponsors (16) – Related Bill S.644

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via www.ngaus.org/content.asp?bid=1805

________________________________________

S.832 : MOAA Federal Charter. A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to grant a Federal charter to the Military Officers Association of America, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] (introduced 4/20/2009)      Cosponsors (31) – Companion Bill H.R.2017

Committees: Senate Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 4/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

________________________________________

S.842 : VA Home Loan Payoff to Mortgagers. A bill to repeal the sunset of certain enhancements of protections of servicemembers relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosures, to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to pay mortgage holders unpaid balances on housing loans guaranteed by Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/21/2009 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

________________________________________

S.847 : SBP Education Assistance Limitation Exclusion. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide that utilization of survivors’ and dependents’ educational assistance shall not be subject to the 48-month limitation on the aggregate amount of assistance utilizable under multiple veterans and related educational assistance programs.

Sponsor: Sen Webb, Jim [VA] (introduced 4/21/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/29/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Hearings held.

________________________________________

S.883 : Medal of Honor Coin. A bill to require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in recognition and celebration of the establishment of the Medal of Honor in 1861, America’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States, to honor the American military men and women who have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, and to promote awareness of what the Medal of Honor represents and how ordinary Americans, through courage, sacrifice, selfless service and patriotism, can challenge fate and change the course of history.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/23/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Latest Major Action: 4/23/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

________________________________________

S.902 : Veteran’s Treatment Courts. A bill to provide grants to establish veteran’s treatment courts.

Sponsor: Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] (introduced 4/27/2009)      Cosponsors (2)   Related Bill H.R.2127

Committees: Senate Judiciary

Latest Major Action: 4/27/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

________________________________________

S. 944 – The Wounded Warrior Transition Assistance Act. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to require the Secretaries of the military departments to give wounded members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces the option of remaining on active duty during the transition process in order to continue to receive military pay and allowances, to authorize members to reside at their permanent places of residence during the process, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] (introduced 4/30/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 4/30/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

To support this bill and/or contact your Senators send a message via http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/alert/?alertid=13266571&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

——————————————————————————–

S.977 : Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide improved benefits for veterans who are former prisoners of war, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 5/5/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/5/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.998 : Arthur Woolweaver, Jr., Social Security Act Improvements for the Terminally Ill Act. A bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the five-month waiting period in the disability insurance program, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] (introduced 5/7/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 5/7/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

——————————————————————————–

S.1008 : Military Retired Pay Fairness Act of 2009. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to limit requirements of separation pay, special separation benefits, and voluntary separation incentive from members of the Armed Forces subsequently receiving retired or retainer pay.

Sponsor: Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] (introduced 5/7/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/7/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

——————————————————————————–

S.1015 : Enhanced Disability Compensation for Certain Disabled Veterans. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to enhance disability compensation for certain disabled veterans with difficulties using prostheses and disabled veterans in need of regular aid and attendance for residuals of traumatic brain injury, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Burr, Richard [NC] (introduced 5/11/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/11/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1016 : Vet Disability Compensation Award upon Separation. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to modify the commencement of the period of payment of original awards of compensation for veterans who are retired or separated from the Uniformed services for disability.

Sponsor: Sen Burr, Richard [NC] (introduced 5/11/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/11/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1042 : Illegal Garnishment Prevention Act. A bill to prohibit the use of funds to promote the direct deposit of Veterans and Social Security benefits until adequate safeguards are established to prevent the attachment and garnishment of such benefits.

Sponsor: Sen Kohl, Herb [WI] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (1)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 5/14/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

——————————————————————————–

S.1055 : Gold Medal Award for 100th Inf Bn & 442nd RCT. A bill to grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] (introduced 5/14/2009)      Cosponsors (3) – Related bill H.R.347

Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/14/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1106 : Selected Reserve Continuum of Care Act. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to require the provision of medical and dental readiness services to certain members of the Selected Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve based on medical need, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR] (introduced 5/20/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

——————————————————————————–

S.1109 : PRO-VETS Act of 2009. A bill to provide veterans with individualized notice about available benefits, to streamline application processes or the benefits, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 5/20/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/20/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1118 : DIC Compensation Rate Increase to 55%. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase in the amount of monthly dependency and indemnity compensation payable to surviving spouses by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Lincoln, Blanche L. [AR] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (3)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1128 : Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act. A bill to authorize the award of a military service medal to members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in the testing of nuclear weapons or under other circumstances.

Sponsor: Sen Roberts, Pat [KS] (introduced 5/21/2009)      Cosponsors (1) – Related bill H.R.2553

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 5/21/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

——————————————————————————–

S.1160 : Homes for Heroes Act of 2009. A bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans.

Sponsor: Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] (introduced 6/1/2009)      Cosponsors (4)

Committees: Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/1/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1166 : Voluntary Support for Reservists and National Guard Members Act of 2009. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers to designate part or all of any income tax refund to support reservists and National Guard members.

Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry [NV] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Finance

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

——————————————————————————–

S.1168 : Nationally Significant Battlefields Protection. A bill to authorize the acquisition and protection of nationally significant battlefields and associated sites of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 under the American Battlefield Protection Program.

Sponsor: Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (None)

Committees: Senate Energy and Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

——————————————————————————–

S.1169 : Uniformed Services with Autism (USA) Heroes Act . A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for the treatment of autism under TRICARE.

Sponsor: Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] (introduced 6/3/2009)      Cosponsors (5)

Committees: Senate Armed Services

Latest Major Action: 6/3/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

——————————————————————————–

S.1204 : Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act of 2009. A bill to amend the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act of 2001 to require the provision of chiropractic care and services to veterans at all Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 6/8/2009)      Cosponsors (1) Related bill H.R.1017

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

S.1207 : D-Day Memorial. A bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, as a unit of the National Park System.

Sponsor: Sen Warner, Mark R. [VA] (introduced 6/8/2009)      Cosponsors (None) – Related bill H.R.2689

Committees: Senate Energy and Natural Resources

Latest Major Action: 6/8/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

——————————————————————————–

S.1237 : Homeless Vet Grant Program expansion. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the grant program for homeless veterans with special needs to include male homeless veterans with minor dependents and to establish a grant program for reintegration of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 6/11/2009)      Cosponsors (2)

Committees: Senate Veterans’ Affairs

Latest Major Action: 6/11/2009 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

——————————————————————————–

[Source: http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/111search.html 13 Jun 09 ++]

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RAO BULLETIN

THIS BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES

== NDAA 2010 ————————————- (Process Begins)

== Retiree Telephone News Line —————– (Now available)

== Reserve Retirement Age [17] ————- (H.R.208 Bad news)

== Mobilized Reserve 9 JUN 09 ——————– (775 Increase)

== Retiree Annual COLAs [02] ———— (COLA Calculations)

== Retiree Appreciation Days 04] —————- (2009 Schedule)

== Prescription Filling Options [01] —————- (Shop Around)

== Medical Identity Theft ————————- (Red Flags Rule)

== Atomic Vets [04] ———————————– (Right to Sue)

== VA Blue Water Claims [06] ——————- (Rule Changing)

== VA Fraud [20] ———————————— (Waterville ME)

== VA Homeless Vets [10] ———————– (HVAC Hearing)

== Military Stolen Valor [12] ————— (Advocate’s Charade)

== Tricare User Fee [38] ——————— (Growth Anticipated)

== VA Women Vet Programs [03] ———– (Expanded Service)

== Stop-loss Pay —————————- (Retroactive Payments)

== Reserve Benefits [02] ———————– (Upgrades Needed)

== Tricare Vision Benefits [01] ————————- (Coverage)

== GI Bill [48] ——————— (Colorado Vet Tuition Change)

== GI Bill [49] ————————————- (California Policy)

== GI Bill [50] —————————— (IG IT Report Findings)

== Vietnam Veterans & Agent Orange ———– (40 Years Later)

== TSP [18] ——————————————- (May Increases)

== TSP [19] ————————————- (Roth Option Status)

== Tricare News [01] ——————- (IOP/Tri+/Nursing Home)

== Bataan Death March [01] ———————– (Apology Given)

== HVAC [07] ———————- (Subcommittee Hearings Held)

== HVAC [08] ————————— (Committee Bills Cleared)

== Tricare/CHAMPUS Fraud [14] ——————- (Honolulu HI)

== PTSD [27] ———————- (H.R.952 Subcommittee Action)

== Tricare Prime [04] ————————— (Rule Enforcement)

== D-Day —————————————————- (Overview)

== D-Day [01] ———————- (Memorial Funding Problems)

== VDHCBS —————————————– (Elder Vet Care)

== Administration on Aging ————– (Elder Care Assistance)

== USFSPA & Divorce [06] ———————- (HB 1053 Status)

== USFSPA & Divorce [07] ———— (HASC Hearing Request)

== Coughing ———————————————— (Overview)

== Iowa Vet Benefits [01] —————————– (4 New Laws)

== Agent Orange Diseases [02] —————- (Intergenerational)

== Filipino Vet Inequities [16] ——————— (Claim Denials)

== Social Security for Military [01] ———— (Disability Claims)

== Carefree RV Resorts ————————- (50% Vet Discount)

== USERRA [08] —————- (RC Personnel Targeted Layoffs)

== USERRA [09] ————————— (House Passes H.R.466)

== Florida Vet Legislation —————————– (4 New Laws)
== Disaster Preparedness [02] ——————— (Emergency Kit)

== VA Copay [07] ————————————— (2009 Rates)

== Chapter 61 Disability Pay [03] —————— (More Details)

== Health Care Reform ———————— (Hidden Health Tax)

== Tax Burden for Colorado Retirees ——————- (Overview)

== Military History Anniversaries ———— (Jun 1-15 Summary)

== Veteran Legislation Status 13 Jun 09 ——- (Where we Stand)

== Have You Heard? ————————– (Nutrition & Health)

===============================

NDAA 2010: On 11 JUN several subcommittees of the House Armed Forces Committee met to markup their respective portions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) H.R. 2647.  One of them, the Military Personnel Subcommittee, headed by Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA), had a brief 10-minute meeting.   Chairwoman Davis and Ranking Member Joe Wilson (R-SC), announced that their subcommittee had approved a 3.4% pay raise for active duty troops; authorized an increase of 30,000 in active duty end strength for the Army; expanded chiropractic care to all active duty service members; extended Tricare Reserve Select to “Grey Area” retirees who have not reached age 60; requiring a medical exam prior to the involuntary separation of service members with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury. A notable exclusion that Chairwoman Davis addressed was that they were unable to include a disability compensation provision for Chapter 61 retirees that President Obama had requested in his budget submission.  She stated the subcommittee was unable to find the mandatory offsets to pay for the $5.1 billion proposal, but that the Democratic leadership is working with the committee and a resolution to the issue is expected. Earlier veterans organizations were briefed by the minority staff of the House Armed Service Committee on an amendment they intend to offer when consideration by the full Committee begins on the 16 JUN.  The entire Republican membership of the Committee signed a letter asking the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), to permit use of the reserve fund set aside by section 324 of the budget resolution.  These funds could, in a deficit neutral way, allow the completion of the process of full concurrent receipt for all disabled military retirees, eliminate the SBP/DIC offset, and improve healthcare for reserve component members. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 12 Jun 09 ++]

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RETIREE TELEPHONE NEWS LINE: A 7/24 telephone news line has been set up for those retirees and surviving spouses who do not have computer access. By calling (800) 558-1404, retirees and spouses can stay informed using this new easy-to-use menu-driven service. Callers can select from several different topics that are compiled from various electronic news sources. Topics include pay and annuity matters, medical and health care, and other benefits and entitlements. This news line joins the e-Afterburner, Air Force Retiree News Service, and Air Force Retiree Web site at www.retirees.af.mil in providing the latest news and information to the service’s retiree community. [Source: AFRN Press Release No. 06-03-09 ++]

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RESERVE RETIREMENT AGE Update 17: The minority staff of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) reported to members of The Military Coalition (TMC) on 10 JUN distressing news regarding Representative Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) bill, H.R.208, that would make retroactive to 9/11 the breakthrough changes in retirement pay eligibility in the FY2008 National Defense authorization Act (NDAA) that reduced the eligibility age three months for each aggregate of 90 days of deployed service after 28 JAN 08, the date of passage of the 2008 NDAA. Word is that H.R.208 will not pass at the 16 JUN HASC markup of the 2010 NDAA (H.R.2647) because Representative Wilson could not find offsets in direct spending to offset the projected costs of $2.1 billion over 10 years required by the House “Pay Go” rules. Rep. Wilson will likely be ruled out-of-order when he proposes an amendment to the NDAA to include the provisions of H.R.208. All this could change if House leadership authorized a waiver of the “Pay Go” rules for this bill, but unfortunately this is not a priority item in Congress. Those concerned should contact their representatives to express their views on this inequity which does not recognize the deployed service of the National Guard and Reserve in OIF/OEF prior to 28 JAN 08. [Source: NGAUS Leg Up 12 Jun 09 ++]

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MOBILIZED RESERVE 9 JUN 09: The Department of Defense announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 9 Jun 09. The net collective result is 775 more reservists mobilized than last reported in the Bulletin for 1 JUN 09.  At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease.  The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 110,024; Navy Reserve, 6,792; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 15,066; Marine Corps Reserve, 9,115; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 759.  This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 141,756, including both units and individual augmentees. A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/d20090609ngr.pdf . [Source: DoD News Release No. 411-09 10 Jun 09 ++]

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RETIREE ANNUAL COLAS Update 02: Despite the shaky economy, federal retirees saw a boost at the beginning of 2009 in their annual cost-of-living adjustments. Rapid increases in the Consumer Price Index in 2008 pushed the annual COLA increase  up to 5.8%, well above the 2.3% increase of 2008. The results for 2010 won’t be as strong because of the recession, but feds shouldn’t panic. The projections look grim. In April, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that an overall decline in the cost of living meant that it was not projecting an increase in the COLA for Social Security recipients for 2010 or 2011, and that the economy was unlikely to recover enough to produce a COLA boost in 2012 either. Social Security and federal retiree COLAs are calculated the same way. CBO forecasted that the economy would bounce back sufficiently to yield a 0.8% increase by 2013.But a small, or nonexistent, COLA might actually be a good thing for federal/military retirees in this economy since Congress has targeted cost-of-living adjustments as a way to save money during past financial difficulties.  For example:

(1.)    Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in 1985, which required the president to cut spending across government by a uniform percentage if the federal deficit rose above a certain level.

(2.)    In 1986, when that legislation went into effect President Reagan canceled the 3.1% COLA scheduled for federal civilian and military retirees that year. Subsequently, Congress passed legislation to exempt cost-of-living increases from those mandatory cuts, but that didn’t end efforts to target COLAs as part of the budget process.

(3.)    In an effort to reduce the budget, President Clinton convinced Congress to delay the start date of cost-of-living adjustment payouts to federal and military retirees, so COLAs took effect in April instead of January from 1994 to 1996.

COLAs could have been a tempting target this year. President Obama said in his budget that he was proposing a 2% pay increase for current federal employees as a belt-tightening measure, and the cost of extending benefits for federal employees became a factor in the debate over the House’s passage of the 2009 Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act in early JUN. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association in 2008 said it would monitor Congress closely for any efforts to target retiree benefits as a way to close gaps in the budget. But there may not be an automatic increase for Congress to target at all in the fiscal 2010 budget process. Feds can take some consolation in one fact: their annual cost-of-living adjustments are not allowed to be negative. So even if the Consumer Price Index falls, the government cannot reduce COLA payments to federal and military retirees. So even in a bad economy, it’s possible to come out a little bit ahead. [Source: GovExec.com  Alyssa Rosenberg article 11 Jun 09 ++]

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RETIREE APPRECIATION DAYS 04: Retiree Appreciation Days and Military Retiree Seminars are a great source of the latest information for retirees and Family members in your area. RADs vary from installation to installation, but, in general, they provide an opportunity to renew acquaintances, listen to guest speakers, renew ID Cards, get medical checkups, and various other services. Some RADs include special events such as dinners or golf tournaments.  Since the day’s schedule of activities differ from location to location, it is best to check with the event’s point of contact for specific details. The Army maintains a current listing of activities for 2009 at www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/rads.asp. The current listing includes:

  • USAG Vicenza  09-06-12 Jun 12  0444-71-7451
  • Ft Ord, CA 09-06-13 Jun 13  (831) 242-6691 .
  • Ft McPherson, GA  09-06-20 Jun 20  (404) 464-3219
  • Ft Buchanan, PR  09-07-31 Jul 31  (787) 707-3842
  • Ft Lewis Surviving Family Members Appreciation Day  09-08-07 Aug 7  (253) 966-5884
  • Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA  09-08-08 Aug 8  (570) 895-7019
  • Orlando, FL  09-08-15 Aug 15  (912) 767-5013
  • Des Moines, IA  09-08-20 Aug 20  (515) 283-7013
  • Northern New England  09-08-22 Aug 22  (207) 685-3152
  • Twin Cities/Rosemount, MN  09-08-28 Aug 28  (763) 566-2219*
  • Camp Ripley, MN  09-08-29 Aug 29  (763) 441-2630*
  • Ft Huachuca  09-08-29 Aug 29  (520) 533-5733
  • Ft Leonard Wood, MO  09-09-11 Sep 11 – Sep 12  (573) 596-0947
  • Ft McCoy, WI  09-09-11 Sep 11  (608) 388-3716
  • Carlisle Barracks, PA  09-09-12 Sep 12  (717) 245-4501
  • Ft Dix, NJ  09-09-12 Sep 12  (609) 562-2666
  • Lemoore NAS, CA  09-09-12 Sep 12  (800) 452-0923*
  • Ft Sill, OK  09-09-17 Sep 17 – Sep 19  (580) 442-2645
  • Duluth, MN  09-09-18 Sep 18  (218) 722-0071
  • Ft Bragg, NC  09-09-18 Sep 18 – Sep 19  (910) 396-5304
  • Camp Pendleton, CA  09-09-19 Sep 19  (760) 725-9791
  • Ft Belvoir RAD/Widow(er) Appreciation Day  09-09-19 Sep 19  (703) 805-3682
  • Ft Drum, NY  09-09-19 Sep 19  (315) 772-6434
  • Lemoore NAS, CA  09-09-19 Sep 19  (559) 998-4042
  • Ft Bliss, TX  09-09-26 Sep 26  (915) 568-5204
  • Ft Hamilton, NY  09-09-26 Sep 26  (718) 630-4552
  • Ft Lee, VA  09-09-26 Sep 26  (804) 734-6555
  • Nellis AFB, NV  09-09-26 Sep 26  (702) 652-9978
  • Selfridge, MI  09-09-26 Sep 26  (586) 239-5580
  • Redstone Arsenal  09-10-02 Oct 2 – Oct 3  (256) 876-2022
  • Ft Meade, MD  09-10-09 Oct 9  (301) 677-9603
  • Ft Myer, VA  09-10-09 Oct 9  (703) 696-5948
  • Ft Monroe, VA  09-10-15 Oct 15  (757) 532-4673
  • Aberdeen Prv Grd, MD  09-10-17 Oct 17  (410) 306-2320
  • Ft Carson, CO  09-10-17 Oct 17  (719) 526-2840
  • Ft Monmouth, NJ  09-10-17 Oct 17  (732) 266-5810
  • Schofield Barracks, HI  09-10-17 Oct 17  (808) 655-1514
  • USAG Heidelberg  09-10-17 Oct 17  06221-57-8399
  • USAG Brussels  09-10-20 Oct 20  0032-65-44-6238
  • Schinnen, Holland(Cancelled)  09-10-21 Oct 21  0031-46-443-7320
  • Ft Hood, TX  09-10-23 Oct 23 – Oct 24  (254) 287-5210
  • Ft Campbell, KY  09-10-24 Oct 24  (270) 798-5280
  • Ft Gordon, GA  09-10-24 Oct 24  (706) 791-2654
  • Ft Polk, LA  09-10-24 Oct 24  (337) 531-0363
  • Great Lakes NAS, IL  09-10-24 Oct 24  (847) 688-2201, ext. 359
  • Houston, TX  09-10-24 Oct 24  (210) 221-9004
  • USAG Grafenwoehr  09-10-24 Oct 24  09641-83-8539
  • Ft Knox, KY  09-10-30 Oct 30 – Oct 31  (502) 624-1765
  • Ft Rucker  09-10-30 Oct 30  (334) 255-9124
  • Ft Leavenworth, KS  09-10-31 Oct 31  (913) 684-2425
  • Rock Island, IL  09-10-31 Oct 31  (563) 322-4823*
  • Ft Benning, GA  09-11-06 Nov 6  (706) 545-1805
  • Ft Richardson, AK  09-11-07 Nov 7  (907) 384-3500
  • San Diego, CA  09-11-07 Nov 7  (619) 556-8987
  • Ft Detrick, MD  09-11-12 Nov 12  (301) 619-3381

[Source: www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/rads.asp Jun 09 ++]

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PRESCRIPTION FILLING OPTIONS Update 01: A study of prices for drugs commonly taken by diabetes patients showed that mail-order retailers and big-box discounters can save consumers thousands of dollars a year compared to the local pharmacy. Overall, Medco by Mail and Wal-Mart were the least expensive, while neighborhood and chain pharmacies generally charged the most, according to Dr. Clifton Jackness and Dr. Ronald Tamler, both of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “Being an informed consumer is clearly beneficial,” they told colleagues at the American Diabetes Association meeting. The total monthly out-of-pocket price for all 10 drugs most commonly prescribed to diabetes patients for any indication ranged from a low of $428.35 with Medco to a high of $641.90 with Rite Aid. However, there is often a tradeoff for lower prices, said Dr. Paul Robertson, ADA’s president of medicine and science. “Pharmacies, especially local ones, offer more than drugs,” he said. “They offer service and the opportunity to talk to a pharmacist.”  Giving that up in exchange for a lower bill might be worthwhile for some patients who are on a stable regimen and familiar with their medications, whereas for others it might not, Robertson noted.

The stakes in shopping around are collectively enormous. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 23.6 million diabetics in the United States, or 8% of the population. And their number is growing as the nation ages and unhealthy lifestyles lead to an increase in diabetes diagnoses. To calculate the impact of shopping around, the researchers tabulated the most common prescriptions filled by diabetes patients under age 65 — a population expected to have at least some out-of-pocket cost associated with their medications — from a database compiled by 91 health insurance plans across the United States. After excluding non-chronic medications such as antibiotics, the top medications in order of number of prescriptions were: Metformin;  Atorvastatin (Lipitor); Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril); Rosiglitazone (Avandia) excluded from the analysis because of declining use since the time covered by the database; Furosemide (Lasix, Furocot); Simvastatin (Zocor);  Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide);  Insulin glargine (Lantus);  Amlodipine (Norvasc);  and Atenolol (Tenormin). Interestingly, the list contained several drugs that were not strictly diabetes-related, including statins that fight cholesterol and medications to lower blood pressure. Jackness noted that diabetes patients take an average of 8.9 medications, and believes the typical patient would be on the majority of drugs on the list, he said.

The cost of a 30-day supply of each — assuming no prescription drug coverage by public or private insurance — was determined from price data collected by the New York and New Jersey State Attorneys General. These offices maintain publicly accessible Web sites on current prescription drug prices at the pharmacies in their respective states. The researchers confirmed the prices by direct contact with the pharmacies. For some drugs, the price differences between pharmacies were dramatic. Consider Metformin, one of the most popular diabetes drugs in the United States and the 10th most popular generic drug prescribed overall in 2008, with 40 million prescriptions written, according to Drug Topics magazine. According to the new study, a 30-day supply of Metformin sold for $4.00 in the generic drug discount program at Wal-Mart and Target and for $5.00 at Kmart. But the local neighborhood pharmacies averaged $38.95 and pharmacy chain Rite Aid charged $39.99. While stores such as Wal-Mart have heavily marketed their low-cost generic programs, they tended to offer more competitive prices for non-generic drugs as well, the researchers found. And, although the superstores and mail-order pharmacies did not consistently offer lower prices for every medication, none of the local chains or independently-owned pharmacies had the lowest price for any drug on the list.

When prices for the 10 drugs most commonly prescribed to diabetes patients were added (excluding rosiglitazone), the monthly totals were: $428.35 for Medco by Mail (excluding shipping and handling); $432.53 for Wal-Mart;  $483.94 for Kmart; $505.95 for Target; $584.44 for CVS;  $633.11 for Duane Reade; $638.31 for Walgreen’s; $639.20 for local pharmacies; and $641.90 for Rite Aid. Unfortunately, this kind of price information is not readily available in most states, said Dr. Patricia Coon of the Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont. Nevertheless, savvy patients and physicians can find this information locally by doing their homework, said Coon, who was not involved in the study.  “They do a lot of shopping from pharmacy to pharmacy to get the lowest price,” Coon said. “It’s not unusual for patients to be asking to be switched to generics or the generic that’s offered by a Wal-Mart or large brand.” Jackness agreed, noting that even if it is not posted in a central location, price information is available with a phone call. “People shouldn’t assume a drug is the same price everywhere,” he said.

In his own New York City practice, Jackness said he often recommends low-priced local outlets to patients at financial risk. “If we see patients without insurance we tell them to go down to Penn Station and go to Kmart,” he said. But realizing the savings from purchasing all medications at a superstore or mail-order company may not be possible for all patients, the researchers noted. “The patient must have the physical ability and means of transportation to travel to these stores or order online,” they said. They cautioned that the study did not take into consideration insurance coverage, which might limit how much its findings can be generalized. But regardless of patients’ insurance status, the findings should serve as a wakeup call for physicians to take an active role in ensuring patients are able to obtain their prescribed medications, Jackness and Tamler concluded. If adherence is an issue, physicians should ask patients about the impact of medication costs and suggest cost-lowering strategies, Robertson said. [Source: ABC News Health Crystal Phend article 10 Jun 09 ++]

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MEDICAL IDENTITY THEFT: Unless the Federal Trade Commission adjusts its “Red Flags Rule,” patients will have to show proof of identity when visiting the doctor’s office beginning 1 AUG. The rule will also affect dentists and other professionals who extend credit to clients. The idea behind the rule is to cut down on identity theft, including medical identity theft. According to World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit public interest research group, the FTC received about 19,500 reports of medical ID theft from January 1992 to April 2006 — its most recent data. About one in every four of these reports occurred in 2006 alone. “Medical identity theft is the fastest-growing form of ID theft,” said James Quiggle, spokesman for the nonprofit watchdog group Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “The biggest problem is with organized gangs stealing lists with sensitive patient data from clinics and other medical facilities.” Quiggle said employees with access to patient databases are selling patient information on the black market. The buyer uses the information to get prescriptions or file for insurance, Quiggle said.

To cut down on this and other forms of identity theft, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act in 2003. The measure directed regulatory agencies, including the FTC, to draft rules for creditors. Last fall, the FTC implemented the “Red Flags Rule,” which requires creditors — including doctors and other professionals who extend credit — to get a valid ID from clients. The rule was scheduled to go into effect 1 NOV 08. Members of the American Medical Association felt broadsided by the rule, so they lobbied and succeeded in getting the deadline pushed to 1 MAY 09. The American Dental Association also protested. “The FTC gave organized medicine no warning about the Red Flags Rule, and consequently there was no participation by doctors when the rule was being considered and crafted,” said Long Do, director of litigation for the California Medical Association. Just before the 1 MAY deadline, the FTC agreed to again delay the deadline to 1 AUG. FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz in a news release said, “Given the ongoing debate about whether Congress wrote this provision too broadly, delaying enforcement of the Red Flags Rule will allow industries and associations to share guidance with their members,” said .

Los Robles Regional Medical Center chief of staff Dr. Hannah Grossman said she hadn’t heard of the new rule. But when it was described to her, Grossman had concerns. “One of the concerns would be the individual who did not have government ID,” Grossman said. “We would never want to turn away a patient because of lack of photo ID.” Homeless, elderly and undocumented immigrants all might fall into this category, Do noted. “The question is, are doctors supposed to start policing immigration laws when their primary responsibility is to take care of patients?” he said. And at a time when the healthcare organizations are straining under budgetary problems, the rules add one more layer of red tape that might require hiring someone to handle the paperwork, said Dr. Ardis Hoven, with the board of trustees of the American Medical Association. Linda Foley, founder of San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, said any administrative costs incurred by asking patients to show a photo ID are reasonable. “In the long run, you’re going to have to absorb less loss due to fraud. You will save money,” she said.

Medical professionals are not the only ones affected. Attorney Joanna Smith, of the offices of Meyers Nave in Sacramento, specializes in identity theft issues. Although attorneys are not always paid in full, they were not the ones targeted by the rules, she said. But because of the broad way the rule was written, attorneys could be affected. Smith said that when she contacted FTC lawyers for clarification, they seemed surprised at how many services their definition encompassed and seemed receptive to change.  “They really do have an interest in making it flexible,” Smith said.  [Source: Ventura County Star Kim Lamb Gregory article 8 Jun 09 ++]

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ATOMIC VETS Update 04: Fifteen successive United Kingdom governments – Conservative and, to the party’s lasting shame, Labour too – have variously lied to, misled, ignored and betrayed the veterans of Britain’s nuclear tests. Around 1,000 servicemen who blame their ill-health on their involvement in Britain’s 1950s nuclear tests want to sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Now the remaining veterans plus widows, sons, daughters and grandchildren left cursed by one of the most abject chapters of post-war history can sense justice in the offing. The smiles, tears of relief and the outpouring of sheer elation witnessed on the steps of the High Court said it all. Finally, and despite the MoD spending £10million on lawyers’ bills in an attempt to convince him otherwise, a judge has accepted what politicians and civil servants have for years denied. Namely, that these men – human guinea pigs, maimed for life by the radiation they were exposed to – DO have a case to argue, DO have a right to be heard. The ruling is a green light given by the High Court to proceed with their claims.

Some 22,000 young soldiers were made to stand underneath as experimental atomic bombs were exploded over their heads in Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1967. Only 3,000 are still alive. Many of those are terminally ill and, for too long, the suspicion has lingered that MoD officials have been hoping the issue will die away with the last of the casualties. Wisely, judge Mr Justice Foskett counsels the MoD to seek a negotiated settlement now with the veterans, rather than have their case grind on any longer. Since the case went to court in JAN 09, seven more veterans have died. Compensation will not bring back them nor anyone else. It will though make a massive difference to families left to cope with the consequences of genetic abnormalities, cancer and hereditary disability.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, offering veterans who took part in the above-ground and undersea atomic tests conducted between 1945 and 1963 a payment of $75,000 each. Payments of $100,000 were offered to miners employed in above-ground or underground uranium mines scattered across the western U.S. Those working downwind of the Nevada test site were offered payments of $50,000.  Vets who had not previously submitted claims can still do so. Below are the most recent bills introduced in Congress related to Atomic Vets.  Both have been assigned to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee:

  • H.R.2553 : Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act introduced 21 MAY by Rep. Todd Tiahrt [KS-4] to authorize the award of a military service medal to members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to ionizing radiation as a result of participation in the testing of nuclear weapons or under other circumstances. Cosponsors – 7
  • H.R.2573 : Atomic Veterans Relief Act introduced 21 MAY by Rep Neil Abercrombie [HI-1] to amend title 38, United States Code, to revise the eligibility criteria for presumption of service-connection of certain diseases and disabilities for veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during military service, and for other purposes. Cosponsors – none

[Source: UK The Daily Mirror article 7 Jun -09 ++]

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VA BLUE WATER CLAIMS Update 06: A bill in Congress provides a seemingly straightforward answer to a question that has vexed tens of thousands of Americans who served in the U.S. military. Who is a Vietnam veteran?  The answer is vitally important to Navy personnel who served in Vietnam’s territorial waters. For now, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of a Vietnam veteran does not include these men and women. Legislation introduced in the House would change that, clearing the way for Navy veterans to get disability payments and free health care for ailments linked to the herbicide Agent Orange, from type II diabetes to a variety of cancers. At stake: $3 billion in benefits. The VA says the pool of veterans who would become eligible for benefits under the bill is 800,000, a number critics accuse the VA of exaggerating to inflate costs that may scare Congress.  Before 2002, sailors with the Vietnam Service Medal — given to those who served in the theater of war on land or sea — automatically got benefits, whether they were ground troops or in the Navy. But the VA, which did not return repeated calls for comment, changed its policy in 2002, saying common sense dictated that Agent Orange was used on land alone and therefore couldn’t harm Navy personnel.

Bart Stitchman, co-director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said the VA simply changed its definition of who was eligible without notice. The VA is required to advertise any rule change impacting benefits in the Federal Register, allowing a period of public comment before making a change. The VA, Stitchman said, violated federal law by ignoring that requirement. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Law and Policy, Dr. Mark Brown, director of Environmental Agents Service at the VA, made a surprising admission: Science did not back up the VA’s policy on the Navy. Calling Navy veterans “non-Vietnam veterans,” reflecting the VA’s policy that sailors don’t qualify, he wrote, “There is no obvious scientific or public health basis for excluding these non-Vietnam War veterans” from the presumption that their illnesses are caused by Agent Orange. To address that “apparent inequity,” Brown wrote, the VA paid benefits to those Navy veterans who could prove they were exposed to Agent Orange, which ground troops need not do. But proving exposure 40 years after the fact is often an impossible hurdle, Navy veterans say.

In 2004, a Navy veteran appealed the VA’s denial of his Agent Orange claim in a veterans court set up to handle appeals of VA cases. The case became a precedent-setter. In 2006, that court ruled in favor of the veteran, saying the VA’s exclusion of Navy veterans was too restrictive. But last year, the VA won the case on appeal to a higher court, which decided its rules on Agent Orange were reasonable. The VA then changed its rules one more time, closing another avenue for Navy veterans seeking benefits. After long holding that Navy veterans who served on inland waterways, like harbors and rivers, could get benefits, the VA decided a harbor did not qualify. The VA has argued it was not the intent of Congress to include the Navy when it adopted a law in 1991 providing compensation for Agent Orange.  Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, has introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009 (H.R.2254)  to include Navy veterans. He has more than 40 co-sponsors. “These guys have suffered long enough,” Filner said. “It’s going to cost money. But that’s the cost of going to war. We’re spending trillions bailing out everybody else. Let’s bail out Vietnam veterans.” The chances for passage are uncertain. Filner said lawmakers may be reluctant to add costs to the federal budget in an economic crisis. A similar bill introduced last year failed.

In the interim on 30 MAY the Texas House and Senate passed the Restore Agent Orange Presumptive Diseases to “Blue Water” Navy Veterans [SCR 38] memorializing Congress to restore the presumption of a service connection for Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served on the inland waterways, territorial waters, and in the airspace of the Republic of Vietnam. This is not a law as such. The Texas Legislature is telling the U.S. Congress that Texas wants the US Congress to force the VA to recognize Agent Orange as a medically causal chemical for Navy personnel who were in the theater of Viet Nam.  [Source: St. Petersburg Times William R. Levesque article 9 Jun 09 ++]

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VA FRAUD Update 20: A 58-year-old woman who collected 18 months’ worth of veterans’ benefits sent to her dead aunt must pay back the government and serve a short prison sentence, according to her sentence imposed 8 JUN in federal court. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Lorraine Rich, who now lives in Bradenton, Fla., but who lived in Waterville when the crime occurred, to four months in prison and three years of supervised release. She also was ordered to repay $27,675, the amount of veteran spouse benefits she collected illegally. Her aunt Cora Thompson was given surviving spouse benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs after her husband, Vernon Thompson, a veteran, died, according to court documents. In 1999, Rich became Thompson’s fiduciary federal payee and agreed to notify the VA when her aunt died, which occurred on 27 APR 04. “Ms. Rich did not notify the VA of the death, and the VA continued to make the monthly beneficiary payments,” the court documents state, adding later that Rich withdrew the funds and spent them. The VA stopped making payments SEP 06. Thompson also failed to report the funds to the Waterville Housing Authority, which supplied her with subsidized housing. Rich pleaded guilty  n SEP 08 to theft of government property and making a false statement back. She faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the theft and an additional five years and another $250,000 fine for lying on her application for housing assistance.  [Source: Bangor Daily News Nok-Noi Ricke article 9 Jun 09 ++]

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VA HOMELESS VETS Update 10: On 3 JUN 09 House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bob Filner conducted a hearing to address America’s commitment to end veterans’ homelessness. The hearing focused on four specific programs operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Grant and Per Diem, outreach to veterans, Special Needs Grants, and prevention efforts. According to recent VA reports, approximately one-third of the adult homeless population served in the Armed Services. Population estimates also suggest that about 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Male and female veterans continue to be over-represented in the general homeless population. Specifically, male veterans were 1.4 times as likely to be homeless as male nonveterans while female veterans were between two and four times as likely to be homeless as their nonveteran female counterparts. Studies have shown an indirect connection between combat exposure and homelessness.

“Most of the VA’s existing programs are targeted to veterans who are currently homeless, by providing employment opportunities and housing assistance to help prevent repeat episodes of homelessness,” said Chairman Filner. “There is an urgent and immediate need to address homeless prevention, target high risk veterans with early intervention programs, and provide on-going evaluation and support. We need to strengthen our efforts nationally to prevent our heroes from becoming homeless in the first place.” VA’s largest program involving local communities is the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program. GPD was authorized in 1992 to provide grants and per diem payments to help public and nonprofit organizations establish and operate supportive transitional housing and service centers. Eligible grantees are those who operate programs with supportive housing (up to 24 months) or service centers which offer such services as case management, education, crisis intervention, counseling, and services targeted towards specialized populations including homeless women veterans. Today, VA partners with more than 500 community organizations and has authorized 15,000 beds through the GPD program. Witnesses discussed the need to increase the annual authorization for the GPD program in order to increase the number of beds available for veterans as well as to enhance the supportive services offered. Service providers also reported that the current mechanism used to determine the per diem amount is outdated and inequitable. The current per diem rate is $34.40 per veteran per day. This number is significantly insufficient and does not take into account regional cost issues. Also, per diem payments are made months after the services are provided, which creates a financial strain for the non-profit and community organizations providing services.

In the area of prevention, VA works with other Federal agencies to prevent repeat episodes of homelessness. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides Section 8 vouchers for homeless veterans with severe psychiatric or substance abuse disorders to rent apartments in the private rental market while the VA medical centers provide case management and clinical services. Since 1992, the HUD VA Supported Housing (HUD VASH) program has received funding for about 1,753 Section 8 vouchers. The Department of Labor also operates the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to help veterans gain meaningful employment and to help develop a service delivery system to address the problems facing homeless veterans. In 2006, HVRP grantees served a total of 13,346 homeless veterans, of whom 8,713, or 65%, were placed in employment. Finally, the 2009 Appropriations Act provided $10 million for HUD to conduct a demonstration program on preventing homelessness in coordination with the VA and DOL. The demonstration project will provide housing and services to prevent homelessness or reduce the length of time veterans are homeless. Up to three of the pilot sites will have a high number of service members separating from military service and up to four of the sites will be located in rural areas with veterans who served in the National Guard.

To improve VA’s effectiveness are partnering with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of South Florida to create the first Center that will give the research capacity to improve programs and become more effective in the future. The new Center will allow VA to use much of the data systems within VA and across the country to improve VA and community service providers’ effectiveness in reaching out, treating and improving long term discharge outcomes of the Veterans we serve.” Filner concluded: “There remains an unknown number of veterans who are considered near homeless or at risk for homelessness because of poverty and lack of support from family and friends. An increasing number of veterans of Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are falling into this category and we must be vigilant in providing support to this population. I am heartened by President Obama’s zero tolerance policy for homelessness among veterans. We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude – and it will take a bold national commitment to make sure that the words ‘homeless’ and ‘veterans’ never appear in the same sentence again.” [Source: HVAC Chairman Filner press release 6 Jun 09 ++]

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MILITARY STOLEN VALOR Update 12: Richard Glen Strandlof, a 32 year old fake military hero who misled veterans, politicians and others awaits arraignment in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center on a misdemeanor traffic charge. Meanwhile the FBI is investigating possible fraud for which no charges have yet been filed. Strandlof spared no detail in his alleged résumé under the name of Rick Duncan: Annapolis graduate. U.S. Marine captain. Survivor of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, wounded, three-tour veteran of the Iraq war. An American hero who, in his next act, would stand up for his band of military brothers on whatever stage was set before him – from the Capitol steps in Denver to the campaign stump. All had bought into the story of Rick Duncan, the wounded soldier rallying opposition to the Iraq war and support for struggling vets. But an elaborate web of deceit has left Strandlof with another indelible mark: fake military hero who misled veterans, politicians and others.

Strandlof’s story winds between malicious deception and actual good works. And it muddies the issue of whether his offense was simply that he fooled the people he purported to champion or broke the law. He backed mostly Democratic candidates sympathetic to his anti-war views in the run-up to the 2008 election. Beyond politics, he worked on behalf of homeless veterans in Colorado Springs, an effort that earned him widespread respect. But revelation of his charade last month ignited the military blogosphere – some of the more charitable critics have suggested his deployment to a combat zone – and inspired speculation on just how he could pull it off. The deception was elaborate, cunningly conceived and boldly executed – from his command of military vernacular down to details like the bumper sticker on his car. “Got DD214?” it said, playing off the popular “Got milk?” ad campaign in what amounted to an inside military joke. The bumper sticker referred to the official form that details a soldier’s release from active duty. “I admit that not everything I said was as factual as I wish it had been,” Strandlof told 9News on 6 JUN in the only interview he has granted since his charade began to unravel.

Strandlo said he constructed his military persona based on real and fictional accounts gleaned from reading materials and movies. He also claimed schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have affected his recollection of events over the last few years. “When I talked with people about my passion about vets’ issues,” he said, “I believed that was the truth.” Army Spc. Garett Reppenhagen met the man he knew as Duncan at a veterans’ gathering two years ago in Colorado Springs. He remembers him as, “spastic, a lot of energy, all over the place, an excitable person.” That night, Duncan related how he’d been wounded by an improvised explosive device during his second tour in Iraq. He told others how the explosion had caused a severe brain injury – a circumstance that seemed to explain his twitchy mannerisms and sometimes erratic behavior. It never occurred to Reppenhagen, an infantry sniper who actually did a tour in Iraq, to dig deeper. Vets don’t press other vets for combat details like that. “You sort of feel like a jerk by even doubting someone,” he said. Duncan’s intentions seemed straightforward. He sent care packages to troops in Iraq. He stood up for homeless veterans in the Springs. He advanced his anti-war politics by connecting with like-minded candidates. He even launched his own organization, the Colorado Veterans Alliance, which he said represented 32,000 veterans on a massive mailing list – though the only visible members seemed to be a cadre of local vets. He certainly talked the talk. Duncan mingled easily in the military milieu. And in some ways, he walked the walk. “It seems like his heart was in the right place,” said Reppenhagen, 33. “He was a really hard worker. He did a lot of good by raising a lot of awareness. But then you find out that he’s a fraud.”

Army Spc. Mark Wilkerson cut Strandlof a lot of slack for his supposed disabilities. He first heard him speak, eloquently but with a pronounced stutter, at a barbecue held by some people with Iraq Veterans Against the War. “He said he was 100% disabled, that’s why he’s a little off, that’s why he was a little unusual,” said Wilkerson. “I was naive, we all were, but he was just so convincing in the way he would speak about his experiences.” Wilkerson said Strandlof would disappear for weeks at a time, saying he was getting treatments at the VA hospital in Denver. When Wilkerson invited Strandlof to join Iraq Veterans Against the War, he balked –possibly because he knew the group checks DD214 forms to authenticate service. He declined to join officially, saying he preferred to work with the group “under the radar” so he could maintain relationships with conservative elected officials. During a protest in OCT 07, a Marine colonel stopped Strandlof and challenged his authenticity – a common occurrence during veterans’ anti-war protests in a military stronghold like Colorado Springs. But Strandlof answered the Marine’s questions to his satisfaction.

When the truth finally emerged, it happened quickly. Near the end of April, Strandlof – in the persona of Rick Duncan – called a Fort Carson legislative liaison to say he was working for Sen. Mark Udall and wanted to set up a meeting at the Army post. The liaison then called Udall’s Colorado Springs office seeking verification. Udall’s staffers said Duncan didn’t work for them. On 1 MAY, they met with Warvi of the Colorado Veterans Alliance to express their concern. Warvi had become exasperated with Duncan’s inability to provide the details necessary to move the organization toward legal nonprofit designation. He’d never doubted his claims about military service – but the call from Udall’s office prompted him to take a closer look at Rick Duncan’s record. “That was the tip-off that said, ‘Hey, we need to start digging,'” Warvi said. “It just started to fall apart pretty quickly.” Warvi phoned the public affairs officer at Annapolis and learned that the last naval officer by the name of Rick Duncan graduated in 1948 – almost 30 years before Strandlof was born. He checked with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and learned that the CVA name already had been registered to a man no one had heard of: Rick Strandlof. Later inquiries turned up mounting evidence that Strandlof and Duncan were, in fact, the same person.  “Finally, we found court documents in Reno,” Warvi said that put Strandlof in Nevada instead of Iraq. “And that basically destroyed Rick’s entire timeline.” And yet, in his interview with 9News, Strandlof stayed true to the Rick Duncan persona, voicing regret not so much for any perceived fabrications, but for his shortcomings in advancing veterans’ issues. “I believe that people who defended a nation’s ideals,” he said, “should have ideal treatment from a nation.” [Source: Colorado Spring’s The Gazatte Kevin Simpson article 8 Jun 09 ++]

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TRICARE USER FEE Update 38: After three years of rejection, the Pentagon this year gave up, at least temporarily, trying to get Congress to approve increases in Tricare fees that have not changed since the program began some 13 years ago. That doesn’t mean it won’t try again in a future budget request. But streamlining the system with newfound “efficiencies” can, in the meantime, help slow the swift growth of defense health care costs, new Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said. Health care costs for ac­tive, reserve and retired service mem­bers and their families are spiraling out of control, Pentagon offi­cials say. Ac­cording to a January study by the Defense Business Board, annual defense health care spending could grow to $66 billion by fiscal 2015 — up from $19 billion nine years ago. The Pentagon is seeking $47.4 billion to fund health care in fiscal 2010, nearly 9% of its $533.7 billion budget request. “Military health care is eating our budgetary lunch,” Hale said. “We’ve got to find a way to work with Congress to provide high­ quality health care and slow down the rate of growth.” “The $47 billion … is obviously a significant price tag,” said Cmdr. Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman. “The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will examine health care costs in an attempt to find the necessary efficiencies to slow down the rate of growth.”

Officials have said to expect the latest QDR — a review of force management issues as well as programs and other priorities — by late summer. Meanwhile, pos­sible health care savings being discussed include continued phase-in of an electronic health records system and promotion of incentives to encourage healthier behaviors among beneficiaries. One move already announced is the 1 MAY launch of an Outpa­tient Prospective Payment Sys­tem, which Tricare says will let hospitals know in advance how claims will be processed, reducing overall administrative costs by about $458 million a year when fully operational. The Military Officers Associa­tion of America, which strongly opposed fee hikes for years, more recently has said it would not ob­ject to fee increases that are proportional to cost-of-living in­creases in retired pay. But MOAA has long argued that a more efficient health care system would cut costs. The association also continues to promote ideas such as expanded use of mail-order pharmacy services and having Tri­care cover co-pays on private in­surance plans, which could encour­age “working age” retirees to use their employer’s health plans in­stead of Tricare.  [Source: NavyTimes William H. McMichael article 15 Jun 09 ++]

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VA WOMEN VET PROGRAMS Update 03: Momentum is gathering to ex­pand health care services for fe­male veterans, with one of the few remaining disputes (i.e. over the number of days of neonatal care for those receiving maternity care at Veterans Affairs Department facilities) now resolved. Two similar bills, one passed by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Com­mittee on 21 MAY and the other by the House Veterans’ Affairs Commit­tee’s health panel 4 JUN, try to make VA more accessible and relevant to women, the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population. Lawmakers agree on the key de­tails, including:

  • More access to mental health counseling.
  • A three-region pilot program in which women who are primary caregivers could use VA employee child care centers while receiving outpatient treatment.
  • Internal and external reviews of VA programs to determine whether women face any barriers to care.

The Senate committee included women’s initiatives in a larger veterans health bill, S.252, while the House is working on a free­standing women’s health bill. The original House bill, H.R.1211, included the promise of up to 14 days of neonatal health care from VA, either directly or by con­tract, for female veterans receiv­ing VA maternity care. The number of days was scaled back to seven under an amend­ment sponsored by Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana, ranking Republi­can on the full House Veterans’ Af­fairs Committee, based on input from VA showing that 95% of women are released from the hos­pital within seven days after birth and that most private health in­surance plans cover only 48 hours of post-maternity hospitalization. The Senate bill also provides seven days of care. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, chairman of the House health panel, said he believes studies of health care for female veterans called for in the legislation are among the most important provi­sions because they will look at whether the stigma of seeking men­tal health services, clinic operating hours, the distance of care and low gender sensitivity are factors dis­couraging women from getting the treatment they have earned. Michaud said their needs should not “fall by the wayside as we ex­plore ways to improve health care for our veterans.”  [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 15 Jun 09 ++]

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STOP-LOSS PAY: Congressional negotiators work­ing on an $85 billion supplemen­tal war funding bill have agreed to retroactive stop-loss payments for 185,000 people. They also added new education benefits for the children of service members who have died on active duty. The education benefits would provide a free college education for the children of anyone who died on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, or dies on active duty in the future. Children would receive the basic benefits offered under the Post­9/11 GI Bill that begins 1 AUG: fully covered tuition and fees up to the maximum in-state rate for undergrad­uates in each state, plus a monthly liv­ing stipend and book al­lowance. This expan­sion of the new GI Bill is expected to cost $164 million over 10 years. Benefits would apply to all surviving children, regard­less of the deceased military par­ent’s length of service, and would have to be used before the child reaches age 33. Placing the survivor education and stop-loss benefits in the sup­plemental bill, whose main pur­pose is to fund combat operations through the rest of this fiscal year, is a way to get around budget rules that might otherwise derail the initiatives.

The provisions also might help attract more votes to get the over­all supplemental bill passed. There are concerns, especially in the House, that some nonmilitary spending — like $5 billion for the International Monetary Fund — could lead most Republicans and some Democrats to vote against the broader measure.  Still, Rep. C.W. Young (R-FL), the House Appropriations Committee’s ranking Republican, said he expects a compromise will be reached so the bill can pass be­fore the July 4 congressional re­cess, the target date by which the Defense Department says it must have the extra war funding. Retroactive stop-loss payments of up to $500 for every month of involuntary extension are aimed at people whose separation or retirement dates were extended between 9/11, and 30 SEP 08, by stop-loss orders. But the potential payment procedure is unclear, particularly for the many affected people who have long since separated from the military. The services have records of which service members were affected by stop-loss orders, but whether they have current addresses is uncertain. Defense and service officials will have to determine how to make payments using $734 million set aside in the bill for that purpose. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 15 Jun 09 ++]

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RESERVE BENEFITS Update 02: Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve says, “Reserve and National Guard members today deserve a better return on investment for their frequent deployments and long family separations, and that should include improved health benefits and two ways to retire earlier than age 60.” It’s unusual for a senior officer to get so far out in front of Defense Department policymakers, as Stultz has here.  He’s not worried, however. “Nobody’s ever going to call you on the carpet if you’re really trying to take care of soldiers,” Stultz said.  In an interview in his Pentagon office 5 JUN, he shared his thoughts on modernizing reserve compensation so it more suitably rewards members and families who are sacrificing so much during wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He contrasted current missions for an operational reserve with those assigned to the Cold War-era strategic reserve. “It was one weekend a month, two weeks in the summertime and we’re going to give you some retirement pay when you get to age 60.  That’s a pretty good return on investment for me as a soldier,” Stultz said. But today “we want you to leave your job, leave your family and risk your life once every five years,” or even more frequently until the Army is sized properly for current missions. So we have to rethink that [incentive] because I’m not sure if giving retirement at age 60 is an adequate return on investment.  Reservists and their families are right to ask if what they’re giving today isn’t out of balance with what they’re getting back”. Stultz supports two concepts for improving reserve retirement.

  • The first Congress already has adopted, lowering the age 60 start of reserve annuities by three months for every 90 consecutive days in a given fiscal year that a reservist is mobilized.  But, for lack of funds, Congress applied this change only to deployment time after 28 JAN 08.  Left out are thousands deployments by Reserve and Guard members since 9/11. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S. C.) has reintroduced a bill, H.R.208, to extend this change to mobilizations since 9/11.  “I applaud [those] who want to make it retroactive,” said Stultz. Connecting earlier retirement to time deployed “makes a lot of sense,” he added, because it rewards those making greater sacrifices than reservists who enjoy a more stable lifestyle and less risky assignments.
  • The second, which he has talked about with lawmakers about, is to reward soldiers who to serve beyond 20 years, again by lowering the age at which annuities begin. “For every year you stay beyond 20 you can retire six months early.  That’s kind of the idea we’ve postulated,” Stultz said.

Stultz would like to see both provisions to lower reserve retirement age enacted and put to work simultaneously. “You’ve got to cap it though,” he said.  No member should be able to draw an annuity before age 55.  “Then it becomes unaffordable,” he said. For those who say the changes are too expensive, he counters with figures of his own.  “Let’s say I have a sergeant first class and when he retires from the Army Reserve he gets $3000 a month in retirement.  That’s $36,000 a year.  If he is able to get five more years of retirement, that’s $180,000, a significant amount of money.” But then consider, Stultz said, “how much have I invested in that sergeant first class and [the] cost to replace him.”  Given all the training and experience, he said, “we probably invested 10 times that much…So $180,000 is probably a pretty good return on investment if I’m able to get 10 more years of service out of that individual.” Stultz acknowledged that many reservists who already have served 20 years, retired and await the start of retired pay and benefits at 60 will be disappointed if left out of these changes. “That’s just going to have to be a fact of life,” he said. “There are a lot of things that happen in life where they pass a law and say, ‘from this point forward you can be eligible.’  There are a lot of people out there who say, ‘Geez, what about me?’  I don’t think you can make it that retroactive.” First, no budget dollars were set aside to fund earlier retirement for reservists now gone from service, Stultz said.  “But also, conditions have changed.  And at some point you just have to draw the line…There are a lot of things my kids have available to them that I didn’t have growing up.”

On health care, drilling reservists need a dental benefit just to satisfy medical readiness requirements, Stultz said.  With a strategic reserve, there was time to mobilize units and address dental problems at mobilization stations. With an operational reserve, members have to be ready to deploy.  They can’t leave major dental work until they report for duty. Active duty soldiers can visit base dental clinics anytime and get care at government expense.  “It’s another thing to say [to reservists] go get your teeth fixed and it’s going to cost you a couple thousand dollars.” He wants some sort of subsidized reserve dental insurance plan. Families, meanwhile, need more stable health care.  With every deployment, too many have to shift from employer plans to Tricare and back again, switching doctors in an already stressful period.  Stultz want the military begin to subsidize a portion of employer health costs for reserve families if companies agree to continue family coverage through deployment. He illustrated with display board and grease pen how this actually might save money by reducing Tricare transition benefits that overlap now with employer coverage and no longer would be needed for many families. [Source: Stars & Stripes Tom Philpott article 6 Jun 09 ++]

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TRICARE VISION BENEFITS Update 01: Vision care is a Tricare-covered benefit. Below covers how the benefit varies by beneficiary category and service required. For more information refer to the Tricare vision benefit page at http://tricare.mil/mybenefit/ProfileFilter.do?puri=%2Fhome%2FVision:

  • Active Duty: Active duty service members and family members (ADFM) enrolled in Tricare Prime are allowed a comprehensive eye exam every year with no co-pay. Tricare Standard and Extra ADFM beneficiaries older than 6 years have coverage for one routine eye exam yearly. After the deductible is met, cost-shares will apply for those using Tricare Standard and Extra plans.
  • Retirees: Tricare Prime retirees and family members are eligible for one comprehensive eye exam every two years with a network optometrist or ophthalmologist. They may have a $12 co-pay if seen outside the base clinic. Retired beneficiaries with Tricare Standard only have vision benefits when diagnosed with a medical condition such as glaucoma, cataracts or diabetes. Normal deductible and cost shares apply.
  • Children: All Tricare-eligible children, regardless of plan, are covered for eye and vision screenings at birth and for a routine exam at 6 months old by their primary or pediatric provider. All family members between the ages of 3 and 6 years are authorized to receive two comprehensive eye exams—including screening for developmental disorders—annually. After age 6, they can receive one exam per year by an ophthalmologist or optometrist depending on their Tricare plan.
  • Comprehensive Exams: Eye doctors use a wide variety of tests and procedures to examine your eyes during a comprehensive exam. These tests range from simple ones, like reading an eye chart, to more complex tests. Beneficiaries should receive comprehensive exams through an optometrist or ophthalmologist and do not usually need a referral. Tricare Prime beneficiaries will need a referral for routine eye exams received outside the provider network. Active duty service members must get a referral through their primary care manager (PCM). In addition to preventive exams, Tricare covers most medically necessary eye exams. Diabetic beneficiaries are covered for an eye exam each year with no co-payment, regardless of their sponsor’s military status, although they may pay cost shares. Tricare Prime beneficiaries need referrals for medically necessary visits if they are outside of a military treatment facility (MTF). Beneficiaries can find a list of Tricare network vision care providers in TriWest’s online Provider Directory at www.triwest.com. Searches can be conducted by location and specialty (for eye care, choose ophthalmology or optometry). Beneficiaries who receive care at an MTF should check to see if that clinic offers special programs for vision care.
  • Glasses and Contacts: For active duty service members, eyeglasses are available at military treatment facilities at no charge. All other Tricare beneficiaries have coverage for contact lens or eyeglasses only if they are diagnosed with: Infantile glaucoma, Keratoconus, Dry eyes, Irregularities in the eye’s shape, or loss of human lens function from eye surgery or congenital absence. Replacement lenses, or adjustments, cleaning and repairs of eyeglasses are not covered. Contact screenings and fittings are also not a Tricare-covered benefit unless you have one of the medical conditions listed above. [Source: Seattle Military Issues Examiner Kristina Jones article 6 Jun 09 ++]

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GI BILL Update 48: Colorado will begin offering in-state tuition at 30 public colleges and universities for active-duty members and their families and all honorably discharged veterans under the GI Opportunity Act (H.B.1039), a state law signed 2 JUN by Gov. Bill Ritter. The tuition bill, meant to make Colorado more attractive to current and former service members, aims to reverse a phenomenon in which out-of-state veterans apply and are accepted to state schools, only to end up going somewhere else. Last year, for example, 16 out-of-state veterans were accepted for admission to the University of Colorado at Boulder, but only one ended up attending, said retired Marine Corps Col. Greg Akers, director of the school’s office of veterans’ affairs. Many states are ramping up efforts to attract service members, their families and veterans because of the looming 1 AUG launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides benefits to fully cover the cost of in-state undergraduate tuition at a four-year public college or university. By promising in-state tuition rates to service members, to their families who might get the new GI Bill benefits under a transfer option, and to veterans who don’t live in the state, Colorado is promising free education to a potentially large population.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates is about $8,000 a year for Colorado state colleges and universities. Resident tuition is based upon full-time enrollment (15 credit hours each semester) for academic year 2008-2009, not including summer. Comparison costs of Colorado higher education institutions can be viewed at  www.collegeincolorado.com/home.aspx.  Among other things the site provides a table listing all Colorado institutions along with their campus resident tuition charge, additional mandatory fees, room and board, and Institution type.  A section of the website provides virtual tours of each Colorado institution along with contact data. In addition, you can look at campuses by using websites in other states across the country that are similar to those listed for Colorado by selecting the state/site from a provided list. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 4 Jun 09 ++]

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GI BILL Update 49: With the Veterans Affairs De­partment projecting 460,000 peo­ple will try to use the new Post­9/11 GI Bill this year, key law­makers are pledging to wait a year before making any changes to the program that might delay the Aug. 1 launch date. Putting off changes could hurt two kinds of students: private ­school and graduate students in states where GI Bill benefits will fall short of tuition costs, and stu­dents using benefits solely for dis­tance learning, who will not get the program’s monthly living stipend.  More than 60,000 service mem­bers and veterans had applied in the first six weeks to be certified to receive benefits — a first step that lets them know what level of bene­fits they might receive based on their years of service. Pre-certifi­cation is not required, so it’s only a rough guide to the early populari­ty of the benefits program, which covers full tuition plus a stipend and book allowance for full-time undergraduate students who qualify for in-state rates.

In California, the policy of provid­ing free tuition at state schools for in-state students means that GI Bill payments for nonresidents at­tending public schools and students attending private or graduate schools will be very low — as little as $1,000 at Stanford University, where tuition is $35,000 a year. But in this case, the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Bob Filner, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, are both California Democrats does not trump a VA warning that any changes in eligibility or benefits could interfere with the 1 AUG launch date. Congressional aides said many lawmakers want to tweak details of the Post-9/11 GI Bill but do not want to risk being blamed if bene­fits aren’t paid on time. The maximum payment under the new program is capped at the maximum rate charged by each state for in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students. While California has no in-state tuition, students pay $6,586.51 in fees. So the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay no tuition for those who are not in-state undergraduates at public schools, but will cover up to $6,586.51 in fees. Some California lawmakers in­troduced a bill that would make $6,586.51 the tuition cap for the state, rather than the maximum fee reimbursement, but Filner told VA officials that he will not push the measure through his committee this year. Filner also said he supports the living stipend for distance-learn­ing students but is also putting that issue on hold until next year.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced 5 JUN that it has entered into more than 700 agreements with institutions of higher learning across the nation to participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s “Yellow Ribbon Program.” Many schools signed agreements for participation in not only undergraduate programs, but graduate and doctoral programs as well. Some schools entered into one agreement that covered all their campuses throughout the United States. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows degree-granting institutions to voluntarily enter into a formal agreement with VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the highest public, in-state undergraduate rates.  The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. This may enable qualified students to potentially attend school tuition-free. For information on specific schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, refer to http://www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/YRP/YRP_List.htm. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 15 Jun 09 ++]

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GI BILL Update 50: A Veterans Affairs Department internal Inspector General [IG] report released on 29 MAY found numerous contracting irregularities resulting from an agreement VA signed with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center to develop information technology systems, including a high-profile network to process veterans’ educational benefits claims, which has a deadline for completion in AUG 09. VA signed an interagency agreement with SPAWAR in NOV 07 for the center to provide VA with system development, software programming and project management support. The department has issued 22 so-called amendments against the agreement, representing 30 IT projects, for a total cost of $66 million, according to the IG report. Another $73 million worth of IT work is in the pipeline. But the IG found that:

  • VA had not conducted an analysis as required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation as to whether awarding IT contracts to SPAWAR “is in the best interest of the government.” The IG also concluded that SPAWAR, not VA, developed requirements for IT projects that “were often broad and general in nature and lacked specific deliverables.”
  • VA did not know specifics about the agreement, including the fact that SPAWAR was conducting work outside the scope of the agreement and that the center had contracted out 87 percent of the work to outside contractors. These companies subcontracted out the work to other SPAWAR subcontractors, which increased costs because VA “must pay an additional layer of management fees and overhead,” the IG said.
  • VA “could not tell the IG who was performing the work under the [agreement], how many people were providing services, or where they were located.
  • The VA’s Office of Enterprise Development was unaware VA was paying SPAWAR a 10%management fee, and the center was “unable to provide justification or authority to charge” the fee, the IG concluded. By comparison, the General Services Administration charges a 3% management fee on IT contracts, and the Defense Information Systems Agency charges a 1.25% management fee.

The report concluded that VA had “relinquished its oversight of financial performance and work performed under the [agreement] to SPAWAR.”  The IG reported one of the key VA projects SPAWAR is working on is the development of a claims processing system to support the new GI bill, formally known as the 2008 Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act. But the formal statements of work for the GI bill system consisted of “essentially boilerplate” requirements, which SPAWAR developed and did not address the work the center was supposed to do. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who requested the IG investigation, said in a statement released on 29 MAY that problems identified in the report could “seriously jeopardize timely delivery of the Post 9/11 GI bill program. I want assurance that VA is prepared to handle the thousands of claims it will receive for education benefits. VA must take immediate action to get the contracting mess with SPAWAR straightened out.” Buyer said he asked the IG to “provide me with an in-depth briefing, but it is clear from this disturbing report that VA desperately needs strong and specific reform in their acquisition operations.”

Stephen Warren, principal deputy assistant secretary in the VA’s Office of Information and Technology, said that it was unfair to compare the management fees charged by GSA with the higher fees the VA pays SPAWAR. “We did not bring them [SPAWAR] on as a contract management agent,” he said. “We are paying them for expertise and consider them a partner.” Warren said he found it “problematic” that SPAWAR was subcontracting out VA work, particularly “if we are paying extra fees.” The IG recommended VA’s Office of Information and Technology craft more clearly defined statements of work for SPAWAR under the agreement and that its Office of Enterprise Development establish a method of determining reasonable cost estimates and improving oversight of contracts to third parties. Warren said the Office of Information Technology considers IG reports as guidance to “help us do our job better” and will work on implementing its recommendations. [Source: Nextgov Bob Brewin article 6 Jun 09 ++]

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VIETNAM VETERANS & AGENT ORANGE: From 1961 to 1971, U.S. military forces sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on forests and crops in southern and central Vietnam. The campaign had both human and environmental consequences. The immediate effect was to defoliate and destroy vegetation over wide areas. The delayed impact came from dioxin, a highly toxic chemical in Agent Orange that is critically harmful to humans. More than 35 years later, dioxin continues to pose significant health and safety concerns. It remains at dangerously high levels in and around former U.S. air bases where planes carrying the toxic spray were based, in some instances contaminating local food chains. A disturbingly high number of birth defects, cancers, and other diseases have struck Vietnamese veterans, civilians, their offspring and those now living in affected regions of Vietnam. Many American veterans of the campaign and their families have experienced health crises too. For decades, the after-effects of dioxin remained an unresolved matter between the United States and Vietnam. The United States sought to avoid what appeared to be an open-ended liability; the Vietnamese were concerned that pushing too hard to address the matter might jeopardize their export-led growth strategy and entry into the World Trade Organization.

Today, promising initiatives and efforts from diverse constituencies have fostered a new environment of cooperation between the United States and Vietnam. Government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and nonprofit donors are responding to the challenging legacy of Agent Orange. The Ford Foundation has taken a leadership role in the philanthropic community, working to address the impact of dioxin on post-war Vietnam by seeking to increase awareness and resources around a humanitarian agenda.  They have published a paper titled “U.S. VIETNAM VETERANS AND AGENT ORANGE: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later” which is of interest to all Vietnam veterans and their children. The paper was commissioned by the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin and written by the National Organization on Disability (NOD).  The production of this paper was inspired in part by NOD’s participation in the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, a bilateral citizens’ group of five Vietnamese and five Americans convened by the Ford Foundation.  One goal of the Dialogue Group is to make the U.S. public aware of the continuing environmental and health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from use of Agent Orange by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. A second goal is to mobilize resources and build effective public-private partnerships to respond to those consequences without further delay. This paper adds to those efforts by examining where we are in our own country relative to the affects of Agent Orange on our soldiers and their families.

Although these issues date back more than 40 years, they remain critically important for at least two reasons. First, it is still not too late to correct lapses in the nation’s treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War. Many of them began reporting high rates of illness and disability soon after their wartime service, and yet waited many years (and in some cases are still waiting) for a fair resolution to their concerns. Those concerns now extend to health effects among their children and grandchildren. Many of the effects are still poorly understood and officially unrecognized. Second, these issues continue to resonate is that the use of chemicals on the world’s battlefields has only increased in the years since the Vietnam War ended. One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of using such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations, long after the original causes of conflict have been resolved. It is timely for our nation to address war legacies, past and present, and make good on our promise to care for our own.

Those interested can review the paper which I have included as a Bulletin attachment. If unable to open the attachment let me know and I will forward a copy to you.  It content is too lengthy to summarize in one article as it encompasses the following:

  • Historical Summary of the Issue
  • The Early Years: A Trickle of Information and Tentative Responses
  • A Decade of Lost Time, then the Start of an Organized Response
  • Science and Eligibility: Piecemeal Expansion
  • The Fate of the ‘Ranch Hand’ Data
  • The Situation Today: Who is Eligible?
  • The Available Benefits and Services
  • What’s Needed: Five Recommendations for Greater Clarity and Justice

[Source:  www.fordfound.org/programs/signature/agentorange/issue Jun 09 ++]

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TSP Update 18: The Thrift Savings Plan’s five basic funds continued to grow steadily in May, helping to offset losses from earlier in the year. All TSP funds are now showing growth since the beginning of 2009, although many are still reeling from late 2008 losses.

  • The I Fund, invested in international companies, had another month of double-digit growth in May, increasing by 13.41 %. It now boasts a 7.77 % gain since the beginning of 2009, but still is down 36.12 % over the past 12 months.
  • The C Fund, made up of common stocks of large companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, gained 5.6 % in May, and has grown 3.05 % since the beginning of the year. During the past 12 months, it has lost 32.5 %.
  • The S Fund, which is invested in small- and mid-size companies and tracks the Dow Jones Wilshire 4500 Index, cooled off after double-digit gains in April. In May, it grew 3.97 %, and it is up 7.07 % since the beginning of the year. The fund is down 33.92 % for the past 12 months.
  • The less risky G and F funds continued to make steady but small gains in May. The G Fund, made up of government securities, rose 0.25 %, and the fixed incomes bonds in the F Fund increased 0.78 %. Both have gone up since the beginning of the 2009, and they are the only funds that have increased in value during the past 12 months.
  • The G Fund gained 1.09 % since the beginning of the year, and 3.37 % since May 2008. The F Fund earned 1.4 % since the beginning of the year, and 5.52 % over the past 12 months.

All life-cycle funds posted gains during May, and are in the black for 2009 — but they have not been able to make up for losses they sustained in 2008. The L funds have different mixes of investments that grow less risky as participants near retirement. The L 2040 Fund stayed at the head of the pack for the life-cycle options, rising 6.19 %. It has gained 5.05 % since the beginning of 2009, but has lost 26.74 % since May 2008, putting it at the largest deficit among the L funds. The L 2030 gained 5.45 % during May, and 4.72 % for 2009, but has fallen by 23.01 % over the past 12 months. The L 2020 gained 4.66 % in May and 4.25 % so far this year; it lost 18.76 % since May 2008. The L 2010 increased 2.28 % in May and 2.58 % in 2009, and lost 8.28 % during the past 12 months.

The L Income Fund, designed to be the most conservative for those who will soon retire, gained 1.7 % in May and 2.34 % since the beginning of the year. It has lost 3.66 % since the same time in 2008. . [Source: GovExec.com Alex M. Parker article 1 Jun ++]

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TSP Update 19: The top executive overseeing the Thrift Savings Plan said it will take a minimum of one year, more likely two to get a Roth in­vestment option in place. Congress is poised to add a Roth option to the Thrift Savings Plan that would enable participants to make tax­able contributions that could grow and be withdrawn at retire­ment tax-free. Currently, TSP in­vestments are made tax-free and then taxed when they are withdrawn. A Roth option will benefit those who have higher incomes during retirement — and, thus, would be in a higher income tax bracket — than during their military or feder­al careers. Service members, who enjoy significant tax breaks while in uniform, are among those most likely to benefit from a Roth option. In a 2 JUN interview with Mili­tary Times editors and reporters, Federal Retirement Thrift Invest­ment Board executive director Greg Long and external affairs di­rector Tom Trabucco said the board is already talking to the military services and federal agencies about changes they will need to make to payroll systems to accommodate the Roth option.“It is a big deal,” Long said.

The board also will have to fig­ure out how best to help partici­pants decide if a Roth option is right for them. Long said the board plans to study private­ sector plans that offer a Roth op­tion to see how they educate their participants. He was initially un­sure whether a Roth option would be used widely enough to justify the costs of adding it, but changed his mind after seeing growing and sustained interest among service members and federal civilian employees. Trabucco said Pentagon officials want to automatically enroll young, lower-paid military recruits into a TSP Roth plan, a change from their initial stance. The Pen­tagon previously had not support­ed automatic enrollment because service members don’t receive government matching funds for their TSP contributions, as most federal employees do. Most federal civilians opt for it  Trabucco said TSP participation rates among federal civilians have ranged between 84% and 87% of those eligible for the last decade.

Congress is poised to approve a bill that would automatically enroll civilian employees and give them matching funds right away. Long said he hopes participation rates could climb into the low-90% range with automatic enrollment. Enrollment rates among service members have been much lower, with the Navy topping the list in the mid-50% range. But Long said that if the Defense Department does automatically en­roll new troops, that could help push enrollment from more than 4 million participants today to 5 million. Also, that even though the TSP’s stock-based funds dropped in value over the last 1½ years be­cause of the stock market crash, he is more confident than ever that the plan’s structure is sound. He said, “If you take a look at our Lifecy­cle Funds, our L Funds, and the performance of them relative to competing products [in the pri­vate sector], the performance of our [L] 2010 Fund in 2008 was down substantially less than most of the competing products out there. That says … we did some things right. We took an appropriate level of risk for somebody planning on starting to draw down income in 2010, and maybe the marketplace didn’t look at it the same way we did. Even though it was a very diffi­cult period, I think it demonstrat­ed to us that we made some good decisions.” [Source: NavyTimes Stephen Losey article 15 Jun 09 ++]

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TRICARE NEWS Update 01: Tricare provides updates on the latest news to help you make the best use of your Tricare benefit.  This update addresses:

  • Behavioral health care options expansion with IOP.
  • Dependent parents and parents-in-law coverage via Tricare Plus
  • Nursing home care

Intensive Outpatient Programs: Tricare beneficiaries who find themselves in need of more than a little, but less than a lot of help dealing with behavioral health and substance use issues now have a new behavioral health care treatment option. A clarification of Tricare policy now permits beneficiaries to take advantage of intensive outpatient programs, or IOPs, and allows them to be covered under the existing half-day partial hospitalization program benefit. Treatment in an IOP is on an outpatient basis and provides a program of medical therapeutic services at least three hours per day. IOPs also offer beneficiaries more flexibility through day, evening, night or weekend program options. There are no “emergency” admissions to an IOP, so prior authorization is always required.  And IOP providers must be Tricare-authorized for partial hospitalization program.

Tricare Plus: Some beneficiaries can normally only get care at a military treatment facility on a space-available basis.  Tricare plus is a program that lets them enroll and get primary care appointments at the military hospital.  They then get the same primary care access standards as beneficiaries enrolled in Tricare Prime.  For example, retirees and retiree family members using Tricare for life can enroll in Tricare plus – if it’s available at their local military treatment facility.  Then they are guaranteed a routine appointment within one week, just like prime patients. Tricare plus is only available at certain military facilities, and the local hospital commander may limit enrollment to specific categories of beneficiaries. Tricare beneficiaries enrolled in a prime option, a civilian HMO, or Medicare HMO are not eligible for Tricare Plus. To find out if you can participate in Tricare Plus, contact your local military hospital.  Enrollment into Tricare plus at one facility does not automatically extend enrollment to another. And the military hospital is not responsible for any costs when a Tricare Plus enrollee is referred outside the military facility for additional care. Enrollment in Tricare plus will be reflected in DEERS, the defense enrollment eligibility reporting system.  Tricare plus does not guarantee access to specialty care at the military treatment facility.

Nursing Home Care: At some point in our lives, many of us will have to make a decision about moving into a nursing home either for ourselves, or for a family member.  Understanding the specifics of Tricare’s skilled nursing coverage can help you with these choices.  In general, Tricare covers skilled nursing care, but custodial care is not a Tricare covered benefit, just as it is not covered under Medicare or most civilian health plans.  Care must be provided by a Tricare-authorized provider, such as a skilled nursing facility.  Nursing homes and intermediate care facilities are excluded from Tricare coverage. Skilled nursing care is normally provided for rehabilitative services, with projected improvement goals.  Custodial care is defined by law as providing assistance with the activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing and eating, and can be provided safely and reasonably by a person who is not medically skilled. Also, remember that Tricare for life is the last payer to all other health insurances.  There are options for covering custodial care in a nursing home setting.  You can buy long-term care insurance through commercial insurance programs or through the federal long-term care insurance program, which some retirees may be eligible for.

[Source:  Tricare Beneficiary Bulletin 18 dtd 4 Jun 09 ++]

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BATAAN DEATH MARCH Update 01: Japan’s Ambassador to the U.S. delivered his government’s historic apology to the former POWs of Japan, their families, and friends at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC) on 30 MAY in San Antonio, Texas. In the Pacific Theater, during World War II sixty eight years ago, over 29,000 American military personnel were captured by the Japanese and forced by the Japanese Army to march 70 miles up the Bataan Peninsula, in the Philippine Islands. The 10 day march resulted in the death of an estimated 10,000 U. S. servicemen. Survivors of the march were shipped to Japan where they were forced into slave labor in coal mines owned by Japanese firms. The survivors of the Death March suffered constant beatings and abuse while fighting malnutrition and disease. Nearly 40% of those POWs died in captivity as a result of the Bataan Death March and the horrific conditions that existed in the Japanese POW forced labor camps and enslavement at private Japanese companies.  The ADBC, for decades, has been pressing Japan for an apology for the inhumane treatment American POWs suffered under Japan’s colonial rule during WWII.  They also seek an apology from Japanese industry for their inhumane actions and to include the American POWs in a new and permanent Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Fund. [Source: VFW Washington Weekly 5 Jun 09 ++]

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HVAC Update 07: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to assess the merits and weaknesses of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs to help homeless veterans obtain meaningful employment and permanent housing. Overall, the number of homeless veterans is estimated to have dropped by nearly half since 2002 when then-President Bush revitalized the Interagency Council on Homelessness and made VA an integral part of a larger initiative to end chronic homelessness in the United States. In a statement submitted for the record, Ranking Member Steve Buyer lauded the effectiveness of VA and Department of Labor (DOL) programs that have helped thousands of veterans escape the desperate cycle of life on the streets, but warned that the Committee must anticipate problems that are arising as a result of the economic downturn and changing demographics within the veteran population. Buyer said, “The data on homeless veterans offers signs of hope and encouragement that programs we have implemented are working. Yet at the same time, we see a disturbing increase in the number of homeless women veterans, many of whom have children. These individuals require a safe, supportive environment, and a private setting, in which they can regain their footing and acquire skills that will lead to meaningful employment and permanent housing.”

On 4 JUN the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on meeting the needs of family caregivers of veterans. The hearing hoped to identify gaps in supportive services to those family members providing care to severely disabled veterans. Witnesses included representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project, National Military Family Association, VA, DOD, HHS, and groups that provide in-home and respite care for  individuals in need. Chairman Michael Michaud (D-ME) asked panelists to comment on recent legislation introduced and what the committee can provide by way of economic and other support for those caring for their wounded family members. Lack of coordination between VA and DOD when providing services was the most common complaint of witnesses.  Retired Cmdr. Rene Campos, Deputy Director for government relations, Military Officers Association of America said it best when she commented as a part of her testimony that “There needs to be a commitment from VA and DOD to work together to build a total package that will meet the needs of the servicemember and their families now and into the future.” For more information on the hearings or to view the recorded webcast go to: http://veterans.house.gov/

On 5 JUN, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health approved a health care measure for women veterans, and then held a hearing to consider recommendations calling for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) support for family members who provide care to disabled veterans. H.R.1211, as amended, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, would

  • Authorize $4 million to VA to study barriers women face in accessing VA health care and another $5 million for an assessment of the VA’s health care services and programs provided to female veterans.
  • Create a new program to offer graduate medical education, training and certification to mental health professionals who provide counseling, care and services for veterans suffering from sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Authorize $1.5 million in 2010 and 2011 for a pilot program to provide child care to veterans who are receiving mental health or other intensive care services at VA facilities.
  • Provide health care services for the newborns of female veterans who delivered at VA facilities for 7 days after birth.

The bill was favorably reported by voice vote to the full Committee. Subcommittee Ranking Member Henry Brown, Jr. said,  “I am pleased to be a cosponsor of H.R. 1211 … Family caregivers may face an array of challenges such as job absences, lost income, travel and relocation costs, child care concerns, exhaustion, and emotional or psychological stress. It is vitally important to the health and well-being of our wounded warriors and their loved ones to support and preserve the critical role they provide.” Last month, the Senate VA Committee passed similar legislation in a large health care bill.  [Source: TREA Washington Update & VFW Washington Weekly 5 Jun 09 ++]

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HVAC Update 08: The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) approved 23-0 legislation that would fund VA medical care one year in advance.  The committee also included VA’s IT accounts in the bill as an amendment. H.R.1016, The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, will allow VA to better plan for the future, attract and recruit high-quality health care professionals, and allow them to better target gaps in care. The Senate passed their version (S.423) in May.  This and the following cleared bills now move to the House floor for consideration. For more information on any of the bills cleared refer to the House VA website at: http://veterans.house.gov or type the bill # into the box at http://thomas.loc.gov:

  • H.R.952 would expand the meaning of combat with the enemy to mean active duty service in a combat theater during a time of war not just during actual combat. The bill aims to shorten the claims process for many veterans suffering from psychological injuries.
  • H.R.1037 as amended, the Pilot College Work Study Programs for Veterans Act of 2009, would authorize $10 million annually to establish a five-year pilot project to test the feasibility and advisability of expanding the scope of veterans’ work-study activities.
  • H.R.1098 as amended, the Veterans’ Worker Retraining Act of 2009, would increase the amount of VA educational assistance payments to individuals pursuing an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. It also increases the monthly training assistance for eligible veterans and their dependents under the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program.
  • H.R.1211, as amended, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act that will improve health care services for female veterans.
  • H.R.1821, The Equity for Injured Veterans Act of 2009 would extend VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program to 15 years following discharge or release from active duty. It also authorizes single parents participating in the program up to $2000 a month for child care services.
  • H.R.2180 would waive housing loan fees for veterans with service-connected disabilities called to active duty.
  • H.R.2270 would establish a compensation fund for certain WWII veterans who were not eligible for readjustment benefits.  Those eligible would receive a monthly payment of $1000

[Source: VFW Washington Weekly 12 Jun 09 ++]

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TRICARE/CHAMPUS FRAUD Update 14: The Queen’s Medical Center has paid $2.5 million to settle two lawsuits alleging Hawaii’s largest private hospital overcharged Medicare, the state’s Medicaid program and Tricare health benefits program for military dependents, the U.S. Attorney said 3 JUN.  John Nitao, vice president and general counsel of The Queen’s Health Systems, said the medical center denies any wrongdoing. “But after five years of discussions and negotiations with the government, (Queens) has agreed to settle this matter so that its resources may be spent on providing quality health care rather than on legal fees,” he said in a statement. The settlement grew out of civil lawsuits brought in federal and state court by two former pharmacy technicians under the federal and state False Claims Acts. The former employees, who were given $400,000 of the settlement, alleged that the hospital submitted false bills for pharmaceuticals and billed federal programs for services provided by residents without the level of supervision required by federal rules. U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo Jr. praised the whistleblowers, who were not identified in the settlement announcement, for their “courage in coming forward with the case.” He said the False Claims Act allows the government to seek up to triple damages, plus penalties, for false and fraudulent claims submitted to government programs.

The government alleged that from 8 SEP 99 through 28 OCT 02, Queen’s submitted false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare seeking payment for the dispensation of anti-psychotic medications allegedly ordered by a psychiatrist. But it said the medications were prescribed by physicians without the prior knowledge of a psychiatrist. Also, from 1 JUL 99 through 30 JUN 06, Queen’s wrongfully submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare for services it represented were provided by teaching physicians when Queen’s did not have the documentary evidence necessary to demonstrate that they were involved in the services to the degree necessary to support payment of the claims. Under Medicare rules, Queen’s was permitted to bill for certain services rendered by residents, provided that the residents were supervised by teaching physicians. Queen’s denied the government’s contentions.

Besides the $2.5 million Queen’s paid in the settlement, it also entered a corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General. Under the agreement, Queen’s will maintain a compliance program designed to assure that its billings conform to all applicable program rules for a period of five years. The hospital “pledged to continue its efforts to provide high quality health care while continuing to foster a culture of compliance with health care program rules,” federal prosecutors said. Located in downtown Honolulu, Queen’s is licensed to operate with 505 acute care beds and 28 sub-acute beds. The medical center has more than 3,000 employees and over 1,200 physicians on staff. [Source: IdahoStatesman.org AP JAYMES SONG article 3 Jun 09 ++]

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PTSD Update 27: The House Veterans Affairs Disability Assistance Subcommittee on 3 JUN approved the Compensation Owed for Mental Health Based on Activities in Theater Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Act (H.R.952) that would make it easier for veterans to receive financial compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill was referred to the full committee on a voice vote, despite votes against it from at least two of the three Republican members. Sponsored by Disability Assistance Subcommittee Chairman John Hall (D-NY) and 16 other Democrats, the bill would allow a veteran to qualify for the monthly compensation for combat-related PTSD just by demonstrating that the psychological disorder was caused by something that happened while he or she was serving in the combat theater as defined by the Defense secretary. Currently, the Veterans Affairs Department requires proof that the stress occurred during combat with the enemy. Hall said that narrow definition was not what Congress intended when it passed legislation providing the financial compensation. He said it denies financial assistance to the many service members who experienced traumatic incidents while performing support functions. It particularly impacted women veterans, who are defined as noncombatants, he said. But Subcommittee ranking member Doug Lamborn (R-CO) protested that the bill was too broad and could cover hundreds of thousands of veterans. Hall promised to work with Lamborn and the Republicans on possibly refining the qualification criteria before the bill goes to the full committee, perhaps in mide-JUN.  Veterans for Common Sense thanked Chairman John Hall for his leadership on the issue of streamlining disability claims for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. His legislation represents a critical step forward in recognizing the mental health consequences of serving in a war zone. [Source: CongressDaily Otto Kreisher article 4 Jun 09 ++]

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TRICARE PRIME Update 04: A new DoD policy aimed at “cleaning up” Tricare Prime enrollment at military treatment facilities (MTF) could mean some significant changes for many Prime enrollees. Tricare has long had established travel access standards to help beneficiaries receive timely health care. The standards require that enrollees shouldn’t be assigned a primary care manager (PCM) at a military hospital or clinic that’s more than a 30-minute up to 99 miles drive from the beneficiary’s home address. As a practical matter, DoD never really enforced that policy. But it will be enforced now. To continue to be seen in the MTF, current Prime enrollees in the U.S. who live farther away than a 30-minute drive from the MTF will have to request a waiver of the drive-time standard from  both the MTF Commander or designee and the Tricare Regional Director before enrolling to the MTF.

Waivers will be granted on a MTF’s capacity to provide care.  Approved waivers will remain in effect for the entire enrollment period (i.e. one year) unless the beneficiary moves.  Waivers will have to be renewed annually from now on. Drive times will be determined by a computer program similar to MapQuest. Unless they apply for and are granted a waiver before 1 OCT, enrollees who live more than 30 minutes (but less than 40 miles) from the MTF will be assigned a civilian primary care manager closer to their residence. Absent a waiver, those who live more than 40 miles from the MTF will be disenrolled from Prime and revert to Tricare Standard as of 1 OCT. Beneficiaries residing from 31 minutes up to 99 miles from the MTF must have approval from that MTF in order to receive care at that MTF.  Beneficiaries residing 100 miles or more from the MTF will be required to have an approved waiver from both the MTF Commander or designee and the Tricare Regional Director before enrolling to the MTF.  Tricare contractors are mailing letters to all affected beneficiaries, providing detailed instructions on the waiver process. [Source: MOAA Leg Up 5 Jun 09 ++]

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D-DAY: June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded — but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler. An eight minute narrated video on the invasion can be viewed at www.army.mil/d-day. Also at this site can be found:

  • A collection of U.S. Army photography from the build up of troops in England, to the beaches and airborne landings in France.
  • A listing of the American Divisions involved in the Normandy Campaign and contact information for their active divisions and retiree associations.
  • Descriptions and maps of the Normandy beachheads the Allies invaded.
  • Both text and the actual reading (.mp3) of General Eisenhower’s Message.
  • A selection of World War II posters available in high resolution to download.
  • A collection of news articles related to the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
  • A collection of links related to the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

[Source: www.army.mil/d-day Jun 09 ++]

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D-DAY Update 01: On the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the foundation that runs the National D-Day Memorial is on the brink of financial ruin. Donations are down in the poor economy. World War II veterans, the primary base of support, are dying off. And the privately funded memorial is struggling to draw visitors because it’s hundreds of miles from a major city. Facing the prospect of cutting staff and hours, the memorial’s president believes its only hope for long-term survival is to be taken over by the National Park Service or by a college or university. So far, he’s found no takers. “All institutions are in various states of privation of one kind or another,” foundation President William McIntosh said. “Everybody’s endowment has been slapped around pretty badly by the economy.” But by contrast, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which opened as a D-Day museum in 2000, is thriving with an $8 million budget supported largely by 120,000 memberships The Bedford Virginia memorial opened eight years ago at a ceremony attended by President George W. Bush. It was built in Bedford because the community about 115 miles west of Richmond suffered among the nation’s highest per-capita losses on D-Day.

Members of Congress were reminded of the memorial when they attended a special screening 6 JUN of a new documentary about Bedford’s role at Normandy titled “Bedford: The Town They Left Behind,” hosted by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). The outdoor Bedford museum tells the story of the Normandy invasion in sculptures of soldiers and their leaders. Air jets shoot mini-geysers of water to mimic enemy gunfire as bronze figures of soldiers struggle for shore in a reflecting pool. Some 10,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded in the costly landing. The memorial’s attention to detail evokes an emotional response for those who lived through D-Day, said James A. Huston, a World War II veteran and historian who received the French Legion of Honor in Paris on the 6 JUN. “The whole idea is well done,” said Huston, retired dean of nearby Lynchburg College. “It tells the story.” The privately owned foundation faced financial disaster soon after its 2001 opening, prompting a criminal investigation and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Federal fraud charges eventually were dropped against the memorial’s former director, Richard B. Burrow, who led aggressive efforts to build the monument in time for many aging World War II veterans to see it. Soaring construction costs put the foundation some $7 million in debt, but McIntosh said donations erased the deficit by 2006. Still, as McIntosh looks ahead, he sees a bleak future. “It makes me sad for America that we can’t do a bit better than this,” he said. Expenses run about $2.2 million yearly, only $600,000 of which comes from visitors.

Slightly more than half of visitors come from outside Virginia, McIntosh said, but the memorial cannot count on increases at the gate. It is 200 miles from the tourist crowds of Washington. Salaries and benefits for 20-plus employees amount to nearly $1 million a year, according to Internal Revenue Service documents. The memorial relies on a crew of 220 volunteers for much of the work of putting on programs and maintaining about 20 landscaped acres. McIntosh said layoffs and reduced hours will be necessary in a few weeks, but even those measures will not be enough to keep the gates open for long. The foundation has just $300,000 available to pay operating expenses, he said, and an endowment of $400,000. Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, whose district includes the memorial, plans to introduce legislation this week to transfer the site to the Park Service. A Park Service spokesman said new parks are created primarily by Congress, which proposes them and then authorizes the Park Service to study whether they meet the criteria for a national park. “It’s not a common everyday occurrence,” said Phil Sheridan, of the Park Service’s regional office in Philadelphia.

McIntosh thinks the Bedford memorial would be an ideal companion museum to the World War II Memorial in Washington, which is overseen by the Park Service. The foundation president has courted other potential owners including Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Liberty, about 25 miles away, hosted a D-Day conference as part of the memorial’s anniversary celebration, but it declined to take any responsibility for the site. McIntosh believes the memorial’s mission of telling the D-Day story would be better served if it could build an interpretive center. But that would take money the memorial does not expect to get, he said. “I don’t think you do anybody any favors to keep making something bigger and better if you can’t see a way to feed it,” he said. McIntosh, 65, would like to see the memorial’s future secure before his contract ends in a year. “It is in a very good position to move to the next level, to open a new chapter on its story,” he said. [Source:  Tampa Bay online AP article 2 JUN 09 ++]

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VDHCBS: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki announced 4 JUN a landmark collaboration to help the families of older Americans and Veterans with disabilities of all ages care for their loved ones in the community.  This partnership builds on the similar missions of HHS and the VA with regard to caring for the populations they serve and has as its ultimate goal a nationwide home and community-based long-term-care support program to serve older Americans and veterans of all ages. Through this collaboration, many adults and veterans who would have previously been placed in nursing homes will be able to remain with their loved ones. HHS and VA are making $10 million in funding available to bring this initiative to 20 states.  This partnership will implement the Veteran Directed Home & Community Based Service (VDHCBS) program through HHS’ aging and human services network, in coordination with the Administration on Aging’s (AoA) Community Living Program (CLP) which helps the family caregivers of individuals with ongoing need to keep their loved ones at home.  Both programs allow participants to direct their own care, including having control over the types of services they receive and the manner in which they are provided.  This includes the option of hiring their neighbors, friends and even some family members, to provide needed services. HHS’ national network of aging and community based organizations will work in close collaboration with the VA Medical Centers across the country to continue to develop and expand VDHCBS for veterans.  The CLP, led by AoA, will help states and communities to assist individuals who are at risk of nursing home placement but who are not Medicaid eligible to remain at home. [Source: AoA press release 4 Jun 09 ++]

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ADMINISTRATION ON AGING: The mission of the Administration on Aging (AoA) is to help elderly individuals maintain their dignity and independence in their homes and communities through comprehensive, coordinated, and cost effective systems of long-term care, and livable communities across the U.S. The vision of AoA  for older people is embodied in the Older Americans Act and is based on the American value that dignity is inherent to all individuals in our democratic society, and the belief that older people should have the opportunity to fully participate in all aspects of society and community life, be able to maintain their health and independence, and remain in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.  At the AoA website www.aoa.gov can be found  information and guidance for the benefit and care of our ageing veterans and family members.   Anyone experiencing or anticipating elder care would find it useful to check out The Eldercare Locator at www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/Elders_Families/index.aspx.  This is the first step for finding local agencies in every U.S. community that can help older persons and their families’ access home and community-based services like transportation, meals, home care, and caregiver support services. Also at this site can under the Resource section be found:

  • Fact sheets on Adult Day Care, Assisted Living, Assistive Technology, Government Assisted Housing, Home Health Care,  Home Modifications,  Hospice Care, and Respite Care.
  • Booklets/brochures in PDF or Word versions that address the issues of:
  1. Housing Options for Older Adults – A Guide for Making Housing Decisions provides an overview of the types of housing available to older adults, and highlights some personal and legal issues to consider in making housing decisions.
  2. Staying “IN TOUCH” in Crisis Situations – Outlines how families can stay in touch with older loved ones and be prepared when a crisis situation occurs. It includes a tear-off sheet for personal planning.
  3. Pick Up the Pace –  A consumer guide designed to educate boomers about financial and retirement planning choices and to help them secure their financial outlook for the future.
  4. Preventing Falls at Home – Describes safety checks older adults can do in and around the house to reduce their risk of falling and help enhance their independent living.
  5. Transportation Options for Older Adults – Choices for Mobility Independence describes various types of transportation services for older adults and lists key questions to ask transportation provider to determine the best option to meet individual needs.
  • A listing federal Web sites that offer valuable information on a range of critical eldercare issues.
  • Links to numerous non-profit organizations that focus on eldercare and other aging issues.
  • Links to Caregiver resources designed to assist family members and caregivers of older adults.

[Source: www.aoa.gov Jun 09 ++]

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USFSPA & DIVORCE Update 06: Oklahoma HB 1053 is an Act relating to marriage; amending 43 O.S. 2001, Section 134, as amended by Section 11, Chapter 407, O.S.L. 2008 (43 O.S. Supp. 2008, Section 134), which relates to payments pertaining to support and division of property; providing considerations for a state court to review when determining classification of certain pay; providing for termination of certain payments upon proof of certain cohabitation or remarriage; and providing an effective date.  A provision of this bill directs the court not to include disability retirement pay in division of property. Although HB 1053 passed overwhelmingly in both the Oklahoma House and Senate, it is still grinding slowly through the state’s full legislative process.  The final Bill has confronted opposition, from ex-spouses and from attorneys.  Several Oklahoma lawyers have been very vocal in opposing passage of the Bill, and Senators who are attorneys could possibly vote nay.  Advocates of HB 1053, though frustrated in seeing their Bill delayed, are steadfast in their position to hold firm and reform their state’s divorce law.  They are confident their efforts will prevail in spite of having the Bill now roll into the January 2010 session.  In the meantime, however, the Bill is in “Interim Study,” which allows for hearings and further education of those opposed and cannot be derailed without a vote.  This Oklahoma precedent, if enacted into state law, will literally (and legally) off-set several of the egregious provisions of the USFSPA.

The USFSPA Liberation Support Group (USLG) Washington Team reports making significant inroads on Capitol Hill with U.S. Congresspersons and Senators, with the objective of meeting, briefing and influencing lawmakers at the federal level to take action to repeal the USFSPA. To learn more about this organization and their goals refer to www.ulsg.org. USLG has launched a second offensive through their State Reps that they believe will nullify effects of the USFSPA at the state level.  Their leadership has contacted all eighteen ULSG State Reps believing that now is the ideal time to take the Oklahoma example to the other states.  Nine of those have agreed to immediately undertake the effort to influence their state legislatures and convince them to emulate the Oklahoma Initiative.  In addition to Oklahoma, to date, Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas have stepped up and are organizing their teams and developing strategies to contact their state’s most supportive legislators and begin the process.  Coordination with the individual State Reps to help develop approach strategies, briefings for legislators and offer suggestions to encourage legislation co-sponsors has begun.  If you want to be a part of this, contact your ULSG State Rep. If your state is absent a ULSG Rep, to volunteer to be your state’s Rep contact ULSG Leadership at leadership@ulsg.org.  Current ULSG State Reps are:

  • “USLG – Alabama” <bill.jones@hasher.us> Bill Jones
  • “USLG – Arizona” <everettulsg@gmail.com> Everett Pincolini
  • “USLG – California” <semperfi71@hotmail.com> Dwayne Lewis
  • “USLG – Colorado” <m_mckown1066@hotmail.com> Michael McKown
  • “USLG – Florida” <dare2bare1@bellsouth.net> Larry Allen
  • “USLG – Georgia” <nmdakin@yahoo.com> Nancy Dakin
  • “USLG – Hawaii” <skindiver4605@yahoo.com> Daniel Dubois
  • “USLG – Idaho” <cleve53@yahoo.com> Ron Cleveland
  • “USLG – Indiana” <pmspall@aol.com> Paula Spell
  • “USLG – Maryland” <woodard-bayes@comcast.net> Debra Woodard-Bayes
  • “USLG – Montana” <m_mckown1066@hotmail.com> Michael McKown
  • “USLG – Nebraska” <cirrus114@yahoo.com> Tom Miller
  • “USLG – Nevada” <jimjanduggins@yahoo.com> James Duggins
  • “USLG – New York” <rbalick@twcny.rr.com> Bob Balick
  • “USLG – Oklahoma” <frankevo99@aol.com> Frank Kurland
  • “USLG – Pennsylvania” <cmshill@aol.com> Dale Hill
  • “USLG – Tennessee” <rhutachi535@hotmail.com> Bob Hutchings
  • “USLG – Texas” <throck@gvtc.com> Bob Throckmorton

[Source: USFSPA Liberation Support Group Update 4 Jun 09 ++]

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USFSPA & DIVORCE Update 07: A letter request for a hearing to examine the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) was delivered to the House Armed service Committee (HASC) Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA-53) on 4 JUN 09.  It was signed by Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC-02) and co-signed by Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC-03). Coming from the Ranking Member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, Rep. Joe Wilson, it is probable that the request will be granted.  Key to this effort has not only been the Congressman’s personal concern for military veterans but the emphasis and direction provided by the Watts Consultant Group and the USFSPA-Litigation Support Group (ULSG) Washington team.  If granted, it is hard to predict a date the hearing will be scheduled but it is expected to be sooner rather than later.  With normally two or three hearings each week, it could be scheduled before the summer recess 1 AUG.  Hearings are held only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and usually two weeks’ notice is given once a date is announced. Coinciding with this letter delivery to the HASC is another written request for a hearing submitted to Davis from the National Military and Veterans Alliance (NMVA) on 27 MAY.  The NMVA represents 31 veterans groups nationwide.

Timing of ULSG efforts for USFSPA repeal in 2009 remains critical and optimal!  Veterans interested in this issue should continue corresponding with their elected officials in D.C. emphasizing their concerns regarding the unfairness and impact of the USFSPA and calling for its repeal.  Particularly write to members of the Military Personnel Subcommittee who are your elected officials.  A list of the legislators serving on this committee follows. Contact data including online email access directly to each member’s office can be obtained by clicking on the representative’s name at www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml :

  • Chairwoman Rep. Susan A. Davis, California
  • Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina
  • Rep. Vic Snyder, Arkansas
  • Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California
  • Rep. John Kline, Minnesota
  • Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, Guam
  • Rep. Tom Rooney, Florida
  • Rep. Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania
  • Rep. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma
  • Rep. Hank Johnson, Georgia
  • Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana
  • Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire
  • Rep. David Loebsack, Iowa
  • Rep. Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts

[Source: ULSG, LLC msg. 8 Jun 09 ++]

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COUGHING: We all cough from time to time, but severe coughing may signal a respiratory disease. Coughing is a reflex that keeps the lungs and airways free from phlegm (excess mucus) and foreign objects (such as food) that might interfere with breathing. Occasional coughing is normal, as is the coughing associated with a cold (the most common acute medical problem that triggers a cough). Any cough that lasts more than two months, however, is defined as chronic and requires medical attention — even if the cough occurs only in the morning, at night, or at certain times of the year. Chronic cough is not a disease; rather, it is considered a symptom of another condition. A cough attributable to a cold, flu, or some other known cause that fails to get better within three weeks, or a persistent cough of unknown origin, is reason to see your doctor. Your cough may have qualities that, together with other symptoms, point towards an underlying cause that requires proper diagnosis and treatment.

A chronic cough associated with a normal chest x-ray most often results from one or more conditions that include postnasal drip, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus), and chronic bronchitis. Blood pressure medications can also cause a dry, hacking cough in some people. More serious, but less common, causes of chronic cough include: interstitial lung disease (a group of lung disorders that affect the supporting matrix of the lungs); bronchiectasis (persistent dilatation of the bronchi or bronchioles); and pneumonia. All of these conditions produce inflammation or scarring of the lungs. Lung cancer is usually suspected only when someone with a history of smoking has an abnormal chest x-ray. Bottom-line advice: Self-care measures may help relieve a chronic cough but are not a substitute for medical evaluation. Try to increase the humidity in your home and drink plenty of fluids to thin phlegm and other secretions. However, do not treat a chronic cough with over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine for more than two weeks unless directed by your doctor. These medications can suppress your cough but may not cure it. If your cough never entirely clears up or returns after you stop taking OTC medications, see your doctor. [Source: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Jun 09 ++]

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IOWA VET BENEFITS Update 01: Iowa Governor Chet Culver recently signed four new state laws to benefit Iowa veterans.  The new laws will:

(1)   Provide in-state tuition at Iowa’s public universities and community colleges to out-of-state veterans.

(2)   Redefine who qualifies as a veteran.

(3)   Afford more foreclosure protections for military members, and

(4)   Expand veterans’ preference privileges when it comes to government hiring for state, county and city jobs.

For more information, contact the Iowa Department of Veterans’ Affairs at 1-800-838-4692 or refer to the Iowa Department of Veterans’ Affairs website www.iowava.org. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 12 Jun 09 ++]

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AGENT ORANGE DISEASES Update 02: VVA National President John Rowan said, “Vietnam Veterans of America applauds the conclusions and recommendations of a Ford Foundation-funded report issued 2 JUN by the National Organization on Disabilities on the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. While VVA feels compassion for the many adults and children injured and made ill by exposure to Agent Orange and the many other toxins used in Vietnam during the war there, it is now time to fully deal with the same effects on Americans who served in Vietnam and other areas that were also contaminated. The effects of these toxins on the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren must similarly be addressed.” The U.S. government currently is not studying the possible intergenerational effects of exposure to Agent Orange, nor are they doing any morbidity studies at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or anywhere else. Rowan called for “the immediate de-classification of all Department of Defense information that pertains to exposure of U.S. military servicemembers to any toxin at any time, to include the Vietnam Era” and to take immediate steps to begin epidemiological studies, birth defects registries, and outreach necessary to scientifically document the problems suffered by our veterans and their offspring. “Dow Chemical is not going to fund these studies,” Rowan said. “Only the U.S. government can reasonably be expected to fund this vital research, and they have not been doing their job. In fact, it would appear that for the last decade that our government has been doing everything possible to prevent such studies from being done.  “That the Administration is adding another $3 million to the $3 million already pledged from the Ford Foundation for work to help those suffering in Vietnam is fine and good,” Rowan said. “However, there needs to be at least a commensurate commitment by the U.S. government and the Ford Foundation to American veterans and their families. Under a new President, now is the time for a dramatic change of direction for our country. Similarly, now is the time for a new direction from the Ford Foundation.”  [Source: VVA Press release 09-13 dtd 2 Jun 09 ++]

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FILIPINO VET INEQUITIES Update 16: As of 1 JUN 32,657 WWII Filipino claims have been received at the VA under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Act passed into law on 17 FEB 09.  Of these 2,834 have been granted (2,061 are $9,000 payments to Filipino residents and 773 are $15,000 payments to US residents) and 1,060 have been denied.  A Letter received by the Philippine Inquirer from a Filipino World War II veteran-reader raises a major concern regarding the denials of many claims for lump-sum benefit.  The author was inducted into the US Armed Forces in the Far East on 17 NOV 41 when he was with the Infantry Regiment Philippine Constabulary. He was a Death March survivor and was able to escape from prison. He subsequently joined the guerrilla forces. His last unit was with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Recovered Personnel Division. He has proof of his honorable discharge dated 29 JUL 48. When the Immigration Act of 1990 was passed granting US citizenship to Filipino World War II veterans he applied for naturalization. His application was approved, and he was thus sworn in as a US citizen in 1997. He filed for lump-sum benefit of $15,000 as a United States citizen veteran with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (US-DVA) and was denied because his name was not listed in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) at St. Louis, Missouri.  Many Filipino veterans’ claims are also being denied quietly because they have no records of military service with the NPRC.

The problem encountered by this Filipino veteran represents the problems of a significant number of veterans who fought courageously during the war but have no actual service records on the list kept by NPRC. For more than half a century, there has never been a consistency in the policy with regards to how they are to be treated for purposes of benefits. When the lump-sum benefit, or the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation, was passed early this year, many victorious celebrations were held as if the final resolution to this issue had finally arrived. After three months, frustrated veterans who could not find their names on the Missouri list are facing new legal obstacles. This is not the first time that the Missouri list was questioned for being an accurate source of military service. The issue on verification had been a contested matter when the Filipino veterans’ applications for naturalization were being processed in the 1990s. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the US Citizenship and Immigration Services) lost in the case of Almero v. INS (9th Circuit 1994) and Serquina v. US (9th Circuity 1994) when it limited the naturalization to veterans whose names were in the Missouri list. In the Almero and Serquina cases, the court ordered the INS to accept official Philippine government records instead of US Army records to prove military service for purposes of naturalization.

The NPRC list relied upon by the US Veterans Affairs does not contain accurate record of the services of Filipino World War II veterans. Lieutenant Colonel Edwin P. Ramsey, commander of over 40,000 guerrilla troops in northern Philippines during World War II, testified during the trial in Almero case. He said that records listing the names of his troops were created under wartime conditions in which his men were greatly outnumbered by the occupying Japanese forces. According to him, his command stopped keeping a list when the list fell into the enemy hands and many of those named were executed. Ramsey said that he participated in the reconstruction of the list but nearly half of the Filipinos who served under his command were “de-recognized” for political reasons and their records eliminated. Other records were lost in a 1973 fire at the St. Louis, Missouri center where the records were kept. Since the courts ruled against limiting the list, the legislation on naturalization was amended in 1998. But this amendment practically overturned the rulings in Almero and Serquina cases. Unlike the amendment of the legislation on naturalization in 1998, the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation, the law does not limit the sources of verifying military records. Subsection (d) of Section 1002 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 clearly defines those groups that are eligible to receive lump-sum benefits. The Veterans Administration should not restrict the benefits of the few surviving veterans, especially if they can prove their service with documents from the executive department under which they served, including the Philippine government. [Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer Lourdes Santos Tancinco article 1 Jun 09 ++]

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SOCIAL SECURITY FOR MILITARY Update 01: Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application. The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after 1 OCT 01 regardless of where the disability occurs. The following are answers to questions most people ask about applying for disability benefits. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you understand the process.

  • What types of benefits can I receive? Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program, which pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes; and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which pays benefits based on financial need.  A fact sheet is about the Social Security disability program is available at  www.ssa.gov/pubs/10029.html.  For information about the SSI disability program for adults  refer to www.ssa.gov/pubs/11000.html.
  • What is Social Security’s definition of disability? By law, Social Security has a very strict definition. To be found disabled you must be unable to do substantial work because of your medical condition(s); and your medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or be expected to result in death.  Note: While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.
  • How does military pay affect eligibility for disability benefits? You cannot engage in substantial work activity for pay or profit, also known as substantial gainful activity. Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of disability benefits. Receipt of military payments should never stop you from applying for disability benefits from Social Security. If you are receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, SSA will evaluate your work activity to determine your eligibility for benefits. The actual work activity is the controlling factor and not the amount of pay you receive or your military duty status.
  • How do I apply? You may apply for disability benefits at any time while in military status or after discharge, whether you are still hospitalized, in a rehabilitation program or undergoing out-patient treatment in a military or civilian medical facility. You can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors, in person at the nearest Social Security office or by telephone. You can call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call the TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Online a “disability starter kit” is available to help you complete your application.
  • What do I need to apply? Claimants and their representatives must provide information and documentation about age, employment, proof of citizenship, Social Security coverage and information regarding all impairments and related treatment. Social Security will make every reasonable effort to help you get the necessary medical evidence. You should file the application for disability benefits as soon as possible with any documents readily available. Include the below documents as applicable but do not delay filing because you do not have them all:
  1. Original or certified copy of your birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency if foreign born;
  2. Form DD 214, if discharged from the military service;
  3. W-2 Form or income tax return from last year;
  4. Military or workers’ compensation to include proof of payment;
  5. Social Security numbers of your spouse and minor children;
  6. Checking or savings account number, if you have one;
  7. Name, address and phone number of a contact person, in case you are unavailable; and
  8. Medical records that you have and/or that you can easily obtain from all military and civilian sources.
  • How does Social Security make the decision? Your claim is sent to a state Disability Determination Services (DDS) office that makes disability decisions. The state has medical and vocational experts who will contact your doctors and other places where you received treatment to get your medical records. The state agency may ask you to have an examination or medical test. You will not have to pay the costs of any additional exams or tests you are asked to take. If the state does request an examination, make sure you keep the appointment.
  • How long does it take for a decision? The length of time it takes to receive a decision on your disability claim can vary, depending on several factors, but primarily on:

a.)  The nature of your disability;

b.)  How quickly SSA obtains medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source; and

c.)  Whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support your claim.

  • Can I do anything to speed the decision? Yes. You can speed the decision by being prepared for your interview and having information available regarding all the doctors you have seen and your work history. It is important that you notify Social Security of any address changes that you have while we are working on your claim or any changes in doctors, hospitals or outpatient clinics where you are receiving treatment. This will help to prevent delays. After the application for Social Security disability benefits is received, it is uniquely identified as a military service member claim, and it is expedited through all phases of processing, both in Social Security and the DDS. Disability claims filed online also are expedited.
  • Can my family get benefits? Certain members of your family may qualify for benefits based on your work. They include:
  1. Your spouse, if he or she is age 62 or older;
  2. Your spouse, at any age, if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled;
  3. Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be younger than age 18 or younger than age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time;
  4. Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. (The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.) ; and
  5. In some situations, a divorced spouse may qualify for benefits based on your earnings if he or she was married to you for at least 10 years, is not currently married and is at least age 62. The money paid to a divorced spouse does not reduce your benefit or any benefits due to your current spouse or children.

For more information and to find copies of SSA publications, refer to www.socialsecurity.gov or call toll-free, 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). SSA can answer specific questions from 0700 to 1930 M-F. SSA can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. All calls are treated with confidentially. In order to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service a we have a second Social Security representative monitors some telephone calls.  [Source: www.ssa.gov/woundedwarriors

Jun 09 ++]

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CAREFREE RV RESORTS: Carefree FV Resorts offers a 50% discount to active and retired military service members and their families at 35 parks in Florida, Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina and California. The offer is valid for Sunday-Thursday stays, space available, through 31 DEC (not on July 4 or Labor Day weekends). Veterans must show their military ID or other form of identification that shows their service in the military. Carefree RV Resorts offers a wide variety of RV parks and campgrounds for every type of RV vacation experience. Each park has wifi and park model rental cottages, which can accommodate people who don’t have their own RV. At www.carefreervresorts.com can be found park locations, rates, reservation info and cancellation policy for each of the 35 parks.  For additional info you can email them via the website or write Carefree RV Resorts, 6991 E. Camelback Road, Suite B-310, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.  [Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle article 1 Jun 09 ++]

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USERRA Update 08: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994 is a federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other “uniformed services:” are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty and are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service. In essence, USERRA requires the job of a National Guard or Reserve member be protected while they are called to active duty. Historically, employers overwhelmingly supported the policy as National Guard and Reserve members were only gone for thirty to ninety days. However, DOD changed the rules on the employers and members of the National Guard and Reserve are now called up for one to two year deployments. Understandably, employers are upset as they cannot run their businesses with employees, especially key or executive employees, being called away for two years at a time. This particularly hurts small businesses which are the back bone of the American economy. And to add insult to injury, employers are not compensated by DOD for the loss of a producing employee and must still pay for the called up employee’s benefits. Private sector employers see members of the National Guard and Reserve as their employees on loan to DOD, not the other way around. And while DOD says its policy is to call up members of the National Guard and Reserve only one year in six, the reality is many members of the National Guard have had multiple call ups since 9/11. Some National Guard units are on their third and fourth call up!

Employers have found a loop hole.  If a company lays off a member of the National Guard and Reserve before the participating member receives their orders to be activated or before an employee notifies the employer they are being called up, USERRA does not apply. Over the last six months VetJobs has been receiving anecdotal reports of a disturbing trend regarding the treatment of members of the National Guard and Reserve by employers in reaction to the current call up policy. Under the guise of the recession employers are targeting reservists to be laid off. By doing, so they do not have to carry the financial burden or the loss of productivity of a called up member of the National Guard or Reserve. VetJobs has heard from members of the National Guard, Reservists, DOL employees and ESGR employees that when the rumors start that a particular National Guard brigade or Reserve contingent is to be called up to active duty, they start hearing of members of the National Guard or Reserve in that area being laid off before orders are delivered. While this tactic by employers is technically legal, it is not fair to the member of the National Guard or Reserve.

VetJobs is looking to document the use of this type of lay off tactic by employers to use in Congressional testimony.  If you have been subjected to a lay off and think it was due to your participation in the National Guard or Reserve, or you know of someone that has experienced this activity, forward the contact information and some of the facts to info@vetjobs.com. If you want to remain anonymous, indicate that in your email and your identity will not be disclosed. Most employers are pro military and understand the importance of having and maintaining a strong military better than some members of Congress. Employers want to hire prior military that are totally separated after one or two tours, wounded warriors and retired military. But when it comes to an active member of the National Guard or Reserve, surveys by the Society of Human Resource Management, Business Law Review and Workforce Management Magazine indicate that over half of employers will not now hire as a new employee an active member of the National Guard and Reserve. This lay off tactic by certain employers is a direct response to the current DOD call up policy. The United States National Guard and Reserve system cannot work without the support of employers. It all comes down to costs and the way DOD changed the rules on employers. For more information on VetJobs refer to www.vetjobs.com. [Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle article 1 Jun 09 ++]

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USERRA Update 09: On a voice vote, the House on 8 JUN passed a bill that would—if signed into law—protect veterans from losing their jobs when they are absent from work in order to receive medical treatment for service-connected disabilities. The Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, H.R.466, would expand the protections of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to include veterans with service-connected disabilities who seek an excused medical leave of absence. The bill also would allow vets seeking medical attention to retain seniority, health, pension and other benefits. The bill has specific protections for veterans who are federal workers. Under current law, federal employees taking unpaid leave cannot contribute to or receive a matching contribution from their employers to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). H.R.466 would allow eligible veterans to make up the missed TSP contributions after they return to work. The employing agency then would be required to make a matching contribution. Based on TSP participation rates from the Office of Personnel Management, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 5,700 veterans annually would contribute to their TSP after returning to work and would receive a 3%  matching contribution. “Recognizing the special needs of injured veterans and openness to work with these men and women is a crucial step that allows our veterans the ability to heal and remain gainfully employed. Today we have thousands of business owners who have taken the initiative of providing our injured men and women with workforce protections of seniority, status, retention, and pay as well as other rights and benefits determined by employment.  Unfortunately, there is still room for improvement and this bill seeks to bridge that gap.  I thank my House colleagues for reaffirming our nation’s commitment to care for our service members, veterans and their dependents by supporting H.R. 466.” [Source: HVAC press release 8 Jun 09 ++]

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FLORIDA VET LEGISLATION: Governor Crist has signed four bills into law that will benefit Florida’s Veterans. Summaries of the new legislation from Governor Crist’s press release are as follows:

  • Senate Bill 316, High School Diplomas/Vietnam War Veterans – This legislation recognizes the enormous commitment and sacrifice veterans of the Vietnam War made to serve their country during war time. The bill, sponsored by Senator Lee Constantine, authorizes the Commissioner of Education to award Vietnam veterans who were honorably discharged with a Florida high school diploma. This bill is similar to existing legislation that awards diplomas to veterans of World War II and the Korean War.
  • House Bill 509, Veterans –  This legislation, sponsored by Representative Juan Zapata and Senator Mike Fasano, will improve the lives of Florida’s veterans and their families for generations to come by accomplishing several important goals:

1.)      Waives building and permitting fees for safety and accessibility residential renovations for Florida’s 20,000 veterans permanently and totally disabled as a result of their military service.

2.)      Removes the cap on certain military and veteran license tag fees to help fund Florida’s Veterans Nursing Home Trust Fund.

3.)      Incorporates Title 33 of the United States Code into Florida law, allowing the implementation of the New GI Bill, or Post 9/11 GI Bill, which goes into effect 1 AUG 09.

  • House Bill 685, Educational Dollars for Duty Program – This legislation, sponsored by Representative Bill Proctor and Senator Mike Fasano, makes significant improvements to the Florida National Guard’s Education Dollars for Duty Program (EDD) and ensures fairness and equitability to the members of the Air National Guard. The bill makes the following changes to Florida law to increase the EDD’s program’s effectiveness and to increase its usefulness as a recruitment and retention tool:

1.)      Expands eligibility to guard members seeking a master’s degree, those with more than 15 years service, and to those who have not completed basic military training.

2.)      Extends the program to include Florida’s accredited nonpublic postsecondary education institutions and vocational-technical programs.

3.)      Clarifies that the EDD program is available for active members and requires members to complete their enlistment or reenlistment contract, instead of serving only three years after the exemption is granted.

4.)      Authorizes the program to include college-preparatory courses.

  • House Bill 635, Military Affairs – This legislation, sponsored by Representative Michael Scionti and Senator Charlie Justice, adds significant legal protections for Florida National Guard soldiers and airmen on active duty while they are serving the State of Florida. The bill enhances re-employment rights,adds protective measures against discrimination of military members by employers, and creates a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation.

Governor Crist also applauded the Legislature for passing House Joint Resolution 833, Homestead Ad Valorem Tax Credit for Deployed Military. The resolution proposes a Constitutional amendment that would exempt men and women deployed on active duty overseas from property tax on homesteaded property. It would allow an additional exemption based on the length of the overseas deployment. This initiative will go before voters in NOV 10. The tax exemption would become effective 1 JAN 11 if approved by 60% of voters. Currently, there are more than 25,000 Floridians deployed overseas on active duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. .  [Source: Florida DAV Dist 03 Cdr John Markiewicz msg. 29 May 09 ++]

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DISASTER PREPAREDNESS Update 02: It’s hurricane season and Tricare Management Authority has issued a very good warning for your healthcare readiness in case a hurricane comes your way.  Though this article centers on Tricare eligible beneficiaries the warnings also apply to anyone who lives in an area where a storm or other disaster such as fire or earthquake might affect your way of life. To be prepared, it is recommended that you have a complete emergency kit on hand.  Keep the kit up to date and make sure everything works and your food and water has not expired.  It is also recommended that you include, along with food, water, a battery operated weather radio, flashlights and first aid supplies, any medical necessities you may need in your kit.  Keep in mind that medical assistance may not be immediately available after a disaster. Following is a suggested list of health-related items to include in kits for each family member:

  • Copies of each family member’s uniformed services ID card (or sponsor’s name and Social Security number), Medicare card or other health insurance card, if applicable
  • Copies of family members’ names, addresses, phone numbers.
  • Copies of medical records for each family member
  • A list of primary care managers, other doctors’ names and phone numbers
  • Emergency contact names and phone numbers
  • Tricare Regional and pharmacy contractors and Medicare contacts
  • A list of known prescription medications and doses
  • A list of each family member’s allergies
  • A properly stored 30-day supply of prescription medications
  • Non-prescription drugs such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids, laxatives, itch control creams.
  • Style, model and serial numbers for any medical devices
  • Extra batteries for wheelchairs and hearing aids
  • Any personal items such as eyeglasses and other special equipment

For more information and more tips on disaster preparedness, refer to the Department of Homeland Security’s preparedness Web page at: www.ready.gov or Tricare’s disaster relief Web page www.Tricare.mil/disasterinfo .  Downloads from the page include a wallet card with critical contact information and a disaster preparation flyer. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 29 May 09 ++]

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VA COPAY Update 07: Some veterans must make the following copays to receive VA health care and/or medications for  non-service connected conditions:

  • Inpatient Care: Priority Group 7 and certain other veterans are responsible for paying 20% of VA’s inpatient copay or $213.60 for the first 90 days of inpatient hospital care during any 365-day period. For each additional 90 days, the charge is $106.80. In addition, there is a $2 per diem charge.
  • Inpatient Care: Priority Group 8 and certain other veterans are responsible for VA’s inpatient copay of $1,068 for the first 90 days of care during any 365-day period. For each additional 90 days, the charge is $534. In addition, there is a $10 per diem charge.
  • Extended Care: For extended care services, veterans may be subject to a copay determined by information supplied by completing a VA Form 10-10EC. VA social workers can help veterans interpret their eligibility and copay requirements. The copay amount is based on each veteran’s financial situation and is determined upon application for extended care services and will range from $0 to $97 a day.
  • Outpatient Care: A three-tiered copay system is used for all outpatient services. The copay is $15 for a primary care visit and $50 for some specialized care. Certain services are not charged a copay. Copays do not apply to publicly announced VA health fairs or outpatient visits solely for preventive screening and/or immunizations, such as immunizations for influenza and pneumococcal, or screening for hypertension, hepatitis C, tobacco, alcohol, hyperlipidemia, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer by fecal occult blood testing, education about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, and weight reduction or smoking cessation counseling (individual and group). Laboratory, flat film radiology, electrocardiograms, and hospice care are also exempt from copays.
  • Medication: Most Veterans are charged $8 for each 30-day or less supply of medication provided by VA for treatment of conditions that are not service-connected. For veterans enrolled in Priority Groups 2 through 6, the maximum copay for medications that will be charged in calendar year 2009 is $960. The following groups of veterans are not charged medication copays:

1.)      Veterans with a service-connected disability of 50 % or more;

2.)      Veterans receiving medication for service-connected conditions;

3.)      Veterans whose annual income does not exceed the maximum annual rate of the VA pension;

4.)       Veterans enrolled in Priority Group 6 who receive medication under their special authority;

5.)      Veterans receiving medication for conditions related to sexual trauma related to service on active duty;

6.)      Certain veterans receiving medication for treatment of cancer of the head or neck;

7.)      Veterans receiving medication for a VA-approved research project; and

8.)      Former POWs.

NOTE: Copays apply to prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, cough syrup or vitamins, dispensed by a VA pharmacy. However, veterans may prefer to purchase over-thecounter drugs, such as aspirin or vitamins, at a local pharmacy rather than making the copay. Copays are not charged for medications injected during the course of treatment or for medical supplies, such as syringes or alcohol wipes.

[Source: 2009 VA Handbook ++]

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CHAPTER 61 DISABILITY PAY Update 03: President Barack Obama has asked Congress to phase in “concurrent receipt” for all Chapter 61 retirees — those who received a disability retirement from the Department of Defense.  If enacted the plan would boost pay for 103,000 veterans by more than $2 billion through 2014.. Gary McGee, assistant director of military compensation in the Department of Defense, explained the changes ahead for Chapter 61 retirees if Congress agrees to the Obama plan.

  • For many decades, DoD retirement pay had been reduced by the amount of VA disability pay. Concurrent receipt means being able to receive both VA disability compensation and military retirement pay earned for years served.
  • Most Chapter 61 retirees were forced from service by ailments or injuries before they could serve 20 years and qualify for regular retirement. Other Chapter 61 retirees served at least 20 years but still qualified for a tax-exempt Pentagon (DoD) disability retirement for permanent medical conditions.
  • Concurrent receipt started in 2004 and was applied only to regular or non-disabled military retirees who, only after leaving service, qualified for disability ratings of 50% or higher from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It allows them to receive both DoD pensions and VA compensation.  Regular retirees with VA ratings of 40% or lower still see their DoD pension offset by VA disability compensation.
  • The administration, in effect, would expand eligibility for the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay to all Chapter 61 retirees.

Why has Obama targeted Chapter 61 retirees for concurrent receipt? Sources on Capitol Hill said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget developed the idea as an affordable compromise. It would cost $5.4 billion over 10 years versus $45 billion if Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge to extend concurrent receipt to all disabled military retirees. “Since not everybody could be included at this time, because of cost, the idea was to look at those who might be the most deserving,” said a pay official. The schedule to expand concurrent receipt to Chapter 61 retirees is:

  • On 1 JAN 10, for those having fewer than 20 years of service and VA ratings of 100 or 90%.
  • On 1 JAN 11, those with fewer than 20 years’ service and VA ratings of 80 or 70 % would eligible.
  • On 1 JAN 12, those with fewer than 20 years’ service and VA ratings of 60 or 50 % would qualify.
  • On 1 JAN 13, all Chapter 61 retirees with VA ratings of 40 or 30 % would be eligible, including Chapter 61 retirees who served longer than 20 years.
  • On 1 JAN 14, a small group of Chapter 61 retiree receiving VA disability compensation and not included earlier would become eligible.

The principal behind concurrent receipt of military retirement and VA disability compensation, said McGee, is that the Department of Defense pays retirees for years of service and VA pays for disabilities incurred. But until a Dole-Shalala Commission recommendation to simplify the process in this way is fully adopted, the Pentagon remains in the disability retirement business. So calculating concurrent receipt for Chapter 61 retirees involves three moving parts, McGee said: gross retirement pay based on military disability, retirement pay earned for years of service, and VA compensation. Applying the precise formula here isn’t possible but McGee gave examples, using rounded pay numbers, to show the practical effect:

1.)      An E-4 with four years of service is rated 50 % disabled by the Pentagon and 90 % by VA. On base pay of $2,200 a month, a 50 % DoD rating provides disability retirement of $1,100. Because a 90% VA rating pays $1,600 a month, this E-4, under current law, would opt for the VA compensation and get nothing for his service time. Under concurrent receipt, he would receive retirement pay for years served. That’s four years multiplied by 2.5% for 10%. Apply the 10% to base pay of $2,200 for $220 a month in retired pay. This would be paid in addition to, $1600 in VA compensation.

2.)      An E-7 with 18 years of service also is rated 50% disabled by the Pentagon DoD and 90& by VA. On base pay of $4,000 a month, a 50 % rating provides disability retirement of $2,000 a month. That’s better than $1,600 in VA disability compensation. Under concurrent receipt, retired pay would be calculated on years served (18 x 2.5) for a 45% multiple applied to the base pay of $4,000. The result: $1,800 a month. This E-7 originally would have accepted $2,000 in disability retirement, because it paid $400 more than VA compensation. With concurrent receipt, he would get $1,800 from the Pentagon plus $1,600 from VA, a total of $3,400 monthly.

[Source:  Daily Press Tom Philpott article 26 May 09 ++]

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HEALTH CARE REFORM: According to a report released 28 MAY by the consumer health organization Families USA, the so-called “hidden health tax” for family health coverage grew to $1,017 in 2008 . Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan and advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans. The hidden health tax is the undisclosed insurance premium surcharge that is paid by America’s businesses and insured families when they purchase health insurance. That surcharge subsidizes the uncompensated health care costs of the uninsured. “As more people join the ranks of the uninsured, the hidden health tax is growing,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “That tax hits America’s businesses and insured families hard in the pocketbook, and they therefore have a clear financial stake in expanding health coverage as part of health reform.” Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said “Reforming our health care system is not just a moral imperative—it’s an economic necessity. Today, 46 million uninsured Americans turn to emergency rooms when they need medical care, and the cost of that care is paid for by every American with insurance. As this report shows, that hidden tax will only continue to grow unless we do something about it. That’s why I’m committed to passing comprehensive health care reform this year. We must repeal this hidden tax and lift the burden from American families and businesses by ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”

Families USA contracted with Milliman, Inc., a well-respected independent actuarial consulting firm, to array and analyze the data for the report. According to the report, “uninsured people are less likely to get the care they need when they need it, and they are more likely to delay seeking care as long as possible.” When they do receive care, it is paid for in several ways:

  • More than one-third (37%) of that care is paid for by the uninsured themselves out of their own pockets;
  • Third-party sources, such as government programs and charities, paid for another 26% of that care; and
  • The remaining amount, approximately $42.7 billion in 2008, is considered uncompensated care; those costs are shifted onto the health care bills of insured people, ultimately resulting in the hidden health tax through higher premiums.

Based on the Milliman, Inc. data, the uncompensated care cost in 2008 across the insured, non-Medicare, non-Medicaid population was $1,017 per insured family and $368 per insured single person. Based on a 2005 Families USA report about the hidden health tax, using the same federal data sources used by Milliman, Inc. but arrayed by Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University, the hidden health tax has grown. For family health coverage, it grew from $922, and for individual coverage, it grew from $341. According to Pollack’s assessment more and more people are losing their jobs and their health coverage due to the economic downturn. As a result, it is highly likely that the hidden health tax for 2009, which is not yet known, will be considerably higher than the $1,017 amount experienced in 2008.

Ronald A. Williams, Chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc said, “This new Families USA report shows why all Americans will benefit from health care reform and should push stakeholders to make health insurance work for everyone as soon as possible. Covering the uninsured will lighten the burden of the hidden tax on those who have coverage today,” he continued. “While doing so, we also must focus on other reforms to improve value and quality in health care.” Dan Danner, president and CEO, National Federation of Independent Business said, “This research shows that the market in which we buy our healthcare is filled with cross-subsidies, making it dysfunctional and unsustainable. Until individuals understand how much they are really paying for their healthcare, costs cannot be brought under control. Until costs are addressed, we will continue to struggle with coverage.” [Source: Families USA press release 28 May 09 ++]

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TAX BURDEN FOR COLORADO RETIREES: Many people planning to retire use the presence or absence of a state income tax as a litmus test for a retirement destination.  This is a serious miscalculation since higher sales and property taxes can more than offset the lack of a state income tax. The lack of a state income tax doesn’t necessarily ensure a low total tax burden. Following are the taxes you can expect to pay if you retire in Colorado:

State Sales Tax: 2.9% (food and prescription drugs exempt); many cities and counties have their own rates which are added to the state rate.  Total could be as high as 9.9%.

Fuel & Cigarette Tax:

  • · 22 cents/gallon
  • Diesel Fuel Tax: 20.5 cents/gallon
  • 84 cents/pack of 20

Personal Income Taxes:

  • All taxpayers: 4.63% of Federal taxable income
  • Personal Exemptions/Credits: Federal amounts are automatically adopted.
  • Standard Deduction: None
  • Medical/Dental Deduction: Same as Federal taxes
  • Federal Income Tax Deduction: None
  • Retirement Income Taxes: Taxpayers 55-64 years old can exclude a total of $20,000 for Social Security and qualified retirement income.  Those 65 and over can exclude up to $24,000.  All out-of-state government pensions qualify for the pension exemption.  The total exclusion may not be more than indicated from all exempt sources.  However, Social Security/Railroad Retirement income not taxed by the federal government is not added back to adjusted gross income for state income tax purposes.
  • Retired Military Pay: Same as above
  • Military Disability Retired Pay: Retirees who entered the military before Sept. 24, 1975, and members receiving disability retirements based on combat injuries or who could receive disability payments from the VA are covered by laws giving disability broad exemption from federal income tax. Most military retired pay based on service-related disabilities also is free from federal income tax, but there is no guarantee of total protection.
  • VA Disability Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: VA benefits are not taxable because they generally are for disabilities and are not subject to federal or state taxes.
  • Military SBP/SSBP/RCSBP/RSFPP: Generally subject to state taxes for those states with income tax. Check with state department of revenue office.

Property Taxes

  • The county assessor determines the value of property using a market, cost or income approach.  For 2008 property taxes on real estate are assessed at 7.96% of the property’s actual value.  You can determine your property tax bill by multiplying the assessed value by the local tax rate.
    • A homestead exemption is available for qualifying seniors and the surviving spouse of a senior who previously qualified.  Seniors must be at least age 65.  It allows 50% (up to a maximum reduction of $200,000) in actual value of a primary residence to be exempt.  The state pays the tax on the exempted value.  The person must have owned and lived in the home for at least 10 years. refer to http://dola.colorado.gov/dpt/forms/docs/brochure121803final.pdf for details.
    • Full-year Colorado residents age 65 or older, disabled, or a surviving spouse age 58 or older, may qualify for the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Rebate and/or the Property Tax Deferral.  Qualified applicants can receive a rebate of up to $600 of the property tax and $192 of their heating expenses paid during the year, either directly or as part of their rent payments, by filing the Property Tax/Rent/Heat Rebate form. For further details and forms refer to m www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue/REVX/1216116072809.
    • A property tax exemption is available to disabled veterans.  For those who qualify, 50% of the first $200,000 in actual value of their primary residence is exempted.  The state pays the exempted portion of the property tax. . Eligibility extends to applicants who:

a)       Sustained a service-connected disability while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States;

b)       Were honorably discharged; and

c)       Were rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as one hundred percent ‘permanent and total’ disabled.

VA unemployability awards do not meet the requirement for determining an applicant’s eligibility.  The applicant must have owned and occupied the home as his or her primary residence since January 1 of the year of application; however, limited exceptions to the ownership and occupancy requirements are detailed in the eligibility requirements section of the application.  The application deadline is July 1.  Application forms are available from the division of Veterans affairs website www.dmva.state.co.us/page/va/prop_tax and from the Colorado Division of Property Taxation website http://dola.colorado.gov/dpt/forms/index.htm
Inheritance and Estate Taxes: There is no inheritance tax and the Colorado estate tax does not apply to decedents whose date of death is on or after January 1, 2005.

For further information, visit the Colorado Department of Revenue website www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue/REVX/1176842266433 or call 303-232-2446.

[Source: www.retirementliving.com Jun 09 ++]

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MILITARY HISTORY ANNIVERSARIES:

  • Jun 01 1813 – Capt John Lawrence utters Navy motto “Don’t give up the ship”
  • Jun 02 1944 – WWII: Allied “shuttle bombing” of Germany begins, with bombers departing from Italy and landing in the Soviet Union
  • Jun 02 1969   The Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne slices the destroyer USS Frank E. Evans in half off the shore of South Vietnam killing 74 American sailors
  • Jun 03 1861 – Civil War: Union defeats Confederacy at Philippi, WV inj first land battle of the war.
  • Jun 03 1864 – Civil War: Gen Lee wins his last victory of Civil War at Battle of Cold Harbor
  • Jun 03 1952   Korean War: A rebellion by North Korean prisoners in the Koje prison camp in South Korea is put down by American troops.
  • Jun 04 1845 – Mexican-US war starts
  • Jun 04 1919 – U.S. Marines invade Costa Rica
  • Jun 04 1940 – WWII: British complete the evacuation of 300,000 troops at Dunkirk.
  • Jun 04 1942 – WWII: Battle of Midway Island begins. Japan’s 1st major defeat in WW II
  • Jun 05 1917 – WWI: Ten million U.S. men begin registering for draft.
  • Jun 06 1918 – WWI: U.S. Marines enter combat at the Battle of Belleau Wood.  1st U.S. victory of WW I
  • Jun 06 1944 – WWII: D-Day: 150,000 Allied Expeditionary Force lands in Normandy, France
  • Jun 07 1932 – Over 7,000 war veterans march on Washington, D.C., demanding their bonus pay for service in World War I.
  • Jun 07 1942 – WWII: Japanese troops lands on Attu, Aleutian Islands
  • Jun 07 1965 – Vietnam: US troops ordered to fight offensively
  • Jun 08 1776 – American Revolution: Battle of Trois-Rivières – American attackers are driven back at Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
  • Jun 08 1967 – Six-Day War: The USS Liberty incident occurs, killing 34 and wounding 171.
  • Jun 09 1863 – Civil War: the Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia.
  • Jun 09 1945 – WWII: Japanese Premier Kantaro Suzuki declares that Japan will fight to the last rather than accept unconditional surrender.
  • Jun 09 1999 – Kosovo War: The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and NATO sign a peace treaty.
  • Jun 10 1953 – Korean war: Battle of Outpost  begins and lasts through the18th.
  • Jun 10 1898 – Spanish American War: U.S. Marines land on the island of Cuba.
  • Jun 10 1965 – Vietnam War: The Battle of Dong Xoai begins.
  • Jun 10 1999 – Kosovo War: NATO suspends its air strikes after Slobodan Miloševic agrees to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo.
  • Jun 11 1775 – American Revolution: In war’s first naval battle Unity (US) captures Margaretta (Br)
  • Jun 12 1918 – WWI: First airplane bombing raid by an American unit, France
  • Jun 14 1775   American Revolution: The U.S. Army is founded when the Continental Congress authorizes the muster of troops.
  • Jun 14 1944 – WWII: First B-29 raid against mainland Japan
  • Jun 15 1859 – Pig War: Ambiguity in the Oregon Treaty leads to the “Northwestern Boundary Dispute” between U.S. and British/Canadian settlers.
  • Jun 15 1898 – Spanish American War: U.S. Marines attack Spanish off Guantánamo Cuba

[Source: Various Jun 09 ++]

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VETERAN LEGISLATION STATUS 13 JUN 09: Congress reconvened on 1 & 2 JUN. The next scheduled Congressional recess is 28 JUN – 4 JUL for Independence Day.   Refer to the Bulletin’s Veteran Legislation attachment for or a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community that have been introduced in the 111th Congress. Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law.  A good indication on that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it.  To determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d111/sponlst.html.  The key to increasing cosponsorship on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting our representatives know of veteran’s feelings on issues.  You can reach their Washington office via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate on http://thomas.loc.gov your representative and his/her phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making.  Refer to http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/cong_schedule.html for dates that you can access your representatives on their home turf.  [Source: RAO Bulletin Attachment 28 May 09 ++]

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HAVE YOU HEARD?

Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?

A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it…  don’t waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually.  Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that’s like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster.  Want to live longer?  Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies.  What does a cow eat?   Hay and corn.   And what are these? Vegetables.  So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your  system.   Need grain?   Eat chicken.   Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable).   And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should  I reduce my  alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all.  Wine is made from fruit.  Brandy is distilled wine. That means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way.   Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Can’t think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain…Good!

Q:  Aren’t fried foods bad for you?

A:  YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!!! …..  Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil.  In fact, they’re permeated in it. How could  getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q:  Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger   stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:  Are you crazy? HELLO! Cocoa beans ! Another vegetable!!! It’s the best feel-good food around!

Q:  Is swimming good for your figure?

A:  If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to  me.

Q:  Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey! ‘Round’ is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets. And remember:

‘Life should  NOT  be a journey to the grave with the intention of  arriving  safely in an attractive and well preserved  body, but rather  to skid in sideways – Chardonnay in one  hand – chocolate in  the other – body thoroughly used up,  totally worn out and   screaming ‘WOO  HOO, What a  Ride’

AND…..

For  those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final  word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the  truth after all those conflicting nutritional  studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

CONCLUSION – Eat and drink what you like.  Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

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Lt. James “EMO” Tichacek, USN (Ret)

Director, Retiree Assistance Office, U.S. Embassy Warden & IRS VITA Baguio City RP

PSC 517 Box RCB, FPO AP 96517

Tel: (951) 238-1246 in U.S. or Cell: 0915-361-3503 in the Philippines.

Email: raoemo@sbcglobal.net Web: http://post_119_gulfport_ms.tripod.com/rao1.html

AL/AMVETS/DAV/FRA/NAUS/NCOA/MOAA/USDR/VFW/VVA/CG33/DD890/AD37 member

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Abraham Lincoln The Legacy of an Initiate

Abraham Lincoln The Legacy of an Initiate

Abraham Lincoln was the only president of the United States to have risen to Initiate status in the Brotherhoods, and, as such, he was in fact a saint occupying the highest office of our land. The ancient Brotherhoods of scientist-philosophers were instrumental in establishing the United States, and they were concerned with its preservation in the face of the mounting effort by the English Crown to undermine America and regain rule over the colonies it lost by the American Revolution. By having one of their own members (Lincoln) in a position to combat the forces of dissolution, the Brotherhoods were able to get our nation back on track. Their efforts at establishing effective economic policies via Lincoln served the U.S. well for at least eight decades, but the same foreign enemy that subtly works against U.S. sovereignty continues to this day.

The Buchanan administration which Lincoln succeeded in March 1861 was entirely treasonous. By 1860, these anti-North radicals operated directly from the White House, led by former Attorney General Caleb Cushing, a lawyer for the Borlin Opium Cartel. This administration was wholly devoted to the interests of slavery, and set them boldly at war to weaken the North and strengthen the South. They transferred most of the weapons of war from the North, where they were manufactured, to the South, where they could readily be seized. They plunged the nation into a heavy debt in time of peace. When the Treasury was bare of cash, they robbed it of millions in bonds and whatever else they could get their hands on. They fastened onto an incipient free-trade system which impaired revenues, paralyzed national industry, and compelled exportation of immense production of gold. The Navy was reduced to an unserviceable condition, dispersed to the farthest oceans. The little Army was on the Pacific Coast, sequestered in Utah, or defending the Southern States from our Indians. Both Howell Cobb, secretary of the treasury, and vice President John C. Breckinridge were Sovereign Grand Inspector Generals and active members of the Scottish Rite, which was directed by its counterpart in England. These Freemasonic traitors had been working actively for months to disarm the northern federal arsenals and equip the southern rebel states. Citizens demonstrated throughout northern cities, as tons of military hardware were stolen and shipped south for a Confederacy attack against the United States.

The situation facing Lincoln upon inauguration was the worst the United States had ever faced. The British had financed and installed a series of traitorous presidents who had all but dismantled the U.S. economy. Tyler, Polk, Pierce and Buchanan had destroyed the basic institutions of the U.S. economy, moving control into the hands of British financiers working through banking houses of Boston and New York.

This led to a series of manipulated bank failures and depressions. In 1857, the U.S. economy went bust. Business came to a standstill. Hunger was widespread. The Treasury was bankrupt and Congress had not been paid. Even before Lincoln was inaugurated, an assassination plot in Baltimore was uncovered requiring the president to be hidden on a train which secretly brought him to Washington. Upon his arrival, as he was preparing to assume office, the armed Knights of the Golden Circle were preparing to kill the new president and seize the capital. General Winfield Scott, commander of the U.S. military, had moved the headquarters of the U.S. Army out of Washington, D.C. when the traitorous Franklin Pierce had been elected in 1852. Scott deployed thousands of troops, bomb experts, and special police to every conceivable vantage point against a likely assassin. Earlier, Scott had prevented secessionists from disrupting the counting of the electoral ballots in Washington.

As I would not be a slave,
so I would not be a master.
This expresses my idea of democracy-
Whatever differs from this,
to the extent of the difference,
is no democracy.

Abraham Lincoln (a private meditation)

This was far more than a fight between North and South–between slave states and Free states. What was literally at stake was the continued existence of the only nation in the world that had successfully defeated (even if partially) the British system of free trade and established a republic based on natural law and American System economics. For this, the British Crown had never forgiven the Americans and became increasingly embittered toward the young republic.

There had been a 3-year plot by the British-backed and British-inspired Scottish Rite Freemasons to dismantle the American System and replace it with the British system of slavery and free trade. Lincoln was to determine the future possibility of any successful opposition to the British system anywhere in the world. Not only was the new president faced with bankruptcy, secession and the British-backed intrigue, but upon inauguration he met with unabashed treason from within his own cabinet. However, Lincoln acted as he was never expected to act. He immediately called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the attempted coup d’état. For the next four years, Lincoln invoked the full powers of the presidency. The Civil War created the emergency conditions for President Lincoln and his Whig advisers to carry out the most sweeping reorganization of the economy on the basis of American System principles since the founding of the country.

Allow me now, in my own way, to state with what aims and objects I did enter upon this campaign. I claim no extraordinary exemption from personal ambition. That I like preferment as well as the average of men may be admitted. But I protest I have not entered upon this hard contest solely, or even chiefly, for a mere personal object. I clearly see, as I think, a powerful plot to make slavery universal and perpetual in this nation. The effort to carry that plot through will be persistent and long continued, extending far beyond the senatorial term for which Judge Douglas and I are just now struggling. I enter upon the contest to contribute my humble and temporary mite in opposition to that effort.

Abraham Lincoln (“Notes for Speeches,” August 21, 1858)

The fact that Lincoln faced treason, insurrection, and bankruptcy within the first days of taking office, and yet within four years not only smashed the British-run insurrection, but created the greatest industrial giant the world had ever seen, is the clearest testimony to the success of the American System of Political Economy. While fighting a war in which he led an army that had over the course of the war 3 million men at arms (out of a total Northern population of 22 million), and in which more than half a million men died,

President Abraham Lincoln:

Organized a militia on a uniform basis;

· Built and equipped the largest army in the world;

· Reorganized the judicial system;

· Launched the steel industry;

· Created a continental railroad system;

· Institutionalized scientific agriculture, by methods including the Homestead Act, which provided free western lands for farmers, the establishment of the Department of Agriculture, and government promotion of a new era of farm machinery and cheap tools;

· Established a system of free higher education throughout the U.S.–the Land Grant College System;

· Pursued a policy of massive immigration to increase the population as quickly as possible;

· Provided major government support to all branches of science, through the U.S. Coast Survey and the National Academy of Sciences;

· Organized the Bureau of Mines;

· Organized governments in the Western territories;

· Abolished slavery, freeing 4 million slaves.

The breathtaking economic development program which Lincoln designed not only saved the nation and won the war, but remained in effect long enough after his assassination for the United States to become the world’s greatest industrial power.

The American System

Lincoln’s American System economic program:

· Created a national banking system free from interest payments;

· Reestablished national control over banking, with cheap credit directed for productive purposes;

· Created a national currency for the first time in nearly 25 years (the greenback-$450 million worth);

· Increased government spending by 600 percent (to $300 million per year);

· Implemented the highest protective tariff in U.S. history (the Morrill Tariff) to protect labor and US. industry;

· Promoted standardization and mass production nationwide; and

· Increased labor productivity by 50-75 percent

Lincoln’s entire life was dedicated to the American System of the Founding Fathers. Via the Civil War, Lincoln defeated the British System of slavery and free trade and restored the American System�”the primary object of the men who made the American Revolution.”

The battle between British free trade and the American System was clear in the 1832 presidential contest between Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. This was the year Lincoln made his first bid for public office to the State Legislature of Illinois. When Andrew Jackson became president, he greatly damaged the U.S. economy by failing to establish a national bank after refusing to recharter a central bank owned by bankers that had been creating fiat money. But not having a national bank owned and supervised by the government meant that the country had no national currency. There was no funding for internal improvements, any direction of credit. Private Banks were completely unregulated and began to charge exorbitant interest rates. Any hope that Clay and the Whigs had for industrializing the South, as the way to end slavery and avoid civil war, were dashed.

Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.

Abraham Lincoln (Milwaukee, WI. Sept. 1859)

When Jackson failed to establish a National Bank, he also stopped federal support for road, canal, and railway construction, putting the brakes on pioneer settlement of the West: But American Whigs fought to continue the internal improvements. Lincoln led this fight from the age of 24 as a state legislator in Illinois. As the leader of the famous group of Whig legislators from Sangamon County, the “Long Nine” (so called because all were over six feet tall); he sought to turn the mud-and-ice-bound Midwest into the new industrial center of the continent, beginning with the construction of railways and canals to crisscross Illinois. The “Illinois Improvement Program,” or as it came to be known simply as Lincoln called it, “The System,” centered on two major projects: Construction of the Illinois-Michigan canal and a 3,000-mile railroad system. This “grand design” of the republican faction would complete an unbroken water transportation line from the Hudson River via the recently completed Erie Canal to the Great Lakes and into the Mississippi River.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.

Abraham Lincoln (Cooper Institute Speech, February 27, 1860)

The growth of manufacturing in Illinois was the most rapid and remarkable in the industrial history of the U.S. In 1835, Chicago exploded to nearly 30,000 people and was shipping out 2 million bushels of wheat a year! By 1855, 175,000 people were living in the northern part of the state.

In 1836, Lincoln made internal improvements the major issue of his re-election campaign. In 1837, with Lincoln at the forefront of the state’s fight, $10 million was passed as the Omnibus Bill for two railroads to crisscross the state. As Whig leader of the House, Lincoln wrote most of the internal improvement legislation. He supported the establishment of a state bank, but only because of the lack of a National Bank.

By 1858, Lincoln was a powerful spokesman against slavery, both for its inhumanity and for its undermining of all laborers other than the slaves. To understand the quality of leadership represented by Abraham Lincoln, here are parts of two of his most powerful speeches:

“The representatives in old Independence Hall said to the whole race of men: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all his creatures; to the whole great family of men. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of men, then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads that should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when, in the distant future, some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, none but white men, or none but Anglo-Saxon white men were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian Virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man hereafter would dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the Temple of Liberty was being built.”

A second speech during the 1858 campaign makes clear the universal principle involved in Lincoln’s opposition to slavery:

“That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and me shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. They are two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the “divine” right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”

Lincoln, as president, had to wage war on two fronts–one against the free traders of New York and New England, and the other against their surrogates, the Confederate Army. Both were run out of London. He made a fundamental turning point in U.S. history by restoration of the American System and defeating the British plan to balkanize and forever destroys the United States through its support of the Confederacy.

There is no doubt that President Lincoln’s efforts represented the greatest accomplishment in U.S. and possibly human history, in a four-year period of time. On the other hand, the British-allied northern bankers and their congressional spokesmen and the British government itself organized every possible opposition.

Frantic over the American System financial policy, the British began a massive organizing drive in support of free trade, especially when their earlier plans for military intervention on behalf of the Confederacy were blocked by the Russian Czar. John Stuart Mill and Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone controlled the Cobden Club–Britain’s worldwide agitators for free trade. There was speculation on Wall Street to depreciate the greenbacks, the problem being the compromise that Lincoln and Congress had been forced to make of linking interest payments on the greenbacks to gold.

The Civil War, perhaps more than any other war in history, was a direct combat between the two fundamental opposing views of man and nature. The South was a feudal system, and British agents had always been in close alliance with the slave-holding aristocracy of the South. British free trade, the industrial monopoly then in England, and human slavery traveled together.

Abraham Lincoln, perhaps more than any American leader before or since, embodied from the highest standpoint the understanding of man made in the image of God. Due to the influence of the Brotherhood in which he was an Initiate, Lincoln’s commitment to the American System of economics and his freeing of four million slaves are totally coherent. As his contemporary, Henry Carey, pointed out again and again, there never was, and never would be, a system of British free trade that did not rest on human slavery–and no American System republic could exist were it based on the human bondage that stems from free trade’s lack of wage protection for a country’s laborers.”

The Adelphi Organization

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Children and Divorce

By Mayo Clinic staff

Divorce is stressful for the entire family. Your child may feel as if his or her world has turned upside down. But there’s good news. You can make your child’s adjustment to the divorce much easier simply by choosing to interact responsibly with your spouse. Consider these practical tips for children and divorce.

How to break the news

It’s best if you and your spouse can tell your child about the divorce together. Speak honestly and simply, and skip the ugly details. You might say, “Your mom (or dad) and I have been having trouble getting along, so we think it’s best for us to live apart.”

Make sure your child understands that divorce is only between adults. Remind your child — repeatedly if necessary — that he or she did nothing to cause the divorce and that both of you love your child as much as ever.

Expect a mix of reactions

Initially, your child may be most interested in concrete things. Where will I live? Do I need to change schools? Who will take me to swimming lessons? As you work out the terms of the divorce, try to maintain your child’s routine as much as possible — or be quick to establish a new routine. Knowing what to expect will help your child feel more secure.

But soon, the reality of divorce will settle in. A younger child might respond to the stress by regressing to behavior he or she had previously outgrown, such as sucking on a pacifier or wetting the bed. A resurgence of separation anxiety may strike as well. Help your child put his or her feelings into words.

An older child might respond to the stress with a mix of emotions — anger, anxiety, grief or even relief. If your child’s anger turns inward, he or she may become depressed or withdrawn. Anger can have the opposite effect, too, causing a child to act out or develop behavior issues. Encourage your child to share his or her feelings as openly as possible.

Keep your child out of the fight

How your child adapts to the divorce is largely dependent on how you and your spouse act, especially toward each other. To respect your child’s relationship with the other parent, keep these general “don’ts” in mind:

  • Don’t speak badly about your spouse in front of your child.
  • Don’t make accusations against your spouse in front of your child.
  • Don’t force your child to choose sides.
  • Don’t use your child as a messenger or go-between.
  • Don’t argue or discuss child support issues in front of your child.
  • Don’t pump your child for information about the other parent.
  • Don’t use your child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.

Don’t bend the rules

It may be tempting to relax your parental rules while your child grieves over the divorce. But this will only make your child feel more insecure. Children thrive on consistency, structure and routine — even if they insist on testing the boundaries and limits. If your child shares time between two households, it’s important for the rules to be similar in both homes.

Counseling can help

You might feel so hurt or overwhelmed by your divorce that you turn to your child for comfort and direction — but that’s not your child’s role. For help sorting through your feelings, you might join a divorce support group or seek counseling through a social service agency or mental health center. If you need help reaching decisions about your child during or after the divorce, consider using the services of a family or divorce mediator.

Your child may also benefit from counseling, especially if he or she:

  • Feels sad or angry
  • Has trouble sleeping or eating
  • Has problems at school or with friends
  • Experiences personality changes
  • Develops irrational fears

Put your child first

During a divorce, interacting with your spouse might be the last thing you want to do — but it’s important. Your child needs both of you. Work out custody arrangements and other details with your child’s best interests in mind. Remember that a bitter or prolonged custody battle may take a serious, long-term toll on your child’s mental health. Instead, help your child maintain a strong, loving relationship with the other parent as you work toward meeting common parenting goals. For your child, support from both parents may be the best tool for weathering the challenges of divorce.

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