Veterans-For-Change NEWSLETTER

Newsletter Header

Week Ending Sunday, January 14, 2018

Volume 9, Issue 02

0001-Ribbon

This-N-That

A bit of good news has finally traveled down the pike for Veterans! The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has, through a Federal Register notice, revised its regulations concerning payment or reimbursement for emergency treatment for non-service connected conditions at non-VA facilities.

VA will begin processing claims for reimbursement of reasonable costs that were only partially paid by the Veteran’s other health insurance (OHI). Those costs may include hospital charges, professional fees and emergency transportation, such as ambulances.

VA will apply the updated regulations to claims pending with VA on or after April 8, 2016, and to new claims. By law, VA still may not reimburse Veterans for the costs of copayments, cost shares and deductibles required by their OHI.

Now the trick is how long a process will this be, and will it be timely and accurate, but only time will tell the true story. Hopefully this might just be the first program to run smoothly and as directed.

President Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” This Executive Order directs the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to develop a plan to ensure that all new Veterans receive mental health care for at least one year following their separation from service.

The three departments will work together and develop a Joint Action Plan to ensure that the 60 percent of new Veterans who currently do not qualify for enrollment in healthcare — primarily due to lack of verified service connection related to the medical issue at hand — will receive treatment and access to services for mental health care for one year following their separation from service.

As much as I would prefer that they get off the fence, use an outside software contractor to modify an existing claims program to fit the need of the VA and allow the software to make decisions base on information entered in and remove human intervention with the exception of intense claims, this new program hopefully will at least address immediate need and stop stalling claims for what ever reasons the DRO’s have been using to avoid paying benefits and insuring Veterans receive proper medical care.

And we’re hoping at the same time with this new executive order, we can begin to see a decline in the numbers of Veterans committing suicide.

As I’ve said for a number of years even ONE is ONE too many! And each and every one of you deserves the best our country can provide!

But the key to getting what changes, repairs and fixes in the VA that we all demand to see, we need to continually CHALLENGEthem, demand CHANGE, keep SHAKING UPCongress to get their attention and DISRUPT the flow of “business” in their offices to get their attention and keep it until we see results.

Once in a while we’d like to remind people about security on E-Mails and Social Media.

Each website is a little different in regard to types passwords they will accept. But you should change your passwords on all account whether it’s E-Mails, Banks, Stocks and Bonds Trading sites, etc. at least every three months.

Suggested by many is to use a combination of letters (Upper and Lower Case), numbers and symbols and at least eight (8) characters in length. An example would be Dr-210Tm$and to make passwords easy to remember is only change one character each time. So if Dr-210Tm$ was your last password then your next one would be Dr-211Tm$ this way it’s harder for someone using a password cracking program to decipher what your password is, and when you change it, makes it a lot easier for you to remember.

It would also appear that Face Book has hired a lot of people to infiltrate pages all across Face Book and enforcing Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of “community policy” when posting things and even the most innocuous items posted can get you suspended, or as members on Face Bookcall it Face Book Prison.

This is what has happened to VFC and we were suspended for 30 days, and don’t count on getting any reply as to what specifically was determined to be “offensive” or “broke the rules”, they simply will not respond to you, most likely because you’re not an advertiser and shelling out thousands of dollars to force members to sift through countless ad’s.

Needless to say they’ve cut us off to nearly 9,700 Veterans who would normally see posts of Veteran news, information, and our newsletter as well.

So be mindful of changing passwords on your accounts often, and be careful of what you post. The one thought to keep in mind, no matter what you post or send in E-Mails is out there and remains out there on the internet forever.

On behalf of our Volunteers nationwide and myself, we wish you and your family good health!

Respectfully,
Jim Davis
Founder
Jim.Davis@Veterans-For-Change.org

***

The Vietnam Blue Water Navy Status Dec 2017

(Response from Commander John B. Wells USN (Ret.))

I have read Ray Melenkalitis’ note in last week’s newsletter about the discharge petition for Blue Water Navy benefits. I am the person he was talking about and so I reserve the right of response. Yes we have considered a discharge petition and yes we have rejected it. It is more than just “pissing off the leadership” as Ray says – but that is part of it.

Speaker Ryan has decreed that matters will move forward in “regular order.” That means a two step process in the Committee. Legislative hearing and mark-up hearing. We have had the Legislative hearing. The Chairman brought it forward for a mark-up but Cong Tim Walz, the ranking member, opposed the offset required by the Pay As Yu Go Act of 2010 (PAYGO). Basically the offset was called “round downs.” COLA increases are rounded down to the nearest dollar. It would have met the PAYGO requirement., We have not been able to identify any other mandatory spending offsets within the VA. Before everyone starts talking bonuses, administrative costs etc those are all discretionary spending. Under PAYGO the offset must come from benefits. Sorry but that is the law. Is it right? I don’t think so but it is what we have to deal with. By the way, Walz voted for PAYGO. Chairman Roe did not. But it is the law. You can shout politics all you want, but it is still the law. We have asked the Speaker for a PAYGO waiver and they are looking into the matter. Congressman Walz refused to sign the waiver letter. Looks like partisanship at its worst. I am especially upset because Tim Walz promised me in January of 2015 that he would support round downs if necessary to pass the Blue Water Navy bill.

So bottom line, if the bill does not pass the committee it cannot come to the floor under regular order. It can come under suspension of the rules or a discharge petition.

Suspension of the rules was what we were going to try in 2016. We went to the Senate where rules are a bit different, and fashioned an offset by generating a $100 surcharge on student visas. Our intention was to pass the bill in the Senate then bring it up under a rules suspension in the House. The Leadership in the House was agreeable to doing that since it would be a Senate bill and would not necessarily have to go through a hearing process. But Senator Leahy torpedoed us at the last minute and put a hold on the bill. They can do that in the Senate but not in the House.

By the way in the case of the original Agent Orange bill that Ray refers to, they did a rules suspension but hearing had been held on the matter in the previous Congress.

OK what about the discharge petition? Discharge petitions are rare and successes even more rare. Wikipedia lists four successful discharge petitions since 1985. None of them had a PAYGO issue. Without the offset, we will not have the support for a discharge petition. Besides, our supporters have said no and so it is a dead issue at this time. Even our sponsor and Chris Gibson before him advised against trying it. We would not have the support. The minority would be expected to make it a partisan issue. A threat to use it would piss off the Speaker but that is not the only reason. It simply would not pass. However the Speaker is somewhat sympathetic now and I would like to keep it that way.

Ray is a nice guy and is trying to help but all he can do is research without understanding the nuances of what we are trying to do. I have offered to take him with me to Washington but unfortunately his health will not allow that. I respect that. But he is dead wrong on this issue. We would only alienate the people who are trying to help us.

Chairman Roe is trying. I honestly believe that. So legislatively, we have to give him a chance. Meanwhile we have shifted our attack to the administrative and the judicial. If we can force the restoration of benefits through either of those two avenues we can circumvent the PAYGO problem. So rather than calling for a discharge petition, ask your Member of Congress and Senators to write Director Mulvaney at the Office of Management and Budget and ask him to budget money next year to pay for the restoration of benefits and to sign off on Secretary Shulkin’s desire to restore those befits. Then write President Trump asking him to intervene. Be polite, civil and respectful. That goes a long way.

Let’s be constructive and not destructive.

Commander J. B. Wells U. S. Navy (Retired)
Attorney at Law
Executive Director
Military-Veterans Advocacy, Inc.

***
Challenge Disrupt
***

Congress is Back – With a Lot to Do

The Senate and the House are both back in session for 2018. They face a looming deadline of January 19 to either pass a government funding bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2018 or a shutdown of the government. That’s because they haven’t been able to come up with a funding bill for the entire 2018 fiscal year, even though they were supposed to have done that by last October 1.

What they have done twice now, is pass “Cr’s” – continuing resolutions, that fund the government for a limited period of time, at 2017 funding levels. That’s why they now fact the January 19 deadline.

Prior to the end of 2017 they did manage to pass the fy2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It contained the following provisions that affect military people:

A 2.4-percent active duty pay raise

Unchanged Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) calculation. This is inspite of the effort in the Senate change the calculation for BAH in a way that would have negatively impacted servicemembers, particularly dual military families.

TRICARE Increases

There will be progressive year-over-year increases in pharmacy copayments. TRICARE users will see steady increases in their co-payments across all medication tiers.

This is another example of forcing military people to pay more for their health care in order to pay for other items in the defense budget. According to DoD, the TRICARE increases will “save” DoD more than $2.1 billion by 2022 and fund improvements in military readiness and the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA). Most of the increases will be through the retail pharmacy sector, but beneficiaries still can obtain medications at military pharmacies for free. The new fees will include mail-order generic prescriptions as well. (please see below for more detail.)

Additionally, outside of the NDAA provision, the Defense Health Agency has introduced a new TRICARE fee structure that will be applied to the new TRICARE Select option. Increased fees also will apply to the existing TRICARE Prime option. You can view these changes at https://tricare.mil/About/Changes/Costs.

Lessens the “Widows Tax”

This provides a permanent extension to the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA). Without congressional action, 67,000 military survivors would have lost $2,100 in 2018 when the allowance was set to expire in May. After that they would have lost over $3,700 a year.

TREA is very disappointed that Congress has once again chosen to penalize military people by raising TRICARE fees and we are concerned that there may be another effort this year to raise fees once again.

Retirees over the age of 65 escaped any increase in fees but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an attempt this year to also make them pay more.

TREA will be fighting hard to stop any more increases in TRICARE fees of any kind and we will keep you posted on this as the year progresses.

Source: TREA

***

Remembering MSgt Catherine G. Murray, USMC Ret.

Msgt Cathering Grace Murray-02

MSgt Catherine G. Murray, USMC Ret., will be laid to rest on January 23, 2018 at 1:PM Arlington National Cemetery We are asking for any Marines who are in the area to please try to attend the services for this Marine who had so many firsts in her career. This Marine deserves a well attended service. Catherine who was almost 101 had no family. Her caretaker Mark, along with a few of the Marines from Miami area will make the trip for her final commitment.

***

TRICARE Available in the Philippines

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, a preferred-provider network (PPN) will be available in the Philippines. Any provider currently approved in the Philippine Demonstration will be available as part of the PPN. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, your copayments, cost-shares deductibles and catastrophic caps will be the same as those enrolled in the TRICARE Select health plan. If you live or travel in the Philippines, you will be required to see a certified provider for care. However, you are encouraged to see a preferred provider. Learn more about how to get care in the Philippines on the TOP website. For the latest costs, visit the TRICARE Cost Changes web page.

***
VFC Website

The Veterans-For-Change website has been under construction since day one back in 2009 and every day since then. The looks pretty much stay the same, but in the background constant improvement and change is being done to make our website the most user friendly “One-Stop-Shop” website to find almost everything you might have tried to find searching the internet.

Almost a hundred people have been involved; collecting web links to documents now houses on the VFC website, collecting thousands of web links for various issues, illnesses and benefits. Creating forums for all eras of service and two forums one just for men and one just for woman where you can go question, comment, share medical and personal concerns, what ever you’d like it to be.

We also have a forum with a licensed Mental Health Worker, again where you can seek help or just ask questions.

We average 2,200 hits per day, and downloads average 1,200 per day with a total 3,815,065 visitors as of Friday.

If you subscribe you will have full access to the entire website and best of all it’s FREE of charge! You just need a valid E-mail address so the system can send you a confirmation E-Mail. Once received, click on the link to be authorized automatically.

www.veterans-for-change.org

• Documents Library with over 16,163 documents on-line (Updated: 12/30/17)
• FAQ’s with more than 1,600 FAQ’s and answers
• Multiple Forums
o Afghanistan Veterans
o FMP – Foreign Medial Program
o Gulf War & Desert Storm Veterans
o Iraq Veterans
o Korean Veterans
o Men Veterans Forum
o Mental Health for Veterans
o Political Issues
o Suggestion Box
o The Mess Hall
o VA Hospitals and Medical Centers
o Veteran Affairs
o Vietnam Veterans
o Welcome Mat
o Women Veterans Forum
o WW II Veterans
• Job Postings
• Memorial Pages (Updated: 11/02/17)
• News (Articles On-Line: 7,050)
• Polls
• Web Links, more than 3,618, Added 1 New Links (Updated: 01/03/18)

If you have a submission for the memorial pages, E-Mail: Jim.Davis@veterans-for-change.org

***
Take Action

HR 4635, Increased Use of Women Peer Specialists in VA Health Care

Congressman Mike Coffman (CO) introduced legislation, HR 4635, to increase the number of women hired as peer counselors for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suicide prevention program to specifically address the special needs of women veterans.

Women veterans face unique challenges reintegrating in their homes and communities after deployment. They are more likely to be divorced, single parents, and lack a social network. They are also more likely to be unemployed and struggle financially, despite higher educational attainment than male peers. Exposure to military sexual trauma and substance abuse disorders make women veterans more prone to homelessness and at a higher risk for suicide.

Because women comprise a small, but growing portion of the veterans population using VA services, VA providers are not always knowledgeable or understanding of women veterans’ needs. Peer specialists have been shown to be especially successful in engaging veterans who need VA mental health services. Ensuring that culturally competent women peer specialists are available will ensure increased understanding of the barriers to care women veterans face, such as lack of child care, legal assistance and assistance with job placement or training.

DAV Resolution Nos. 225 and 245 support the enhancement of services for women veterans, including mental health services, and increased use of peer specialists, which allows DAV’s strong support for this bill.

Please use the prepared letter to urge your representative to cosponsor H.R. 4635 and move it forward for final passage.

Thank you for your support of the Commander’s Action Network.

Click HERE and send your message!

***

Trying to Locate a Vietnam Veteran

Missing VN Vet

Would everyone please pass this picture around and keep it going. The picture was taken the middle of 1970. The only info I have is that we were stationed together in Viet Nam and I used to call him little John because of his size. Please keep it going in hope I can locate another Vet I lost contact with.

Thanks
SSgt Ralph Roberts!

NOTE: If you know this Vietnam Veteran and how to contact him, please send Jim Davis a message with the details!

***

VA Announces New TBI and PTSD Treatments

Post expires at 6:19am on Wednesday January 31st, 2018

Leave a Reply