DEFENSE BUDGET A BAD DEAL FOR RETIREES AND MILITARY FAMILIES

VFW vows to fight against meager pay raises and increased health care fees

WASHINGTON (April 11, 2013) – The Pentagon unveiled its budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 yesterday, outlining how the Obama Administration wants to fund the Department of Defense in the coming year. The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. immediately fired back at the proposal, which he says breaks faith with our military retirees and their loved ones.

“The VFW recognizes that the Pentagon has tough decisions to make about its budget, but the proposals in this year’s budget breaks faith with our volunteers by further burdening our military retirees and our military families,” said John E. Hamilton, who leads the 2 million-member VFW and its Auxiliaries. “The VFW has long believed that trying to find savings from health care accounts and military pay threatens to hollow out the all-volunteer force, and we will not sit idly by and let these kinds of cuts take place.”

The proposed Defense budget for FY 2014 asks for a military pay raise of only one percent and asks for increases in TRICARE health care fees for military retirees and military families. At the 113th VFW National Convention, VFW members voted overwhelmingly to oppose any increases to TRICARE fees for retirees, and Hamilton said the VFW will continue to pressure the Pentagon and Congress to find savings through programs that do not affect military personnel, retirees or military families.

VFW officials also insisted that Congress must offer service members a reasonable pay raise comparable to the consumer price index.

“Our service members volunteer for a dangerous job with notoriously low pay, which is why the VFW believes a 1-percent pay raise simply doesn’t cut it,” said Hamilton. “We owe it to our brave men and women to at least offer a pay raise comparable to the civilian sector if we hope to recruit and retain the best and brightest to defend our nation.”

During the budget roll-out, senior Defense officials acknowledged that they sought to develop a budget that minimally affected service members and their families, and the VFW was encouraged to see a 2-percent increase in the military personnel budget that included increases in housing allowances, subsistence allowances and continued investment in military transition, suicide prevention and sexual assault prevention.

The VFW also was pleased to see that the Administration sought to fully fund the military’s Tuition Assistance programs in FY 2014. Services suspended enrollment in Tuition Assistance after budget sequestration took effect in March. In response, the VFW quickly mobilized to save the program as part of the FY 2013 budget resolution, generating more than 14,000 emails to Congress in only two days.

“The VFW sees military Tuition Assistance as a critical professional development and military readiness tool, which is why we are encouraged to see the Administration’s ongoing commitment to the program,” said Hamilton. “Education is critical to building strong military leaders, and the VFW will hold the military accountable for continuing to support Tuition Assistance.”

Defense officials recognized that the proposed budget sought to maintain American military  posture to support global operations in support of the Global War on Terror and ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula, and that further investments would prioritize forward-deployed service members and wounded warriors.

The VFW believes that military quality-of-life is inextricably linked to morale and military readiness. In the coming weeks and months, the VFW will continue to advocate for a responsible Defense budget that not only protects America’s global interests, but also meets the needs of military personnel, retirees and their families.

VFW WASHINGTON WEEK REVIEW

VFW Washington Weekly

July 6, 2012

 

In This Issue:

1. Canada Wants to Hire U.S. Vets

2. United Healthcare To Be New TRICARE West Contractor

3. Connect to Congress Today

4. Share Your Fourth of   July Stories

5. Stolen Valor Survey   Results

6. WWII MIA Returns Home

 

1. Canada Wants to Hire U.S. Vets: The   VFW proudly announced this week that its partly owned veterans jobs board has   secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada, that could   see thousands of skilled U.S. veterans heading north to work on their oil   pipeline. “Though America’s Keystone Pipeline is delayed, the Canadians are   moving forward on their side of the border and have an immediate need for   tens of thousands of workers,” said Ted Daywalt, founder and CEO of VetJobs.   There is an anticipated shortage of 114,000 workers in the Alberta area. The   positions being offered are long term, with many paying as much as 30 percent   more than similar industry positions in the United States. Some positions   will require a move to Canada, but many others will allow veterans to commute   — working several weeks in Canada, then one week back home. “This is a   fantastic opportunity and I’m proud of our affiliation with VetJobs,” said   VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer. “Helping thousands of veterans to get   well-paying jobs in an important industry just further proves that no one   does more for veterans than the VFW.” To apply, go to www.vetjobs.com,   click on Search Jobs, then type “opportunity awaits” into the company search   field. Additional job postings will be added in the coming months as the   Canadian pipeline project progresses. To read the VFW’s full statement on the   announcement, click here: http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2012-Articles/CANADA-WANTS-U-S-VETERANS-FOR-PIPELINE-WORK/

2. United Healthcare To Be New TRICARE West Contractor:   The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced this week that it was   moving ahead with its decision to award the Tricare West region (T-3)   contract to United Healthcare. The contract had been held by TriWest   Healthcare Alliance who had filed a protest with GAO earlier this year.    TriWest currently serves 2.9 million beneficiaries including active duty   personnel, retirees and their families and has more than 175,000 health care   providers in its 21-state network. Their current contract continues through   March 31, 2013 after which United Healthcare will take over beginning April   1, 2013.  To keep informed about DoD’s transition plans, stay tuned to   the Washington Weekly for all the details.

3. Connect to Congress Today:    Congress remains on recess for a few more days and returns to a very busy   July schedule.  Now is a great time to take a look at what your VFW has   done during the 112th Congress. We have testified over 25   times on critically important issues and legislation that affects veterans, service   members and their families. Some of the topics included mental and behavior   health, employment   rights,   education benefits and oversight on the VA claims process. We also track how   your members vote on those issues when they reach the floor of the House and   Senate.  As we begin to wind down the 112th Congress, take a   look at some of the issues and bills we were asked to provide comments and   how your members have voted when those bills are called up for a vote. To   view both items, visit the VFW website at http://www.vfw.org/VFW-in-DC/    and use the Connect to Congress box on bottom right.

 4. Share Your Fourth of   July Stories:   Members of Congress were in their home districts this week, joining in   celebrations commemorating the birth of our nation and listening to the   concerns of their constituents.  We know many VFW advocates also took   this opportunity to discuss the VFW’s Legislative Priority Goals, urging   representatives to support the needs of the veterans’ community. If you   have advocacy stories you would like to share for publication on the VFW   Capitol Hill blog, simply fill out the online form available here: http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/,   or send details and photos directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

Without   the help of our advocates in communities from coast to coast, accomplishments   like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Agent Orange presumption, veterans’ hiring   preference, advance health care appropriations and Family Caregiver benefits   would not have been possible. We hope that you will send us your stories and   help us inspire members to reach out to their representatives and take   action!

5.  Stolen Valor   Survey Results: Last   week, we asked you for your thoughts on last week’s Supreme Court ruling,   which found the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional. Here are the results of   our poll asking, what do you think about the Supreme Court decision to overturn   the Stolen Valor Act of 2005?

  • It was the wrong        decision: 85% (349 votes)
  • I don’t like it, but I        guess it constitutes free speech: 8% (31 votes)
  • It was the right        decision: 3% (12 votes)
  • Other (leave        comments): 4% (18 votes)

Thank   you for reading, and thank you for leaving more than 100 comments on the   blog, Facebook, and poll website. To view the original posting, click here: http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/06/what-do-you-think-supreme-court.html

6. WWII MIA Returns Home: The   Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced the identification of remains   belonging to Navy Radioman 1st Class Harry C. Scribner, 20, of Seattle. On   Aug. 2, 1943, Scribner and two other men were aboard a TBF-1 Avenger aircraft   that crashed on the island of Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides—now known as   Vanuatu—while on a routine calibration flight. Sixteen days after the crash,   one crewman was rescued from the jungle but was unable to assist recovery   teams with locating the crash site. Read more at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

 
 

 

World No Tobacco Day: The Day to be Tobacco Free

 
From: TRICARE Communications
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:13 PM
Subject: Featured Article – World No Tobacco Day: The Day to be Tobacco Free
 
 World No Tobacco Day: The Day to be Tobacco Free
May 23, 2012
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease-related illness and death in the United States. During World No Tobacco Day on May 31 the World Health Organization will highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use in order to educate smokers and encourage them to quit.

Read more at www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/HealthyLiving.jsp?fid=600.
 
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VFW WASHINGTON WEEK MAY 11, 2012

VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
May 11, 2012

In This Issue:
1. House Committee Clears NDAA
2. House VA Committee Discusses Mental Health Staffing
3. VA Funding Clears House
4. VFW Discusses Veterans Transition
5. VA Telehealth Co-pays Eliminated

1. House Committee Clears NDAA: The House Armed Services Committee cleared their version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Because of your advocacy, the bill does not include controversial TRICARE healthcare premium fees proposed by the administration, but does make some minor changes to retail pharmacy. The cost of generic drugs will stay the same, both in retail ($5 / 30-day supply) and mail-order ($0) — however, formulary drugs purchased in retail will rise from $12 to $17 in retail, and will rise from $9 to $13 through mail order. Non-formulary drugs that are purchased without a medical necessity will rise from $25 to $44 in retail, and from $25 to $43 in mail order. Beginning in FY 2014, all pharmacy benefits will be indexed to annual retire COLA. For example, if these provisions become law and retail, non-generic formulary drugs rise to $17, a 3% COLA increase for FY 2014 would raise the cost in that year to $17.51.
Other VFW-supported provisions include:
* A 1.7% pay increase in pay and extension of bonuses and special pay for service members
* Increased oversight and new regulations and procedures for combating and prosecuting sexual assault in the military
* Cap on number of troops that can be separated from the force in a single year

For details on the entire bill, go to http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/press-releases?ContentRecord_id=c1a26a15-9dd3-4658-abf2-e50d0852ba12.

The House is likely to take up the bill next week. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to take up their version before Memorial Day after which it will be sent to the Senate floor. From there, a House/Senate conference committee will need to meet to work out their differences and send an agreement back to both houses for final passage before it can go to the President. Rest assured that we will continue to keep you informed and call up our grassroots advocates through Action Alerts to make our voice heard as the congressional process continues.

To join with us to Protect Military Benefits, click here for our Call to Action: http://capwiz.com/vfw/callalert/index.tt?alertid=61313946

2. House VA Committee Discusses Mental Health Staffing: This week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the findings of a recent VA Office of Inspector General report outlining serious concerns with access to mental health care within VA. At the request of Committee Chairman, Jeff Miller (R-FL) VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki, and Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health, testified for VA. Much of the hearing revolved around the recent announcement that VA would hire 1,900 new mental health staff — 1,600 clinicians and 300 support staff in hopes of meeting the shortfalls across the country. The committee members had many questions about the VA staffing model and whether 1,900 FTE’s is enough to address the current need. VFW intends to keep a close watch on what improvements are made in the delivery of mental health care for our veterans.
To read more about the hearing, visit our blog at http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/house-veterans-affairs-committee.html

3. VA Funding Clears House: This week, The House Appropriations’ Military Construction and VA Subcommittee approved funding for VA and military constructions programs. The bill funds VA medical services at $41.4 billion which includes $6.2 billion for mental health care and $5.8 billion for homeless veterans programs and job training services. The bill also provides $73 million for suicide prevention, $220 million for TBI treatment and $250 million for rural health initiatives, The full committee is set to consider the bill before the Memorial Day recess. For more on the bill’s highlights, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=294142

4. VFW Discusses Veterans Transition: VFW joined the Volunteers of America (VOA) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for a panel discussion on transitional issues faced by today’s veterans. The discussion centered on efforts to advance policy to better serve the nation’s newest generation of combat veterans. Moderator, David Gregory (Meet the Press) pointed out that national media would need to play a critical role in ensuring that veterans’ issues remain at the forefront of the public conscience once the wars end. The VFW has long echoed these concerns, pointing to historical examples of how Americans can quickly forget that the cost of caring for veterans is a true cost of war.
To learn more about the event visit our blog at http://www.vfwonthehill.org/2012/05/vfw-joins-volunteers-of-america-to.html

5. VA Telehealth Co-pays Eliminated: This week, VA announced that veterans receiving VA in-home care via telehealth will no longer have a co-payment for that service. According to VA this will affect approximately 1,300 telehealth users in FY 2013 where a co-payment would have been required. VA data has shown using technology at home enables patients with chronic health conditions to live more independently while actively engaging in managing their own health care. The revised regulation is effective May 7, 2012. For more information about telehealth within VA click here: www.telehealth.va.gov/
 
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VFW Commander In Chief rebuts editorial on DOD Budget

On Monday, three representatives of the Center for American Progress attacked the Veterans of Foreign Wars of

the U.S. in an opinion editorial published in Politico. Entitled “VFW, Allies Mislead On Pay, Benefits,” they

criticized the VFW for opposing Pentagon budget-reduction plans that would reduce military pay increase percentages, civilianize the retirement system, and shift more TRICARE health program costs onto military dependents and retirees. VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer responded to the attack in a 300-word letter to editor that was published in today’s issue of Politico. Below is the expanded version.

VFW Rebuts Center for American Progress Editorial Attack

By Richard L. DeNoyer

Monday’s opinion editorial by Lawrence Korb, Alex Rothman and Max Hoffman would have readers believe that the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is misleading America

into believing that the Pentagon’s proposals to reform military compensation, retirement and healthcare are bad for the nation.

As the national commander of America’s oldest and largest combat veterans’ organization, I can guarantee that nothing the VFW says about protecting military pay and benefits is misleading.

The Defense Department’s “budget first, people second” proposals are bad for America because they threaten the continued viability of the all-volunteer force. It takes people to fight and win our nation’s wars — to put boots on the ground as well as to operate our ships, planes and tanks.

The VFW makes no apologies for wanting to protect those military programs that attract and retain our best and brightest in uniform.

The authors would have you believe that proposed military pay raises between .5 and 1.7 percent over the next five years will help rebalance the budget, yet they make no mention of the affect a resurging economy will have on recruiting and retention, much less the still volatile and

unpredictable world that awaits our military of 2015 and beyond. They and others seem to have forgotten the huge recruiting and retention bonuses the military services had to offer just seven

short years ago.

It is the constitutional responsibility of Congress to raise, support, and make rules for the regulation of our armed forces. And while DOD input is crucial for informed decisions, Congress

must not be rushed into any “up or down” decision, similar to Base Realignment and Closure Commission votes, that could put a professionally-led, all-volunteer force at risk.

Based on earlier trial balloons, DOD wants a new military retirement system that would resemble more participatory, 401(k)-type civilian programs, with the delayed receipt of

retirement benefits until almost age 60. Since less than 10 percent of the force stays 20 years or more — not 17 percent as reported by the authors — a civilianized military retirement system will hurt retention because a 401(k)-style retirement plan can be earned virtually anywhere, and in professions far safer than serving in the military.

Congress needs to carefully review and determine the potential impacts of such proposals on the force, because the immediate receipt of retirement pay and inexpensive healthcare for life for the retiree and spouse are the only two incentives the Pentagon offers to entice someone to first

donate 20 or more years of their youth to the nation.

Our entire nation faces a health cost crisis, but change advocates want all military dependents and retirees to shoulder more TRICARE health program costs. They cite national averages and what federal civilian employees pay in an attempt to justify plans to more than quadruple TRICARE premiums for some retirees. They call military healthcare and the retirement system

“too generous,” with some even referring to these earned benefits as something far more insulting — “entitlements.”

The authors would also have you believe that the Pentagon’s proposals are reasonable and fair, and should be supported by groups like the VFW, the Military Officers Association of America, and other veteran and military service organizations. They even wrote that “Reforming the system of military compensation is necessary — and should be supported by all Americans.”

Yet the authors failed to present the whole picture in their argument. They focus on the overall monetary cost, but not the human cost that first requires decades of faithful service just to qualify — the multiple moves and hazardous deployments; children constantly uprooted from schools

and spouses from any semblance of careers; zero home equity; potential age discrimination when applying for post-military employment; and now, being relegated to the expense ledger by the very department that was supposed to have your back.

Only 1.9 million of America’s 22.2 million veterans are military retirees. Their ranks include former military service chiefs and commanders, and exponentially more from the enlisted ranks

— the rank and file who also help to define a professionally-led, all-volunteer force. But during this budget debate, nobody seems to care about the people side of the equation; they only want to compare military pay, healthcare and retirement programs with civilians who choose not to serve.

Putting the budget ahead of the troops is going to signal an end to the all-volunteer force, which for 39 years and more than a decade of continuous war has served our nation extremely well.

That is not a misleading statement; it is a dire warning, and we urge Congress to focus on the difference.

VFW Legislative Alert – Defense Budget Harms Military

    VFW Legislative Alert – Defense Budget Harms Military
    =====================================================

    Take Action! Visit this page:
    http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=61005316&queueid=7927423416

Background:

All military retirees and active duty service members will see
increases in their health care costs under the proposed Department of
Defense (DOD) FY 2013 budget.

All existing fees and copays will drastically increase over the next
five years.  Fees and copays will nearly double for lower retirement
pay earners; however, because the budget proposals include tiers which
tie future increases based on retired pay, many will pay more than four
times the current amount within five years.  In addition to increasing
existing fees and copays (starting Oct 1, 2012), the budget proposal
would also institute entirely new and costly enrollment fees for
TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life (TFL).

For example, a TFL beneficiary making less than $22,589 would pay
$150 per individual by FY 2016, and the fee would be indexed to
civilian medical inflation thereafter.

Active-duty service members and their families would also feel the
pinch as copays for brand name drugs would double in 2013 for all
pharmacy beneficiaries and would continue to rise each year.

We cannot stand by and allow the Defense budget to harm the military
and its personnel. VFW opposes any increases in healthcare costs for
all military retirees and our service members.

Congress must support a budget that does not include fee increases
which passes budget savings on to our service members and retirees.

  Action Needed:

Contact your Legislators today and urge them to block DOD’s authority
to increase any TRICARE fees as part of the Defense Authorization bill.
Those who have fought for our country deserve no less.  Congress
should insist that DOD find efficiencies in other areas and leave those
who have fought and continue to fight for our country out of any budget
savings!

Let them know we expect any fee increases to be dead on arrival!

VFW Legislative Alert: Defense Budget Harms Military

VFW Legislative Alert – Defense Budget Harms Military

Take Action!

Background:All military retirees and active duty service members will see increases in their health care costs under the proposed Department of Defense (DOD) FY 2013 budget.

All existing fees and copays will drastically increase over the next five years.  Fees and copays will nearly double for lower retirement pay earners; however, because the budget proposals include tiers which tie future increases based on retired pay, many will pay more than four times the current amount within five years.  In addition to increasing existing fees and copays (starting Oct 1, 2012), the budget proposal would also institute entirely new and costly enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life (TFL).

For example, a TFL beneficiary making less than $22,589 would pay $150 per individual by FY 2016, and the fee would be indexed to civilian medical inflation thereafter.

Active-duty service members and their families would also feel the pinch as copays for brand name drugs would double in 2013 for all pharmacy beneficiaries and would continue to rise each year.

We cannot stand by and allow the Defense budget to harm the military and its personnel. VFW opposes any increases in healthcare costs for all military retirees and our service members.

Congress must support a budget that does not include fee increases which passes budget savings on to our service members and retirees.

Action Needed:

Contact your Legislators today and urge them to block DOD’s authority to increase any TRICARE fees as part of the Defense Authorization bill. Those who have fought for our country deserve no less.  Congress should insist that DOD find efficiencies in other areas and leave those who have fought and continue to fight for our country out of any budget savings!

Let them know we expect any fee increases to be dead on arrival!