Washington Weekly

WASHINGTON WEEKLY

September 27, 2013

In This Issue:

1. Budget Impact on VA

2. Budget Impact on DOD

3. Affordable Care Act Update

4. Congress Extends Veteran Programs

5. MIAs from Three Wars Identified

1. Budget Impact on VA: Certain Department of Veterans Affairs programs, like

yments for disability compensation, GI Bill education benefits, survivors benefits, and pensions for current beneficiaries, are not subject to the annual discretionary funding battle, and are therefore not impacted by the potential lack of an FY 2014 budget or Continuing Resolution on Oct. 1. Those veterans currently scheduled for burial should also be interred as scheduled. There should also be no noticeable change in healthcare, because the VFW led an effort to get advance appropriations signed into law that gives the Veterans Health Administration a preapproved budget two years out. Inpatient and outpatient care will continue to be provided, to include the filling of prescriptions, counseling services, surgeries and dental treatments, and the National Veterans Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, will remain operational. Advance appropriations, however, does not extend to VA’s two other agencies, the Veterans Benefits Administration and National Cemetery Administration, where veterans could see noticeable changes in customer contact and claims processing. VA said it has sufficient funds to keep its 57 VA Regional Offices (ROs) open through Oct. 4; however, if a budget or Continuing Resolution is not passed before Oct. 7, VA will be forced to close its ROs until Congress acts. This is important because all claims are processed by the ROs. Veterans will still be able to file claims electronically, but not in person. This also means no one will be processing their claims, which would further increase the backlog. The VFW is working hard to get all VA funding protected by advanced appropriations. To learn more about how a potential government shutdown would affect VA services, click here: http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Field_Guide_20130927.pdf.

2. Budget Impact on DOD: The lack of an approved budget or Continuing Resolution will have a tremendous impact on the Department of Defense, should the federal government shut down on Oct. 1. All nonessential activities will cease in order to keep combat forces and forward deployed forces operational. In a telephone conference this afternoon, DOD told the VFW to expect the following actions to take place when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, barring a last minute funding extension:

  • ·       Personnel: All military personnel will report to work. They will receive their Oct. 1 paycheck because it was earned in September, but subsequent pay will be accrued but go unpaid until a budget or CR is passed. All appropriated fund civilian personnel will also report to work, but only those deemed mission critical—security and fire protection, for example—will remain on duty. Everyone else will be furloughed in a non-work, unpaid status. Nonappropriated fund civilians and military retiree pay should not be effected. Temporary duty and permanent change of station assignments may be cancelled or delayed.
  • ·       Operations & Maintenance: Aircraft and ships are already flying and sailing less, and ground troops are training less because of the current budget reduction and sequester. A government shutdown makes everything worse. Acute and emergency medical and dental care will continue, but routine appointments will be cancelled or delayed. Other military service providers, such as legal and human resources, will remain open but be minimally staffed due to the civilian workforce furlough. All DOD schools and childcare centers will remain open, but stateside commissaries will be closed. The duration of the shutdown will directly impact the severity of cost-saving measures.

Congress has a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time, and it all starts with getting rid of sequestration and passing a defense budget now. Add your voice to the fight today by contacting your congressional members at http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=62940921.

3. Affordable Care Act Update: Thanks to the VFW and our friends in Congress, every veteran, service member, dependent, retiree or survivor enrolled in VA healthcare or any of the military’s 10 Tricare programs, plus the U.S. Family Health Plan, are deemed to have met the minimum essential coverage standards required by the new Affordable Care Act. Minimum essential coverage must be in place by Jan. 1, 2014. People who fail to do so will be assessed a fee for every month they do not have adequate coverage; the fee will be collected from 2014 tax returns. VA enrollees can learn more at www.va.gov/aca; Tricare enrollees at http://www.tricare.mil/Home/Welcome/AboutUs/MEC.aspx; and everyone can learn more about the new Affordable Care Act at www.healthcare.gov.

4. Congress Extends Veteran Programs: This week, Congress cleared VFW-supported legislation that will extend several programs within VA and the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training. H.R. 1412, the Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2013, authorizes employment assistance under the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program, which provides job placement, on-the-job and classroom training, career counseling, and money management skills. The program was extended through FY 2014. The bill also authorizes supportive services for veterans and their families, extends housing grants for disabled veterans requiring housing modifications, and allows VA to continue providing child care assistance for veterans receiving health services in their facilities. The bill now heads to the President for his signature. To read the final version of the bill in its entirety, click on http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:H.R.1412.EAS:/.

5. Four MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to four MIAs from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Recovered are:

  • ·       Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird, 26, of Lindon, Utah. On March 12, 1944, Bird, a member of the 13th Bombardment Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Group, was piloting an A-20G Havoc aircraft on an attack mission over the island of New Guinea. Bird’s aircraft did not return to base.
  • ·      Army Cpl. Armando Alvarez, 20, of El Paso, Texas. In late 1950, Alvarez and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, also known as Task Force Faith, were forced into a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Alvarez was reported missing on Dec. 2, 1950.
    • ·       Air Force Majs. James E. Sizemore of Lawrenceville, Ill., and Howard V. Andre Jr., of Memphis, Tenn. On July 8, 1969, Sizemore and Andre were on a night armed reconnaissance mission when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos.

Read their individual recovery stories at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/news/news_releases/.

As always, we want to share your advocacy stories on the VFW Capitol Hill blog. To share your stories, either fill out our online form by clicking here, http://www.vfw.org/Forms/Capitol-Hill-Blog-Submissions/, or simply email photos and stories directly to vfwac@vfw.org.

To sign up new veterans’ advocates to receive the Washington Weekly every Friday, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.

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