TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR AUGUST 17, 2012
Congress remains out of session while the campaigns heat up. As a result, there was little in the way of legislative activity this week, but there was still interesting and important news for TREA members.
FROM TREA HQ:
1) Changes Coming to US Family Health Plan Eligibility Requirements
TRICARE PRESS RELEASE, FALLS CHURCH, VA (Aug 6, 2012) - Starting this fall, the eligibility requirements for the US Family Health Plan (USFHP) are changing for new enrollees.
TRICARE beneficiaries who enroll in USFHP after Aug. 20, 2012 will lose their eligibility for the program when they turn 65 and be transitioned into TRICARE For Life. Under the new policy, beneficiaries 65 and older won’t be able to enroll in USFHP after Aug. 20, 2012.
Because the eligibility requirements are effective Oct. 1, 2012, new USFHP enrollees must submit their application by Aug. 20, to be enrolled before the requirements go into effect.
All current USFHP members, including those who enroll before Aug. 20, can remain in USFHP, regardless of age, until they no longer qualify for TRICARE coverage. However, if a beneficiary dis-enrolls from USFHP, the new rule applies if they wish to re-enroll at a later date.
USFHP enrollment will remain open to eligible active duty family members, qualifying surviving children and spouses who have not remarried, unmarried children up to age 21 or until age 23 for full-time students, retirees and their family members under the age of 65, and former adult dependent children whose sponsor’s status qualifies them for TRICARE Young Adult coverage. Beneficiaries can enroll at any time and coverage follows the 20th of the month rule.
USFHP is a managed care TRICARE Prime option offering comprehensive coverage at a low cost to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries enrolled in USFHP receive their care at one of the health care facilities belonging to USFHP member hospitals and health systems in their region. For more information on USFHP or to enroll go to www.tricare.mil/usfhp or call membership services at 1-800-748-7347.
2) Veterans’ Burial Benefits – What You Get, and What You Don’t Get - Many veterans are under the impression that their status as a veteran means that the government will pay for their burial. This is not true and it can cause great financial hardship for families who don’t understand it at a time when they are least prepared to deal with it.
It is very important that veterans have their discharge papers located in a secure place known to their next of kin. Eligibility for potential burial benefits depends on these documents, and they cannot always be obtained quickly from government sources.
To be eligible for burial benefits, a veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Certain other factors including time period and length of service may apply, so the family should contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 for final determination of eligibility.
Burial benefits available include a gravesite in any of VA’s 131 national cemeteries, as well as in state- owned- and- operated veterans’ cemeteries.
For veterans interred at a national or state veterans’ cemetery, the opening and closing of the grave and perpetual care are provided at no cost. If buried at a private cemetery, the family must pay these costs, as well as the cost of the plot and any related expenses.
The VA will provide a burial flag, a government marker, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, regardless of where the veteran is buried.
If burial is to take place in a national or state veterans’ cemetery, the cemetery will make the arrangements for the interment only. Neither the cemetery nor the VA makes funeral arrangements or performs cremations.
It is the responsibility of the veteran’s family to make arrangements for funeral services with a funeral home, including memorial services, viewings, preparing and transporting the remains, the casket, etc.
Any items or services obtained from a funeral home will be at the families’ expense, including the plot and grave provisions if the veteran is not buried in a national or state cemetery. The VA does not pay for any expenses related to a veteran’s burial or funeral.
Certain survivors may apply for a monetary burial allowance paid after-the-fact by the VA, but generally only if the veteran was in receipt of VA disability compensation or pension at the time of death, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility.
The amount payable depends on whether the veteran’s death was related to a military service-connected disability, with the payments ranging from $300 to $2,000.
There are other factors that can affect potential eligibility for this benefit, so veterans or their families should contact the VA at the 800 number above or your county veterans service officer for more information prior to actually needing the information.
3) Veterans’ Affairs Department Joins Wasteful Spending on Conferences Scandals - In an article from Bloomberg this week it was revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs is under investigation for spending about $5 million last year on two conferences near Disney World in Florida. This follows the revelation of the General Services Administration’s $825,000 conference last year near Las Vegas that was spotlighted earlier this summer and has led to investigations of how taxpayer dollars are being misspent by government agencies.
The VA events reportedly included gifts to VA employees including alcohol, concert tickets, spa treatments, mediation, Pilates classes and water aerobics. These were among the promotional items for the conference that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) released a statement which said in part, “If the results of the IG investigation are upheld, this represents and egregious misuse of funds meant to provide for the care of America’s veterans.”
This kind of lavish spending on conferences is appalling, especially considering the huge and growing backlog of VA disability claims which means veterans and their families must wait months or years to have a claim adjudicated. Congress needs to step up its oversight of government agencies and put an end to these kinds of practices.
4) Army Suicides Reach Record High in July - Suicides in the Army reached a record high of 38 last month, or an incredible 1.25 soldiers a day. That number is 58% higher than last month’s. It also marks the first time that non-commissioned officer (NCO) suicides have outpaced suicides by junior enlisted personnel. This is a serious epidemic that is staining the morale of the all-volunteer force, and is something that TREA is committed to fighting arm-in-arm with the various services and the Pentagon.
Last month’s total is nearly 50% higher than the average total for the last 18 months, and it has startled nearly everybody who pays attention to this issue. Experts worry that this may only be the tip of the iceberg as the Army goes through Reductions in Force. Getting in trouble, a huge red flag for suicides, may translate into more soldiers facing discharge and possible unemployment. Another red flag is relationship trouble. After a decade of war, going from having a spouse away most of the time to being at home all the time actually may make things worse, especially if the spouse is unemployed after separation.
Retired General (USA) Peter Chiarelli said in a Time.com article: “Our suicide rate has doubled since 2001, and it’s obvious that deployments and stress on the force plays a role in this –- there’s no doubt about it,” he says. “The doubling of our suicide rate coincided with our fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s got to be a contributor.”
To combat this epidemic, the Pentagon is training troops how to bounce back from dark moods, establishing suicide hotlines, hiring mental-health workers to work on the battlefield and at home. The Army has launched a $50 million investigation into the suicide surge and how to stop it.
Chiarelli went on to say in the article: “We have a crisis in the military” caused by a lack of money and knowledge to deal with the mental-health challenges created by a decade at war. “We just don’t know enough,” he says flatly. “And until we do, we will all remain frustrated.” TREA remains committed to fighting for the resources to end this problem.
Read more about the problem here: http://nation.time.com/2012/08/16/grim-record-soldier-suicides-reach-new-high/?iid=us-main-lede
5) Group Seeks to Improve Child Custody Rules for Active Duty - The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a group of legal experts that works to fix legal problems that required changes in all 50 states, has decided to work to simplify child custody rules for active duty service members. The rules vary in all 50 states, and often punish active duty service members for frequent deployments.
The ULC, which is comprised of 350 lawyers appointed from all 50 states, has worked with TREA - The Enlisted Association as part of the Pew Foundation’s Alliance for Military and Overseas Voters (AMOVR) project to simplify election laws for deployed service members and overseas civilians. The ULC is pushing the Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which would unify the state codes of all 50 states regarding custody rights for deployed service members. The Act would have to be approved by the legislatures of all 50 states, since the recommendations of the ULC do not carry the force of law.
Currently, the laws regarding child custody for active duty service members are inconsistent – some protect deployed service members, but some states use a parent’s involuntary deployment as a strike against them when considering the best interests of the child.
One big problem is determining jurisdiction in cases where a service member is deployed or assigned to work in a state other than where the child resides. A USA Today article mentions a Virginia case where Petty Officer 2nd Class John Moreno returned from deployment to find that his wife had absconded with his seven month old child to Arizona. A Virginia court found that Moreno didn’t have jurisdiction because Moreno had military orders to leave the state.
TREA supports the ULC’s efforts to unify and simplify state child custody rules for active duty service members at the state level, since making a federal law about it could confuse the issue in state courts, and may end up damaging the effort in certain states.
6) For Those Coming to Convention – There are a couple of deadlines coming up that you need to be made aware of. There are links on our website at http://www.trea.org/Committees/Convention.html
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