TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR AUGUST 24, 2012
It is another quiet day on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Congress is still on recess. But everywhere, except in Washington DC, the President, Governor Romney, the candidates for Vice President, and most of the present members of the House and Senate and their opponents are crisscrossing the country campaigning like mad. There is drama and fury almost everywhere, except in DC. But in DC, TREA is continuing to work to make sure that your issues are heard above the din
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks announcing a major veterans and military spouse employment milestone during a Joining Forces 125,000th hire event at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, Aug. 22, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
On Wednesday First Lady Michelle Obama announced that in the year since it was created, the White House’s Joining Forces Program helped 125,000 veterans find jobs. This beat their original goal of 100,000 jobs.
Meanwhile a 15 month U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative “Hire Our Heroes” has held hundreds of job fairs throughout the nation for veterans has found jobs for over 10,400 veterans and their spouses with more than 500 employers from every sector of the economy..
The “Joining Forces Program” is headed by Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, Vice President Biden’s wife, and convinced many private companies to focus on hiring veterans. Some of these companies included General Electric Corp., Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Xerox and Northrop Grumman.
The First Lady also announced the new goal of hiring 250,000 jobless veterans by the end of 2014. The program will also work to help 50,000 veteran’s spouses find jobs in the next 2 years. The Chamber of Commerce’s goal is 500,000 jobs by the end of 2014.
For the last several years TREA has been focusing more and more of its energy on programs which will help all military veterans and military retirees find suitable jobs in these tough economic times. We will, of course, continue to keep you informed about developments in this crucial area.
In response to the Pentagon’s proposals of the last several years to slash military health care benefits because (they say) it costs too much, TREA has been urging Congress to force DOD to have its budget audited. The fact is the Pentagon does not know it spends its money. Yet stories constantly appear in the news about the millions and millions of dollars wasted by the Pentagon. Of course, the stories appear after the money is long gone.
Twenty-two years ago Congress passed a law to require every federal department to pass an audit. Every department has met that requirement except one: the Department of Defense.
DOD has kept saying it would get its books straightened out, but it never manages to do so. Recently, DOD officials have said that the Pentagon will achieve “full audit readiness by 2017.”
But unless Congress forces DOD to get its books in order, we believe it will never happen. That’s why we are very pleased that on August 2, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) introduced the bi-partisan bill, S. 3487, “the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2012.” Its authors are Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It has seven co-sponsors from both parties.
TREA believes that instead of focusing on cutting health care benefits, the Pentagon should first learn where they are spending their money. Then they would be able to limit the waste, fraud and abuse that is surely occurring and then fund their necessary programs including the promised and earned health care benefits. That’s why we urge TREA members to contact their own Senators and urge them to support S. 3487.
We will be working to have a companion bill introduced in the House and for passage of both bills as soon as possible.
We have been writing for awhile about the “sequestration” (across-the-board spending cuts) that will happen after January 1 if Congress can’t come to an agreement about cutting spending and/or raising taxes to reach the spending limits in the budget agreement they passed several months ago. However, for the children of many active duty personnel, the cuts have already started having a negative effect.
According to an article by Reuters News Service, the education of children in military families who attend schools heavily populated by military kids is already suffering. The Randolph Field schools near San Antonio, Texas, have started making cuts because there will be less money coming from the federal government as a result of the way the Department of Education is now allocating funds to such schools.
“Kids will have fewer reading specialists and math, English and science instructors, a smaller special education staff and other spending reductions…” according to the article.
In schools that serve Randolph Air Force Base, Ft. Sam Houston and Lackland Air Force Base they’ve already cut out baseball, swimming and cross-country and they have not filled some staff positions that became vacant when some staff members retired.
In York County, Virginia, parents are worried about transportation for children being cut, as well as having the teacher-student ratios in classes increase. Programs in those schools that have already been affected include the elimination of field trips and delay of bus purchases.
TREA is closely watching this situation as we head into the fall. It is unlikely Congress will take any action prior to the November elections. But they have so many issues to deal with that fixing the problems after the election but before they adjourn in December seems highly unlikely. We are fighting to stop the cuts that threaten military benefits and we will keep fighting until Congress decides to do something.
Last week we reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs is being investigated for lavish spending on conferences held near Disney World in Florida for its employees. We said the amount of money being questionably spent was about $5 million. However, it turns out that the actual amount could be more than $100 million.
The issue is being investigated by the VA’s inspector general and the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the actual amount of money is still not certain. The $100 million figure comes from the VA’s Chief Financial Officer who told a House committee late in the fall of last year that conference expenditures were “a little over $100 million.” That compared with $92 million in 2009.
This issue is important as we deal with threatened cuts in the federal budget that could affect the Department of Veterans Affairs. While nothing is certain yet, TREA believes that it is absolutely wrong for the VA to be spending money this way when services to veterans could be in jeopardy.
We are closely monitoring this issue and we’ll report on it if something new and important is revealed.
A new fake military news blog, the Duffle Blog is tricking and amusing people all over the country with its inside military humor. This satirical blog can be found at http://www.duffelblog.com (also on FACEBOOK and Twitter) In March, 28-year old veteran Marine Sgt. Paul Szoldra started an Onion like news comedy site. Since then it has spread like wildfire. Numerous news outlets have been fooled because it almost rings true.
Recent satirical military news articles posted on the site include:
Gina Harkins, a staff writer for the Marine Times has been quoted as saying that some of their writers have fallen for some of the headlines: “We were duped! Because often those stories border reality. We’ve all seen some headlines and fallen for them a couple of times, until you click on them and see it’s a Duffel Blog.”
Go on, have fun, give it a try.
The planning of the TRICARE West contract transition from TriWest (the present contractor for the west region) to UnitedHealthcare (the new contractor) is under way. The TRICARE West Region is made up 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. (This does not cover the Pharmacy, dental or TFL contracts.)
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) has created a new website where you can get information about the transition. It is www.tricare.mil/westtransition. On that site you can sign up for e-mailed bulletins about the transition. And beneficiaries in the west region can expect to receive communications from UnitedHealthcare before the April 1st 2013 contract transition date.
In the meantime if you have customer service questions or need help before April 1st 2013 still go to TriWest at: 1-888-TRIWEST (1-888-874-9378) or go to the TriWest Website: www.triwest.com. Of course please remember if you have problems the staff of the Washington Office of TREA is here to try and help.
7) Still thinking about a vacation? Go to the newly redesigned www.Recreation.gov and get the information you need
The federal government has just stood up its newly redesigned www.Recreation.gov. It has lots of information and is easier to navigate (I just tried it.) It has information on approximately 90,000 “federal sites and outdoor places.”
It has several new features including:
Explore Trip Ideas: Explore Trip Ideas helps you discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.
They have some very good suggestions. Take a look.
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