TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR OCTOBER 5, 2012
HAPPY COLUMBUS DAY to YOU ALL
Military.com recently reported:
“Military.com reported that the annual bill to approve the cost-of-living increase for veterans compensation and pension programs has been taken off the "secret hold" and that the Senate will vote on it when they reconvene. The bill is generally considered a formality and was virtually "automatic" in past years. The fact that the bill was secretly put on hold may cause some concern among veterans. But, according an official spokesman, “the bill is now cleared for Senate action by both sides.”
On October 1 (the beginning of the 2013 federal fiscal year) military retirees under the age of 65 enrolled in TRICARE Prime face enrollment fee increases. This has nothing to do with this year’s proposals by DoD (which thankfully have not passed.) This is based on last year’s NDAA which allowed both a 1 time jump in TRICARE Prime premiums last year + a yearly COLA based increase for the future.
Until last year the enrollment fees for retirees under the age of 65 in TRICARE Prime was $230.00 a year for single coverage and $460.00 for family coverage. The rates jumped 13% for new retiree enrollees (those enrolling since October 1st 2011) to $260.00 for individuals and $520.00 for family coverage. These retirees now face an additional increase of 3.9% which brings their yearly enrollment fees to $269.28 for individual coverage and $538.56 for family coverage. PLEASE NOTE: Active duty service members and their dependents who are enrolled in TRICARE Prime do not pay yearly enrollment fees. Retirees enrolled in TRICARE Prime before October 1, 2011 did not see the 13% rate increase last year but are seeing it + the 3.9% COLA increase- therefore they are facing approx a 17% enrollment fee increase to the same $269.28 yearly enrollment fee for an individual and $538.56 a year for family coverage.
These numbers make very clear what a yearly increase in premiums, co-pays or other fees can quickly add up. It demonstrates how important it is for all of us to continue to fight the Pentagon’s proposals for increases in TRICARE costs for retirees in the lame duck session of Congress. This can truly affect your lives. We must not let up. TREA the Enlisted Association will, of course, keep you informed about the continuing assault to your earned benefits.
Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) has introduced a new bill that would extend military commissary and exchange store privileges to disabled veterans and their families.
Commissary benefits are part of the military pay and benefits package that is designed to recruit and retain Armed Forces while enhancing the quality of life and readiness for America's military personnel, retirees and their families. Access to commissaries and exchanges has long been reserved for the active duty, longevity or disability retirees, and their spouses and dependents. Denham’s legislation, H.R. 6488, would extend commissary and exchange store privileges to veterans with a service-connected disability and their families.
Original co-sponsors of the bill include Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jeff Miller (R-FL).
TREA: The Enlisted Association knows that this issue has come up in the past, and we would like to get your feedback on whether or not you think this is a good idea. Please send your emailed responses to email@example.com. We’ll keep you informed of any developments on this issue.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has announced it has won a USERRA case on behalf of a member of the Wisconsin National Guard. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose primary mission is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel.
USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) is a federal law that protects job rights for active and reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Office of Special Counsel enforces USERRA for federal employees.
In this case, Michael Hanke, a Wisconsin National Guardsman who lost his job in 2010 with a U.S. Army contractor while on his second tour of duty in Iraq, received a settlement equivalent to several years of salary under an agreement negotiated by the OSC.
Mr. Hanke worked for a defense contractor called ComTek in 2009 when he left for Iraq. While he was away, the Army in-sourced much of the work previously done by ComTek, hiring many of the same employees. When Mr. Hanke requested the same treatment, the Army told him he could not be hired while on active duty. He requested reemployment when he returned from active duty in 2010, but both ComTek and the Army turned him down.
Mr. Hanke filed complaints with the Department of Labor (DOL) against ComTek and the U.S. Army Cadet Command, and he requested that the complaint against the Army be referred to OSC when DOL could not resolve it. OSC attorneys investigated the complaint and concluded that the Army violated USERRA by refusing to hire Mr. Hanke because he was on active duty.
Additionally, a retroactive change to the law, enacted in late 2010, confirmed that the Army was responsible for reemploying Mr. Hanke when it in-sourced his former position. As a result, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner agreed to represent Mr. Hanke to enforce his rights under USERRA. Once OSC informed the Army of the results of its investigation and OSC’s decision to represent Mr. Hanke, OSC and the Army reached a settlement agreement that provides substantial compensation for Mr. Hanke, the exact amount of which is to be kept confidential.
“I applaud the Army Cadet Command for reaching a fair and equitable settlement on Mr. Hanke’s behalf,” said Ms. Lerner. “OSC will continue to press for the employment and reemployment rights of our veterans and National Guard and Reserve members, and for all federal agencies to live up to their obligation to be a model employer under USERRA.”
According to the Washington Post, the federal government is the largest employer of Reserve Component personnel and is also the biggest violator of the USERRA law.
TREA applauds the work of the OSC in holding the federal government accountable to the law that is meant to protect military personnel and we think it is a disgrace that the very government that sends Active Duty and Reserve Component personnel to war is the worst violator of their employment rights.
Surprisingly S3624, the Military Commercial Driver’s License Act of 2012 passed the House last Friday and has been sent to President Obama for his signature. The bill basically allows active duty military, military reserves, National Guard, active duty United States Coast Guard, or Coast Guard Auxiliary service members to earn their commercial driver’s licenses in states where they are stationed. This is accomplished by changing requirements that a state must follow when issuing a commercial drivers license or face severe withholding of federal highway aid funding. The bill which was introduced by Senator Snowe (R-ME) and had 10 original co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle is a very good idea and not controversial. It should help service members find jobs when they leave the service. What is surprising is that it passed while the House was in pro forma session. This was done because both the House’s Majority and Minority Leadership agreed that their membership would approve of this bill. It is also surprising that this bill was proposed has proposed on September 22nds. Just one day! Then the House leadership considered and passed it in just 1 day. Who says Congress can’t act quickly when they want to?
In September Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) introduced S. 3536, the VOW to Hire Heroes Extension Act of 2012. The bipartisan bill simplifies the hiring of unemployed and disabled veterans. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined Blumenthal in introducing this bill as original cosponsors.
Currently, to be considered a “qualified veteran,” eligible to participate in the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provided for by the VOW to Hire A Hero Act, veterans must be approved by a local employment agency, which can be an unnecessarily burdensome and time-consuming process for both the veteran and the potential employer. This bill would modify the WOTC process to allow individuals to be considered “qualified veterans” for tax purposes if they simply provide their potential employer a DD 214 and valid proof of unemployment.
This bill would also extend the amount of time employers have to take advantage of tax credits for hiring unemployed or disabled veterans. Under the bipartisan VOW to Hire A Hero Act of 2011 employers are able to collect tax credits of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed or disabled veterans through the end of 2012. Blumenthal’s bill would allow employers to collect these tax credits through the end of 2016.
This bill makes changes to the current process based on feedback from the veterans and small business communities, both of which expressed a need to simplify the hiring process for veterans. For this reason, TREA: The Enlisted Association supports this legislation. While concerns remain about the ultimate source of funding for the extension of the WOTC, TREA believes that it is a cost our country can bear in order to ensure our commitment to those who have committed to defending this country.
We still need more volunteers for the Miramar Air Show to support manning the food and beverage booths. If you are interested in supporting this effort volunteer some of your time October 12-14. There is a special need for support on Sunday, October 14 as we have exhausted our squadron reps that are available on that day. Please sign up for a full 4 hour period if possible; however no-one will be turned away. The following is the Day/Date/Times:
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