TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR OCTOBER 26, 2012
Well we have less than 2 more weeks to go before the election and everyone in Washington will start to analyze what policies we will be expecting from Congress and the White House.
What will be the future of sequestration, the NDAA and taxes? One thing that looks pretty clear about taxes is that the 163 million workers who pay payroll (Social Security) will in January see an increase in what is taken out of their pay. That is because no one, from either side of the aisle, is proposing to extend the temporary reduction in the payroll tax that has been in place for the last 2 years. It is possible that it could become a part of the negotiations concerning proposed extensions for part or all of the Bush era tax cuts- but it does not seem likely. Too many people in both parties seem too worried about the long term health of Social Security to let the holiday continue.
1) The Home Depot Announces Employment Transition Workshops for the Military And Veterans This Sunday
The Home Depot has announced a special one-day event this coming Saturday, October 27, at Home Depot stores across the nation. The event, called “Mission: Transition” consists of civilian career workshops that focus on helping service members and veterans transition successfully into the workforce in any industry.
Those who attend will hear directly from hiring managers, human resource professionals and former military leaders currently working at The Home Depot. Attendees will learn:
A well-crafter resume is the key that opens the door to interviews and opportunities
>Define your goals
>Translate your military experience into civilian skills
>Topics include: Key words, action words, cover letters, formatting and common mistakes
Job Search Strategies
>How to effectively use social media
Mastering the art of the interview is one of the best ways to separate yourself in today’s crowded employment arena.
>Polish your existing interviewing skills
>Learn new techniques
>Prepare for various interview scenarios
The Home Depot cautions that space is limited. You are urged to register immediately and take advantage of this opportunity to learn the keys to success from former military and industry leaders. This is not a hiring event, so resumes will not be accepted.
Go to http://www.homedepotmilitary.com/ to find the nearest Home Depot location to you that is holding a workshop.
The Army Times is reporting that TRICARE beneficiaries in Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nev.; and Springfield, Mo., will no longer be able to enroll in TRICARE Prime as of April 1 next year, although the Pentagon will not confirm the report. Active duty personnel and their families will not be affected nor will beneficiaries who live in an area where there is a military treatment facility. It is estimated this could impact as many as 30,000 TRICARE Prime enrollees living in those areas.
The cuts in Prime are coming because those areas lie outside the areas that will be covered by a new TRICARE regional contract. There are two exceptions according to the report: current Prime enrollees who live within 100 miles of an available primary care manager and sign an access waiver; and new enrollees outside the Prime service area if there is network capacity and the primary care manager is less than 100 miles from where the beneficiary lives.
The Times report says the move will save a great deal of money for the Pentagon because it cuts administration overhead and shifts more of the costs to beneficiaries. This, of course, is what the Pentagon has had in mind for the last several years when it has tried to cut health care benefits and make beneficiaries pay more and more of the costs of their health care.
The report further says that this move by the Pentagon has been in the works since 2007 but was delayed because of contract disputes. It also says that there are concerns other regions may see the same thing happen.
According to the Times report:
“Under the changes that will start April 1, as many as 170,000 Prime enrollees across all three regions eventually may have to drive longer distances to see a Prime provider or switch to Tricare Standard, which has no enrollment fees but carries greater out-of-pocket costs:
• Cost shares are 20 percent for active-duty family members and 25 percent for retirees and other eligible beneficiaries.
• Annual deductibles for outpatient care are $50 for an individual and $100 for a family for active-duty members in paygrades E-4 and below, and $150 for an individual and $300 for a family for all others.
• The annual catastrophic cap — the maximum health care costs a beneficiary must pay in any one fiscal year — is $1,000 for active-duty families and $3,000 for retirees.”
We at TREA think these cuts in health care benefits are outrageous and we will continue to fight to stop the proposals that have been put forth by the Pentagon that would make even more dramatic cuts to your promised and earned military benefits.
3) Commissary Rewards Card Now Available Worldwide
The Defense Commissary Agency has recently announced that its new Commissary Rewards Card is now available at all commissaries.
The card, a joint effort with grocery industry partners to help customers save even more on their commissary purchases, was made available incrementally in all stores after completion of testing that began Aug. 8.
"By using this card, our customers can access digital coupons and redeem them in any military commissary," said DeCA Director and CEO Joseph Jeu. "This effort is about leveraging technology to reward our customers for using their commissary benefit."
The card launched with a feature allowing customers to save time and money by clipping and redeeming coupons digitally. As an introductory offer, customers who pick up their cards by Oct. 24 will have some coupons preloaded to their cards for use in the commissary immediately.
"Since we are required by law to sell at cost, we can't lower our prices any further," explained Marye Carr, DeCA's project manager for the Rewards Card program. "But we saw an opportunity to work with our industry partners to offer rewards, such as digital coupons, that would help customers save even more on their commissary purchases."
Cards are easy to use
The cards are easy to use. Customers simply pick up their cards in-store, then visit DeCA's website to complete registration and load digital coupons to their account. Then, when the card is scanned at the register, the coupons are matched to their purchases and automatically deducted from the balance owed.
Customers have the option of printing off a list of their coupons before making the trip to the commissary to help them keep track of the savings available to them in the store. New offers will typically be posted online every two to three weeks.
As an incentive, customers who register their card by Oct. 24 also have the opportunity to enter the 2012 Commissary Rewards Card "Home for the Holidays Sweepstakes" sponsored by Dr Pepper-Snapple. This is a chance to win round-trip airline tickets for four to anywhere in the United States, lodging in a hotel room that accommodates four for six days and five nights, and $1,000 spending money. The sweepstakes entry form appears at the end of the online registration process.
Digital coupons, just like their paper counterparts, have expiration dates and other terms and conditions that must be followed for redemption. However, unlike paper coupons, digital coupons cannot be accepted for up to six months after expiration overseas. That's because these coupons are distributed digitally and are instantly available to all customers worldwide, so overseas customers don't need extra time to use them. When a coupon expires, it will disappear from the customer's account.
Also, DeCA's coupon policy limits coupons to one per purchase, so these digital coupons cannot be combined with manufacturer coupons, including paper coupons and military or commissary coupons, for the same item or set of items.
Digital couponing is just the first step for the Commissary Rewards Card. DeCA is partnering with its industry and military resale partners to identify additional rewards for cardholders, such as targeted savings based on a customer's specific usage, alerting customers to sales promotions available at their local stores, and rewarding consistent shoppers with specific incentives.
"Long-term, we expect that the Commissary Rewards Card will be more than just a digital couponing card," Carr said. "We are working to develop other features to reward customers for using their commissary benefit."
For more information about the card, go to the Commissary Rewards Card FAQ page. Help is also available through the customer service hotline at 855-829-6219 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TREA has been fighting attempts by some members of Congress to, in effect, cut the commissary and exchange benefits and we are happy to see the commissary taking this step to reward its customers. It is important that those who are eligible to use commissaries take advantage of them because as Congress examines areas to cut the budget the commissary benefit is one that could be in serious trouble.
Another military benefit is being threatened by the “sequester” (those budget cuts that are scheduled to go into effect January 2 of next year unless Congress changes the law). Half of the cuts are scheduled to come from the Defense Department budget and among other things, commissaries could take a major blow.
According to the Armed Forces Marketing Council, the association that represents manufacturers of products sold in commissaries, the cuts could force commissary store hours to be drastically shortened because of cutbacks in the number of staff working in each commissary. It is even possible some commissaries could be closed in areas where posts and bases are co-located.
Exchanges will not be affected because they are self-sustaining through the profits they generate, but the commissaries rely on a $1.4 billion subsidy from Congress each year. This is what allows commissary users to save about 30 percent on the grocery purchases.
Some members of Congress have been working on legislation to try and save the Defense budget from the sequestration, but the issue must be dealt with after the elections. What finally happens will most likely depend a great deal upon who wins this November.
TREA urges those who are concerned about the commissary benefit to contact their Senators and Representative and express to them that concern and ask them to support legislation to save the commissaries from these crippling cuts.
In the meantime, we are continuing to lobby in Washington to save the commissaries and the other earned and promised military benefits that have been targeted because of the need to curb federal spending.
As part of an ongoing effort to recruit and hire veterans, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is teaming up with “Feds Hire Vets” to highlight employment opportunities in military and veteran communities.
The vision of the “Feds Hire Vets” is to be the leading source of Federal employment information for our Veterans, transitioning service members, their families, Federal HR professionals and hiring managers. The goal of the initiative is to assist those who have served our country in the military find employment in the Federal Government through consistent, accurate information and useful training, amongst other resources, in ways that inform both the applicant and hiring agency. In addition to the Exchange, employment opportunities through the Defense Commissary Agency, Veterans Canteen Service, Navy Exchange Service Command, Coast Guard Exchange and Marine Corps Community Services are also highlighted on the “Feds Hire Vets” site.
The Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government was signed on November 9, 2009, by President Barak Obama, and establishes the Veterans Employment Initiative. Currently military spouses, dependents, veterans, reserves, and active duty represent 35% of the employees at the Exchange with Veterans exclusively representing 10%.
“We are united in our efforts to ensure veterans and military family members are aware of the great employment and career opportunities to continue serving in our communities that exist in military resale,” said the Exchange’s VP of Career Management Darryl Porter. “This website is one of many strategies to assist the Exchange in the recruitment and employment of Veterans.”
Can President Obama assure veterans that even in a difficult fiscal environment, the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue to enjoy hefty increases in is annual funding?
President Obama: One of President Obama’s highest priorities as Commander-in-Chief is to uphold our sacred trust with all our veterans and our men and women in uniform — not just today, but in the decades to come. This means making sure they have good job opportunities, high-quality health care, and disability and education benefits. And because we ended the war in Iraq and are drawing down in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of troops are coming home. The President has said that as we wind down these wars, our commitment to our veterans will endure
Over the past four years, President Obama has significantly increased funding to the VA to meet the needs of our veterans and their loved ones, and he remains committed to honoring our veterans and their sacrifice by offering them the best services possible. With more than 1 million active-duty personnel scheduled to join the ranks of America’s 22 million veterans during the next five years, he has significantly increased funding for the VA even in these tough budgetary times. His budget proposal, which must be approved by Congress, would fund services for newly discharged veterans, continue the drive to end homelessness among veterans, improve access to benefits and services, reduce the disability claims backlog, improve the VA’s collaboration with the Defense Department, and strengthen its information-technology program that is vital for delivering services to veterans.
Governor Romney: President Obama has focused on inputs to the VA, rather than outputs. The VA is plagued by bureaucratic inefficiencies that hurt our ability to provide veterans top quality care. Gov. Romney wants to focus on outputs. That doesn’t mean cutting funding to the VA, but it does mean holding administrators accountable for poor performance, directing resources to caregivers rather than bureaucrats, and cleaning up the system so that it provides veterans the best care possible in a timely and expeditious fashion.
As our men and women in uniform come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA system is handling an increased number of veterans. So, as part of the Recovery Act, President Obama ensured that the VA was able to hire new claims processors to get veterans their benefits more quickly and more efficiently. And he is seeking more resources to improve benefits processing, including increased staff, training and information technology enhancements. He directed the Department of Defense and the VA to create a single computerized medical record to ensure the seamless transition of veterans from active duty to civilian life. These innovative reforms will dramatically increase the speed and efficiency with which the VA is able to address disability claims, and allow the department to respond with greater efficiency and better accuracy. Still, the wait time is too long for too many. That’s why President Obama will continue to monitor the implementation of this system, and he is fully dedicated to ensuring efficiency and accuracy for our veterans.
Governor Romney: The people who adjudicate claims have mountains of regulations that slow down the process. Gov. Romney believes we should make their lives easier, not harder, and reduce the red tape that is preventing the timely processing of disability claims. He would also institute a single electronic medical record—from boot camp to retirement—that replaces current heavy, thick medical files. That would greatly speed processing and reduce the backlog.
Gov. Romney has talked about expanding the post 9/11 GI Bill to open all state schools to any veteran. Does President Obama support that plan? Does he have other plans to expand those education benefits? If so, how will they be paid for?
President Obama: The President is committed to ensuring that our veterans continue to have access to higher education. As a Senator, he pushed for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and he has ensured its successful implementation as President. As of March of this year, the VA has issued approximately $17.5 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments for more than 710,000 veterans or eligible family members pursuing higher education, and the VA received Spring 2012 enrollments from more than 420,000 individuals. These VA benefits can now also be used for vocational programs. Furthermore, to ensure our veterans and military families are able to make the most of their hard-earned education benefits, this year President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing principles of excellence for educational institutions serving servicemembers, veterans, spouses, and other family members. This Executive Order ensures our servicemembers, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed decisions concerning their well-earned federal military and veteran’s educational benefits. This new policy requires that colleges provide more transparent information about their outcomes and financial aid options for students, which will help ensure that students are aware of the true cost and likelihood of completion prior to enrolling. This Executive Order will also keep bad actors off of military installations, crack down on improper online recruiting practices, provide veterans with a complaint system to ensure they have a voice, give students with better data on educational institutions, and strengthen enforcement of student protections.
Governor Romney: When military members take their oath to defend their country, they do not limit their sacrifice to a particular state. All Americans benefit from their courage and their service. Gov. Romney would work with states to ensure that veterans are offered in-state tuition rates. Veterans have earned the right to be treated as in-state students, regardless of residency, and they will pay in-state tuition, just like any other student from that particular state.
Despite recent efforts, veterans unemployment remains stubbornly high, especially among younger veterans and those returning from war. How will the President address that in his next term?
President Obama: President Obama firmly believes that no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job when they come home. Last November, he signed two new tax credits into law. Both the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit are helping put veterans and our wounded warriors back to work. The Obama administration is strengthening transition programs to ensure that servicemembers leave the military prepared for civilian careers. We have forged unprecedented new partnerships between the military and the private sector to make it easier for companies to hire returning servicemembers, which means greater access to jobs in manufacturing, in health care, in information technology, in logistics, and for first responders. The President has launched an initiative designed to transform the federal government into the model employer of America’s veterans, and has proposed $1 billion to develop a Veterans Job Corps program that would put up to 20,000 veterans back to work over the next five years protecting and rebuilding America — as police officers and firefighters and on projects that protect our public lands and resources. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress blocked the Veterans Job Corps, putting politics before our veterans. President Obama has made it clear that he will continue to make job security for our returning veterans a top priority.
Governor Romney: Gov. Romney thinks that veterans unemployment is at unacceptable levels. Helping to provide jobs to veterans and every other American struggling for work will be Gov. Romney’s highest priority upon entering office. Military members have skills that employers want. The best way to honor our veterans’ service and commitment is to provide them the opportunity of a viable, healthy economy and the dignity of work. Gov. Romney would also work to create common, nationwide professional credentialing standards for veterans whose military experience has granted them the skills to work as engineers, mechanics, medical technicians, and as other skilled professionals. This effort will save veterans time and resources upon their return home and faster access to well-paying jobs. We owe our returning warriors no less.
Looking forward, how will President Obama address the issue of veterans suicides? What is to blame for the continued rise in the number of troops/veterans who are taking their own lives?
President Obama: President Obama is committed to helping our veterans recover from the wounds of war, both seen and unseen. At his direction, the VA has made mental health services for veterans a top priority. Last year, The VA provided specialty mental health services to 1.3 million veterans. Since 2009, the VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent and hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals. To meet this challenge, the VA has launched an effort to hire an additional 1,600 mental health professionals to serve Veterans by June 2013.
In August, President Obama signed an executive order directing the expansion of suicide prevention strategies and to take steps to meet the growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services available to veterans, service member, and military families. This order directed the VA to increase its crisis line capacity by 50% by the end of next year, ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis connects with a trained mental health worker within 24 hours, and work with the Department of Defense to develop a 12 month suicide prevention campaign. Additionally the VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to empower veterans to support other veterans.
The VA has also enhanced services by integrating mental health care into the primary care setting, developing an extensive suicide prevention program, and increasing the number of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers (Vet Centers). We have increased the number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) programs to meet the special needs of veterans with co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders, other mental health problems, and military sexual trauma. Today, every VA medical center provides services for veterans suffering from PTSD. President Obama also announced new rules making it easier for veterans coping with effects of PTSD to get the benefits they need by significantly reducing documentation requirements.
Still, there is much more work to do. President Obama is determined to expand the capacity of our mental health provider base, increase timely access to care, improve the quality of the care being provided, better synchronize the research surrounding PTSD and TBI, and reduce the stigma affiliated with seeking mental health services.
Governor Romney: With 18 veterans and service members a day taking their own lives, Gov. Romney recognizes that mental health is a crisis that must be dealt with immediately. He would double the number of mental health care providers overnight by opening the military’s Tricare network to veterans. If a distressed veteran cannot be seen by a qualified mental health provider in a timely fashion, they will be allowed to go to a Tricare facility at the VA’s expense.
What qualities/qualifications will you require of your pick to be the next VA secretary, assuming that Sec. Shinseki does not stay in that role?
President Obama: Secretary Shinseki has served our country with extraordinary valor and courage and is leading our efforts to create a 21st century VA. The President deeply appreciates Secretary Shinseki’s extraordinary service to our country and his tireless commitment to our veterans.
Governor Romney: There are serious problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gov. Romney has ambitious goals to get the VA working again. He has a keen eye for talent, and believes strongly in honoring the promises made to the American people. Gov. Romney will select a leader who is worthy and capable of achieving the promises made during the campaign. And Gov. Romney will expect results from that leader and hold him or her accountable.
TRICARE beneficiaries have several choices to obtain their prescription medications, which include pharmacies at military clinics and hospitals, Pharmacy Home Delivery and more than 57,000 in-network retail pharmacy locations nationwide. Many beneficiaries find that military pharmacies, which fill brand name and generic prescriptions at no cost, are their best option, but you may decide the convenience of Home Delivery is right for you.
If you are using Home Delivery, you will want to do everything you can to ensure your prescriptions are delivered on-time and accurately. More than 1 million prescriptions ship monthly through Home Delivery, but there are times when a prescription can’t be filled and the order must be returned to the beneficiary.
The most common reason your medication cannot be filled is information missing from the prescription, such as a date of birth or address. If required information is missing, Express Scripts Inc., the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, will contact either you or the prescribing physician to try to get the appropriate information to fill your prescription.
Some medications may require prior authorization or approval, or have a limit on the quantity that can be prescribed at one time. To ensure your prescription is filled without a problem, you can call Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303, or check out the formulary search tool at pec.ha.osd.mil/formulary_search.php for medication limitations.
It can be frustrating to receive a returned prescription or an “unable to fill” letter. The following are some suggestions to help avoid having a prescription returned.
Ask your physician to send prescriptions electronically to TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery.
If submitting a prescription by mail, make sure the patient’s name, date of birth, mailing address and the sponsor’s Social Security number are written clearly on the back of the prescription.
If you receive a message from Express Scripts about your prescription, or if you don’t receive a prescription you’ve ordered, contact Express Scripts right away to find out what you need to do to get your prescription filled
TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery delivers prescription medications safely and securely right to your door. There is no cost for generic medications, and brand name medications cost only $9 for up to a 90-day supply, only a quarter the cost at a network retail pharmacy. Home Delivery has no shipping costs, and refills are easily ordered online, by phone, regular mail, or mobile app. Home Delivery also offers convenient notifications about order status, refill reminders, and assistance in renewing expired prescriptions.
For more information on TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery visit www.tricare.mil/homedelivery or the Express Scripts website at www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE. Smartphone users can download the Express Rx mobile app for free by going to www.express-scripts.com/mobile or by using services like the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace.
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