TREA: The ENLISTED ASSN
NEWS FOR THE ENLISTED
FOR NOVEMBER 2, 2012
Tuesday is ELECTION DAY
Washington was very lucky this week. We were rocked by 60 mile per hour winds and pouring rain from Hurricane Sandy as it barreled north. But we were NOT hit like New Jersey and New York City and today we are back to normal.
1) Report on TRICARE Prime Cuts Coming Next Year -- A Clarification
In last week’s update we told about a report in the Army Times that TRICARE Prime in Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nev.; and Springfield, Mo., would not be available, with two exceptions, after April 1 of next year. Although we said that the Pentagon would not confirm the report, we need to re-emphasize that it is still an unconfirmed report. Requests have been made for a meeting with the appropriate Pentagon officials to get clarification but they have not been willing to schedule one.
If this report turns out to be true, we will do all we can to get the Pentagon officials to reverse their decision, but the first thing we are trying to do is get confirmation (or denial) of the report. We will keep a very close eye on this situation and report any new information as soon as we receive it.
A sailor walks through a flooded parking lot to report for duty during Hurricane Sandy at the Naval Air Station Oceana Police Department in Norfolk, Va., Oct. 29, 2012. The air station has experienced flooding and downed trees from weather conditions associated with the hurricane.
Air Force crews offload Southern California Edison power repair equipment from a C-5 Galaxy on Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., Nov. 1, 2012. The Defense Department initiated the airlift operation to aid recovery efforts in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.
We have been asked to pass along to you this very important message.
TO ALL TRICARE RESERVE SELECT AND TRICARE RETIRED RESERVE ENROLLEES:
Your monthly premium payments must be made by either recurring Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or recurring Debit/Credit Card (Visa/MasterCard only) beginning absolutely no later than January 1, 2013. Contact your TRICARE regional contractor IMMEDIATELY to set up your automatic monthly premium payments, if you have not done so already.
DO NOT DELAY. If you fail to establish one of these automated payment methods, you and or your family’s coverage will be terminated. Contact information for your TRICARE regional contractor can be found at: www.tricare.mil/contacts.
The Coast Guard rescues 14 people from life rafts in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., Oct. 29, 2012, but two people remain missing. The first MH-60 Jayhawk crew hoisted five people into the aircraft, and a second helicopter rescued nine people. Crews took all to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., with no life-threatening conditions.
Two weeks ago Congresman Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), a TREA: The Enlisted Association Life Member, along with original co-sponsors Congressmen Tom Rooney (R-FL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Denham (R-CA)introduced HR6574, the Servicemember Mental Health Review Act.
This bipartisan bill would direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to institute a special review board that would review and correct over 30,000 personality and adjustment disorder discharges that have occurred between 2001 and present day.
Since September 2001, over 30,000 Servicemembers have been separated from the military for a personality or adjustment disorder. Many of these service members were wrongfully discharged with either a personality or adjustment disorder, when truthfully many of them were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to combat or sexual trauma.
Because Personality and Adjustment Disorders are considered preexisting conditions, the Department is not obligated to provide these service members with the full benefits they would have received with a PTSD or TBI diagnosis. They are ineligible for many healthcare, disability, economic or other employment opportunities because of these wrongful diagnoses and subsequent separations.
Instead of taking care of its warriors, DoD and its component services have separated service members with mental health problems as a result of combat or sexual trauma in a manner that prevents them from getting the help that they need.
This legislation will require that the DoD establish a Mental Health Discharge Board of Review to review personality and adjustment disorder separations to determine the validity of the diagnosis.
If the original diagnosis is determined to be incorrect the board will recommend that DoD re-classify what the veteran’s discharge so that they may receive benefits and get the help that they need. This bill will correct a grave injustice done to these veterans.
According to a press release by Congressman Rooney’s office, a 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 26,000 soldiers were improperly discharged with personality disorders between 2001 and 2007. Based on a review of several hundred cases, GAO indicated that compliance rates were as low as 40 percent.
TREA: The Enlisted Association strongly supports this legislation and any attempts to redress inaccurate medical diagnoses for all service members. We will keep you informed of this important issue.
Army Sgt. Michael Ryno provides assistance to a family displaced by Hurricane Sandy at an emergency shelter at the Werblin Recreation Center in Piscataway Township, N.J., Oct. 29, 2012. Ryno and fellow soldiers are assigned to the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey Army National Guard.
The Air Force Academy of First Shirt/First Snow devolved into a brawl last week that sent 27 cadets to need medical care. There were concussions, cuts that needed stitches and, at least, one human bite. The tradition is to throw the cadet into snow has become more and more violent in the last several years.
Dean of Faculty Brigadier Gen. Dana Born wrote in an internal e-mail that was obtained by the Air Force Times: “Per the commandant — On Thursday night the cadets carried out a ritual known as First Shirt/First Snow, a ‘tradition’ that goes back to an unknown time in the past since we’ve added cadet first sergeants to the cadet squadrons. This ritual has devolved to become increasingly violent, with significant numbers of cadets requiring medical care over the past two years. What used to be four degrees throwing the first shirt into the snow has turned into a brawl between upperclassmen defending the first sergeant and the four degrees trying to capture the first sergeant…..Obviously, this has gotten out of hand and cannot be repeated. There is no way we can condone or defend this.”
The Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Greg Lengyel found the brawl unacceptable but indicated that he would allow the tradition to continue if the cadets presented him a proposal for how it will be executed “with good order, discipline and proper risk management.”
Soldiers assist residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the New Jersey National Guard.
Recently, the VA has put out new (and very useful fact sheets). One is about the new eBenefit System. This program allows veterans to get into their own medical and other personal VA records. Over 2 million veterans are in the program. The other is about VA Pensions
What is eBenefits?
eBenefits is a joint VA/DoD web portal that provides resources and self-service capabilities to Veterans, Service members, and their families to research, access and manage their VA and military benefits and personal information. eBenefits uses secure credentials to allow access to personal information and gives users the ability to perform numerous self-service functions. It also provides a list of links to other sites that provide information about military and Veteran benefits. It is an essential way for Veterans, Service members, and their families to receive access to and service from VA and DoD.
What can I do in eBenefits?
Some of the features within eBenefits allow Veterans and Service members to access official military personnel documents, view the status of their disability compensation claim, transfer entitlement of Post-9/11 GI Bill to eligible dependents (Service members only), and register for and update direct deposit information for certain benefits. For a full list of features, see the reverse side of this fact sheet. New features are being added regularly.
How do I access eBenefits?
eBenefits is located at www.ebenefits.va.gov. Before Veterans or Service members can access and use eBenefits they must be listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and obtain a DS Logon. They can choose from two levels of registration, DS Logon Level 1 (Basic) and DS Logon Level 2 (Premium). Note: If Veterans attempt to register and are informed they have no DEERS record, VA will first need to verify their military service and add them to DEERS. This is most likely to occur in the case of Veterans who served prior to 1982. All VA Regional Offices have staff familiar with procedures for adding a Veteran to DEERS.
What is a DS Logon?
A DS Logon is an secure identity (username and password) that is used by various DoD and VA websites, including eBenefits. If you are already registered in DEERS, you are eligible for a DS Logon. Once you have a DS Logon, it’s valid for the rest of your life.
How do I register for an eBenefits account?
You can register for an eBenefits account online using the eBenefits DS Logon Account Registration Wizard. There are two types of registration, Basic and Premium. You will be walked through a series of questions to assist you in obtaining a Premium eBenefits Account, which gives you the highest level of access to eBenefits features. With a Premium Account you can view personal data about yourself in VA and DoD systems, apply for benefits online, check the status of your claims, update your address records, and more. To get a Premium eBenefits Account, you must verify your identity.
Many people will be able to verify their identity online by answering a few security questions. Service members may verify their identity online by using their Common Access Card. Military retirees may verify their identity online using their Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Logon. For those unable to verify their identity online, you will instantly receive a Basic Account. A Basic eBenefits Account lets you customize the site and access information you enter into eBenefits yourself; however, you cannot see your personal information in VA or DoD systems. However, there are other options available to you. Veterans in receipt of VA benefits via direct deposit may have their identity verified by calling 1-800-827-1000 and selecting option 7. My HealtheVet users may use their secure My HealtheVet identity to obtain an eBenefits account. Others may need to visit a VA Regional Office or TriCare Service Center to have their identities verified in person.
If you are a Veteran:
If you are a Service member:
If you are a Family Member of a Veteran or Service member:
For More Information visit www.ebenefits.va.gov
WHAT VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES SHOULD KNOW WHEN APPLYING FOR DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA) PENSION BENEFITS
VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans with financial need, and their survivors. As Veterans and survivors consider applying for these benefits, VA would like to share important information about the pension program and organizations offering assistance with pension applications.
WHAT ARE PENSION BENEFITS?
• Pension is a needs-based benefit paid to a wartime Veteran and his/her survivor(s). A Veteran may generally be eligible if he/she: o was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
o served 90 days or more of active military, naval or air service with at least 1 day during a period of war*, AND
o his/her countable income is below the maximum annual pension rate, AND
o meets the net worth limitations, AND
o is age 65 or older, OR is shown by evidence to have a permanent and total non-service-connected disability, OR is a patient in a nursing home, OR is receiving Social Security disability benefits.
*Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must also have served at least 24 months of active duty service. If the total length of service is less than 24 months, the Veteran must have completed his/her entire tour of active duty.
• Aid and Attendance (A&A) is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or surviving spouse. You may be eligible for the increased A&A amount if: o You are eligible for basic pension benefits
o You require the aid of another person in order to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment, OR
o You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities require that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR
Contact us: www.va.gov 1-800-827-1000
o You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR
o You have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
• Housebound is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or surviving spouse who is substantially confined to his or her home because of permanent disability. You may be eligible if: o You are eligible for basic pension benefits AND
o You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to a disability or disabilities, you are permanently and substantially confined to your immediate premises, OR
o You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND another disability or disabilities, independently evaluated as 60-percent or more disabling.
What do I need to know about the organizations that are offering assistance with claims for pension benefits?
• The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (Committee) found that some organizations are misrepresenting themselves while helping Veterans and survivors apply for VA pension. o In a June 2012 hearing, the Committee addressed concerns that some organizations are marketing financial products and services to enable claimants whose assets exceed the VA pension program’s financial eligibility thresholds to qualify for VA pension benefits.
o The Committee also learned these organizations may charge substantial fees for products and services that may not always be in claimants’ best long-term interests.
o You can access a video of the hearing on the Committee’s website.
• The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, Veterans’ Pension Benefits: Improvements Needed to Ensure Only Qualified Veterans and Survivors Receive Benefits, GAO-12-540. GAO found that: o There are over 200 organizations that market financial and estate-planning services to help pension claimants with excess assets meet financial eligibility requirements for pension benefits.
o These organizations consist primarily of financial planners and attorneys who offer products such as annuities and trusts.
o Some products and services provided, such as annuities, may not be suitable for elderly Veterans because they may not have access to all their funds for their care within their expected lifetime without facing high withdrawal fees.
o These products and services may result in ineligibility for Medicaid for a period of time.
o Some organizations charged fees, ranging from a few hundred dollars for benefits counseling to $10,000 for establishment of a trust.
Contact us: www.va.gov 1-800-827-1000
Who can help me file a claim for VA pension, including pension at the aid and attendance or housebound rates?
• An individual generally must first be accredited by VA to assist a claimant in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits—even without charge. VA accredits three types of individuals for this purpose: o Representatives of VA-recognized Veterans service organizations
o Independent claims agents
o Private Attorneys
• A searchable list of accredited representatives, agents, and attorneys is available at the VA Office of the General Counsel website: http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp
• VA accreditation, which is for the sole and limited purpose of preparing, presenting, and prosecuting claims before VA, is necessary to ensure that claimants for VA benefits have responsible, qualified representation.
• VA regulations allow a one-time exception to this general rule, which allows VA to authorize a person to prepare, present, and prosecute one claim without accreditation. The assistance must be without cost to the claimant, is subject to the laws governing representation, and may not be used to evade the accreditation requirements.
• Preparation and presentation of a VA claim includes, among other things, gathering the information necessary to file a claim for benefits, completing claim applications, submitting claim information to VA, and communicating with VA on behalf of a claimant.
• A VA-accredited attorney or claims agent, who is also a financial planner, may assist a claimant with a claim for A&A. However, financial planners may not use their VA accreditation for the purpose of promoting or selling financial products.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is using VA accreditation for an improper purpose, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.
Can an accredited attorney or claims agent, who is also a financial planner, charge a fee for preparing a claim for A&A?
• No. An accredited attorney or claims agent may generally charge claimants a fee only after an agency of original jurisdiction (e.g., a VA regional office) has issued a decision on a claim, a notice of disagreement has been filed, and the attorney or agent has filed a power of attorney and a fee agreement with VA.
• An exception applies when an accredited attorney or claims agent receives a fee or salary from a disinterested third party. A third party is considered disinterested only if the entity or individual would not benefit financially from the successful outcome of the claim.
Contact us: www.va.gov 1-800-827-1000
• We note that some individuals charge a pre-filing “consultation” fee to inform a Veteran or survivor about VA benefits that may be available to them. In certain states, a license to practice law may be required to provide and charge a fee for such “consultations,” which may be considered giving legal advice.
• Such “consultation” fees are unlawful if they are charged after a Veteran or survivor becomes a VA claimant by expressing to the attorney or agent an intent to file a claim for VA benefits.
• A “consultation” fee may not be tied to the outcome of a claim filed with VA if the attorney or agent provides any claims assistance–that is, an attorney or agent cannot agree to refund the fee if, after the attorney or agent assists with a VA claim, VA ultimately denies the claim. Such a fee would amount to an unlawful contingency fee or advance payment for assistance with an application for VA benefits.
• VA-recognized Veterans service organizations, including their accredited representatives, are not permitted to receive fees for their services in connection with a VA claim in any instance.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is improperly charging a fee for preparing, presenting, or prosecuting a claim prior to the filing of a notice of disagreement, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.
Is it permissible to offer a guarantee that a claimant will be awarded A&A or that the processing of a claim will be expedited?
• No. Such promises are patently misleading because VA is ultimately the adjudicator of claims for VA benefits.
• If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent has misled or deceived a claimant regarding benefits or other rights under programs administered by VA, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.
For More Information, Call Toll-Free 1-800-827-1000 or Visit Our Web Site at http:
Mark Olanoff (USAF, Ret) former Director of TREA’s Washington Office, passed away on Sunday, October 29. He worked for TREA from 1996 to 2002 and again from 2004 to 2005.
Viewing will be November 11, from 3-5 and 7-9 at the funeral home: Elines Funeral Home, 11824 Reistertown Rd, Reistertown, MD 21136. There is no formal service planned prior to burial. Interment will be at a later date at Arlington.
Cards may be sent to his widow, Dorothy “Dot” Olanoff, at 662 Kennington Road, Reisterstown MD 21136
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