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Washington Update, August 8th, 2016

TREA Washington Update for Monday, August 8th 2016


Everyone in town (yes this town) is tired of politics and campaigns. They are longing for vacations and the Olympics. But things keep on happening.


New Rule Allows Federal Employees Who Are Disabled Vets to Make Necessary Medical Appointments


UnitedHealthcare files contract protest


Army urges for more women to transfer to combat units



DOD Does Not Track How Many Military Families Go Hungry


VA ”Choice Program” reaches goal


VA Inspector General Plans to Restore Trust


From Tricare:   Watch for Signs of Medical Identity Theft


17 U.S. military members are competing in this year’s summer Olympics in Rio








PHOTO:  Wreath Ceremony- Defense Secretary Ash Carter, second from right, looks on as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Aug. 1, 2016. The two leaders met to discuss matters of mutual importance. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee


New Rule Allows Federal Employees Who Are Disabled Vets to Make Necessary Medical Appointments


Last week the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published the a final rule implementing a law that gives new federal employees who are disabled veterans the equivalent of a full year’s sick leave up front to go to their medical appointments.

The 2015 Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act gives 104 hours of leave immediately to first-year feds who are veterans with a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent to attend medical appointments related to their disability. It applies to those hired on, or after Nov. 5, 2016, and lasts for 12 months from the date of hire, or the effective date of the employee’s qualifying service-connected disability—whichever is later.

The law also will apply to eligible disabled vets who once worked in the federal government, left, and were rehired (with at least a 90-day break in service) to a civil service job on or after Nov. 5, when the law takes effect, according to OPM. Federal employees who take a break from their civilian jobs to serve in the military and are injured during that service also would be eligible for disabled veteran leave when they return to their civilian jobs. For disabled vets in those categories, the amount of leave they receive for medical appointments would be offset by any existing sick leave they had. So, if the disabled vet is re-employed with the government and has 30 hours of existing sick leave from his prior job, then his disabled veteran leave bank would include 74 additional hours to attend medical appointments related to his service-connected injury.

The Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act directs agencies to create a separate leave category – apart from regular sick leave – for eligible employees. During their first year on the job, those vets would still accumulate their normal sick leave. The employees only would be able to use their disabled veteran leave for treatments directly related to their service and would not be able to carry over the one-time “wounded warrior leave” after the first 12 months on the job.

The benefit under the law applies only to those newly-hired feds who are covered under Title 5 leave provisions, and includes employees of the Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission. Non-Title 5 disabled veteran employees, including those at the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration, are not eligible for the new benefit. Many jobs at the Veterans Affairs Department, for instance, also are not covered under Title 5. Title 5 governs most, but not all, of the federal personnel system.

Prior to the new law, full-time federal workers in their first year on the job did not have access to sick leave until they had been in the job long enough to earn the benefit, typically accruing four hours of such leave per pay period. That amounts to a balance of 104 hours at year's end. But disabled vets, who must attend regular medical appointments to maintain their health and to continue receiving their veterans’ benefits, can burn up their sick leave quickly.

Current federal employees who are disabled veterans are not eligible for the new type of leave. Those workers qualify for other types of leave and flexibilities to receive treatment for service-connected disabilities, including leave without pay, annual leave, sick leave, advanced sick leave, alternative work schedules and telework.



UnitedHealthcare files contract protest

To the surprise of almost no one on August 1st UnitedHealthcare filed a formal protest with the federal Government Accountability Office disputing the 2017 TRICARE East and West contract awards. On July 22nd DoD announced their selection of Humana to manage the brand new East region, a consolidation of the North and South regions, and Health Net Federal Services to manage the West region. Humana manages the current South region and Health Net the North. United presently manages the West region.

More protests are expected. TREA will keep you informed.



Army urges for more women to transfer to combat units


The Army’s top enlisted leader, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, sent a memo last week saying that not enough female officers and NCOs were volunteering to transfer to combat army jobs and calling on them to volunteer for those jobs.

 “Currently, we have over 100 young women across America who have volunteered to join our ranks as cavalry scouts, armor crewmen, fire support specialists and infantrymen..… As young soldiers do, they will look for leadership and mentorship from their superiors. Unfortunately, we have not had a sufficient number of serving female soldiers and NCOs volunteer to transfer into these mentorship and leadership roles.”

 While Sergeant Major Dailey praised the incoming recruits for being willing “to take on some of the most challenging assignments the Army offers.” He then said: “We need leaders to help shape the next generation of combat soldiers. I know we have female soldiers with the drive and ability to be successful in ground combat arms formations. If you think you have what it takes, I am personally asking you to consider transferring to these select combat arms specialties.”

He pushed more saying, “The standards have and always will be very rigorous. You will be challenged both mentally and physically. If you are interested in taking on this challenge and leading our soldiers into the future, please talk to your career counselor today.”

In January Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the lifting all sex-based restrictions on military service. In the Army, this meant that infantry, the Army’s largest MOS; armor; forward observer; the Ranger School and the Special Forces are open to women.

The Army is trying to take a “leader-first “approach to integrating their all-male units by including female officers and NCOs in their ranks before adding new recruits. But so far those already in the service do not seem anxious to join MOSs. Time will tell.

To read a longer article on this go to:



DOD Does Not Track How Many Military Families Go Hungry


Department of Defense officials do not have “complete information” on how many servicemembers and their families are using food assistance programs because the department doesn't completely track the data or work with other departments to do so, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.


While the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women and Infant Children (WIC) program, both controlled by the Department of Agriculture, do have some ability to track military family usage rates, the Pentagon only loosely tracks the programs it administers, and no single office at the DoD is in charge of food assistance tracking.

Additionally, the GAO was able to find little to no information on service members' use of alternative food assistance programs such as local food banks and free and reduced lunches for children in non-DoD schools. That's a problem military officials must tackle before they are able to accurately understand how hunger impacts troops and their families, the report says.

Approximately 23,000 active-duty service members received food stamps in 2013, according to U.S. Census data. Information from the Department of Defense Education Activity showed that in September 2015, 24 percent of 23,000 children in U.S. DoDEA schools were eligible for free meals, while 21 percent were eligible for reduced-price meals.

Whether a military family qualifies for food stamps depends strongly on where they are stationed, since individual states set some of their own income guidelines. For example, at both Camp Pendleton, California, and Fort Hood, Texas, troops need a minimum household size of six to qualify, even though income between those locations varies widely thanks to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates.

USDA officials said they do not track whether an applicant is the military, although they could easily do so, because it does not impact the family's eligibility.



VA ”Choice Program” reaches goal


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has scheduled 2,000,000 appointment thought he Choice “program. It’s network now has 350,000 providers and facilities. The VA has complied with Congress’ implementation requirements by:  (1) removing the enrollment date requirement for Choice; (2) implementing criteria of 40-mile driving distance from medical facility with primary care physician; (3) implementing the unusual or excessive burden criteria; and (4) expanding the episode of care authorization from 60 days to up to one year.



VA Inspector General Plans to Restore Trust


According to an article on Federal News, “Restoring trust to the embattled Office of the Inspector General at the Veterans Affairs Department is a full-time job. The man who accepted that job in April, Michael Missal, has a plan to do just that, and it relies on an increase in transparency.”

“Having an inspector general who was nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate will make a big difference within the office, Missal said, because employees understand that person has the confidence and weight of those stations behind him, which conveys more authority than an acting IG can.

“The Senate confirmed  Missal as frustrations with the office reached a peak. A series of high-profile IG investigations ended in failure, only to be capped off by the revelation from the Office of Special Counsel — one week after Missal was confirmed to the position — that  the OIG mishandled three separate cases of whistleblower allegations as well. That’s why whistleblowers are another group Missal is trying to regain the trust of.”

You can read the complete article here:



From Tricare:

Watch for Signs of Medical Identity Theft

Did you know that health care is the number one target, nearly as much as retail, finance, and banking combined, for identity theft and fraud? Your health information is important to you and your health care provider. But in the wrong hands, it can be valuable to someone else. Would you know if someone stole your medical identity? 

Identity theft affects millions of people year. The Federal Trade Commission offers several steps you can take to make sure your health care information remains secure. 

First, read your medical and insurance statements regularly and completely. They can show warning signs of identity theft. Look for services you did not receive or providers you did not see.  This is like seeing charges on your credit card statement that were not yours. 

Next, read the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement or Medicare Summary Notice that your health plan sends after each treatment. Again, check the name of the provider, the date of service, and the service provided. Do the claims paid match the care you received? If you see a mistake, contact your health plan and report the problem. 

You should also watch for bills if you know part of your care was not covered. If a bill doesn't show up when you expect it, look into it. 

Being cyber fit requires us to be mindful of your health information even when you’re not using health IT.  You are the center of your healthcare. Empower yourself to protect your information.



17 U.S. military members are competing in this year’s summer Olympics in Rio



This year, like all modern Olympics men and women in the U.S. military are competing in the Games. This year they are:

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Nunn is going for his third Summer Games in the race walk vent. 

Spc. Dan Lowe of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit will be shooting.

As will Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Richmond who is with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia. 

1st Lt. Cale Simmons with the Air Force World Class Athlete Program is a pole vaulter.

2nd Lt. David Higgins competes in the prone rifle shooting event.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson is coming back for another shooting Olympic contest (Yes we are  heavy on shooting.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail is also a marksman.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Army veteran Vincent Hancock participates in Men’s Skeet

U.S. Army Spc. Leonard Korir, is a long distance runner at the 2016 Olympic track and field event.

U.S. Army Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir, is also running in the 2016 games.

U.S. Army Spc. Paul Chelimo is running the 5,000-meter.

Army Sgt. Hillary Bor is running the 3,000-meter Steeplechase.

Javelin thrower Sean Furey is a mechanical engineer for the U.S. Navy in San Diego. 

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program is in the men's modern pentathlon.

Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and 2008 Olympic gold medalist, is competing in shotgun.

Incoming Naval Academy midshipman Regine Tugade is a sprinter who is running for Guam. Yes, Guam


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