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Washington Update for August 22nd, 2016

"The Voice of the Enlisted"


Washington Update for Monday, August 22nd, 2016



Although Congress is still in recess and the presidential campaign is getting all the headlines, there is still news of importance to military people. From commissaries to health care to discounts on hearing aids to military athletes in the Olympics, information you may find interesting and helpful is below.


DoD Official: We Want You Back in our Hospitals

Tinnitus is Number One Disability For Veterans

Commissary Agency Announces New Way to Determine Customer Savings

Missing Medicare Part B Enrollment Window Can Cost You – 10% For Life

16 US Servicemembers Compete in Rio Olympics





DoD Official: We Want You Back in our Hospitals


According to a report in, “Shifting military family members back into military hospitals and clinics for health care is a top priority …” for the Defense Health Agency.

For many years, military family members enrolled in Tricare Prime have been referred to civilian health care providers if they cannot receive primary health care in a military treatment facility.


That began to change in 2014 when the Army and Air Force began to move nearly 30,000 Tricare Prime beneficiaries who had been receiving care from civilian providers near their bases/posts back into the military health care system. The Air Force will now be joining in that effort.


Under the Army/Navy effort, Tricare Prime beneficiaries were either involuntarily brought back into the military system, or were “invited” back in through an advertising campaign effort. Recognizing the fact that location close to a health care provider often made the civilian provider more attractive, DoD health care has set up six areas nationally where beneficiaries can see the military health care provider closest to them, regardless of whether the provider is from their service or not.


The Defense Health Agency says it is working on the issues that are of concern to families and their ultimate goal is to have families want to receive their care from a military provider.



Tinnitus is Number One Disability For Veterans


The sounds of gunfire, machinery, aircraft, and much more are part of the everyday lives of servicemembers and they can leave many Veterans with permanent hearing damage. As a result, tinnitus is the number one disability among Veterans and it affects at least one in every 10 American adults.


Some describe ringing sounds, a buzzing sound, a high-pitched whistle, or numerous other sounds. The causes and effects of tinnitus vary from individual to individual. For some people, tinnitus is just a nuisance. For others, it is a life altering condition.


Over 150,000 veterans were diagnosed with tinnitus in 2015 and nearly 1.5 million veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for it.


Can Tinnitus Be Cured?


In most cases, there is no specific cure for tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus is just a nuisance. For others, it is a life altering condition. However, if your doctor finds a specific cause of your tinnitus, they may be able to eliminate it.


One of the options for treating tinnitus is wearing a hearing aid. If you experience hearing loss, a hearing aid may reduce or temporarily eliminate head noise. It is important to set the hearing aid at moderate levels, because excessively loud levels can worsen tinnitus in some cases. You should always discuss the use of a hearing aid with your VA doctor. The VA may be able to provide you with one for free.


 However, if that is not an option, there is now an option for a low-cost hearing aid.



Big Savings on Hearing Aids Now Available


Advances in technology now make hearing aids into high-tech medical devices. The best hearing aids ever made are now in production.


Military retirees from active duty, Guard, and Reserve units who have hearing loss and/or tinnitus are eligible to participate in this program. Retired Commissioned Officers of the US Public Health Service are also eligible for this program at military treatment facilities, under certain conditions.


Dependents of military retirees are ineligible to participate in this program throughout the US. A website with the list of participating sites can be found at the end of this article.


Retirees can obtain hearing aids at significant savings by using this program. Two hearing aids can usually be purchased for less than $2,000. Exact costs are variable and subject to change at any time without notice. Contact your nearest audiology clinic for further details.


Note: your closest clinic could be located hundreds of miles away from your home. The costs to travel for this program need to be considered versus the availability of an audiologist in your local community to assist you with repairs, warranty repairs, re-programming, etc.


Not every medical facility is able to provide this program. Care of active duty members takes precedent at all MTFs. It is recommended that you contact the appropriate military facility before incurring significant travel expenses. Facilities may discontinue this program for any reason without notice to us.


Retirees can use any military treatment facility which will accept them; you don’t need to return to your service affiliation to participate in this program.


This program is not a TRICARE benefit.


A current list of sites which provide this program is available at




Commissary Agency Announces New Way to Determine Customer Savings


TREA has been actively involved in the effort to save the commissary benefit ever since it has been under attack by some politicians in Congress and by bean counters within the Department of Defense itself. Because of our efforts and the efforts of our sister military and veteran organizations, we have so far defeated the efforts to gut the commissary benefit.


Late last week the Defense Commissary Agency issued the following news release. Later this week the staff in TREA’s Washington Office will participate in a conference call with DoD officials regarding this new change. We will keep you updated on this issue as the situation develops further.


Here is the DoD news article:


The Defense Commissary Agency is forming a new approach to calculating customers’ savings, aligning it more closely with private-sector practice, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.


This better reflects what patrons experience daily with the products they routinely buy in the geographic regions in which they routinely shop, DeCA officials said.


"We hear from our military families that they sometimes find lower prices on selected items outside the gate," said Joseph H. Jeu, DeCA's director and CEO. "For the first time through this new approach, we will compare our prices with local grocers on a more frequent basis to better inform our customers of potential cost savings over stores in their nearby community."


No Change’ to Customers’ Out-of-Pocket Expense


Jeu added: "Our approach to calculating savings will not impact the prices our customers pay or the dollar benefit that they receive. There will be no change to their out-of-pocket expense."

Through this improved process, officials said, DeCA will calculate and monitor patron savings more frequently than the current practice. Prices will be compared with actual prices at local competitors surrounding each commissary, as well, using a market basket of products that reflect what patrons normally purchase.


Missing Medicare Part B Enrollment Window Can Cost You – 10% For Life

If you or anyone you know has missed their Medicare enrollment window and has been penalized as a result, please reach out to to let TREA: The Enlisted Association's Legislative Affairs Office know about it.


Medicare Part A covers hospitalization; Part B covers doctor visits, tests and therapies. Most people do not pay a premium for Part A; part B usually carries a premium, with individuals or couples with higher incomes paying more.

While people are required to sign up for both parts at age 65, they can postpone using Part B. Some do so because they don't want to pay the premium and may have better or less expensive insurance from another source.


The bottom line, though, is most people must sign up for both parts during a specific seven-month window.


TREA: The Enlisted Association has recently heard that veterans, many of whom are using the VA for their healthcare needs, are being penalized an extra 10 percent on the standard Part B premium for every year, after age 65, that they do not enroll.



That can add up to thousands of extra dollars in Medicare fees over the decades.

Experts are suggesting that Medicare or Social Security agencies should send out detailed announcements about initial enrollment to let people know exactly what decisions they need to make and when they will be effective.



For most people, the seven-month registration window opens three months before their birth month. So, for example, if you were born April 10, you would enroll between Jan. 1 and July 31.

There can be late enrollment penalties in some cases for Part A, but these aren't for the life of the benefit, as they are for Part B.


For more information, contact Social Security at 800-325-0778 or Medicare can be reached at 800-633-4227 or



16 US Servicemembers Compete in Rio Olympics


TREA salutes all of America's Olympic athletes who contributed to a dominating performance by our country in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but especially to the 16 US servicemembers who competed admirably.

Maybe the most memorable was US Army Specialist (E-4) Paul Chilemo, who won the silver medal in the men's 5,000 meter run, found out that he may have been disqualified on live television, then ultimately his result was upheld on appeal. For the full list, go here:


PHOTO:  San Diego Arrival - SAN DIEGO (August, 10 2016) – The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis pulls into San Diego Bay, Aug. 10, 2016, after completing a seven-month deployment. Navy photo by Seaman Austin R. Clayton

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