*Legislative Update 22 May 2015: COLA Continues to Climb

We have 6 Action Items today, at Issue 2 and 3 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB The Consumer Price Index continues its climb in April, to 1.2% below the 2014 baseline. (See Issue 1 below for the details. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see MOAA TESTIFIES ON VETERANS ISSUES  MOAA outlines veterans’ health care and benefits priorities. MOAA testified before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs committees. (See Issue 2 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators GF)

At Issue 3. we see KEY VET BILLSSend your legislators letters of support. Congress is working on a number of bills that are important to veterans. (See Issue 3 below for the details. and send messages to your Legislators GF)

At Issue 4. we see VIRGINIA COUNCIL HOSTS LAWMAKERSElected officials joined more than 125 MOAA members. MOAA’s Virginia Council of Chapters hosted its congressional delegation luncheon. (See Issue 4 below for the detailsGF)

At Issue 5. we see ANNUAL LETTER SURVEY REMINDER <(Click on ANNUAL LETTER SURVEY REMINDER to participate in the survey. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB

May 22, 2015

 

The Consumer Price Index continues its climb in April

(To follow the trends on MOAA’s COLA Watch, click on COLA CONTINUES SLOW CLIMB here or above to see the details. GF)

 

 

 

Issue 2. MOAA TESTIFIES ON VETERANS HEALTH CARE AND BENEFITS 

May 22, 2015

On May 20, Col. Bob Norton, USA (Ret.), deputy director of MOAA’s Government Relations Department, testified at a joint hearing before the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees.

Norton outlined MOAA’s key concerns and recommendations to improve veterans’ access to VA health services, upgrade existing benefits, and extend special services to disabled servicemembers’ full-time caregivers.

Norton also presented MOAA’s recommendations on assuring aggressive implementation of the Choice Card for veterans stuck on waiting lists for VA care, and those who live at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic.

MOAA was joined by the national commanders or representatives from the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Blinded Veterans Association, and partners from The Military Coalition: AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association of America.

Norton described outsourced care as “a wobbly, three-layered cake: the first layer is local purchased care contracts, the second layer is the VA national patient-centered care contracts (PC-3), which got some primary care icing added on to the specialty care contract, and the third layer is the Choice Card program for rural veterans and veterans stuck on long waiting lists.”

Because purchased care complements VA’s direct care system, MOAA recommends Congress engage the Commission on VA Care to map out a long-term strategy to integrate all aspects of VA managed care. Given the importance and scope of designing VA care for the 21st century, the Commission on Care should be given a year to develop a plan.

MOAA also urged Congress to support other changes to the way VA does business, including:

  • – Building up the capacity to deliver VA care more efficiently in its facilities by hiring and training more providers, fixing the scheduling system, and reengineering clinical space along the lines of leading civilian health care entities;
  • – Recruiting more mental health providers and training them on the unique needs of veterans;
  • – Extending the time surviving spouses have to use new GI Bill “Fry Scholarships”;
  • – Authorizing VA benefits to Vietnam War “blue water” Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange;
  • – Providing veterans status to career National Guard and Reserve members eligible for non-regular retired pay who are entitled to certain veterans’ benefits, but do not have active duty service under Title 10 orders; and
  • – Extending special services and support to the full-time caregivers of severely disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001.

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), chair of the House panel that oversees veterans’ disability assistance, questioned what could be done to make further progress on the claims backlog. Norton said that new legislation, S. 1203 , offers “practical, low-cost measures” aimed at further improving the claims system. Norton added that MOAA is working with the DAV and other groups to streamline procedures governing appealed claims, which currently take about three-years on average to resolve.

Norton described the plight of Coast Guard veteran Alexis Courneen who suffered a severe brain injury in service in 1999. Her husband Jason is her full-time caregiver, but the couple is ineligible for respite care, CHAMPVA, training, and a stipend under the Caregivers Act. Under current law, those benefits are only available to catastrophically disabled veterans who served after Sept. 10, 2001.

In response to Norton’s testimony that, “there’s no policy reason to exclude Alexis and Jason from Caregivers Act benefits,” Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said that the committees were taking up the issue soon.

Send your senators a  MOAA-suggested message  to support S. 1203, the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery

(Click on MOAA-suggested message here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

Issue 3. KEY VET BILLS

May 22, 2015

Several important veterans’ bills have been introduced in the 114th Congress. Click on the bill numbers below to send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message in support.

(Click on the respective underlined bill numbers below or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators – don’t miss S. 602. GF)

S.1085 : Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act. This bill allows veterans of all eras eligible for the full range of caregiver support services through the VA.

H.R. 1141 and S. 602 : GI Bill Fairness Act. This bill allows members of the National Guard and Reserves to count time spent receiving care in a DoD facility for a line-of-duty illness, injury, or wound incurred during a call-up to count as active duty for purposes of eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

H.R. 1607 : Ruth Moore Act. This bill upgrades disability compensation procedures for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma.

H.R. 456 : Reducing Barriers for Veterans Education Act. This bill allows veterans to apply a small portion of one-month’s Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for college applications.

Disregard S.1203 below  if you sent the message at Issue 2 above

  1. 120321st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act.This bill helps simplify and expedite the VA claims system.

Issue 4. VIRGINIA COUNCIL HOSTS LAWMAKERS

May 22, 2015

MOAA’s Virginia Council of Chapters (VCOC) hosted its congressional delegation for a lunch discussion on Capitol Hill on May 21.

Seven legislators spoke to more than 125 MOAA members at the event, where the Council thanked them for their support to date and urged them to do more for the military and veterans’ community.

VCOC’s annual congressional luncheon – now in its 30th year – is a great way for MOAA members to meet face-to-face with their legislators and push both state and national level issues.

A common theme among the legislators’ remarks was concern over the balancing the budget in a responsible way that doesn’t put a disproportionate share of the burden on servicemembers and retirees.

Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), MOAA’s Director of Chapter and Council Affairs, received the Minuteman award for his leadership. The Minuteman award is given to a MOAA member providing outstanding support and loyal service to the VCOC. Wright expressed his appreciation for the support of the legislators in attendance and thanked members for staying active with MOAA’s grassroots advocacy.

The VCOC recognized Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) with its annual legislative award for his support of many of MOAA’s top priorities and nearly fifteen years of service in Congress. Because of his dedication to the military community, Forbes received the award for the second time in three years.

The VCOC’s luncheon is a great example of how you can become involved legislatively through MOAA’s state chapters. Click here to find a chapter in your area.

 

 

 

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/   or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll down under “Current Legislation” to “Veterans and Other Issues”and click on 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act next to S. 1203 the first time through this process. Repeat this process for S.1085, S.602, H.R. 1607, H.R.1141 and H.R. 456 the next five times through this process.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that for the Senate Bills.
  12. After going through this process the first time, repeat the process 5 more times for the following Bills all under “Veterans and Other Issues”:S.1085, S.602, H.R. 1607, H.R.1141 and H.R. 456 

.

 

 

 

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 15 May 2015: Support Troops in Defense Bill

We have 1 Action Item today, at Issue 1 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see TELL CONGRESS TO SUPPORT TROOPSSenate bill slashes military compensation and benefit. Tell your elected officials to not to break faith with those who have served. (See Issue 1 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see. RETAIL PHARMACY MAKING A COMEBACK? New proposal may give TRICARE beneficiaries more choice. A new pilot program creates a “preferred retail pharmacy.”(See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see IS CONGRESS LOOKING FOR FAST-TRACK AUTHORITY ON MILITARY RETIREMENT? Congress looks to make dramatic changes to your retirement benefit. In his May edition of the “The Bottom Line,” MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) asks why Congress is trying to railroad retirement reform. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see LOOMING CRISIS THREATENS VETS’ ACCESS TO CARE. Lawmakers demand VA fix barriers to health care under new program

When demand outpaces supply, officials struggle to pay for medical care. (See Issue 4 below for the detailsGF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1TELL CONGRESS TO SUPPORT TROOPS

 

May 15, 2015

Senate lawmakers completed their draft of the FY16 defense bill; unfortunately, several administration-proposed cuts to military compensation and benefits are included.

The draft includes the administration’s proposal to cap the active duty pay raise at 1.3 percent, below the 2.3 percent raise mandated by law. The cap would be the third straight year of pay caps below private sector wage growth.

The bill also includes increases in TRICARE pharmacy fees as well as reductions to housing allowances.

The bill follows the House’s lead of moving forward with a blended retirement plan. Unlike the House proposal, the Senate bill stops government contributions to 401(k) accounts after 20 years of service.

Both bills reject proposals to consolidate TRICARE and institute new fees for TRICARE For Life beneficiaries.

Neither the House nor Senate bill addresses sequestration, which sets unrealistic budget caps on defense planners. To circumvent the arbitrary budget ceilings, both chambers use DoD’s emergency war accounts to fund baseline operations.

Emergency war accounts are not subject to sequestration’s budget rules, but funding fluctuates drastically every year. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said using the accounts to fund the Pentagon’s base budget is “undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning.”

The budgetary shell game has led to a veto threat from the president. In a rare move, the ranking democrats from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) voted against their own bills.

The top democrats cast their votes to push lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan solution to sequestration. “On both sides of the aisle, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is ‘we should get rid of the sequester,'” said Reed.

In a press release after the bill was voted on, Reed said, “I am for a strong military and good government, and the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.”

“Cuts to pay and benefits are being driven because of one thing: sequestration,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret).

Act now to tell your elected officials to reject the Senate’s attempt to balance the Relations, Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret).Act now to tell your elected officials to reject the Senate’s attempt to balance the budget on the backs of troops and their families.

Click on Act now here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

Issue 2. RETAIL PHARMACY MAKING A COMEBACK?

May 8, 2015

Lawmakers included a provision in the defense bill giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choice in their pharmacy options. The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the FY16 defense bill contains language giving military beneficiaries the option of using a designated “preferred retail pharmacy” to obtain medications.

The pilot will include maintenance medications, which after last year’s policy change, are currently only available at a military treatment facility (MTF) or by the home delivery program. The assumption is that by giving participating pharmacies the ability to buy medications at rates available to the federal government, retailers will pass the savings on to beneficiaries.

DoD will be responsible for identifying the regional area where the pilot will be conducted, as well as determining the participating pharmacy retailers. In order for selected pharmacies to receive federal pricing on medications purchased for beneficiaries, retailers will need to comply with DoD distribution and compliance requirements.

The pilot will be evaluated for government cost-savings, just as the home delivery program has provided. Skeptics are concerned that the distribution and compliance requirements may be costly for the pharmacies, and drive up the costs of prescriptions.

Enhancing health care convenience and access has long been a goal of MOAA.  “We are in favor of giving TRICARE beneficiaries more choices within their health care pharmacy options,” said MOAA’s Government Relations Deputy Director Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret.), “and we are hopeful that this pilot will demonstrate that retail pharmacies can be cost effective.”

If enacted, the pilot will run from May 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2018.

Issue 3. IS CONGRESS LOOKING FOR FAST-TRACK AUTHORITY ON MILITARY RETIREMENT?

May 15, 2015

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)

After the House finished its work on the FY16 defense bill, you have to wonder why Congress is so intent on fast-tracking changes to the retirement system.

By now, you’ve heard the proposal: take the current 20-year, cliff-vested retirement benefit and convert it to a blended retirement system. Troops serving a full career get government contributions to a 401k in exchange for a reduced retirement pension. Troops who stay less than 20 years will have a portable benefit when leaving the service.

The proposal is an offshoot of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) recommendation to revamp military retirement. The change is prospective for future entrants.

What’s troubling about this is that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are moving forward with these drastic changes without first getting input from the Pentagon. The day after the HASC approved changes to the military retirement system, the Pentagon asked for more time to review the proposal. Defense leaders won’t finish their review until the end of July.

In a letter to Congress, the White House also asked for more time to vet the change. “Given their complexity and our solemn responsibility …, we will continue working with the Commission to understand how the [blended retirement system] would affect the All-Volunteer Force.”

MOAA has been saying the exact same thing since the MCRMC released its report in January.

So why the rush? Some folks on the Hill think if Congress fails to put something on the books now before next year’s election, no one will support changing career military benefits.

But the last time Congress fast-tracked a change to the military retirement system, they didn’t heed the warnings of the Pentagon. The last major adjustment to the military retirement system was in the mid-80s when Congress passed REDUX.

Then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger adamantly opposed the change, warning Congress the new system would inevitably undermine readiness and retention and provide more of an incentive to leave.

A decade later, that prediction proved true. Congress had to repeal REDUX in 1999 because the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress the program was damaging morale and badly hurting retention of the mid-career non-commissioned officer and officer corps.

The biggest problem with fast-tracking changes to the military system is that any future corrections Congress will need to make will be subject to strict budget rules. Accountants consider reduced payments to retirement accounts as “savings.” If Congress has to revert to the current system (or some other change), bean counters will see the change as an increase on their books.

Let me be clear. MOAA supports a blended retirement system that can provide a portable benefit to those who leave voluntarily with less than 20 years of service. However, any change to the retirement system cannot put at risk retention of the highly experienced, mid-grade NCO or officer the services need to keep.

The bottom line : Change of this magnitude requires further study. Before fast-tracking changes to military retirement, Congress needs to hear what White House and Pentagon leaders have to say about the proposal. It’s mission critical we get this right from the start. Failure to do so could take years to correct and end up costing Americans more than just higher taxes.

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Click on Sign in here or above to comment on this article. GF)

 

Issue 4. LOOMING CRISIS THREATENS VETS’ ACCESS TO CARE

May 15, 2015

At separate hearings this week, House and Senate lawmakers made no bones about their frustrations with VA officials’ implementation of a new program to provide veterans’ health care.

“There is no excuse for the plethora of problems the VA was having, and the transition [to the Veterans Choice Program] should have been much better, but it wasn’t,” said Chairman Johnny Isakson, (R-Ga.) of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Choice Program, the result of last year’s shocking report of lengthy wait times at VA centers, allows some veterans to receive care outside of VA facilities.

At the urging of MOAA and several partners in The Military Coalition, last month the VA changed eligibility criteria for the Choice Program. Veterans who live more than 40 miles away from the closest VA health care facility and have wait times of more than 30 days to see a VA physician are eligible. Previously, the VA used a straight-line determination to measure distance from a veteran’s home of record to the closest VA facility. Now the VA uses a more appropriate factor of driving distance. The change allows twice as many veterans to become eligible for the program.

The change underscores problems the VA has had with implementation of Choice Program.

Growing Pains

A unique mixture of demographic factors is leading to increased demand for VA services. Aging Vietnam veterans are using more services at increased costs. Successful marketing of the Choice Program has led to veterans who may have previously decided not to use the VA to seek care. The conclusion of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is bringing in a new generation of Post-9/11 veterans to system. A growing number of women veterans, now 10 percent of the military, are seeking VA treatment.

Despite the growing pains, Deputy Secretary of the VA Sloan Gibson told lawmakers that the department has seen a 44 percent increase in authorizations for care since the Choice Program began in November.

Adding stress to the system is a 25 percent increase in non-VA care costs, like the Choice Program. According to Gibson, estimates for the total cost of the Choice Program now range between $4 billion and $34 billion a year.

As of April 30, the VA has spent just over $500 million of the $10 billion authorized for the Choice Act – a scant 5 percent. Of that, a little over $200 million has gone to pay for medical services for veterans.

Gibson insists the agency needs greater flexibility in contracting with community providers to address the expanded Choice Program and its associated costs.

Despite the frustrations with implementation of the Choice Act, most members of Congress and those testifying agreed that there has been significant progress in a relatively short period.

“We thank the Congress, the VA, and the HealthNet and TriWest contractors for their unrelenting commitment to making the program a success,” said Cdr. René Campos, MOAA’s deputy director of Government Relations.

Among the many provisions in the Choice Act, the law calls for a commission to study how to improve access and delivery of veterans’ health care for the 21 st century. MOAA joined other organizations to ask Congress to appoint members to the commission and give them sufficient time to do their work and present their findings.

The last commission on care was almost a generation ago. That commission created quality and performance benchmarks, and transformed the VA health system for veterans to receive routine primary care needs and specialized care for wartime disabilities.

The VA health care system is the largest integrated system in the country, with nearly 10 million veterans enrolled.

 

 

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/  or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen.
  2. Scroll down under “Current Action Alerts” and click onAct Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc.(usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email,you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that.

 

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

Legislative Update 8 May 2015: House Amendment Would have Spiked Rx Fees

We have 4 Action Items today, one each at Issues 2 and 3, and two at Issue 4 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENT COULD COST YOU BIG BUCKS. An amendment introduced to the National Defense Authorization Act would impose drastic pharmacy fee increases on servicemembers and retirees. Pharmacy fees will increase 66 to 75 percent. (See Issue 1 below for the brief detail. GF)

 

At Issue 2. we see CONGRESS PASSES BUDGET RESOLUTION . Blueprint balances budget in ten years This week, the Senate passed a budget resolution for the first time in six years.  .(See Issue 2 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see SENATE UP NEXT TO TACKLE DEFENSEStarting Monday, the Senate begins debate on the FY16 defense bill. What changes are on the horizon? Read More > (See Issue 3 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 4. we see WHITE HOUSE BACKS CHANGES TO SURVIVOR BENEFITS New proposal creates two tiers of coverage. The White House has come out in support of a proposal to change benefits for military survivors. How will military families be affected? (See Issue 4 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 5. we see NEW JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMAN NOMINATEDPOTUS taps new leadership. Both men’s nominations have been well received on Capitol Hill. (See Issue 5 below for the details. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1. DEFENSE BILL AMENDMENT COULD COT YOU BIG BUCKS.

 

An amendment introduced to the National Defense Authorization Act would imposes drastic pharmacy fee increases on servicemembers and retirees. Pharmacy fees would increase 66 to 75 percent. This is not right.

However, the House Armed Services Committee wisely rejected proposals to implement additional fee hikes in its mark of the defense bill.  We will watch this one carefully.

 

Issue 2. CONGRESS PASSES BUDGET RESOLUTION

May 8, 2015

For the first time in six years, Congress passed a budget resolution. The Senate voted 51-48 along party lines to adopt the budget plan. The House passed its version of the budget submission in late March.

Only two senators broke ranks from their party: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Kent.).

The budget submission increases defense spending above the sequester limits. To avoid triggering the automatic cuts, however, the proposal shifts money to the Pentagon’s war accounts, which are not subject to sequester caps.

The non-binding resolution does not need to go to the White House for signature. It serves more as a blueprint for congressional leaders. The ten-year plan seeks to balance the budget by aggressively cutting government spending and dismantling the president’s signature health care reform.

While MOAA is pleased that the proposed budget provides defense planners some relief from sequestration, we remain concerned about using contingency accounts for normal DoD functions.

DoD agrees. In late March, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that these kinds of budget gimmicks are “undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible, long-term planning.”

It’s unlikely that some of the central pillars of the budget resolution are politically feasible. “What we want to see is Congress come to a common sense solution to provide permanent sequestration relief,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “If sequestration remains in place, the services will be on the hook for cutting a quarter trillion dollars in just five years.”

Although debt reduction is a national priority, military personnel and their families should not have to shoulder a disproportional share of the rebalancing. They have sacrificed more than any other segment of the American population.

Act now to send your legislators a   MOAA-suggested message  asking them to eliminate sequestration.

Click on MOAA-suggested message   here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Legislators. GF)

 

Issue 3. SENATE UP NEXT TO TACKLE DEFENSE

May 8, 2015

The Senate Armed Services Committee begins work on its version of the FY16 defense bill May 11. Working on an ambitious timeline, the committee hopes to complete the bill by the end of the week.

Although work at the subcommittee level will be done in several open sessions, final negotiations will be held behind closed doors.

What is known is that the committee intends to move forward with controversial changes to military retirement. SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the committee has been working closely with House colleagues on retirement modification and expects some type of reform this year.

With support for changes to military retirement in both chambers, it is likely that some version of retirement reform will be sent to the president this fall.

What’s yet to be seen is if the SASC will support the White House’s proposed defense budget – calling for a third year of active duty pay caps, increased costs and reduced choices for military health care, and cuts to housing allowances and commissary benefits – or if it will resemble the defense mark passed last week by the House Armed Services Committee .

Thankfully, the House version of the defense bill rejected many of the proposals from the White House, but with stricter budget rules in the Senate, anything is possible. Without finding ways to pay for the measures supported by the House, the Senate may be forced to accept the administration’s budget-driven proposals.

These measures will continue to erode the very pay and benefits needed to sustain the all-volunteer force.

Please send a   MOAA-suggested message  telling your senators to act now on TRICARE, pay and housing.

Click on  MOAA-suggested message   here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Senators. GF)

 

Issue 4. WHITE HOUSE BACKS CHANGES TO SURVIVOR BENEFITS 

May 8, 2015

The White House supports proposals to change benefits for military survivors.

Support comes after a report made by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), a task force charged with recommending changes to military pay and benefits.

Under the MCRMC proposal, the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), a voluntary contribution program providing protection for military retirees’ survivors, would split into two tiers. The first tier continues the program under existing rules. A second, more expensive tier charges higher premiums and eliminates an unfair penalty that forces thousands of military survivors to forfeit their earned benefits. Retirees would have a one-year open season to make a decision on which tier to enroll.

How SBP Works

Military retirement pay ends when the servicemember dies. A large majority of military retirees are survived by their spouses, and SBP provides a way to pass on a portion of military retirement pay to survivors.

Under current law, however, military survivors forfeit part or all of their entire military SBP annuity when receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The two programs are paid for very different purposes: SBP is a program administered by DoD that allows uniformed service retirees to elect coverage to provide continuing financial support for an eligible survivor. DIC is paid to survivors of servicemembers who die while on active duty, or to survivors of retirees who die of a service-connected illness.

In many cases, the offset virtually wipes out any SBP payment, leaving survivors with only DIC, a modest payment of about $15,000 a year.

When military service causes a servicemember’s death, indemnity compensation from the VA should be paid in addition to SBP coverage, not subtracted from it.

Proposed Changes

Under the current system, military retirees contribute up to 6.5 percent of retired pay to ensure their survivors receive up to 55 percent of the sponsor’s retired pay. Premiums continue until the sponsor makes 360 payments and reaches age 70. Automatic coverage is extended to survivors of servicemembers who die on duty.

The new tier increases the premium to 11.25 percent – a 73 percent increase. Survivors of retirees choosing the higher tier option will not be subjected to the SBP-DIC offset.

The change could have a significant impact on the amount of money servicemembers contribute to the program:

 

“The problem with this proposal is that it asks the folks who will most likely be affected by the offset, those who have significant service-connected health issues, to pay even more in premiums to take care of their loved ones,” said MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Phil Odom, USAF (Ret). “These individuals are likely to have serious issues finding gainful employment after military service. We shouldn’t be asking them to pay even more money for SBP.”

MOAA is also concerned that the new premium is likely to be seen as too expensive for servicemembers, and they may decline SBP coverage altogether. DoD and Congress have worked hard at improving SBP programs over the past 25 years. Participation is currently at record levels and no private insurance on the market can offer equal protection.

The 60,000 Survivor Question

Unfortunately, the proposed changes fail to provide relief for the 60,000 military survivors currently affected by the SBP-DIC offset. These survivors will continue to be penalized by an antiquated Civil War-era law.

“Before we move forward with changes in survivors benefits, it’s imperative that we help the most disadvantaged beneficiaries first,” said Odom.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have introduced legislation to eliminate the SBP-DIC offset.

Take action: please send a MOAA-suggested message asking your legislators to support H.R. 1594  and S. 979  today.

Click on  H.R. 1594   and then on S. 979   here or above or go to Here is the Process: to send messages respectively to your Representative and your Senators. GF)

 

 

 

 

Issue 5. NEW JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN AND VICE CHAIRMAN NOMINATED

May 8, 2015

On May 5, President Obama announced new leadership for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president nominated Gen. Joseph Dunford, USMC, to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Paul Selva, USAF, to be the next Vice Chairman.

The nominations are two of the president’s most important national security advisors. They represent the top two senior ranking officers in the military and serve as senior military advisors to the president, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council.

Dunford currently serves as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In announcing Dunford’s nomination, Obama said “I know Joe. I trust him. Joe is a proven leader of our joint force … [h]e is one of our military’s most highly regarded strategic thinkers.”

Selva also brings considerable experience to the table, currently serving as the commander of U.S. Transportation Command. Previously, Selva served as the top military advisor to then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The president said Selva “understands our military, as powerful as it is, is one tool that must be used in concert with all other elements of national power.”

Although the Senate must still confirm the two, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), offered both men praise, indicating in a written statement that their confirmation should not be contentious.

With their confirmations expected in the next few months, Dunford and Selva will be taking the reins in an austere budget environment. With the Pentagon continuing to push cuts to pay and benefits, and Congress moving ahead with overhauling the military retirement system, MOAA hopes both men continue to look out for the best interest of the troops.

“It is important that these men stand up for the troops during the pressures of budget cuts,” said Col. Mike Barron, USA (Ret), deputy director for MOAA’s Government Relations Department.

MOAA looks forward to working with Generals Dunford and Selva in the future, and thanks them for the tremendous work they have done for our military.

 

 

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here on http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen. Scroll down under “Current Action Alerts” and click on Ask Congress To End Sequestration Now the first time through this process for Issue 1.  The second time through the process for Issue 3, click on Act Now on TRICARE, Pay, and Housing.
  2. For Issue 4click here on http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” Scroll down under “Survivor Issues” and click on the titleMilitary Surviving Spouses Equity Act next to HB 1594 the third time through this process. Then come back here and repeat the process and click on the titleEliminate the SBP-DIC Offset next to S. 979 the fourth time through this process.
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, Veterans Affairs, etc.(usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. After hitting “Send Message”at Step 9 above the first time through the process for issue 2, go back to Step 1 and repeat the process for Issue 3After hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above the second and third time through the process, go back to Step 2 to repeat the process twice for issue 4. 

12 For Arizona residentsbecause of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email, you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above for each issue, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that.

 

 

 

 

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

*Legislative Update 1 May 2015: Radical Reforms on the Horizon

We have Action Items today, at Issues 1, 2, & 4 below 

 

 

Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see HASC MOVES FORWARD WITH RETIREMENT OVERHAULProposed amendment to delay overhaul struck down. Acting before receiving DoD’s input, Congress includes military retirement overhaul in defense bill. (See Issue 1 below for the details and to send an Email to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 2. we see WHITE HOUSE COOL TO RETIREMENT REFORMWhite House releases memo on MCRMC positions. The White House requests more time to vet proposed military retirement overhauls.(See Issue 2 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 3. we see HASC APPROVES FY16 NDAAHouse breaks from administration’s defense request. The House Armed Services Committee rebukes the administration’s defense proposals in its FY16 defense bill. (See Issue 3 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 4. we see VA STRAINED AS MORE WOMAN ACCESS VA BENEFITSVA acknowledges more work is required to meet the needs of women veterans. Proposed legislation will steer the way towards success. (See Issue 4 below for the details and send messages to your Legislators. GF)

At Issue 5. we see TECH SECTOR PLEDGES TO HIRE 90,000 VETS, SPOUSESWhite House hiring initiative successful over the last four years

Some big name tech companies vow to hire veterans and spouses. Read More >(See Issue 5 below for the details. GF)

Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

 

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends –

don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources

 

ISSUES

Issue 1. HASC MOVES FORWARD WITH RETIREMENT OVERHAUL

Congress is moving forward with a dramatic overhaul to military retirement. After an 18-hour marathon session, the House Armed Services Committee completed its markup of the FY16 defense bill on April 29.

The bill contains a controversial provision to change the retirement system to a blended plan where troops and the government contribute to Thrift Savings Plan accounts.

If enacted, future retirees face a 20 percent reduction in retired pay. To make up for the reduced retired pay, servicemembers will receive government contributions to low cost government 401k accounts. The expectation is that TSP contributions will make up for any lost retired pay. The proposal is similar to reforms recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC).

The intent of the proposal is to give troops who serve less than 20 years a nest egg for retirement.

The changes, if enacted, will go into effect in Oct. 2017.

Not All in Agreement

Rep. Chris Gibson’s (R-N.Y.), a retired Army colonel, introduced a MOAA-supported amendment to the defense bill to delay implementation of the retirement proposal. The amendment urged Congress to delay action until legislators conducted listening tours on military installations within their congressional districts.

Saying that fast-tracking reform is “premature,” Gibson warned the committee that not enough people are following the issue. “This vote is a vote … to cut retirement at 20 years. That is a fact.”

In a letter to House colleagues, Gibson said, “During my 29 years of service as an enlisted Soldier, junior officer, and a company commander at the Company, Battalion and Brigade levels, I have experienced and personally addressed countless Soldier concerns and issues. One of the most prominent concerns was a Soldier’s pay and financial stability. … Before transitioning the responsibility of retirement and healthcare from the employer (the service) to the employee (the service member), a robust plan must be discussed to ensure these reforms do not unduly burden service members, their families, and veterans, many of whom who already face significant financial difficulties.”

Gibson made an impassioned plea for the committee to accept his amendment and listen to troops and families affected by retirement reforms. Gibson does not believe that the military community is aware of the provision to overhaul military retirement and he thinks, “it [is] very important to the unit to get a shared sense of the vision of the organization before we moved forward.”

The committee rejected the amendment by a vote of 55-8.

Act now to send a MOAA-suggested message urging your legislators not to fast track military retirement changes.

Click on not to fast track military retirement changes here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send your messages. GF)

 

Issue 2WHITE HOUSE COOL TO RETIREMENT REFORM

The White House said it needs more time to study proposals to overhaul military retired pay.

On April 30, the administration unveiled its positions on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) report. The administration was originally scheduled to provide its analysis on April 1, but because of the complexity of the sweeping recommendations, requested an extension for additional study.

The administration came out in support of 10 of the recommendations proposed by the MCRMC. The proposals endorsed were largely non-controversial, including calls for improved collaboration between DoD and the VA, enhancing financial education for servicemembers, providing additional Space-Available travel, and reporting on military children.

Although the White House expressed that the retirement proposal has merit, it signaled that the Pentagon needs more time to look at the commission’s recommendation. Several media reports indicate the White House will give Congress a complete evaluation of the retirement proposal by the end of July.

Under the MCRMC proposal, troops will receive matching government contributions to 401k accounts. The intent is to provide troops who serve less than 20 years a transportable retirement benefit.

However, the proposal does reduce the overall pension. In order to provide transportable retirement benefits to more troops, the proposal reduces military retired pay by 20 percent.

Current retirees will not be affected by the changes.

MOAA believes that the combination of a reduced pension and a transportable 401k could provide a greater incentive to leave the military prior to 20 years of service.

Congress Acts in Haste

Surprisingly, the House Armed Services Committee did not wait to hear the administration’s position before moving forward with changes to military retirement.

Like the MCRMC proposal, the HASC bill moves servicemembers into TSP accounts and reduces military retired pay by 20 percent. However, matching government contributions to TSP accounts continue for troops that serve more than 20 years.

“If the MCRMC proposal was so well thought out, why did lawmakers change it?” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations, Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “If House members agree that stopping contributions at 20 years of service is problematic, what other problems will surface? This is a big change we’re talking about here. The last thing we should do is fast-track this.”

MOAA thinks that proposed changes of this magnitude require further analysis.

Act now to send a MOAA-suggested message urging your legislators not to fast track military retirement changes.

 

Click on not to fast track military retirement changes here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send your messages. GF)

 

Issue 3. HASC APPROVES FY16 NDAA

May 1, 2015

HASC members rejected recommendations to consolidate TRICARE, establish new TRICARE for Life enrollment fees, and have working age retirees pay to use military treatment facilities. DoD’s budget submission created the first ever means-tested copay system based on military rank.

Legislators also opposed moves to further decrease housing allowances and commissary funding. The administration’s request would slash $322 million from commissary funding.

House lawmakers kept the active duty pay raise at 2.3 percent. The administration’s request capped military pay below private sector wage growth for a third consecutive year. The request called for continued pay caps for a total of seven years.

Your Grassroots Support Pays Off

Legislators took MOAA’s messaging to heart. In April, MOAA chapter and council leaders from across the country “stormed” Capitol Hill to meet with nearly all 535 members of the House and Senate. Stormers asked legislators to support a bipartisan debt-reduction package that avoids disproportional penalties on servicemembers and their families.

Storming the Hill participants specifically focused on three issues:

  • sustaining military pay and benefits;
  • rejecting disproportional TRICARE fee hikes and plan changes; and
  • eliminating harmful sequestration budget cuts.

“Legislators listen when constituents have a compelling message,” said MOAA’s Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “Fortunately for us, Congress recognizes that many of the proposals to erode pay and benefits that have come out over the past couple of years are too much for troops and families to face.”

House Mark Offers Improvements

The HASC mark includes enhancements and oversight of how the military handles sexual assault cases. It expands financial protections against unscrupulous payday lenders, and rejects another round of base closures.

The bill also includes MOAA-supported language to expand Space-Available travel to dependents of deployed family members. A recommendation from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) called for extending privileges to Space-A travel to dependents of family members deployed for longer than 120 days; the House bill reduces the eligibility period to 30 days.

The HASC mark also included the MCRMC recommendation to require a military child identifier for military dependent students, in order to assess the unique needs of military families.  The recommendation requiring the DoD and VA collaboration, by establishing a Joint Uniform Formulary was also included.

The full House is expected to take up the defense bill in May

Issue 4. VA STRAINED AS MORE WOMAN ACCESS VA BENEFITS

Women servicemembers are leaving the military and seeking veterans’ benefits at higher rates, and the VA is struggling to keep up.

There are more than two million women veterans in the United States, making up 10 percent of the total 22 million veterans population. Their number is expected to nearly double by 2040, even though the overall population of veterans is projected to decline.

Women veterans from the Post-9/11 era are coming to VA in significant numbers, requiring a huge demographic shift for VA, and one that requires immediate and sustained attention. 15 percent of all Post-9/11 veterans are women; 61 percent of whom receive medical care from the VA.

Yet, VA officials told lawmakers at two separate chamber hearings in April that they have more work to do to meet the needs of women veterans coming into their system. The message from panelists was clear: the VA must do a better job in acknowledging and addressing the unique needs of women veterans.

“We’ve seen a 29 percent increase in women veterans accessing health care in the past three years. We are busting at the seams and we need to ramp up our efforts even more quickly than in past years to meet the increase demand,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services at the VA.

Hayes pointed to a range of programs addressing demand, like increasing the number of providers, implementing a comprehensive primary health care model and narrowing gender disparities, addressing mental health and military sexual trauma needs, and helping veterans obtain meaningful employment.

While there was consensus among the panelists that the VA has made extensive progress in recent years, surveys indicate women still are not consistently and equitably being recognized for their military service nor are they receiving the same level of care and benefits as their male counterparts.

One veteran told members she had to pursue medical care outside of the VA to address a rare disease when her conditioned worsened. “For years I complained to my doctors at the VA of numerous symptoms that were summarily dismissed. I was told I was too young to have any issues. Once my bloodwork proved positive for Cushing’s disease and the brain tumor that caused it, VA started to take me seriously.”

Another female veteran told members she ended up coordinating her maternity and post-natal care outside her local VA medical center. Stuck finding her own provider, she was then billed for the services. It took weeks and congressional involvement to resolve the issue, jeopardizing her credit because of VA’s failure to reimburse her providers in a timely manner.

“VA needs to pay its bills, it needs to provide a list of network providers to women needing care outside the VA, and the department needs to provide an advocate or case manager to help coordinate and advocate care for female veterans,” said Rep. David Roe (R-Tenn.) at the close of the hearing.

MOAA commends the VA and the committees for their support and for the policies and programs that have been put in place to resolve these disparities.

According to MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations, CDR René Campos, USN (Ret), ensuring women veterans receive proper care at the VA is a top priority for MOAA. “Like all veterans, at the end of the day I just want to know that my needs will be taken seriously and that I can trust the system charged with my care and support,” said Campos.

In keeping with this goal MOAA supports S. 471, the Women Veterans Access to Quality Care Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). This bill requires full-time obstetricians and/or gynecologists in every VA medical center, improves data sharing between VA and state agencies, and directs the Government Accountability Office to evaluate VA’s ability to meet the needs of female veterans.

Act now to send a MOAA-suggested message to urge your elected officials to support S. 471.

 

Click on  MOAA-suggested message here or above or go to Here is the Process: at the end of this Email to send messages to your Senators. GF)

Issue 5. TECH SECTOR PLEDGES TO HIRE 90,000 VETS, SPOUSES

Apr 30 2015

Published by Karen at 8:45 am under Career,Joining Forces,Military Spouse Employment Survey,military spouse jobs,Military Spouses,Veterans,White House

In 2011, President Obama issued a challenge to private sector employers, urging them to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2013. The private sector fully embraced the challenge, and far surpassed the president’s initial request, hiring over 300,000 veterans and military spouses by 2013.

At an event last to week to mark the fourth anniversary of the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama told the audience, “America’s businesses have continued to race past my husband’s goal, and together, those businesses who answered the president’s call have hired and trained more than 850,000 military veterans and spouses.”

The technology and energy industries are joining the cause.  The first lady announced a pledge by companies like Oracle and Microsoft to hire 90,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. “These are industries full of good, high-paying positions, where our vets can continue to thrive for years and even decades to come.”

The Joining Forces Initiative elevated the employment challenges facing veterans and military spouses to the national stage.  It is imperative that the momentum that has been generated over the past four years continue with added emphasis on military spouse employment.

According to the first lady, veteran unemployment has declined since 2011. Unfortunatelly, military spouses have not fared as well.  A study conducted by MOAA and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF),  confirmed that not only are military spouse unemployment and underemployment rates high, a 38% wage gap exists between military and civilian spouses.

MOAA is hopeful that with private sector support, we can move the needle for military spouse unemployment in the right direction.

 Thinking About Your Next Career? So Are We®! Make plans to attend the MOAA Career Fair on May 12, 2015, in Washington, D.C., and begin your career transition process.

This event is open to all servicemembers, veterans, military spouses and government employees — all ranks all components.

For more information, including the seminar schedule and participating employers, or to preregister please visit moaa.org/careerfair.

 

Learn More:
The Military Spouse Employment Report

How to Work A Career Fair

MOAA Spouse Programs

 

            Click on any of the Blue Bold Underlined phrases throughout the text above for more detail. GF)

            Or click onRead More > to see the original text and find the phrase in the text which can be a little difficult because they are not underlined in the original text

 

 

 

   

Here is the Process:  If the steps below are new to some, I recommend that you review all of the steps and then you might want to copy this process by high lighting all of the steps below.  Then click on “File” at the top of your screen, select “Print“, then click on “Selection” at the next display and then hit “Print“; or print the selected portion as you usually do this kind of task.

 

  1. Click here onhttp://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” screen. Scroll down under “Current Action Alert” and click on Don’t Fast-Track Changes to Military Pay the first time through this process. Related Issue 2 repeats the same message which you can send at your discretion.
  2. For Issue 4click on http://capwiz.com/moaa/issues/bills/ or copy and paste it in your browser to put you at the  “Legislative Action Center” and scroll down under “Retirement Issues” and click on Retired Pay Restoration Act  next to S. 271
  3. At the next screen enter your Zip code if requested and/orhit “Go!” and/or scroll down to “Take Action”  and at “Compose Message” leave ‘Email‘ checked or check ‘Printed Letter‘  to send  Printed Letters instead of sending Emails if desired.
  4. If an  “Issue Area:”line appears just before the Editable Text: and doesn’t have an issue shown, click on the down arrow and select an issue; e. g., Military, VeteransAffairs, etc. (usually required on messages to our Senators)
  5. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  6. Insert “Your Closing” (I show ‘Respectfully), and “Your Name” and fill in the rest of the mandatory {asterisked} SENDER INFORMATION. The “Phone”number is now required by some Legislators (it’s required if your Senator is from Arizona) .  Fill in the “Guest Type“, “Service“, “Rank“, “Component“, and “Status” if you want that information to show in your message (recommended).  You may be prompted to include a phone number if you try to send the message without entering your phone number. Don’t be concerned about entering a phone number. I haven’t  received return calls except on rare occasions to thank me for my interest in a particular piece of Legislation, at which time you can comment (pro or con) to the staff member on how the Senator stands on the issue.
  7. Check “Remember Me” (recommended) if you don’t want to have to re-enter all of your Sender Information the next time you send a message. You can always change your information or uncheck ‘Remember Me’ anytime in the future.
  8. Check ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ as to whether you want to have a copy of your letter sent to your Email Address (suggested at least for you initial efforts, and to see how your personal data is included in the message).
  9. Hit “Send Message”
  10. If Printed Letter was selected at Step 3 above, at the screen after hitting “Send Message” leave “Plain Paper Style” and “Word Processor (RTF)” checked unless you have another preference. Then left click on “Print Letter(s)” at the end of the “PRINT LETTER” screen. At the File Download” alert that appears next, click on “Open”. You can then edit and print or save the letter for editing, printing, signing and mailing.
  11. After hitting “Send Message”at Step 9 above the first time through the process, go back to Step 1 and repeat the process for issue 2 at your discretion.

12 For Arizona residents, because of some current problems with contacting Sen Flake by Email, you will, see after hitting “Send Message” at Step 9 above for each issue, that “Printed Letter” is the only option  for getting your message to him. Step 10 above tells you how to do that.

 

   

 

   

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!

Veterans Day Appreciation Offers

Below are listed some of the restaurants and companies that offer Veteran’s Day discounts, deals, and free meals as a “Thank You” to our veterans and active-duty military for their service to our nation. Special thanks go to Dave Libby and Lew Patton for making this list available.
Check out http://www.lewpblog.com/2012/10/22/veterans-day-appreciation-offer/ for updates to this list.
Restaurants with Veterans Day Free Meals

Applebees Free Meal: Applebees is offering a free signature entree on Sunday November 11th, 2012, at participating locations. Choose a 7-oz House Sirloin, Fiesta Lime Chicken, or a Bacon Cheeseburger. Beverages and gratuity are not included. Must present valid veteran’s form of identification.

Denny’s All You Can Eat Pancakes: Get all-you-can-eat pancakes for all active-duty military and veterans with a valid ID on Monday, November 12, 2012.

Golden Corral Free Meal: A Veterans Day free meal is offered to any veteran who has served in the United States military or is a current active duty service member. All Golden Corral locations will be participating on Monday, November 12, 2012, from 4 PM to 9 PM. No identification is required to get your free Veterans Day meal.
Chili’s: Choose from Margarita Grilled Chicken, Chicken Club Tacos, Santa Fe Wrap, Old-time w/Cheese, Cobb Salad, and more. Beverages and gratuity are not included.

Olive Garden: Choose from Seafood Alfredo; Chicken Parmigiana; Braised Beef & Tortellini; Cheese Ravioli; or Spaghetti & Meatballs.

Texas Roadhouse: Choose from Country Fried Chicken, Country Fried Sirloin, Cheeseburger, BBQ, Grilled Chicken Salad, and more. Dine in only.
Outback Steakhouse: Get a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage (non-alcoholic drinks only).

Hooters: Get 10 free boneless or traditional style wings. Drink purchase required.

Retail Stores with Veterans Day Discounts

Home Depot Veterans Day Discount: Every year on Veteran’s Day, the Home Depot offers a 10% discount to veterans. Must present a valid military ID. Home Depot also offers this discount to Veterans on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day.

Lowe’s Veterans Day Discount: All Veterans receive a 10% discount on Veteran’s Day up to $5,000 on in-stock and special-order purchases. The offer can’t be used online, on previous sales, or on sales of services or gift cards. Must present a valid Veteran Identification Card (VIC); valid Form DD214; or other proof of service. Lowes also offers this Veteran’s discount on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Other Discounts and Veterans Day Deals
National Parks Free Veterans Day Admission: Everybody gets free entrance to our National Parks Veterans Day weekend. Dates this year include November 10 – 12, 2012.

VA Mobile Apps for PTSD

VA mobile applications (apps) provide self-help, education and support. They also have treatment companion apps, for use with a health care provider, to make treatment easier. There are apps for iOS and Android devices.

PTSD is a serious mental health condition that often needs professional evaluation and treatment. These apps are not intended to replace needed professional care.

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/fslist_mobile_apps.asp