*Legislative Update 28 August 2015: TRICARE Fees Go Up in October

We have 1 Action Item today at Issue 1 below



Summary of Issues

At Issue 1. we see TRICARE FEES GO UP IN OCTOBEREnrollment rates increase. How much more will you pay?

.  (See Issue 1 below to send messages to your Legislators. GF) 

At Issue 2. we see CLAIMS BACKLOG DROPSThankfully, what goes up must come down. VA announces a major milestone in reducing the backlog of claims. (See Issue 2 below for the details. GF)

At Issue 3. we see DFAS EMAIL SCAM ALERTScam targets DFAS after hacking scandal. Keep your personal identification information safe..  (See Issue 3 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





August 28, 2015

TRICARE beneficiaries will see an increase in health care fees starting in October.

Beginning Oct 1, TRICARE Prime enrollment fees will be $565 for a family and $282 for a single person.

The increases will affect military families and retirees under age 65.

Increases to TRICARE enrollment fees are based on the annual cost of living adjustment for retired military pay.

Surviving family members of sponsors who died on active duty, and medically retired servicemembers and their family members, are exempt from the fee increases.

Since 2011, beneficiaries have seen TRICARE Prime enrollment fees increase by 23 percent, double the rate of inflation over the same period. Pharmacy copays vary by class, but over the same time span, beneficiaries have seen a 60 percent increase in medication costs.

After freezing annual TRICARE fees for 13 consecutive years, defense planners tried for several years to play catch up by proposing rate increases up to 300 and 400 percent over a five year period. MOAA argued that such a dramatic spike in fees could financially devastate retired military families.

In an attempt to prevent disproportionate increases, MOAA successfully convinced Congress to index TRICARE Prime enrollment fees to COLA versus health care inflation in the FY12 defense bill. In the FY14 defense bill, MOAA secured another legislative win by getting Congress to tie pharmacy fee increases to COLA as well.

However, when it comes to pharmacy fees, Congress hasn’t been able to follow its own law. In addition to last year’s disproportionate pharmacy fee increase above inflation, Congress is now considering increasing pharmacy fees by 66 to 75 percent over the next decade.

“Beneficiaries are paying enough,” said Capt. Kathy Beasley, USN (Ret), MOAA’s Deputy Director for Government Relations. “Congress needs to look at other ways to control health care costs before trying to pass the buck to military families.”

Take Action. Send your elected officials a  MOAA-suggested message  asking them to prevent steep pharmacy fee increases in this year’s defense bill.

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




August 28, 2015

A historic milestone was reached this week with the VA’s announcement that initial claims for veterans’ disabilities and survivor benefits dropped to 98,535. This is an 84% reduction from the high water mark of 611,000 claims in the pipeline in March 2013.

Almost five years ago, former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced that the VA would eliminate the backlog of initial claims that were waiting for more than 125 days for a decision, by the end of 2015. Now, the VA appears to be in reach of that goal.

According to the VA, the quality of the decisions remains high as the numbers have dropped. The accuracy of disability decisions has climbed steadily from 83% in 2011 to 91% today. The accuracy of “individual medical issues” within a claim is now at 96%. Rated against eight distinct “error categories” – such as correct effective date, correct decision related to military service, etc. – VA arrives at the right decision 98% of the time.

MOAA commends VA Under Secretary for Benefits, Allison Hickey, for building the transformation strategy that led to these encouraging results. In many appearances before Congress, Hickey referred to upgrades in “people, process and technology” as at the heart of her strategy.

Now, almost all claims are managed and decided on a digital platform, eliminating cumbersome paper files. Mandatory overtime for many claims workers has been the practice in recent years. Hickey’s office also negotiated an arrangement with the Pentagon to certify the completeness of medical records for separating and retiring servicemembers and speeding their delivery electronically to decision makers.

Along the way, the VA welcomed the collaboration of veteran and military service organizations, including MOAA, to improve the process further. Nearly half of all claims made to VA and 90% of claims filed by MOAA are Fully Developed Claims, which VA has credited with expediting decisions on initial claims.

Are we there, yet?  Not at all. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) just announced that it was suspending mandatory overtime for adjudicators. It remains to be seen if the progress achieved to date can be sustained with reduced time devoted to the backlog. The VA is banking on its electronic platform, the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS), to support high quality production, even as the number and complexity of veterans’ claims continues to rise.

Moreover, the VA and Congress need to step up on the thorny problem of reducing the backlog of appealed claims that go through a complex process. More often than not, the Board of Veterans Appeals sends these claims back to a VA regional office for further work.

Appealed claims take on average over three years to resolve. A number of studies demonstrate that in the end, veterans win much more often on appeal than the government, indicating that the process is flawed. Veterans are getting the wrong decision out of the gate.

Other challenges include slower decisions for National Guard and Reserve veterans who served on active duty, as well as comparably lower ratings on their claims for the same conditions filed by their active duty counterparts. This may be the result of incomplete documentation of service-related conditions at separation, and other factors. Women veterans also tend to receive lower ratings than their male counterparts for similar conditions.

Although there are still areas where improvement is needed, there is clear cause to celebrate significant progress in battling the backlog of claims that has bedeviled the VA for too long. MOAA will continue to work with our VSO partners, Congress, and the VA to ensure that the gains made so far lead to further progress for our nation’s service men and women who have “borne the battle.”

Deputy Director of Government Relations, Col. Bob Norton, USA (Ret) said, “We feel very confident that Under Secretary Hickey will continue to drive progress on the backlog going forward, including reductions in appealed and non-rating claims.


August 28, 2015

Email scams are targeting military servicemembers, retirees, and their families by posing as the Defense and Finance Accounting Service (DFAS).

The most recent scam looks like a “SmartDoc” email with the subject line “myPay IMPORTANT SECURITY UPDATE,” and appears to come from a DFAS-SmartDocs email address. The links provided in the emails direct the user to a malicious website that requests personal information.

Several attentive MOAA members provided an example of an email they recently received:

Dear Account Holder,

It has come to our attention that your myPay account information needs to be updated as part of our continued commitment to protect your account and to reduce the instance of fraud on our website. If you could please take 3 minutes out of your online experience and update your personal records you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

However, failure to update your records will result in account suspension.

Once you have updated your account records, your Online sessions will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. To update your myPay records click on the Update button.

Thank you,
myPay Customer Center

DFAS provided the following statement regarding this scam:

“Valid SmartDocs messages from DFAS are always sent in plain text, do not include attachments and do not ask you to send any information in response. Your email program may automatically convert a valid SmartDocs message into HTML and convert some text into clickable links. We recommend that you do NOT click on any links within any email message. To access a site referenced in an email, open your browser and type the link (URL) directly into the browser.

Don’t get fooled. If you receive a SmartDocs message that contains a link, don’t click on it. If a URL is listed in the message type it in manually within your browser. Delete unexpected or unsolicited messages that contain attachments or that request you to send information back.”

Online scams and cyber-attacks are increasing daily. MOAA members should be on alert for emails like this. Links that ask users to go to a website and submit personal information should always be taken as suspect.

When asked to follow a link, follow the advice provided by DFAS, and enter the URL manually into the browser for verification. While it may seem cumbersome to constantly be on guard about these issues, taking a few basic steps can protect yourself and your family from scam artists.

You can read the DFAS online protection guidelines at the following link: http://www.dfas.mil/pressroom/onlineprotection.html

(Click on http://www.dfas.mil/pressroom/onlineprotection.html here or above for the details. GF)



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 downunder “Current Action Alerts” and click on Act Now to Block Big Rx Fee Hikes
  1. 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 .
  2. 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)
  3. Scroll down to the  “Editable text” areaand edit/modify the text of the message if desired.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. Hit “Send Message”
  8. 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.
  9. 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 most readily observable 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!