Hospice Services Available Under TRICARE
Disabled veterans and their families enrolled in the military's TRICARE medical plan can apply for respite and hospice care services when they are faced with life-ending illnesses. TRICARE is the health care program for active duty and retired military personnel, their families, and their survivors.
Hospice care is a special kind of medical treatment for patients with life-ending illness. Patients usually have six months or less to live and are not seeking cures. Hospice services are provided to the patient and the family by a team of professionals and trained volunteers. The focus is on taking care of the patient's symptoms and controlling pain.
Veterans should know that a hospice offers comfort rather than curative medical treatment, treats the person and not the disease, emphasizes quality of life, and considers the family the "unit of care."
Initially, the hospice team often cares for patients in their own homes. When the family needs a rest from caring for the patient at home, the patient, under respite care, can go to a hospital or nursing home for up to five days at a time. When patients have six months or less to live, they may be transferred to a hospice facility for care that involves the whole family. Patients and their families are included when important decisions must be made. Special counseling and other services are given to family members after the death of the loved one.
Veterans who are TRICARE members may use the program's hospice plan, which is the same as the Medicare hospice benefit. Members must choose TRICARE hospice care instead of regular benefits, must use a Medicare-certified hospice program that accepts TRICARE, and receives hospice care as long as they meet the rules to qualify. The TRICARE member's main doctor and the hospice doctor must agree that the member fits this standard.
TRICARE pays the hospice directly for all authorized services. Patients may pay a 5% co-payment for drugs and inpatient respite care. Services and care not related to the terminal illness are not covered by the hospice benefit, but they are covered, as they normally would be, under the patient's regular TRICARE benefits.
Only Medicare-certified hospices can provide and bill for the TRICARE hospice benefits. It is important for the patient and family to check with their health benefit advisor or health care finder to help locate a qualified hospice agency.
Veterans and their families seeking additional information care should contact their TRICARE health benefit advisor or their primary care manager.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and the VA Subcommittee on Health examined Wednesday charges the VA still has not solved the problem of homeless veterans and was only paying "lip service" to its mental health and drug treatment programs.
While hearing testimony from 14 witnesses about a decade of federal efforts, Moran declared his intention to have the Subcommittee play a greater oversight role in homeless, mental health, and drug addiction programs for veterans.
"It's this Subcommittee's responsibility to be concerned about VA resources and capacity to provide specialized programs for veterans," Moran said, "especially veterans suffering from severe mental illnesses, as well as veterans with drug addictions. We are concerned about VA programs for homeless veterans, including the mentally ill."
Public Law 104-262 requires VA to maintain capacity for specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs nationwide for veterans, including those with severe, chronic, disabling mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, PTSD and drug addiction. Moran scheduled the hearing to examine these programs and VA's compliance with the law.
"Let me assure you, we are not seeking lip service, but clear and factual information to help the Subcommittee be a better steward of veterans' programs on behalf of the American people," Moran said. It's the least we can do, and veterans deserve more."
"Changes VA has made in recent years to reform itself have left unattended some needs of its most vulnerable patients, the mentally ill and homeless," Moran said, "Today's testimony indicates that problems and challenges exist in VA's mental health programs. The loss of hospital beds is only one part of the dilemma."
Moran said additional funding was needed to address the problem areas. Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, VA's top health official, admitted that problems remained in VA's mental health system, and that some reforms may have gone too far.
Moran expressed his willingness to work with VA Committee Democrats to craft a bill that could both pass Congress and strengthen VA's hand in dealing with homeless veterans. He also declared a commitment to monitor closely VA's efforts to improve mental health programs.
ARMED FORCES NEWS
|1. House Passes GI Bill Hike
This week the House unanimously passed one of the biggest GI Bill increases ever. Under the legislation, benefits for a veteran with three years of service would almost double over the next three years from the current $650 a month to $1,100. For veterans with two years of service or reservists who have served four years, the max benefit would rise from $528 to $894 over three years. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, said the benefit, when fully phased in, would increase from today's $23,400 to $39,600, enough, he said, to cover costs for a commuter student at a four-year public college. The Senate takes up the bill next.
2. Concurrent Receipt Refuses to Die
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has lambasted the way disabled military retirees must fund their own disability benefit. Reid hopes to correct the inequity with the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001, thus ending what he and groups supporting military retirees believe is a 110-year injustice that prevents military retirees from receiving full military retired pay and VA disability compensation. "I am going to do everything I can to make sure this passes in some form and is sent to the President to be signed," said Reid. He made his comments on the NBC Nightly News.
3. Tricare for Life Threatens Class Act
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has set aside an earlier ruling concerning the Class Act Lawsuit brought by retired Air Force Colonel Bud Day, a Medal of Honor holder. The earlier ruling agreed that the government had reneged on free lifetime healthcare promises for military retirees who entered service prior to June 7, 1956. If the ruling had stood, it would have required the government to pay up to three million retirees, widows and dependents up to $10,000 apiece. The new decision calls for a rehearing before the full court, and gives the parties two months to file new briefs. Placed at issue are three legal questions:
4. Medicare Part B Break Possible for Retirees
HOUSE PASSES SMITH BILL
INCREASING VETERANS’ EDUCATION BENEFIT BY 70%
Increase Would Bring Dream of Higher Education To More Veterans and Aid
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House today overwhelmingly passed legislation (H.R. 1291) to hike veterans’ education benefits over the next
three years from $23,400 to $39,600, a 70 percent increase over current law.
“Today’s House approval of H.R. 1291 is an historic moment” said Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith. “Our
legislation will boost the monthly education benefit from $650 to $1100 by October 1, 2002,” he said.
“That’s the largest increase in veterans educational assistance history - a 70% increase over current law,” Smith said.
H.R. 1291, the 21st Century Montgomery GI Bill Enhancement Act, has over 100 cosponsors and is supported by the Veterans of Foreign
Wars, The American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America and more than a dozen veterans service,
military, and higher education organizations, as well as the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, the Honorable Anthony J. Principi.
“This bill responds to the rising costs of higher education that have eroded the ability of MGIB recipients to attend college,” said
Chairman. “Our ultimate goal is to have MGIB pay tuition, fees, and a monthly subsistence allowance, thus allowing veterans to
pursue enrollment in any educational institution in America,” he said.
“H.R. 1291 is good for veterans, it is good for education, it is good for the military and national defense and it is good for our
economy,” said Smith.
“The GI Bill is one of the greatest laws Congress ever passed,” said Smith. “In the decade following World War II, more than two
million eligible men and women went to college using these educational benefits. The result was an American workforce enriched by
450,000 engineers, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists and another million college-educated men and
women. It created the foundation of today’s prospering middle class,” he said.
“Millions of veterans used their GI Bill benefits to further dreams that otherwise would have eluded them and built a modern America
the whole world envies. The bill the House passed today is part of that proud tradition of helping veterans catch up on careers
and education they delayed in order to serve their country,” Smith said.
“Significantly, full funding for H.R. 1291 is already included in the Congressional Budget Resolution approved earlier
this year,” said Smith. “The Conference Report specifically includes language to cover the $230 million first year cost of
implementing this legislation,” he said.
“The need to improve the current MGIB is clear,” Smith said. “Only about half of all veterans eligible for MGIB have used it since
1985, even though the servicemember pays $1,200 from his or her basic pay to become eligible. With today’s increase, we expect that
another 45,000 veterans will take advantage of MGIB over the next ten years,” he said.
With today’s approval, H.R. 1291 now moves to the Senate for their consideration
UPDATE ON CONCURRENT
For nearly two decades, legislation that would allow career retirees of the Armed Forces to collect full military retirement and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation has been pending before Congress. Currently, if they receive VA disability compensation, their retirement pay is reduced by a commensurate amount.
The House leadership has announced a plan that has purportedly been agreed to by leaders in the Senate and the Administration. The legislation will be included in this year's Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill, which is currently in conference. According to House officials, the DOD authorization bill should be finalized by November.
If enacted, Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) would be expanded to include all combat or hazardous duty disabilities from 10% to 100%, effective January 1, 2004. Currently, only those with qualifying disabilities rated 60% or higher or who have a compensable disability associated with the Purple Heart Medal are eligible. Retirees must apply to their parent service for CRSC payments, but there is no phase-in period for CRSC. DOD is discouraging retirees from applying until this provision is signed into law. The DAV website has a link to the CRSC application.
Also, the DOD provision would authorize all career military retirees with VA disability ratings of 50% or higher to have full concurrent receipt phased in over a 10-year period. No application is expected to be required. If enacted, the phase in would begin January 1, 2004, in the following amounts:
100% disability, $750 per month;
90% disability, $500 per month;
80% disability, $350 per month;
70% disability, $250 per month;
60% disability, $125 per month; and
50% disability, $100 per month.
Each following year, until 2014, the payment amount will increase by approximately 10 percent. In 2005, entitled veterans would get back another 10% of any remaining offset; in 2006, they would get back 20% of the remaining offset; in 2007, 30% of the remaining offset; and so on. By January 2014, disabled retirees with 50% and higher ratings will be entitled to full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation.
National Guard and Reservist career retirees will be treated the same as active duty retirees, and will be included in both the CRSC program and the phase-in of concurrent receipt for veterans rated 50 percent or higher.
Disabled retirees who qualify for both programs would have to choose one or the other. Because the CRSC program provides payment immediately, rather than the 10-year phase-in for concurrent receipt, legislators plan to allow an annual election option for CRSC-eligibles. This recognizes that a retiree who is 100% disabled, but only 60% of that is due to combat-related conditions, may find it advantageous to elect CRSC payments for a few years until the concurrent receipt payment rises to a level that exceeds the CRSC payment. Because CRSC payments are tax-free and non-disability retired pay is not, this could also figure into qualifying retirees’ election decisions.
Designing specific procedures for retirees to make such elections is but one of the many administrative challenges the Defense Department will have to address in implementing the new authority.
The new agreement also calls for the formation of a special commission to review the VA disability system and recommend any needed changes. Of its 13 commissioners, at least seven will have to be highly decorated combat veterans. Four will be appointed by the House, four by the Senate, and five by the President. The DAV has strong concerns regarding changes to title 38, and we will certainly scrutinize any suggestions to modify or reduce benefits available to disabled veterans.
The proposed legislation is a move forward; however, military retirees with non-combat disabilities rated less than 50 percent will still be treated unfairly. The DAV will continue to fight for those veterans that have not been included.
The DAV greatly appreciates the efforts of legislators who have fought so hard on this issue. Long-time concurrent receipt champions Representative Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) have kept the issue on the front burner for the past 3 years. The DAV especially thanks Representative Jim Marshall (D-GA), a freshman member of Congress and a combat disabled veteran, who came to Washington and immediately took strong steps to correct what he perceived as a gross injustice. Congressman Marshall’s discharge petition played a crucial role in attaining benefits for thousands of disabled veterans. The DAV also expresses thanks to Representatives Thomas Tancredo (R-CO) and Walter Jones (R-NC), who, despite tremendous pressure from House leadership, courageously signed the discharge petition.
Finally, the greatest praise and recognition belongs to members of our great organization for their steadfast efforts in achieving this victory. Although only a portion of our membership is affected by concurrent receipt, thousands upon thousands of e-mails, letters, and phone calls from DAV members have flooded Capitol Hill and the White House demanding that the unjust ban on concurrent receipt be lifted. As it has always been, the DAV was in the forefront to fight for disabled veterans and their families.
M E M O R A N D U
Congress will be in recess over the 4th of July holiday; they will be returning to their districts. When they return to Washington on July 9, they will begin work in earnest on the appropriations process for VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies.
As the funding level for the VA is being considered, it is important that members of Congress hear from us. Please visit our web site at www.dav.org, "Legislative Action & You," "Advocacy in Action." There is an alert explaining the current state of affairs in the appropriations process, and an accompanying letter calling on Congress to support funding levels as recommended in the Independent Budget. For those who do not have access to the Internet, a copy of the letter is attached.
As always, we appreciate your continued support.
JOSEPH A. VIOLANTE
National Legislative Director
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