ARMED FORCES NEWS
Medicare Premium Increases 
November 2, 2001

Medicare Premium Increases Set for 2002
Premiums for Medicare Part B will increase to $54 monthly in 2002. Hospital deductibles will increase to $812. In addition, coinsurance for hospitalization will be $203 a day for the 61st through 90th day of each benefit period, and $406 a day for the 91st through 150th day for each lifetime reserve day. Also, skilled nursing facility coinsurance will rise to $101.50 a day for the 21st through 100th day of each benefit period. For military retirees enrolled in Medicare Part B and eligible for Tricare for Life, the hospitalization deductible and coinsurance, and the skilled nursing facility coinsurance charges will be paid by Tricare for Life.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
'Tricare for Life' Starts With Small Glitch
November 2

'Tricare for Life' Starts With Small Glitch
Tricare for Life began with 87 percent of beneficiaries on track for electronic exchange of claims processing between Medicare and TFL. Thus, 13 percent of the 1.5 million Tricare for Life beneficiaries failed to make the electronic connection. They have been identified and will receive a letter from Tricare in early November, advising them how to file claims for care received since October 1. Tricare Management Activity officials have stated that all Tricare claims will be paid, and that the electronic problem will be resolved by December 1. Officials asked beneficiaries to take no action unless asked to do so by letter.

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VET GROUPS WANT CONCURRENT RECEIPT FUNDED
February 22

Vet Groups Want Concurrent Receipt Funded
Many member organizations of the 31-member Military Coalition are telling lawmakers they want funding for concurrent receipt placed in the fiscal 2003 budget. A House-Senate conference committee, on December 11, voted in principle to end pay cuts for service-disabled military retirees, but it failed to appropriate funds for it. The American Legion, for instance, says "it is just not right" that military retirees with service-connected disabilities continue to have their Defense Department retired pay reduced by the amount of disability compensation that they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. "If these half-million veterans left the military after they incurred their service-connected disabilities, and retired from any other federal agency except a branch of the U.S. armed forces, they would receive both retired pay and disability compensation in full," said Legion commander Richard J. Santos.
 

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN
VA Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 Budget Update 
November 2001

VA APPROPRIATIONS FY 2002, H.R. 2620

FY 2001 FY 2002 Request FY 2002 House (passed 7/31) FY 2002 Senate (passed 8/2) FY 2002Conference FY 2002 IB Difference(IB & Conf.)
Medical Care 20,202,000 20,980,000 21,282,587 21,379,742 21,331,164 22,869,000 -1,569,000
Medical Research 350,000 360,237 371,000 390,000 371,000 395,000 -24,000
MAMOE 62,000 67,628 66,731 67,628 66,731 74,000 -7,269
GOE 1,050,000 1,194,831 1,195,728 1,194,831 1,195,728 1,213,000 -17,272
Inspector General 46,000 48,000 52,000 48,308 52,308 50,000 +2,308
National Cemetery 110,000 121,000 121,000 121,169 120,000 119,000 +2,000
Construction, Major 66,000 183,180 183,180 155,180 183,180 374,000 -190,820
Construction, Minor 166,000 178,900 178,900 178,900 210,900 431,000 -220,100
Facility Rehab Fund* 300,000 
Grants, State Homes 100,000 50,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 -0-
Grants, State Cemeteries 25,000 25,000 25,000 25,000 25,000 30,000 -5,000

MAMOE-Medical Administration and Miscellaneous Operating Expenses
GOE-General Operating Expenses (Veterans Benefits Administration and General Administration)
*Facility Rehabilitation Fund is a new account added by the House Committee.

________________________________
VA APPROPRIATIONS FY 2002, H.R. 2620

FY 2001 FY 2002 Request FY 2002 Conference FY 2002 IB DifferenceIB & Conf. DifferenceFY 2002& 2001
Medical Care 20,202,000 20,980,000 21,331,164 22,869,000 -1,569,000 +1,098,000
Medical Research 350,000 360,237 371,000 395,000 -24,000 +21,000
MAMOE 62,000 67,628 66,731 74,000 -7,269 +4,731
GOE 1,050,000 1,194,831 1,195,728 1,213,000 -17,272 +145,728
Inspector General 46,000 48,000 52,308 50,000 +2,308 +6,308
National Cemetery 110,000 121,000 120,000 119,000 +2,000 +11,000
Construction, Major 66,000 183,180 183,180 374,000 -190,820 +117,180
Construction, Minor 166,000 178,900 210,900 431,000 -220,100 +44,900
Facility Rehab Fund* 
Grants, State Homes 100,000 50,000 100,000 100,000 -0- -0-
Grants, State Cemeteries 25,000 25,000 25,000 30,000 -5,000 -0-

MAMOE-Medical Administration and Miscellaneous Operating Expenses
GOE-General Operating Expenses (Veterans Benefits Administration and General Administration)
*Facility Rehabilitation Fund is a new account added by the House Committee.

House Approves Smith-Evans Legislation To Protect VA Educational Benefit
November 14


(Washington, DC) -- Men and women called to active military duty in the war on terrorism will not lose education benefits they accrued from prior military service under legislation approved by the House of Representatives today. The bill, H.R. 3240, the Reservists Education Protection Act, was sponsored by Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4) and Ranking Democratic Member Rep. Lane Evans (IL-17), of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"As many as 10,000 of the 50,000 reservists and guard members called up to active duty may have had their education interrupted by their service to our nation," said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4), Chairman of the Committee. "These brave men and women should not lose any of the educational benefits previously earned because they answered the call to duty," Smith said.

"Our national security relies upon a military structure with a significant component of reservists and guard members," said Rep. Lane Evans (IL-17), Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee. "When we ask these men and women to interrupt their lives to come to our nation's defense, we have an obligation to ensure they suffer no negative consequences," Evans said.

The Smith-Evans legislation, H.R. 3240, the Reservists Education Protection Act, would allow servicemen and women to regain any monthly educational payments lost due to their call ups by extending the number of months of entitlement commensurately. In addition, the legislation would add the time of their mobilized tour of duty, plus four months, to the ten years normally provided under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) program to use the educational benefits. Congress provided similar relief to servicemembers affected during the Persian Gulf War.

"The Reservists Education Protection Act will make whole those servicemembers who were in the middle of their education by extending their period of eligibility to receive MGIB benefits," Smith said. "This is not only basic fairness, it is also good national security policy and good economic policy," he added.

"Since World War II, millions of veterans have benefited from the GI Bill, helping to build a modern American society the whole world envies," Smith said. "The GI Bill is one of the most spectacularly successful government programs ever devised, helping to create today's modern middle class, in addition to serving as the top recruiting tool for our all-volunteer armed forces," he said.

Smith noted that legislation he authored (H.R. 1291) to increase MGIB benefits by 70% over current levels was approved earlier this year in the House and is awaiting final Senate action. "We need to strengthen the GI Bill by providing benefits that more realistically reflect the current costs of higher education," said Smith. "And we need to ensure that the men and women who put their lives at risk to defend our freedom can return from their tours of duty and pursue their educational goals with the full benefits they have already earned," he said.

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
November 15

Veterans' Records Backlog Nearing Fix

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Archives and Records Administration have signed a "memorandum of agreement" that is intended to reduce the backlog of more than 57,000 veterans' military records requested by VA. NARA, the repository for records of military personnel separated from the five military services, houses the records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. NARA's task is to provide a one-day turnaround for high priority requests and a less than five-day turnaround on routine requests. VA expects that within one year the backlog of pending requests at NPRC will be eliminated. Currently, VA has a national inventory of more than 668,000 compensation and pension claims pending. Of these claims, 53,000 have been awaiting a decision for more than a year.
 


House Approves Smith-Evans Legislation To Protect VA Educational Benefit
November 14


House Approves Smith-Evans Legislation To Protect VA Educational Benefits for Military Reservists Called To Active Duty

(Washington, DC) -- Men and women called to active military duty in the war on terrorism will not lose education benefits they accrued from prior military service under legislation approved by the House of Representatives today. The bill, H.R. 3240, the Reservists Education Protection Act, was sponsored by Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4) and Ranking Democratic Member Rep. Lane Evans (IL-17), of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"As many as 10,000 of the 50,000 reservists and guard members called up to active duty may have had their education interrupted by their service to our nation," said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4), Chairman of the Committee. "These brave men and women should not lose any of the educational benefits previously earned because they answered the call to duty," Smith said.

"Our national security relies upon a military structure with a significant component of reservists and guard members," said Rep. Lane Evans (IL-17), Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee. "When we ask these men and women to interrupt their lives to come to our nation's defense, we have an obligation to ensure they suffer no negative consequences," Evans said.

The Smith-Evans legislation, H.R. 3240, the Reservists Education Protection Act, would allow servicemen and women to regain any monthly educational payments lost due to their call ups by extending the number of months of entitlement commensurately. In addition, the legislation would add the time of their mobilized tour of duty, plus four months, to the ten years normally provided under the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) program to use the educational benefits. Congress provided similar relief to servicemembers affected during the Persian Gulf War.

"The Reservists Education Protection Act will make whole those servicemembers who were in the middle of their education by extending their period of eligibility to receive MGIB benefits," Smith said. "This is not only basic fairness, it is also good national security policy and good economic policy," he added.

"Since World War II, millions of veterans have benefited from the GI Bill, helping to build a modern American society the whole world envies," Smith said. "The GI Bill is one of the most spectacularly successful government programs ever devised, helping to create today's modern middle class, in addition to serving as the top recruiting tool for our all-volunteer armed forces," he said.

Smith noted that legislation he authored (H.R. 1291) to increase MGIB benefits by 70% over current levels was approved earlier this year in the House and is awaiting final Senate action. "We need to strengthen the GI Bill by providing benefits that more realistically reflect the current costs of higher education," said Smith. "And we need to ensure that the men and women who put their lives at risk to defend our freedom can return from their tours of duty and pursue their educational goals with the full benefits they have already earned," he said.


NAUS

State Veterans Home
November 15, 2001


Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi announced $43 million in grants to nine states for construction or renovation of 11 state veterans homes.

"These grants are part of a tradition extending back to the Civil War," said Principi. "This federal-state partnership provides a comfortable home for veterans in a time of great personal need."

Currently, 106 state veterans homes operate in 46 states and Puerto Rico. Under the State Veterans Home Grant Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), states may receive up to 65 percent of the construction costs for facilities that will be used for domiciliary, nursing home or adult day health care to veterans. Once construction is complete and inspections are satisfactory, the facility then qualifies for per diem payments from VA.
        
The new grants are:
Iowa, Marshalltown  $ 1,235,000
Ohio, Georgetown $10,356,223
Maine, Scarborough $ 2,421,783
Michigan, Grand Rapids  $ 22,866
Missouri, Marquette  $1,950,000
New Mexico , Mt. Vernon  $ 1,099,010
Montana, Columbia Falls  $ 820,142
Oklahoma, Talihina  $ 4,163,222
Pennsylvania, Spring City $ 5,487,919
Rhode Island, Bristol $ 707,237

NAUS

VA/DoD Presidential Task Force holds first meeting
November 15, 2001


In August, President Bush announced the appointment of thirteen individuals for the Task Force for improving health care for veterans and retirees. The Task Force held its first meeting on October 10, and plans to meet monthly. The Task Force Co-chairs are former Congressman Gerry Solomon and Dr. Gail Wilenski.

The Task Force members, who will serve a two-year term, are: Mr. Everett Alvarez of MD, Mr. Ross Anthony of MD, Dr. Terry Clark of UT, Mr. Mack Fleming of SC, Ms. Susan Hosek of PA, Dr. Robert Krasner of NY, Mr. Anthony McCann of MD, Dr. Arthur Porter of MI, Ms. Susan Schwartz of VA, Mr. Robert Spanogle of IN, Mr. Robert Wallace of DC, Mr. Harry Walters of VA and Mr. Josh Weston of NJ.

The purpose of the Task Force is to recommend specific actions to improve the way that the Department of Veterans Affairs and DoD work together to provide quality health care for veterans and retirees. Dr. Wilensky, committee co-chair, called the meeting to order and Judge John J. Farley, III from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, swore in the committee members. After handling some preliminary administrative issues the committee received briefings from GAO (Stephen P. Backhus) DoD (J. Jarrett Clinton M.D.) and the Department of Veteran's Affairs (Thomas L. Garthwaite, M.D.).

The next Task Force meeting is scheduled for November 13th.

MUSEUM HONORS VETS
November 26, 2001


A new museum honoring veterans is in the works. The National Veterans Museum will be located at the building, which houses VA headquarters in the nation's capitol. The design is expected to include interactive learning areas, sites especially for students, teachers and parents as well as ties to some of the veteran memorials in Washington D.C., from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the Women in Military Service to America. The exhibits are also expected to explain the role of the Department of Veterans Affairs. No time frame has been set yet for construction. The project is still in the planning stages. Federal News Radio will keep you up to date on further developments.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
November 30, 2001

VA Chief Would Eliminate Surplus Beds

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Veterans  Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi said that the VA could do better at providing medical care if it wasn't hampered with excess beds. Although auditors state that the VA is wasting $1 million a day operating unneeded facilities, Principi said he faces an uphill battle to get Congress to let him close hospitals. He added that his top priority, however, is to reduce the backlog of 650,000 benefits claims. To do this will require more staff and more training, he asserted.


ARMED FORCES NEWS
November 30, 2001

Retiree Forced Choice Update

Retiree and veterans groups are objecting to the Bush administration's attempt to force military retirees with VA disabilities to choose between Tricare or the Department of Veterans Affairs for their medical care because: (1) VA care is earned by incurring disability due to military service while Tricare is earned through the hardships of a military career, and (2) selecting one over the other would force the beneficiary either to forego specialty care that other veterans rate, such as hearing aids and prosthetics, or to relinquish a choice of civilian providers that other military retirees rate. A provision in the fiscal 2002 VA appropriations bill, awaiting the president's signature, would block forced choice for fiscal 2002. Meanwhile, the House version of the fiscal 2002 defense authorization bill would permanently prohibit the plan, but the Senate version doesn't mention it. Negotiations between the two versions are ongoing.


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