June 27, 2008

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, reacted angrily to reports of an inter-office e-mail circulating through the Department of Veterans Affairs that suggested the agency would save both time and money if VA case-workers stopped approving veterans' claims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The e-mail was "disturbing and disappointing," Akaka said. In a May 16 letter to VA Secretary James B. McPeak, Akaka wrote that the VA "has a responsibility to take seriously the effects of combat trauma, yet there are some who fail to appreciate the significance of this responsibility." Akaka also asked McPeak to ensure that PTSD claims receive thorough examination, and said that he requested a full investigation of the e-mail, which was written by a staff psychologist at the Temple, Texas, VA Medical Center. 

July 5, 2002


Travel expenses incurred for specialty care are reimbursable 
in certain circumstances under new Tricare rules retroactive 
to Oct. 30, 2000. Nonactive duty Tricare Prime beneficiaries 
can be reimbursed for "reasonable travel expenses" when they 
are required to travel more than 100 miles from their primary 
care manager's office, according to Tricare officials. 
Specifics: The primary care provider must refer the patient 
for specialty care. Travel distance must be at least 100 
miles from the primary care manager's office. One nonmedical 
attendant may accompany the nonactive duty patient if the 
patient's primary care manager indicates the attendant is 
medically necessary. The attendant must be a parent, guardian,
or other family member aged 21 or older. Implementation of 
the benefit may vary slightly among the services.

July 5, 2002


Travel expenses incurred for specialty care are reimbursable in certain circumstances under new Tricare rules retroactive to Oct. 30, 2000. Nonactive duty Tricare Prime beneficiaries can be reimbursed for "reasonable travel expenses" when they are required to travel more than 100 miles from their primary care manager's office, according to Tricare officials. 
Specifics: The primary care provider must refer the patient for specialty care. Travel distance must be at least 100 miles from the primary care manager's office. One nonmedical attendant may accompany the nonactive duty patient if the patient's primary care manager indicates the attendant is medically necessary. The attendant must be a parent, guardian, or other family member aged 21 or older. Implementation of  the benefit may vary slightly among the services.

'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.



July 10, 2002


RULES DEEM FEHB SUSPENDED, NOT CANCELED In general, FEHB policy bars annuitants who cancel their coverage from getting back into the program; the rules provide an exception to that policy by deeming the action a suspension of FEHB coverage rather than a cancellation. The rules allow covered individuals to return to FEHB coverage immediately if they involuntarily lose the other coverage or during the next annual FEHB open season regardless of whether they remain eligible for the other coverage. The rules also clarify a similar situation involving FEHB-covered annuitants and former spouses by allowing an individual who drops FEHB coverage when he or she enrolls in a Medicare-sponsored plan, or in Medicaid or a similar state-sponsored program of medical assistance for the needy, to return to FEHB coverage during the annual open season or immediately upon being involuntarily disenrolled from the non-FEHB coverage.

July 12, 2002


Under the law, Medicare does not reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs for medical treatment provided to veterans who rate Medicare, and American Legion commander Richard J. Santos says the law should be changed. The problem is the Priority 7 group of veterans who were brought into the VA medical system in 1996, asserted Santos. This added all remaining veterans to the ranks of those with service-connected disabilities or limited incomes covered by Priorities 1 through 6, and mushroomed VA patient numbers by nearly 30 percent. The surge in patients without adequate funding has thrown Priority 7s into long waiting lists. "As veterans, we earned the right to use the VA health-care system. As workers, we paid into Medicare," said Santos. You deserve the freedom to use your guaranteed federal insurance at any VA facility, he said.

July 12, 2002


The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to release software late this summer that will help veterans' service organizations prepare claims on behalf of veterans. Currently, VSO representatives with powers of attorney can request medical records only in paper form from the VA. With the new software, they will be able to review medical information in the veteran's electronic record at VA health facilities. Thesoftware has incorporated two features to safeguard veterans' medical records. First, the software provides read-only access to medical files, so users will not be able to add, delete or modify any information in the veteran's medical record. Second, the software limits a user's access to the medical records of only those patients for whom the VSO representative holds a valid power of attorney. Representatives will have access to information from all VA hospitals in which a veteran was treated.

July 12, 2002


The Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched an Internet site called Medsearch, as a central repository of Gulf War-related medical research. The goal of Medsearch's creators is to include all federally funded research into the illnesses of Gulf War veterans in one place. The site is indexed with plain language topic headings so that anyone can readily locate information. Headings include topics of particular interest to Gulf War veterans that may not be featured in other sources, such as pesticides and depleted uranium. Visit



July 17, 2002


Committee Backs New Battle of the Bulge Memorial, Revised Arlington Burial Rules & VA Procurement Reform

(Washington, DC) - The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs has OK'ed three new bills that would authorize the placement of a new memorial honoring veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, revise the rules governing burial eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery, and reform the way the Department of Veterans Affairs procures its health care supplies and equipment.

H.R. 5055, sponsored by Committee Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-4), will authorize the placement a new memorial in Arlington National Cemetery honoring the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle of World War II, with more than 80,000 American casualties. The new memorial, to be paid for with private funds, will replace an existing memorial marker that has deteriorated over recent years.

"The importance of the Allied victory in Battle of the Bulge cannot be overstated," said Smith. "The individual acts of courage, sacrifice and bravery from this battle resulted in the award of 17 Medals of Honor and 86 Distinguished Service Crosses. The placement of a new memorial in Arlington National Cemetery will provide a small token of our nation's gratitude to all of the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge" he said.

The Committee also approved
H.R. 4940, the Arlington National Cemetery Burial Eligibility Act, legislation sponsored by Congressman Bob Stump (AZ-3) and Chairman Smith, that would revise and codify existing Army regulations determining burial eligibility at Arlington National Cemetery. H.R. 4940 will expand eligibility for burial to Guard and reserve members with 20 years of service, but who died before reaching retirement age, and to Guard and reserve members who die while on training duty in the performance of duty. These two provisions had previously been approved in the House as separate legislation (H .R. 3423) sponsored by Chairman Smith, but the Senate has not taken any further action.

"When a member of our armed forces dies while performing his or her duty, they have earned the right to be buried alongside our nation's heroes in the hallowed grounds of Arlington," said Smith. "Current rules arbitrarily separating those who die while on active duty statuses from those on various reserve duty statuses are distinctions without a difference," he said.

H.R. 4940 would also eliminate the eligibility for high-ranking Government officials who are veterans but who would otherwise not meet the military service criteria. A limited waiver provision was included that would allow the granting of a waiver for burial at Arlington for persons who have made 'extraordinary contributions to the Armed Forces.'

"Arlington National Cemetery must be restored to its original purpose - to honor our greatest military heroes," said Congressman Bob Stump, who sponsored similar legislation (H.R . 70) approved by the House in the last Congress, but which died in the Senate. "I look forward to working with the Senate to make sure my legislation is signed into law this year," he said.

"These bills will further ensure that our nation's fallen heroes are properly honored and remembered in Arlington National Cemetery," said Benefits Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (ID-2). "From the winter forests of Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge to the deserts of Afghanistan today, America's servicemen and women have protected our freedom. Now we must protect their memory of service so that future generations never forget that the cost of freedom was paid by our veterans," he said.

Finally, the Committee voted in favor of H.R. 3645, the Veterans Health Care and Procurement Improvement Act of 2002, legislation sponsored by Congressman Lane Evans (IL-17), that would reform the procurement procedures of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. H.R. 3645 would require that VA leverage their purchasing power through mandated use of the Federal Supply Schedule for medical and surgical purchases in order to gain greater efficiency in purchasing and to increase accountability.

The Committee adopted a substitute amendment that also included additional provisions that would:

Address specialized medical-item needs of veterans with severe disabilities, with improved accountability and strengthened reporting for exceptions made to the reformed policies

Streamline the procedures that govern the VA's use of enhanced-use lease authority; provide the VA additional flexibility to enhance use of VA properties in complementary activities

Provide hospital and nursing home care and medical services to certain Filipino World War II veterans of the Philippines Commonwealth Army and former Philippines "New Scouts" who now permanently reside in the United States

Expand eligibility for outpatient dental care for all former prisoners of war

Strengthen auditing and reporting requirements for VA research and education corporations established at VA medical centers

Authorize the Department of Defense to participate in VA's Revolving Supply Fund for the purchase of health-care items

Name the VA outpatient clinic in New London, Connecticut, for the late John J. McGuirk

All three bills (H.R. 5055, H.R. 4940, H.R. 3645) will now be scheduled for final House approval before they are sent to the Senate for their consideration.

July 19


A lawsuit filed in 1996 by retired Air Force Medal-of-Honor recipient, Col. Bud Day, alleges that the government reneged on a lifetime contract with a 1956 law that changed "hospital space shall be made available" to "may be made available." The suit seeks to restore free health care for retirees 65 and older who were on active duty before the law was passed, and their dependents. It also requests reimbursement of money (maximum of $10,000) that has been withheld from Social Security pay over the years to finance Medicare Part B, as well as relief from future Medicare deductions. The class has asserted that a case (Winstar) recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court is a benchmark for contract law, and parallels the broken contract with military retirees. The group says that the next goal is "to convince the court they have enough people interested." Call 800-972-6275 or visit

July 19, 2002


As an expansion of the Defense Department's investigation of the Shipboard Hazard and Defense tests, a team will go to Dugway Proving Ground in mid-August to review Deseret Test Center records. The SHAD tests involved the Army's Deseret Test Center, Army and Navy vessels and Marine Corps and Air Force aircraft. SHAD was a subset of Project 112, a chemical and biological weapons vulnerability-testing program conducted by the Deseret Test Center from 1963 to 1969. Investigators have identified some 2,700 to 2,800 service members involved in the tests. The work at Dugway in August will complete the investigation of all tests conducted at Deseret. DoD health affairs official Dr. William Winkenwerder says that declassification of 17 more SHAD tests is under way. Veterans who believe they were involved in SHAD tests and desire medical evaluations should call the VA's Helpline at (800) 749-8387. For SHAD fact sheets, visit

July 25, 2002

A beneficiary doesn't have to "sign up" for Tricare for Life.
A military retiree who (1) is drawing retired pay; (2) is enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B; (3) has a current military ID card; and (4) has up-to-date personal information in the DEERS database, is automatically eligible. The same goes for the spouse of a military retiree drawing retired pay and for a widow or widower of a military retiree who was drawing retired pay.

July 25, 2002

Last week teams representing The Military Coalition and other veteran-oriented organizations converged on members of Congress who sit on the conference committee for the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act. Their goal was to convince conferees to adopt the Senate version of the NDAA, which would authorize full concurrent receipt of retired pay and disability compensation by military retirees who have been awarded compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Such action would overturn a century-old law that forces such retirees to forfeit one dollar of retired pay for each dollar of disability compensation received. Military retirees are the only retirees who must forfeit earned retirement to receive disability compensation, and some can lose their entire retirement, according to the organizations. The Office of Management and Budget has recommended that the President veto the NDAA if it includes any concurrent receipt provisions.