October 2, 2002

Chairman Moran Calls on VA to Upgrade Facilities and Expand Programs to Accommodate Increasing Number of Women Veterans

(Washington) - "With our country at war, and with nearly 20% of our current active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines being servicewomen, the VA must improve their services and facilities to accommodate even more women veterans in the coming years," Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (KS-1) said at a Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee hearing this week.

"Women are taking on new responsibilities in the armed forces. They are becoming a vital link in the success of our military today, and will be even more crucial in the future," said Chairman Moran. "VA must actively re-position itself to welcome and outreach to women veterans, be sensitive to their needs, and ensure their health needs are being met with high quality programs," he said.

Testifying before the Health Subcommittee was Congresswoman Heather Wilson (NM-1), the only woman veteran serving in Congress. Also testifying were Dr. Robert Roswell, VA Undersecretary for Health; Ms. Marsha Four, the Chair of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans; Dr. Linda Schwartz, a former Chair of the Advisory Committee, and current professor at Yale University; Ms. Joy Ilem of Disabled American Veterans, herself a veteran; Ms. Carole Turner, the VA Director for Women's Health Programs; Ms. Toni Lawrie, Coordinator of the Women's Clinic at the VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, Florida; and Dr. Margaret Seaver, Director of the Women's Health Care Program at the Boston, Massachusetts VA Health Care System.

Chairman Moran urged VA to "smash any perceived 'glass ceiling' or other limitations preventing women veterans from seeking or receiving quality VA primary health care. Furthermore, VA must ensure that there are sufficient specialized care facilities targeted to women veterans, including counseling for sexual trauma, mental health services, and safe domiciliaries for homeless women veterans and their children."

"Every veteran has a right to personal privacy, and for women that includes private bed accommodations away from other patients, and even simple things like privacy curtains and separate women's restrooms," said Moran.

"Throughout most of its history, VA has been a men's health and medical program - almost by design," Moran said. "And while there has been progress in serving female veterans, more needs to be done. Women are defending our nation in the armed services. They serve our country with distinction today, and women deserve our nation's thanks as veterans today -- and tomorrow," he said.



October 2, 2002

GAO tells DOD and the's time to share! A new report from the General Accounting Office says that the fact that the two agencies don't share patient records, could be putting vets at risk. Specifically, those who can get health care from both the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Without a information system making patient histories accessible to both, pharmacists at one department are in the dark about what medicines the patients are getting from the other agency. That means possible dangerous drug combinations. GAO recommends the patient info systems be shared. The departments have agreed, but say it will take some time to put into effect. 

October 4, 2002

Montgomery GI Bill benefits for most active duty members and former active duty members jumped up on Oct. 1. Payments for those with at least three years of active duty went from $800 to $900 a month and for those with just two years of active duty rose from $650 to $732. The increases are part two of a three-step series designed to cover more of a four-year education at a 
public college or university than in the past. The final step, due Oct. 1, 2003, will increase payments to $985 and $800 respectively. The $985 would still be some $200 short of the costs of tuition, fees and books, and Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, plans to seek further hikes.


October 4, 2002

The Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs have joined forces to provide certain Tricare beneficiaries prescription refills by mail. The MTF Refill Mail Service (MRMS) is being launched at three Military Treatment Facilities -- Darnall Army Community Hospital, Fort Hood, Texas; the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, Calif.; and the 377th Medical Group, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- for a one-year pilot program expected to be fully operational this month. To use the MRMS, Tricare beneficiaries must fill their original military or civilian prescription at one of the three MTFs first, said a DoD pharmacy official. In most cases, beneficiaries then will only have to call the pharmacy that has their original prescription, select the refill by mail option, and VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy program does the rest, he said. Unlike the National Mail Order Pharmacy, there are no copays. 

October 4, 2002

Using its press weapons, the Department of Defense is going to great lengths to argue against the overwhelming intent of lawmakers to authorize some form of concurrent receipt for military retirees who have been awarded disability compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Coining concurrent receipt as "double dipping," Charles Abell, assistant defense secretary for force management policy, says, "it is two pays for the same event." A DoD press service went farther and asserted that "the U.S. government has always treated this as double dipping." Abell said he could find nothing in the public or private sectors with a truly analogous pay situation. This flies in the face of views by major veterans' organizations that military retirees are the only retirees in any sector who must forfeit one dollar of disability compensation for each dollar of retirement pay earned. It remains up to Congress. 

October 4, 2002

The Department of Veterans Affairs has ruled that recent combat veterans may be provided hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for a two-year period beginning on the date of the veteran's discharge. This includes National Guard and Reserve members who were activated by a federal declaration, served the full period for which called up and were released under other than dishonorable conditions. The VA authorized such care "notwithstanding that there is insufficient medical evidence to conclude that their illness is attributable to their military service." Such veterans may be enrolled as priority category 6, and will not be subject to co-payments. Exclusions: congenital or developmental conditions, such as scoliosis; conditions which are known to have existed before military service; and conditions that began after military combat service, such as bone fractures occurring after separation from military service, common colds, and others

By Matt Kelley 
Associated Press 

October 10, 2001
GIs, public not told of germ tests 

Web Posted : 10/10/2002 12:00 AM 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday that some soldiers engaged in chemical and biological weapons testing in the 1960s may not have been fully informed about the secret experiments conducted at sea and in five states. 
Some tests used the military's deadliest nerve agent, VX.

Thousands of civilians in Hawaii and Alaska also probably were unaware they were sprayed with relatively mild bacteria meant to simulate germ weapons such as anthrax, the Defense Department's top health official said.

Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said there's no evidence anyone died as a result of the classified tests, which were part of biological and chemical warfare programs the United States abandoned in 1970.

Four people at the military's Deseret Testing Center in Utah were infected during biological weapons work, but all recovered, said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, another Pentagon health official. Records don't show who the people were or what infected them, Kilpatrick said.

The Pentagon released declassified summaries of 28 of the tests, showing for the first time the scope of open-air testing of chemical and biological agents on American soil. About 5,500 service members participated in the tests.

Tests in Alaska exposed soldiers in protective suits to deadly nerve agents, including VX, and experiments in Hawaii used a hallucinogen developed as a chemical weapon, according to Pentagon records.

Winkenwerder said all military personnel in tests of real chemical or biological weapons used protective gear and were vaccinated. But he acknowledged the protective equipment used 40 years ago wasn't as effective as the suits used today.

"It's not clear that in every instance, people were fully informed" of the risks, Winkenwerder said.

At a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing, lawmakers criticized the Pentagon for waiting until last year to begin releasing details of the tests.

"We need to get out there and get these guys tested, and make sure they know the seriousness of what they were exposed to," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif. 

Winkenwerder said the names of the service members participating in the tests have been turned over to the Veterans Affairs Department.

The VA has notified about 1,400 of those veterans and hopes to send out 1,000 more letters soon.

The agency has commissioned a $3 million study to determine if test participants are getting sick because of their exposure. So far, 55 veterans have filed claims with the VA blaming their health problems on their participation in chemical or biological tests.

One of them is Jack Alderson of Eureka, Calif., a Navy lieutenant in 1965. Alderson says he has breathing problems and other ailments possibly caused by the chemicals used to decontaminate ships after the tests.

"This is just the start," Alderson said after Wednesday's hearing. "I've been trying to get it exposed since 1993."

October 11, 2002

Some veterans without service-related medical problems will now be charged co-payments for extended care in VA facilities, VA Secretary Anthony Principi has announced. The new co-payments will be calculated for each individual, based on ability to pay. Veterans not required to make the co-payments include those with any compensable service-connected disability, those whose incomes are below the VA single-pension level of $9,556, and those who have been receiving continuous VA extended care since Nov. 30, 1999 or earlier. Currently, higher-income, nonservice-connected veterans pay $5 per day, plus the Medicaredeductible of $812, for each 90 days of nursing-home care. After the first 21 days of care in any 12-month period, which are free, veterans will make the predetermined co-payments. These could vary from the maximum of $97 a day to as little as $97 a month, depending on the veteran's assets and expenses.


October 11, 2002


The Department of Veterans Affairs is establishing priority access to health care for severely disabled veterans under new regulations announced this month. "It is unacceptable to keep veterans with service-connected medical problems waiting for care,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. “These veterans are the very reason we exist, and everything we do should focus first on their needs." The new regulation takes effect in two phases. Under phase one, which is being implemented immediately, VA will provide priority 
access to health care for veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or greater. This new priority includes hospitalization and outpatient care for both service-connected and non-service-connected treatment. VA will continue to treat immediately any veteran needing emergency care. In the second phase, which begins next year, VA will provide priority access to other service-connected veterans for their service-connected conditions.


October 11, 2002

This week the case for repeal of the century-old law requiring military retirees to forfeit one dollar of retired pay for each dollar of disability compensation awarded by the Veterans Administration went down to the wire. The Defense Department intensified its attack against House and Senate support by using the phrase "double dipping," and making several claims against repeal. Examples:

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stated repeal would divert critical resources away from the war on terrorism, transformation of our military capabilities, pay raises and facilities improvements.

Defense undersecretary David S Chu said military pensions are already among the most "generous" in the United States. He also asserted that military retirees receive lifetime health care and other benefits.

Chu also said that allowing disabled veterans to concurrently receive retirement and disability pay will take money from weapons procurement and other accounts intended to benefit active-duty personnel.

In response, The Military Coalition of 34 veterans' organizations and other military-related groups flatly disagreed, stating that the forfeiture of military retired pay requires retirees with disabilities to fund their own retirement. TMC and many major veterans organizations sent letters refuting the DoD claims, characterizing them as unfounded and incorrect. Individual veterans flooded their legislators and the White House with communications urging Congress for equity and the President not to veto the plan if enacted. 


Defense Bill Delay Helps President Avoid Tricky Veto

October 17, 2002

Lack of agreement on providing retirement and disability benefits stalls authorization
Pity the groups that represent military retirees: They have an army of hundreds of thousands of voters ready to protest a veto threat over expanded benefits programs, but now they won´t be able to engage in battle until after Election Day. 

Negotiations on the fiscal 2003 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4546) have effectively ground to a halt, primarily because legislators cannot agree on a way to expand a benefits program known as concurrent receipt. Both chambers have endorsed some overhaul of the program, but the White House has promised to veto any change. 

Current law requires retirement benefits to be reduced by the amount of the disability benefit, leaving the retiree with only the sum of the single benefit. Military retirees´ groups have thrown their full weight behind a proposal that would allow former soldiers to receive full retirement and disability benefits. 

With an organized membership, a compelling cause and thousands of potential votes, groups like The Retired Officer Association (TROA) were convinced they could convince legislators to push concurrent receipt over the president´s objections. The defense authorization bill is a must-pass item - among other important provisions, it includes the authority for pay raise for members of the military. 
But now that Congress appears to be gone until late November, those veterans cannot use their votes to punish those who might vote against concurrent receipt, or reward those who support it, because action on the bill will happen after the elections. 

The delay protects President Bush from vetoing a politically popular bill before a close midterm election, something Democrats were quick to note. 

"I think they´re holding it up," said Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, Nev., of his Republican colleagues. "It´s a cruel legislative trick." 

Reid, who has endorsed concurrent receipt for years, said this is the year it should have been approved. After years of claiming the United States could not support the benefit, the House Budget Committee for the first time came up with $5.8 billion over five years to support a limited version of the program. For years before that, House members had blocked Senate attempts to fund the program. 

But now the problem lies with the White House, which has argued that Congress should not create a special benefit for military retirees. Reid argues that is no excuse and that the president would ultimately support concurrent receipt if pressured. 

"I dare him to veto this," said Reid. 

Steve Strobridge of TROA said lawmakers will not get off so easy. Although TROA does not endorse specific candidates, he said the group does support issues. 

"We´re doing what we can to hold people´s feet to the fire," he said. "We have a right to hold them accountable." 

But Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said the delay will allow members to promise one thing and vote another way. He noted that Congress will not return until after Veteran´s Day, allowing members to appear at holiday events to state their support for concurrent receipt. 

"That way they can tell everybody everything," he said. "The farther we get away from Election Day, the easier it will be for them." 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., agreed that it would be a bad precedent to ignore concurrent receipt. Beyond that, he noted that Congress should not delay its work. He argued that delaying the defense authorization bill´s passage until a month after the fiscal 2003 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5010) is cleared undercuts the importance of the authorization bill. 

"We become irrelevant," he said. "It´s tragic." 

October 18, 2002

Tricare Prime and Plus beneficiaries have a new tool for getting doctor's appointments and health care information. More than 4,000 Tricare patients have made routine appointments using Tricare Online since testing began in June 2001, said Navy Dr. (Capt.) Brian Kelly of the Tricare Management Activity in Falls Church, Va. The initial test installations were Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Rader Clinic, Fort Myer, Va.; and Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. "We're currently at 92 facilities in the Washington, D.C., area; Region 9, Southern California; Region 11, Washington state, Oregon and northern Idaho; and Central Europe," Kelly said. "We hope to be worldwide by the end of April 2003." People will be able to refill their prescriptions on the Web within the next year, he said..

October 18, 2002

The American Legion has stated that the average military retiree is an E-6 and receives about $1,500 a month in taxable military retiree pay. If, after retirement, that veteran is rated with a 100 percent service-connected disability, the $2,300 nontaxable VA disability compensation would completely offset the retirement pay. Instead of receiving $3,800 a month, the veteran receives $2,300. Meanwhile, a private (E-1) who completes just two years of military service and is awarded a 100 percent service-connected disability receives the same $2,300 a month. If the veteran is a federal civil service employee, upon retirement he or she will receive full federal retirement pay and full VA disability compensation with no offset

October 18,2002

Five Senate combat veterans have told the President in a letter that White House opposition to concurrent receipt sends the wrong message. Additionally, in a statement, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., one of the signers, said, “This is the second time in four months the Bush administration has threatened to break America’s promises to those who have worn the uniform of the country.” The administration is threatening to deny disabled veterans the benefits they earned by putting themselves in harm’s way and paying a price for it the rest of their lives, he said. Other signatories to the letter are Senators Max Cleland, D-Ga.; Chuck Hagel,R-Neb.; John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ernest Hollings, D-S.C.

October 18, 2002

By a count of 391-0, the House has approved a resolution supporting immediate full concurrent receipt of military retired pay and disability compensation awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This would replace an earlier House plan to phase out concurrent receipt over five years for retirees with disability ratings of 60 percent or more. The non-binding motion instructs the House negotiating team that is meeting with Senate negotiators to prepare a compromise 2003 defense authorization bill. The motion asks negotiators to accept the Senate plan to immediately eliminate the offset for retirees with 20 years of military service who have any percentage of disability. The procedural vote signals the White House that concurrent receipt has enough House supporters to override a veto of the defense bill.



October 18, 2002

Veterans seeking justice on the concurrent receipt issue have united like never before to press for real legislation to end this indefensible law against disabled military retired veterans. Despite passage by a unanimous vote in the Senate to authorize concurrent receipt for disabled longevity retired veterans rated from 10% to 100% and despite a unanimous vote recently in the House to instruct House conferees to agree to the Senate’s provisions, concurrent receipt provisions are the sticking point that has kept House and Senate conferees from agreement on the defense authorization bill where the provisions are contained. 

How can that be, if both chambers have voted unanimously to support the Senate provisions? The sad truth is unavoidable. Some politicians really do not support this legislation. Who are these politicians? We know that only House members in powerful positions could keep this legislation from passing despite the wide bipartisan support it enjoys. Strong forces have stalled this extremely important legislation. This and other desperate moves to defeat concurrent receipt legislation reveal the success and strength of the unified effort of veterans pushing for an end to this injustice. 

We just saw a move by the House VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee to block concurrent receipt if it is enacted. If the opponents of concurrent receipt see that they are suffering substantial political consequences in an election year because of their opposition to this popular legislation, they may try other ploys to deflect criticism, such as they did last year by passing only symbolic legislation, which the DAV strongly opposed. We might expect an offer to pass some minimal concurrent receipt legislation that only benefits some portion of disabled military retirees. If we agreed to the House-passed provision that would cover only those rated 60% and higher, opponents may be emboldened and pass legislation that includes even fewer veterans than those 60% and higher. For example, they may include only those 100%. It would be a mistake for our movement to be deceived by such a “divide-and-conquer” strategy of giving the benefit to a few in the hope that they will abandon the cause for the others. Until the prohibition against concurrent receipt is removed for all longevity retired veterans, the injustice remains. 

We must remind House members that they voted unanimously to instruct their conferees to agree to the Senate concurrent receipt provisions. If that vote was honest and sincere, no excuse exists for any other action by the House and its conferees on this issue than passage of the Senate provisions that would remedy the injustice for all who are affected by it. 

Send a clear message to House members today that veterans remain united and insist on decisive, prompt, and responsible action to end this injustice now. Telephone or e-mail your House member immediately. If you elect to e-mail your member, compose your own message or use the one we have prepared for your convenience. If you have not already done so, send e-mail messages associated with the other alerts regarding concurrent receipt on this website titled “Take Action Against New Threat to Concurrent Receipt ” and “Concurrent Receipt Update as of October 17, 2002.” 


October 25, 2002

The struggle between Congress and the administration over concurrent receipt legislation might be comical to those not affected, but it’s deadly serious to many military retirees who have been counting on it. The following is a partial chronology compiled from various sources:

Earlier this year, the House approved partial concurrent receipt to be phased in over five years, and the Senate approved full concurrent receipt. The two versions were sent to a conference committee considering the fiscal '03 National Defense Authorization Act. 

The House passed a non-binding resolution 391-0 to instruct House conferees to include full concurrent receipt in the NDAA. 

The Senate conferees then offered to accept the House's original version, but give the President the authority to delay implementation on an annual basis for "national security" reasons. 

Supporters of the administration's resistance to concurrent receipt placed a provision in the VA funding bill essentially 
stating that if any concurrent receipt legislation should pass after Oct. 1, 2002, no military retiree subsequently seeking disability compensation or an increase in compensation would be eligible for concurrent receipt. 

Finally, Congress recessed until after election day, subject to the unlikely event of a completed conference report.

October 25, 2002

The Senate and the House left for the elections without passing a fiscal '03 Defense authorization act, thus delaying a decision on concurrent receipt until either a lame duck session or even until next year. During the deliberations, various plans surfaced for partial and full concurrent receipt, and even for concurrent receipt only for military retirees currently awarded disability (see following item). But opposition from the administration has created a situation in which 83 percent of the Senators and 90 percent of the Representatives have signed their names in support of concurrent receipt, but failed to take action. Veterans organizations individual veterans have expressed outrage. Concurrent receipt would eliminate the 100-year-old inequity of forcing military retirees to forfeit one dollar of retirement pay for each dollar of disability compensation awarded by the VA.


October 31, 2002

American Legion: Billions for Baghdad, Nothing for Veterans
© 2002, U.S. Newswire

Document Dated: Oct-31-2002

Contact: Steve Thomas, 202-263-2982, Pager 800-759-8888,
PIN 115-8679, or Joe March, 317-630-1253; Pager
317-382-7745, both of the American Legion

WASHINGTON, -- "I just don't get it!" American Legion National Commander 
Ronald F. Conley said, referring to the failure of congressional conferees 
to ignore the specter of a presidential veto and to approve 
concurrent-receipt legislation before Election Day.

"President George W. Bush said we have billions of dollars to rebuild Baghdad, not to mention Afghanistan," said Conley, whose 2.8-million member Legion is the nation's largest veterans organization. "At the same time, his non-veteran advisors are saying they will encourage him to veto any legislation that corrects the inequity of concurrent receipt, because it is a budget buster. Well, 402 House members and 82 Senators did not think so when they voted for correcting a 100-year-old travesty. The travesty is that service-disabled military retirees, by law, are the only group of Americans who have to give up their retirement pay dollar-for-dollar to collect their disability pay."

The 2003 National Defense Authorization that conferees will deal with after the election contains concurrent-receipt provisions that would allow service-disabled military retirees to receive their full military retired pay as well as their disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under a federal law passed in the 1890s, service-disabled military retirees receive a cut in their retired pay equivalent to their VA disability compensation.

Consider the case of two service members in the same wartime military unit. One is injured during military service, leaves the military after a five-year enlistment and is awarded VA disability compensation while working a federal civilian job, and continues to collect full disability after retirement.

The other is injured also, and is given a disability rating by VA after retiring with 20 years of military service. Both veterans are federal retirees. But the military retiree is the only federal retiree that receives a cut in retired pay equal to the amount of disability compensation.

"Obviously this is wrong," Conley said. "I'll tell you something else that's wrong. Two weeks before a major national election, the power brokers in Congress stalled the conference committee, so that no version of concurrent receipt could reach the president's desk prior to November 5.

"These same non-veteran advisors to the president claim that paying disability and retirement would jeopardize national defense. My response to that is this: There is money budgeted in the House version and even if there wasn't, no civilized nation can afford to send its young men and women to war, and then play the budget shell game with them after 20 or 30 years of service defending our nation.

"What signal does this send our brave young men and women who are now going to war? Is it, 'Don't get wounded, don't get shot, and don't get ill, because we didn't budget for that?' If we didn't budget for concurrent receipt, then perhaps we should rebuild the Baghdads of this world tomorrow and take care of our veterans today.

"It is the same old story as told by the English poet Rudyard Kipling, when speaking about the British soldiers referred to as Tommys when he said: 'Tommy this and Tommy that. Chuck him out, the brute. But he is the savior of his country when the guns begin to shoot.'"

As posted by Grant Szabo 
Editor/Founder, Gulf War Veteran Resource Pages