ARMED FORCES NEWS
GREENSPAN'S TESTIMONY TARGETS MILITARY BENEFITS
March 4, 2004


Last week, Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, urged Congress to cut future Social Security benefits rather than hike taxes to counter a projected deficit in Social Security funding. Although that suggestion would impact only service members affected by Social Security payments, Greenspan also suggested a change to the Consumer Price Index that, if carried out indiscriminately, could undermine a number of programs affecting veterans, military retirees and their families. Affected could be Cost of Living Adjustments to such benefits as military retired pay, Survivor Benefit Plan annuities, Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation, Dependents Indemnity Compensation and VA pensions. 
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
PART B LATE ENROLLMENT RELIEF STILL STALLED
March 12, 2004

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 authorizes some 90,000 Medicare-eligible military retirees not covered by Medicare Part B to enroll during a special enrollment period. During the period, which runs through Dec. 31, 2004, the retirees will incur no late enrollment penalties. Once enrolled, they can obtain medical treatment and prescription services through Tricare for Life. Also under the act, military beneficiaries who enrolled in Part B in 2001, 2002, 2003, or 2004 and are paying late enrollment penalties can have them eliminated effective Jan. 1, 2004, by demonstrating that they are covered under Tricare for Life. However, as Armed Forces News reported three weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services is still working on implementation procedures. Tricare has stated that, when the procedures are completed, they will be announced via Medicare and posted on the Tricare Web site at http://www.tricare.osd.mil.

Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Update

Please Contact Your Representative Today!

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering its budget resolution to set a broad plan for revenue and spending for fiscal year (FY) 2005 that begins October 1, 2004. Also being considered are proposals in the President’s budget for changes in the budget process that would require Congress to greatly reduce spending on programs, other than defense and homeland security, to help offset the loss of revenue from tax cuts.

The budget process changes include binding caps on discretionary spending, such as veterans’ medical care, and reinstatement of a pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule that would require any increase in spending on a mandatory program, such as disability compensation, to be offset by an equal reduction in spending on another mandatory program. In addition to a PAYGO rule, Congress may enact “reconciliation” measures to require reductions in spending on mandatory programs. Such reductions require changes in law that reduce or eliminate veterans’ entitlement to benefits.

The discretionary caps proposed by the President would require deep cuts in discretionary programs, in the years after FY 2005 and after the presidential and congressional election. Funding for veterans’ medical care would be cut by 17% below current funding adjusted for inflation by FY 2009. If it became necessary to spend higher than projected amounts on defense
and homeland security—which is highly likely—even deeper reductions in programs such as veterans’ medical care would be required.

Under the PAYGO rule, Congress could not add or expand benefits without cutting other benefits by an equal amount. For example, if new scientific evidence revealed that a particular disease is caused by factors of internment as a prisoner of war or by exposure to some hazard such as radiation or Agent Orange during military service, Congress could not enact provisions to compensate these disabilities as service connected without taking away benefits from another group, such as another group of veterans who receive benefits. In effect, one group of veterans would be required to pay for the benefits of another group of veterans. Reconciliation provisions would simply take away veterans’ benefits to help pay for the tax cuts.

It is critical that Congress not enact these severe and unreasonable proposals to reduce spending on veterans’ programs. Call your senators and House member today to urge them to vote against any budget resolution or other bill that contains discretionary caps, PAYGO provisions, or reconciliation instructions for veterans’ programs, and that does not provide funding above the amount requested by the President for veterans’ medical care, at a level sufficient to enable VA to provide timely adequate care to sick and disabled veterans. Alternatively, you may send a prepared email message to your Representative by entering your zip code.

 

FED WEEK
PRESCRIPTIONS FOR COST SAVINGS
March 18, 2004

When it comes to paying for prescription drugs, seniors have an opportunity if they're veterans. As long as they've had at least six months of active military duty, they can get prescription drugs from the Veterans Administration for a modest copayment. Many veterans don't know about this program. Vets should start the process as soon as possible because it can take as long as 18 months to complete all the paperwork.
 

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