May 2006

ARMED FORCES NEWS
PANEL SEEKS TO STOP TRICARE HIKES
May 5, 2006


On April 26, House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y., moved to block a Defense Department scheme to double and triple the costs of Tricare for military retirees under age 65. During a markup of the subcommittee's part of the fiscal 2007 authorization bill, he inserted a provision to prevent increases in premiums and enrollment fees until at least Dec. 31, 2007. This would give time for studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, and for creation of a commission to review the military health care structure. The subcommittee deferred to the full Armed Services Committee for action on DoD's plan to eliminate $3 copays for generic drugs in the mail order pharmacy system, and raise copays at retail stores from the current $3 for generics and $9 for brand-name drugs to $5 and $15 respectively.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
Tricare Fee Hikes Stalled
May 12, 2006

Both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees have included language in their inputs to the fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization Act that would block a Defense Department scheme to double and triple the costs of Tricare for military retirees under age 65. The Senate version would prevent increases in premiums and enrollment fees until Dec. 31, 2007. Each version wouldrequire a review of the issues by the Government Accountability Office, and the House's would establish a commission to review the military health structure.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
Tricare Pharmacy: Carrot-and-Stick
May 12, 2006

The Senate and House Armed Services Committees' inputs to the fiscal 2007 authorization act contain provisions to encourage users of the Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP) to choose the TMOP over the retail system. The Senate would eliminate copays for generic and brand-name drugs in the TMOP's formulary and would authorize the Defense Department to impose copay increases at the retail pharmacies. (DoD has proposed hiking the retailcopays to $5 for generic drugs and $15 for brand-name medications, effective Oct. 1, 2006.) The House would eliminate copays for generic and brand-name drugs in the TMOP and raise copays at retail stores from the current $3 for generics and $9 for brand-name drugs to $5 and $15 respectively. Copays buy a 30-day supply of drugs at retail stores and a 90-day supply at the TMOP.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
OMB OPPOSES CERTAIN HOUSE NDAA PROVISIONS
May 19, 2006

In a Statement of Administration Policy on May 11, the administration's Office of management and Budget registered opposition to several provisions of the House's version of the fiscal Defense Authorization Act. For example, OMB objected to the House's action to block the administration's efforts to double and triple Tricare fees for military retirees under age 65. The administration also opposed expansion of Tricare eligibility to all Selected Reserve members and their families. OMB objections were based upon its estimate of cost. After the Senate passes its version of the NDAA, expected to take place after the Memorial Day recess, both versions will be hammered together by a joint conference committee.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
HOUSE PASSES AUTHORIZATION ACT
May 19, 2006

Last week, nine veterans' organizations participated in a press conference at the National Press Club to kick off a campaign to replace the current discretionary funding system for the Department of Veterans Affairs with mandatory funding. So long as VA funding remains a discretionary program, it must compete each year with hundreds of other federal departments and agencies. Under mandatory funding, according to the organizations, the VA would receive the resources it needs based upon the number of veterans using the system. Organizations represented at the conference included The American Legion, American Veterans (AMVETS), Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VETERANS AT RISK: WHAT TO DO?

May 26, 2006

The VA gave the following advice to 26.5-million veterans at risk of identity theft:

First, affected veterans (those discharged from 1975 and afterward, or who were discharged earlier and filed a claim with the VA) should closely monitor their financial statements and visit the VA special website at www.firstgov.gov or call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636).

Second, in case of suspicious or unusual activity, follow the Federal Trade Commission's four recommended steps.

* Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas75013 TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.

* Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently

* File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.

* File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by telephone at 1-877-438-4338, online at
http://www.creditscore.net/additional-resources/fight-identity-theft/
 , or by mail at Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20580.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
MORE ON DATABASE THEFT

May 26, 2006

Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson has briefed the Attorney General and the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, who are co-chairs of the President's Identity Theft Task Force. The task force has taken actions to protect the affected veterans and coordinate the response. Veterans can visit www.firstgov.gov for more information. Additionally, VA has established a call center that veterans may use to get information about the situation and learn more about consumer identity protections. That toll free number is 1-800-FED INFO (333-4636). The call center will operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (EDT), Monday-Saturday as long as it is needed. It will be able to handle up to 20,000 calls per hour. VA also will mail individual notification letters to veterans where possible. Meanwhile, incensed veterans and vets' groups throughout the nation are demanding explanations and action to prevent future compromise.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA DATABASE STOLEN

May 26, 2006

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced May 22 that an employee who is a data analyst took home electronic data without authorization which subsequently was stolen from his home. The data contained names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for up to 26.5 million veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. Affected are veterans who were discharged from 1975 and afterward, and some who were discharged earlier and had filed a claim with the department. The data did not include VA's electronic health records or financial information, said VA officials. Law enforcement agencies including the FBI and the VA Inspector General's office are investigating. VA is working with members of Congress, the news media, veterans service organizations, and other government agencies to inform the at-risk veterans and their families, and explain steps to take to protect themselves from misuse of their personal information.

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