September 2007

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA STOCKS SHINGLES VACCINE

September 7, 2007

A vaccine for shingles, which Department of Veterans Affairs researchers helped develop, is available to veterans who are patients at VA medical facilities nationwide. "Shingles can seriously degrade the quality of life for those who suffer from this disease," said VA secretary Jim Nicholson. "Offering this vaccine to our patients is further evidence of VA's commitment to provide world-class health care to America's veterans." VA physicians will offer the vaccine to patients with appropriate medical conditions, usually those who are 60 years of age or older and have healthy immune systems. A single dose of the vaccine offers protection against shingles, which is scientifically named Herpes Zoster. VA researchers and patients from across the country participated in studies which led to the vaccine's approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine is available immediately to those who are recommended for the treatment.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
MAIL ORDER
PHARMACY GETS SIMPLER 
September 7, 2007

Registering for Tricare's mail order pharmacy service became easier with the launch of the new Member Choice Center (MCC). Now retirees can begin receiving their prescriptions by mail after a phone call or mouse click, said Tricare officials. Not only will the beneficiary receive mail-order enrollment assistance, but the center's staff will contact physicians to get new prescriptions and forward them to the mail-order pharmacy for processing. Beneficiaries do not have to download forms or wait to have forms mailed; they can go to the 'My Benefit" portal on www.tricare.mil/ or to www.express-scripts.com/TRICARE to complete the registration. They also can call the MCC toll free at (877) 363-1433 to switch from the retail program to mail-order service. Beneficiaries may receive up to a 90-day supply of most medications for the same amount they would pay for a 30-day supply at a retail pharmacy.
 

DAILY BRIEFING
September 11, 2007 

VA understates wait times for medical care, IG says Congress
From CongressDaily 
 


The Veterans Affairs Department is challenging an inspector general's report that found one in four wounded veterans must wait more than 30 days for a medical appointment, despite a department policy requiring timely care.

The review by the VA inspector general's office, released Monday, also said the department's tracking of scheduling problems was spotty, and it accused the Veterans Health Administration of understating the problems in reports to Congress.

"VHA needs to provide more attention to and improve its oversight of the scheduling process," the report said. "Not following the required scheduling process will increase the risk that veterans will not receive needed medical care promptly."

The inspector general examined 700 outpatient appointments for primary and specialty care scheduled in October at 10 VA medical centers.

The review found that 75 percent of the appointments were scheduled within 30 days of a patient's requested date, as VA policy requires.

Of the veterans kept waiting more than 30 days, 27 percent had serious service-connected disabilities, such as amputations or frequent panic attacks, the report said.

In a response to the inspector general, VA Undersecretary for Health Michael Kussman said he agreed that scheduling problems need to be addressed.

But he challenged the report's methodology, citing patient surveys showing that about 85 percent of veterans get appointments when they need them.

"To obtain a more objective, professional analysis of all components of VHA's scheduling process, including electronic wait lists and waiting times reporting, I plan to obtain the services of a contractor who will thoroughly assess the factors," Kussman wrote.

"This is simply not acceptable," said Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. He said the report showed the VA was skewing its performance on veterans' health care and that the VA was not taking responsibility.

 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VA Retro Pay Nears Home Stretch
September 14, 2007


Almost 75,000 military retirees who were underpaid either Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) or Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) have received "retro pay" totaling nearly $150 million. This leaves some 33,000 files of the initial group remaining for review with a targeted completion date of November. Then the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will turn to a group of 12,000 to 16,000 retirees who fell into the queue between the time the retro-pay program began last summer and April 2007, when DFAS launched computer programs to handle the pays automatically. Only military retirees who were underpaid are receiving notifications. About one in three pay records reviewed showed no underpayment, and those retirees will not be notified. Retirees with questions can call the DFAS Retro Award hotline toll free at 1-877-327-4457. Retirees can get updates on retro pay from the DFAS web site at http://www.dfas.mil.

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