Caregivers Bill Goes to President
Thursday evening, the Senate passed by unanimous consent S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act and sent it to President Obama for his signature. On Wednesday, the House had passed the bill by a vote of 419-0 but had amended it so it was returned to the Senate for approval of the changes. The bill now heads to the President for his signature into law.
Some of the more important provisions of the bill would;
- Fulfill VA’s obligation to care for the nation’s wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend.
- Provide health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under CHAMPVA.
- Require independent oversight of the caregiver program.
The bill also establishes a permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand supportive services for homeless veterans.
NAUS Note: While we are very appreciative of this bill and know it will go a long way in helping those family caregivers who need the extra assistance, NAUS believes it should be extended to include the many veterans of Persian Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea and WWII and other conflicts whose family caregivers also deserve the extra assistance in this bill. We sincerely hope that Congress will expand the scope of the bill in the very near future to include all veterans and their families.
More Work Needed to Correct the PPACA
This week on the House floor House Veterans’ Committee Ranking Member Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) spoke with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in regards to fixing the recently passed new healthcare law to protect two VA healthcare programs. They are the very important program called Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA), which provides health care coverage for widows and survivors, and the program which includes the spina bifida affected children of Korea and Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
The Senate has already taken action on providing explicit protection, in law, by passage of S. 3162, introduced by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI). However, the legislation has yet to be considered in the House despite Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Filner’s introduction of an identical bill (H.R. 5014).
During House floor discussion, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told Rep. Buyer that Filner’s bill had been referred to the Ways and Means Committee but, the Speaker said, the House would soon take up the legislation. She said, “We will bring it together in a bipartisan way in the spirit that we owe our veterans.” NAUS Note: NAUS looks forward to conclusion of this important matter and intends to continue its press for correction of the “drafting error” in the original bill.
One Exonerated, Two to Go
In Bagdad on Thursday, a U.S. military jury cleared a Navy SEAL of failing to prevent the beating of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of masterminding a 2004 attack that killed four American security contractors.
Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, 28, of Blue Island, Ill., was found not guilty by a six-man jury of charges of dereliction of duty and attempting to influence the testimony of another service member. The jury spent only two hours deliberating the verdict.
Huertas is the first of three SEALs to face a court-martial for charges related to the abuse incident. All three SEALs could have received only a disciplinary reprimand, but insisted on a military trial to clear their names and save their careers.
NAUS Note: It is very good to witness a jury of his peers see what prosecutors obviously did not; that actions in war or combat cannot be treated as civil infractions. Now we hope the same verdicts for the remaining two SEALS.
Nomination for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs
On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Dr. Jonathan Woodson to serve as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs (ASD/HA). This position has been vacant since Dr. Ward Casscells departure nearly a year ago.
Dr. Woodson is an associate professor of surgery and associate dean at Boston University School of Medicine and a senior attending vascular surgeon at the Boston Medical Center. He chairs the Boston University Medical Center Institutional Review Board for Human Research and is an adjunct assistant professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
He also holds the rank of brigadier general in the Army Reserve and is currently assigned as Assistant Surgeon General Force Management, Mobilization, Readiness & Reserve Affairs and deputy commander of the Army Reserve Medical Command. His official military biography can be viewed here.
As assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Dr. Woodson would be responsible for the overall supervision of the health and medical affairs of the department of defense, advising the secretary of defense on department of defense health policies, programs, and activities, as well as overseeing all department of defense health resources. His nomination is subject to Senate confirmation at a yet to be determined date.
Senators Subpoena DoD and DOJ on Fort Hood Investigation
Sen. Joe Liberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) served subpoenas on Attorney General Eric Holder and DoD Sec. Robert Gates requesting disclosure of information on the investigation of the attack at Fort Hood.
In a six-page letter to the Administration officials, the Senators outlined five months of effort to secure documents and related materials on the investigation of the attack. According to the Senators, however, all efforts have proved unproductive despite four formal letters to DoD, two to DOJ and lengthy discussions with the Administration. The Senators also state that their most recent efforts to gain critical information was met with an April 12 response refusing to cooperate.
NAUS continues to focus on corrections to the policies and procedures that contributed to the murderous attack at Foot Hood.
Impact of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano
Much of America and the world are acutely aware of the tremendous impact the recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland has had on civilian aviation. Air travel across the north Atlantic and most European domestic flights were curtailed for several days stranding millions of travelers on both sides of the ocean.
Military flight operations in and around Europe were impacted as well; and in particular, Air Force aeromedical evacuations (AE) that would normally be routed from combat theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, then on to the U.S. within a few days.
For the past few days AE missions have been flying directly from the Central Command Area of Responsibility (CENCTOM AOR) to the U.S without the intermediate stop in Germany. This effort requires up to two air-to-air refuelings per mission, but Air Force officials stress it’s worth it to get patients to the care they need.
In addition to adjusting AE flight routing, AE crews and Critical Care Air Transportability Teams, which normally stage at Ramstein Air Base, have been temporarily sent to forward staging locations in CENTCOM. This temporary basing ensures the Air Force has the right medical personnel in-place to care for wounded warriors as they are evacuated to receive further medical care.
We highlight the level of effort taken by the Air Force to raise a point. Without the proper funding that enables them to adapt to all contingencies, which includes natural disasters such as the volcano eruption, these types of contingency operations would not be possible. The same holds true for the other branches of the Uniformed Services. Our military forces are, and will only continue to be the best in the world as long as Congress and the President provide the funding necessary.
HEALTH CARE NEWS
TRICARE Extends Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration
Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) presents a unique set of challenges for parents, especially paying for expensive specialized care. To provide continued financial assistance to active duty service members who have a child with an ASD, TRICARE has extended the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration to March 14, 2012.
This special program allows reimbursement for applied behavior analysis (ABA) rendered by providers (tutors) who are not otherwise eligible to be reimbursed by TRICARE for ABA services. Providers of ABA collect data on a child’s behavior and use that information to teach the child positive behaviors while suppressing harmful or undesired ones, and improve their social and communication skills.
The demonstration is open to beneficiaries in the United States and the District of Columbia who are registered in TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) and diagnosed with an ASD. Click on the links provided if you would like to learn more about TRICARE’s ECHO Program or the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration.
Alcohol Awareness Month
April is Alcohol Awareness Month—a national health observance to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe choices. Click on the link provided to learn more.
ACTIVE DUTY NEWS
2010 Army Soldier Show
From its base at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, the current edition of the Army Soldier Show is in intense rehearsals. The 2010 U.S. Army Soldier Show, an “entertainment for the soldier, by the soldier” song-and-dance production, and this year’s edition revolves around current social-media phenomena. The 2010 Soldier Show schedule features 101 performances at 53 venues, including eight stops in Germany. As always, the show’s troops will deliver several genres of music and dance, complete with soldier-musicians on guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. For more information, including a link to the show’s tour schedule, visit the U.S. Army MWR website.
Navy Leave Chits Going On-Line
The Navy announced plans to begin phasing out traditional paper leave chits, replacing them with a new electronic leave request system. The new system, called Self-Service Electronic Leave (E-Leave), is a Web-based program that sailors can access through their Electronic Service Record. The new method is also meant to allow sailors to electronically route leave chits through their chain of command for approval. It automates the command’s leave control log and ensures pay and entitlements are properly credited. Shore-based implementation of E-Leave is scheduled to begin in August. An afloat version will be phased in over the next 24 months as shipboard Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System servers are upgraded.
Air Force Announces Uniform Policy Changes
Late last week, Air Force officials announced several policy modifications resulting from recent Air Force Uniform Board decisions. These include: tucking of trousers into boots on utility uniforms will remain optional; the green fleece watch cap is approved for wear with some items; and the women’s the side-slit mess dress skirt can continue to be worn as an optional item. Additional information on uniform policy changes can be obtained through your chain of command or by calling the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102.
DFAS to Begin Recouping Separation Pay – DFAS Press Release
Recouping military retirees’ Voluntary Separation Incentive, Special Separation Benefit and other separation payments by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will resume in August.
These separation payments and others, such as severance pay, were offered to active-duty service members to reduce manpower in certain career fields, primarily during the 1990s. Because federal law prohibits service members from receiving both separation and retirement payments for the same period of service, provisions of these programs included repayment should an individual join the Ready Reserve or return to active duty and earn status as a military retiree.
On June 1, 2009, in response to retirees’ concerns, DFAS officials temporarily stopped deducting these repayments from retirement pay while the DoD conducted a formal review of the recoupment program. Before the review, the federal statutes governing these programs did not allow the DoD or DFAS to alter repayment rates or provide alternative repayment plans regardless of the financial hardships a retiree may be experiencing.
The DoD review is complete, and Congress has amended Sections 1174(h) and 1175(e) of Title 10, United States Code, to help limit the financial strain on military retirees as they repay their outstanding balances. The new statutes allow DFAS more flexibility to accommodate for financial hardship and modify payment plans.
Affected retirees will receive notification letters at least 90 days before recoupments resume. If they feel the rate of recoupment will create a financial hardship, they may request a more lenient repayment plan by providing financial information on the Financial Statement of Debtor form included with the notification letter.
This monthly recoupment may also affect former spouses who receive Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act payments from such retirees. Former spouses affected by this action will also will receive a notification letter before the resumption of recoupments.
Foster Homes for Veterans
The VA Medical Foster Home (MFH) program finds a caregiver in the community who is willing to provide a veteran with 24-hour supervision and personal assistance. This would be a long-term commitment, where the veteran may live for the remainder of their life. Veterans who enter MFH all meet nursing home criteria. The veteran pays the caregiver $1200 to $2500 per month to provide this care. This includes room and board, 24-hour supervision, assistance with medications, and any personal care. For more information, visit VA’s Medical Foster Home webpage.
American Freedom Festival
The American Freedom Foundation is bringing Nashville to San Diego for their first annual American Freedom Festival San Diego Saturday, May 29 on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum. The event will feature country superstar and legend, Ronnie Milsap. Tickets are available at here and the American Freedom Foundation website. Discounted tickets for service members will be available at military bases throughout San Diego County and at the USS Midway Museum box office. Proceeds from the Festival will go to Veterans Village of San Diego, Big Brother Big Sisters of San Diego County – Operation Bigs Program, San Diego Armed Services YMCA and other local San Diego charities supporting our military.
National Volunteer Week
During National Volunteer Week, VA salutes the thousands of citizens, ordinary and famous, who serve veterans as VA volunteers. Celebrities often visit patients in VA hospitals, but just one visit convinced Bill Daily to become a regular volunteer at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center.
Daily starred as Major Roger Healey on television’s “I Dream of Jeannie.” The series about two astronauts and a beautiful genie in a bottle began in 1965 and ended in 1970, after which Healy was a regular on “The Bob Newhart Show” from 1972 to 1978. These days, the 82-year-old actor makes Albuquerque his home and continues to make his fans laugh every Wednesday when he visits veterans at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center. Daily’s warm heart and gift of gab keep patients laughing.
A Korean War Army Veteran, Daily said he can’t remember jokes, but he loves to talk. “I have story about everything,” he said, “and the veterans all want to hear about ‘Jeannie’.”
NAUS on the Road
This will be a very busy weekend for NAUS at various Retiree Appreciation Day activities around the country. Saturday is the day for all of the below listed appearances:
NAUS President MG Matz and his wife Linda will be at the Ft. Jackson RAD in Columbia, SC.
NAUS Garden State Chapter (NJ-2) President Bob Ellis will be at the McGuire AFB, NJ RAD.
NAUS Northeast Regional Vice President Tom Quinlan, Southwestern New England Chapter (MA-3) President Robert Picknally, and Groton Chapter (CT-1) President Paul Dillon will be at the Hanscom AFB RAD in Bedford, MA.
Come by and meet your NAUS representatives and bring a friend to join.