This morning, October 15, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index figures for September. The news squashed any lingering hopes for a COLA for 2011. Due to the rate of inflation remaining below the level needed to automatically trigger a Cost of Living Adjustment, Social Security, Military retired pay and VA Disability pay will not increase for 2011. This is only the second year without an automatic adjustment since the COLA went into effect in 1975. Unfortunately, it’s two years in a row.
The Social Security Act spells out the formula that determines the annual living adjustment for federal retirees (including military) and Social Security payments. It is determined by comparing the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. This year’s calculation produced no increase.
NAUS Note: NAUS supports legislation to use a different calculation, called the CPI-S (Consumer Price index for Seniors), to calculate the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments. Using CPI-S, as proposed in the CPI for Seniors Act (HR 5305), would account for the different products and different expenses encountered by older Americans, including much higher health-care costs. With retirees facing double-digit increases in medical health care, the revised formula would provide a fairer and more accurate Social Security COLA each year.
Doc Fix Remains a Major Concern
As a reminder, legislation preventing cuts in payments to doctors that accept TRICARE and Medicare patients expires at the end of November. As it stands right now, payment rates will be cut by 23.5 percent on December 1, unless Congress intervenes.
Congress Daily, a major media outlet that monitors congressional activity, reported this week that Senate leaders are eyeing a temporary, one-month patch for a looming Medicare physician pay cut, hoping to buy time to work out a longer-term fix. Other sources suggest a temporary fix could run as long as six months to a year.
Failing to fix the problem could cause many doctors to stop seeing TRICARE patients due to reduced reimbursement for treatment and care. Clearly, NAUS-members need to continue to raise awareness about this massive challenge before, during and after the coming elections, until a correction is made. You can get it started by letting your Representative and Senators hear your concerns. NAUS urges you to let them know you want the fix in place well in advance of the November 30 deadline.
You can use the NAUS CapWiz System to send them a message. Please share this link with your family, friends and neighbors. Congress must fix this and must make it a high priority on their post-election return.
Air Force Chief Calls for Higher TRICARE Fees
In a Tuesday speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said, “The world has changed and the United States Air Force must change too.” Apparently in his eyes, increasing the amount military beneficiaries pay for their healthcare benefits should be part of that change.
Asked, during a question and answer period that followed his address, if military families and retirees should pay a greater share than they are right now Gen. Schwartz responded, “The reality is that the co-pays for TRICARE, which is a very good program certainly on par with many others in the country, have not changed since 1985. I think it is inescapable that a change will have to be made and clearly these are matters for the executive to propose and the legislative to dispose. But we collectively as a family of actively serving and formerly serving members and families have to recognize that if we’re not careful these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the DOD portfolio. That is worrisome and something that will have to be addressed. Do it compassionately, rationally, but it has to be addressed.”
General Schwartz clearly misspoke when he stated fees have not increased since 1985; TRICARE did not come into existence until 1996. Overlooking his misstatement, the Air Force Chief of Staff joins a growing number of senior military leaders and others who publicly say that the costs of the earned TRICARE program holds the potential to harm national security. It is clear that this unfortunate viewpoint is scripted within the administration to dent and diminish the gratitude Americans have for the proud service given by military retirees and to put the benefits retirees earned first-in-line to help pay for today’s defense needs. It is obnoxious and outrageous.
NAUS continues to press members of Congress to keep the current moratorium on higher fees in place. You need to remain involved too. Contact your elected officials and let them know how this affects you.
South Carolina Stolen Valor Legislation
A South Carolina legislator and a Medal of Honor recipient both say politicians who lie about their military records should be required to pay a $10,000 fine to the state Ethics Commission.
Charleston Republican State Rep. Chip Limehouse says the bill he is filing today is very important. Limehouse says veterans have pushed for the legislation in reaction to misstatements by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal about his service during the Vietnam War.
Retired Marine Major General and NAUS Board Member James Livingston, says such incidents are frustrating and an affront to people who serve. The Medal of Honor recipient says a law is needed in South Carolina so a similar situation doesn’t play out there.
On Oct. 13, 1775, the U.S. Navy was born when the Continental Congress authorized the arming of two sailing vessels with 80 men and 10 carriage guns in order to intercept British supply and munitions transports. The Declaration of Independence came nine months later, followed by the creation of the Department of the Navy in 1798. Today, our Navy remains the most powerful in the world.
On Wednesday, the Navy celebrated its 235th official birthday. NAUS salutes the men and women of the Navy for their courage and dedication.
HEALTH CARE NEWS
Combat Related Special Compensation Medical Travel
Over 100,000 Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) veterans are eligible for a new CRSC travel benefit to receive follow-up specialty care such as provided at the Mayo Clinic.
Section 1632 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act directs reimbursement for travel-related expenses when a member of the uniformed services who incurred a combat-related disability and is entitled to retired or retainer pay must travel more than 100 miles from the referring provider’s location to obtain medically necessary, nonemergency specialty care for a combat-related disability. Reasonable actual-cost travel expenses (e.g., lodging, fuel, meals, parking, tolls) associated with receiving specialty care can be reimbursed. And if the physician so indicates, a Non-Medical Attendant may accompany the veteran and have their expenses reimbursed as well.
Checking the website, NAUS found that the application, approval and reimbursement to be complicated and somewhat confusing. We hope that DoD and TRICARE will work very hard to make the process much easier to navigate.
For more information on this benefit and how to apply for it, go to this TRICARE Website. Please let NAUS know how we can help sort out and untangle any complications you may encounter. We stand ready to assist.
NAUS will continue to monitor this benefit and will pass on any new developments as we find them. We thank NAUS Board of Directors Advisor Win Reither for pointing out this benefit and website.
Finding the Right Provider for You
When using TRICARE Standard, you may receive care from any TRICARE-authorized provider without a referral. TRICARE-authorized providers meet TRICARE licensing and certification requirements and are certified by TRICARE to provide care to TRICARE beneficiaries. TRICARE-authorized providers include doctors, hospitals, ancillary providers (laboratories and radiology centers) and pharmacies.
To find a TRICARE-authorized network provider in your region, allowing you to save money by using your TRICARE Extra benefit, use the provider directory located on your regional contractor’s Website or call your regional contractor.
ACTIVE DUTY NEWS
Navy Marks 10th Anniversary Of USS Cole Attack
Ten years ago, an explosives-laden boat approached the USS Cole as it was refueling in Aden Harbor, Yemen. The explosives detonated, ripping a 40-by-60-foot hole in the Norfolk-based Cole. Seventeen sailors died that day.
The Navy on Tuesday marked the 10-year anniversary of the attack on the Cole with a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk led by Adm. J.C. Harvey Jr. The public and members of the Cole’s extended family attended.
Recommended Mailing Dates for APO/FPO Destinations
Ensuring care packages arrive in time for the holiday season is a priority for friends and family members of military personnel serving around the world. To help get packages on their way, the U.S. Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate Box.
The recommended mailing date for the most economical postage to overseas military destinations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, is Nov. 12.
Mail sent to overseas military addresses is charged only domestic mail prices. The domestic mail price for the Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box is $14.50, but for packages to APO/FPO addresses overseas the price is reduced to $12.50. Additional discounts are available for customers printing their Priority Mail postage labels online at Click-N-Ship. Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes are available at no cost at any Post Office or can be ordered online at shop.usps.com. Postage, labels and customs forms can be printed online anytime using Click-N-Ship.
The Postal Service continues to show support to those serving in the armed forces by offering free Military Care Kits, designed specifically for military families sending packages overseas. The mailing kits can be ordered by phone by calling 1-800-610-8734 and asking for the Military Care Kit. Each kit includes two “America Supports You” large Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes, four medium-sized Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes, six Priority Mail labels, one roll of Priority Mail tape and six customs forms with envelopes.
For online ordering of the large Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo and information about mailing letters and packages to military destinations, go to Supporting Our Troops.
To ensure delivery of Christmas cards and holiday packages by December 25 to military APO/FPO addresses overseas, the Postal Service recommends that mail for service members be sent no later than the mailing dates listed below. Mail addressed to military Post Offices overseas is subject to certain conditions or restrictions regarding content, preparation and handling. APO/FPO addresses generally require customs forms. To see an online table of updated APO and FPO addresses and mailing restrictions by individual APO/FPO ZIP Codes, click here, select “Pull-Out Information” and click on “Other Information.”
MILITARY MAILING DEADLINES
|Military Mail Addressed To
||Express Mail Military Service (EMMS)1/
||First-Class Mail Letters and Cards
||Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) 2/
||Space Available Mail (SAM)3/
|APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092
|APO/FPO AE ZIP 093
|APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098
|APO/FPO AA ZIP 340
|APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966
1/ EMMS is available to selected military post offices. Check with your local Post Office to determine if this service is available to an APO/FPO address.
2/ PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.
3/ SAM parcels are paid at Parcel Post postage rate of postage with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.
Exchange ID Check Goes “Hi-Tech”
Implementation of an updated point-of-sale system that uses the technological advances available through “smart” Common Access Cards is streamlining the identification process for age-restricted items at Army and Air Force Exchanges. Click here for more information.
Free Canes for Veterans
A national program, “Hugo Salutes Our Veterans,” will provide at no charge 36,000 state-of-the-art Hugo Folding Canes to any U.S. Military Veteran in need of mobility assistance.
The Hugo Folding Canes, which retail for $29.99, will be distributed at all Sam’s Clubs nationwide, November 10, 11, and 12. This program was started several years ago by AMG Medical, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, in tribute to its employees who served in the military.
Additional information is available at the Hugo website.
New Ad Campaign Targets Veterans
This week VA launched a National Ad Campaign focusing on recently separated veterans. Former Marine and Iraq Veteran Robert Kugler speaks to veterans about benefits they have earned through service. Click here to watch the video and be sure to share it with veterans you may know.
Save the Date
In past years, NAUS Chapters and members across the country have participated in Wreaths Across America, a special program that honors deceased veterans by placing wreaths on their graves during the holiday season. This year events are scheduled for December 11. We hope you can join in this extremly wothwhile endeavor in your local area and an early reminder so you can plan accordingly. Check the Wreaths Across America site for details on being a participate in this year’s honor.
NAUS on the Road
Tomorrow is a busy day for NAUS representatives across the country.
On Saturday, NAUS President MG Matz will be the keynote speaker at the Ft. Monmouth, NJ, Retired Activity Day (RAD). MG Matz and his wife Linda will man the table.
Also Saturday, NAUS Senior Legislative Assistant Morgan Brown will be the keynote speaker at the New London, CT, Submarine Base, Retiree Seminar.
Also on Saturday, NAUS Regional Vice President Chuck Partridge, accompanied by his wife Nancy, mans a table at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, RAD.
NAUS encourages you to stop by and say Hello to our representatives … and bring a friend to share in the activities and find out more about NAUS.
Future RADs include:
Next Thursday, Oct. 21, President Matz will address retirees at the Wright-Patterson, AFB, RAD in Dayton, Ohio.
And on Saturday, Oct. 30, President Matz delivers the keynote at the Ft. Hood, TX, RAD.
The 2010 NAUS Directories have been Shipped
If you ordered a NAUS Directory back in the spring/summer (thank you!), the good news is they have shipped. You should be receiving your order soon. If you wish to return your order, you should send it back to Harris Connect unopened to avoid paying the shipping cost. If you have any questions or problems with your Directory order, please call the publisher, Harris Connect, at 888-618-4227 (press 2 for Customer Service).
NAUS Annual Membership Meeting
Make plans now to attend the NAUS Annual Membership Meeting and luncheon on Saturday, 6 November, at the Officers Club at Fort Belvoir, VA. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki will be the keynote speaker this year. Cost to attend the meeting and luncheon is $20 per person. Fill out the Reservation Form (also found on page 6 of your September/October Uniformed Services Journal) and mail in with your payment, or contact Mike Boone for more information.