March 25, 2013

We have no Action Alerts this week
 
SUMMARY OF ISSUES:

At Issue 1.we see an Assault on Officership, Have you had it “up to here” with seemingly endless accounts of sexual assault in the military? Is that the military you joined and served? How does leadership deal with that? MOAA Government Relations Director Col. Steve Strobridge’s March “As I See It” column offers observations and questions about what world military officers are living in…or should be.   (See Issue 1 below  for the details  GF)

At Issue 2. we see that MOAA Meets with New SecDef. ewly appointed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted a Thursday meeting with the leaders of MOAA and selected other military and veterans associations – the first such meeting in many years, and a most welcome one. (See Issue 2 below  for the details. GF)  

 At Issue 3. we see that Shutdown has been Averted, Tuition Assistance Restored.  The final FY2013 continuing resolution Congress passed this week made important progress on several fronts. But more battles are brewing. (See Issue 3 below  for the details. GF)  

 At Issue 4 . we see TRICARE For Life Overseas.  A previous Health Care Happenings blog post raised questions regarding TRICARE For Life vs. Medicare coverage for older retirees who live overseas. This week’s blog entry describes the benefit, and Government Relations Director Steve Strobridge’s initial comment addresses the question, “Why must overseas retirees pay Medicare Part B premiums to be eligible for TFL if Medicare doesn’t apply overseas?”  (See Issue 4 below  for the details. GF) 

 Collectively We Can and Are Making a Difference

FOR ALL, Please feel free to pass these Weekly Legislative Updates on to your group of Veteran Friends – don’t be concerned with possible duplications – if your friends are as concerned as we are with Veteran issues, they probably won’t mind getting this from two or more friendly sources.

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 Issue 1. As I see it – Assault on Officership 

By Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF (Ret)

Having spent my first three active-duty years as a training officer and commander at Basic Military School at Lackland AFB, Texas, I was appalled at the recent scandal involving multiple sexual assaults on basic trainees by their instructors.

A couple of years ago, I was amazed that a flag officer was allowed to retire (at a lower grade) after being found to have intimidated a subordinate officer’s wife into having a relationship with him.

More recently, I was surprised to hear a senior officer’s conviction for sexual assault had been overturned by the flag-officer convening authority.

I’m shocked that significant numbers of females deployed to a combat zone report having been assaulted by their own brothers-in-arms — in some cases by their superior officers.

My female military friends say I’m naïve.

And DoD’s own statistics seem to confirm that.

According to DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, about 19,000 servicemembers a year experience sexual assault, and the vast majority go unreported, in large measure because the victims believe nothing will be done or are afraid of retaliation or being labeled a troublemaker. 

Only 8 percent of reported cases end up going to trial.         

That seems a pretty low number, even considering the “he said, she said” potential.

DoD leaders say they’re trying to establish a military culture that calls on bystanders to play a more active role in preventing sexual assault. A new public-service video features a male voice saying, “Preventing sexual assault is part of my duty.”

No kidding. Have we sunk so low that we have to remind people in uniform that tolerating a felony is intolerable?

Apparently so. Not long ago, Congress had to pass a law specifying that people found to have committed sexual assault must be separated from service, because that didn’t always happen.

That’s a failure of officership, pure and simple.

One of the first tenets of leadership is officers take care of their troops — ALL of their troops. 

Overlooking or making excuses for a felony is a failure of officership. Worse, it’s an assault on the core tenets of officership.

Is it naïve to believe convicted felons should go to jail and that it’s wrong to reward a convicted felon with a military retirement rather than expulsion from service? 

Is it naïve to think officers — especially senior officers who are supposed to be examples of leadership — can’t be exempt from that rule?

Wouldn’t strict and consistent enforcement of that rule be the best possible reminder of officers’ primary leadership responsibility?


Issue 2. MOAA Meets with New SecDef.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosted the start of a two-day series of meetings between top Defense and Service officials and leaders of selected military and veterans organizations, including MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret).

Hagel said he made it an early priority to meet with association leaders because, “Your organizations are the last bridge between the all-volunteer force and the rest of society.”

“I want to meet regularly with you and look forward to engaging more with you than maybe has been done in the past,” Hagel said. “I’ll be direct and honest with you, and hope you will be with me.”

Hagel particularly highlighted and expressed appreciation for Ryan’s open letter to him on personnel and healthcare costs (cited in last week’s legislative update). (Click on Ryan’s open letter here or above to see the letter. GF) 

Later in the day, senior DoD officials provided updates on a variety of programs and initiatives, with emphasis on sequestration, suicides, and veteran unemployment.

The newly passed continuing resolution still poses a $43 billion sequester, but provides DoD new flexibility to avoid some of the worst-case scenarios. Assessing how to best use this new flexibility is getting priority focus. Senior defense officials reiterated sequestration will not affect ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

In his turn, Admiral Ryan urged Secretary Hagel to seek new opportunities to generate savings through joint delivery of healthcare (rather than higher beneficiary fees) and continue working with VA Secretary Shinseki to ease transition and claims problems.

MOAA is pleased at Secretary Hagel’s initiative in convening this meeting and his engaging, open dialogue with association leaders. At this first meeting, the new Secretary gave every indication he “gets it.”


Issue 3.Shutdown Averted, Tuition Assistance Restored

The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution on Thursday that will keep the government funded through the end of the September and give DoD at least some wiggle room in deciding how to take $43 billion in sequester cuts to the defense budget over the next six months.

The new resolution lets DoD shift $10 billion between accounts to avoid the cuts that would most affect readiness.

It also requires the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force to restore most tuition assistance funding for the troops. All services but the Navy had cut off this assistance for new applicants, sparking protests from the field.

Under the new resolution, the services can reduce tuition assistance by a relatively modest fraction. They won’t get additional funds for the program, so they’ll need to make cuts elsewhere to fund it.

Having averted a government shutdown (at least for six months), Congress turned its attention to passing a budget resolution for FY2014.

The Senate and House are expected to pass very different budget resolutions, and probably won’t be able to end up agreeing to any compromise.

That means more big partisan battles over next year’s funding.

What’s next? At some point this summer Congress will need to grapple with statutory borrowing limit of the federal government – known as the “debt ceiling” – and avoid a new national financial crisis.

In the meantime, the administration is expected to unveil its FY2013 budget proposal on April 8, which is rumored to include a military pay raise cutback and more proposals to raise TRICARE fees.

Stay tuned.


Issue 4. TRICARE For Life Overseas

Published by at 9:20 am under Health Care Benefits,Health Care News,Health Care Questions,Health Care Resources

A previous blog post of How TRICARE for Life is Funded surfaced a number of misconceptions about the benefit structure for overseas’ beneficiaries. This post seeks to clarify the Tricare for Life (TFL) overseas benefit.

TFL acts as a wrap-around to Medicare. Medicare pays the first 80% with TFL paying the remaining 20% for covered services. In order to use your TFL benefit, three conditions must be met:

  • A valid Military ID Card,
  • An entitlement to Medicare Part-A (Hospitalization) by meeting the 40-quarter requirement to entitle you to receive Social Security, and
  • Purchased Medicare Part-B (Health care)

Given the above, should you choose not to fulfill these conditions your TFL is suspended until such time that you meet them.

Next, Medicare is a U.S. based program and is available in U.S. territories as well (Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands). If you reside within the geographic locations of the plan, you are entitled to care. Should you reside elsewhere, you’re on your own.

Purchasing Medicare is required in order to use your TFL benefit. For those residing outside the Medicare coverage area, Medicare pays nothing but Tricare pays 75% of billed charges for Tricare covered benefits. You are responsible for the remaining 25%. The 75% Tricare coverage reflects a 55% increase in Tricare covered costs for overseas beneficiaries. One might say this is a richer Tricare benefit than offered to your stateside contemporaries.

To mitigate your out-of-pocket costs which are limited to the catastrophic cap of $3000/family per fiscal year for Tricare covered benefits, we recommend TFL overseas beneficiaries consider a Tricare Supplement. Contact MOAA at 800-247-2192 for details about our MEDIPLUS TRICARE supplements.


 

That’s it for today- Thanks for your help!
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