Each week, NMFA sends out an e-mail titled "Government and You E-News". It's a round up of all of the pertinent issues that NMFA is working on. If you'd like to read the information in its entirety, you may do so HERE.
Here are the headlines :
1. Families Still Waiting For “Families First”: The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) has announcing that the Families First Program, DoD’s latest effort to re-engineer the household goods move process, has entered a “strategic pause” and will not be implemented in early 2006 as recently planned. This delay in a program that was originally intended to be implemented by October 2005 means that families must wait longer for an important benefit: full replacement value reimbursement for goods that were lost or damaged in a move. Congress authorized full replacement value reimbursement in the FY 2004 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but tied its implementation to the roll-out of the Families First re-engineering. Thus, families must wait longer to benefit from something routinely provided in most corporate moves and to Federal civilians. Families First will also feature improved customer service measures.
In announcing the strategic pause, the SDDC noted the difficulties in developing the web-based system that is needed to manage the program. It intends to use this system to provide customers with 24/7 access to personal property shipment information and the ability to contact their movers throughout the move process. The system is intended to allow servicemembers to settle claims directly online with their movers.
An SDDC press release stated: “This pause will allow time to create a more efficient program oversight process, revise our timeline, which will provide ample time for user training while not interfering with peak moving season (May through September).” It also stated the agency “remains committed to launching …Families First.” NMFA has long advocated for the changes to the household goods process that are supposed to be part of the Families First program, especially the implementation of full replacement value reimbursement. We are concerned regarding this latest delay, believing families have waited long enough for the promised improvements to the move process, especially the full replacement value reimbursement. We will continue to press DoD to implement this program as soon as possible. For more information on the Families First program, go to: http://www.sddc.army.mil/Public/Personal%20Property/Families%20First. (Source: http://www.transcom.mil/pa/body.cfm?relnumber=20051118-1)
2. NDAA Goes to Conference: House and Senate Conferees will begin work on reconciling the difference in the House and Senate versions of the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 1815 and S.1042. In preparation for the Conference, The Military Coalition (TMC), an umbrella organization of 36 military-related associations of which NMFA is a founding member, sent a letter to Conferees outlining its position on the various issues of contention. In its letter, the TMC indicated its strong support for Senate amendments that would:
* make the recently-increased $100,000 Death Gratuity paid to survivors of combat-related active duty deaths permanent and payable to survivors of all active duty deaths (this was a priority NMFA legislative goal for this year),
* end the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) (another NMFA priority),
* immediately implement the paid-up provision for SBP for retirees who have paid premiums for thirty years,
* expand access to TRICARE on a premium basis for all National Guard and Reserve members,
* provide for immediate concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability pay for disabled military retirees who are rated as unemployable, and
* reduce the Guard and Reserve retirement age by three months for each three months mobilized to active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
The Coalition also urged Conferees to support House provisions to:
* exempt military commissaries from DoD privatization efforts
* require DoD to pay shipping costs of commissary and exchange products overseas rather than passing these costs along to military consumers stationed overseas, and
* increase Permanent Change of Station household goods weight allowances for senior enlisted servicemembers.
The Coalition also referenced its concern about Service end strengths, noting the mission stress currently placed on the force. For more information on The Military Coalition, go to: http://www.themilitarycoalition.org/.
3. Traumatic Injury Protection Added to SGLI: Servicemembers will be enrolled in a new program December 1 that will expand benefits provided through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI). The Traumatic SGLI benefit provides payouts of up to $100,000 for servicemembers with traumatic injuries. Benefits will be retroactive from October 7, 2001, for servicemembers who have lost limbs, eyesight, or speech or received other traumatic injuries as a direct result of injuries received during operations Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. The benefit does not apply to servicemembers suffering from disease. Those enrolled in the SGLI program will notice an increase in their premiums when this program goes into effect. The Traumatic SGLI (TSGLI) benefit will be rolled into the basic SGLI program and will cost $1 a month. TSGLI cannot be declined unless the servicemember also declines basic SGLI coverage. For more information on the new program, go to: http://www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/legislation/TSGLIFacts.htm.
4. TRICARE Reserve Select Premiums to Increase: DoD recently announced the premiums for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) for calendar year 2006. By law, TRS enrollees must pay a set proportion of the cost of their coverage. Premiums will increase by 8.5 percent, to $81 per month for servicemember-only coverage and $253 for servicemember and family coverage. TRICARE Reserve Select is offered for purchase by certain members and former members of the National Guard and Reserve who were called or ordered to active duty, under Title 10, in support of a contingency operation on or after September 11, 2001. They receive one year of TRS eligibility for every 90 days of continuous service. Servicemembers and their unit must agree for the member to stay in the Selected Reserve for one or more whole years to qualify. TRS premiums are adjusted January 1st each year. For more information on TRS, go to: http://tricare.osd.mil/reserve/reserveselect/index.cfm.
5. VA Prescription Co-Pays to Increase by $1.00: Co-payments for outpatient medicines prescribed through Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities will increase by $1.00, to $8.00 per 30-day prescription, on January 1, 2006. This is the first change in the VA prescription drug co-payments in four years. The $1.00 increase will not affect Priority Group 1 veterans, those veterans who have an injury or illness connected with their military serviced resulting in a 50% or greater disability. The increase will however have an impact on veterans in Priority Groups 2 through 8.
Priority Groups 2-6—veterans with less-severe service-connected ailments—will see their prescription drug co-pays rise by $1.00, but their annual out-of-pocket expenses for VA medications will remain capped. The cap will rise to $960.00 per year, however, which is an increase of $120.00 over the 2005 cap.
Priority Groups 7 and 8—those veterans with no service-connected illness or injury—will also see their co-payments increase, but there is no cap on annual prescription payments for veterans in these groups. Read more of the specific details about the co-payment increase at: http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/PressArtInternet.cfm?id=1047.
6. Fewer War Wounds Suffered in Iraq are Fatal: The survival rate for U.S. servicemembers wounded in Iraq has reached 90 percent, higher than in any previous war, and 10 points higher than in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The major reason, says the general in charge of Army medical training, is improved trauma care being delivered moments after injury by medics and a growing number of soldiers trained as combat lifesavers. A few years ago, the Army created the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, a tool to track what occurs for severely wounded patients, from injury through arrival at a stateside medical center. The data confirmed what some trauma experts had been preaching: that the greatest potential for saving more lives was better, more immediate point-of-injury care. That meant enhancing the skills and responsibilities of combat medics, and teaching many other soldiers lifesaving techniques offered through a new Tactical Combat Casualty Course.
The three great threats to body-armored soldiers who receive traumatic wounds are blood loss from damaged limbs, sucking chest wounds and obstructed airways. (Source: http://www.stripesonline.com/articleprint.asp?section=104&article=32212&archive=true)
7. Military Benefits: Which Did You Say is Most Important? Approximately 600 respondents completed NMFA’s recent Military Benefits Survey and told us what they thought were the most important military benefits. Did they choose the same ones that are important to you and your family? Here are a few interesting points from this survey:
* More than 90% of the respondents, including 72% of Guard and Reserve respondents, stated that the commissary and exchanges are important to them.
* 46% of the survey respondents use the commissary weekly or more than once weekly. 28% of the respondents use their exchange benefit at the minimum at least once weekly.
* 80% of the respondents are very satisfied or satisfied with their commissary benefit. Almost 70% of the respondents are very satisfied or satisfied with their exchange benefit. While several respondents mentioned they were often able to find prices lower than the exchange prices at civilian stores, others noted how important exchanges were, especially to servicemembers and families stationed overseas.
* 30% of the Guard and Reserve (G&R), 55% of retirees and 48% of the survivor respondents were not aware of local community retailer discounts for military families.
* 80% of the respondents stated they would shop at stores more often if they did offer discounts to military families. 90% of the G&R respondents stated they would shop there more often and 70% of the retirees and survivor respondents would also shop at those stores more often.
* The fitness center was the top MWR activity choice for respondents, followed by the movie theater and the swimming pool.
* Overall, the top three military benefits selected by respondents in this survey are the Commissary, Exchange and MWR programs.
When asked which military benefit not covered in this survey respondents felt was most important, almost half of the respondents listed the medical/dental/pharmacy benefit. Other important benefits mentioned were Housing/BAH, education programs/schools, and Family Support Centers. When asked what is the most important military benefit not mentioned in this survey, one respondent wrote: DoD Schools. This is the one constant in our children’s' lives. We may move from country to country, but our children always know what to expect when they enter a DoD school. The staff is outstanding and curriculum is standardized. Another respondent stated: All services make a great difference in our lives. Moving from post to post and having all these things available is extremely important.
* Almost 67% of the respondents were military spouses, 10% were retirees, and 13% were servicemembers. 67% are Active Duty and 11% Guard and Reserve affiliated.
* 42% of the respondents were affiliated with the Army, 28% Navy, 15% Air Force and 9% Marine Corps.
* 65% of the respondents are between the ages of 26-45.
Would you have answered the same as these respondents did? Log on to www.nmfa.org/surveys today and look at the survey results. While you’re there, check out our new Quick Polls and tell us what you think! Maybe you would have said this: Being able to spend time with my service member is the MOST valuable benefit that can be offered!
Look for a new survey on Pay and Compensation in January!
8. November is National Adoption Month: Even though it’s the end of the month, it’s never too late to remind folks about adoption opportunities. Military families make great adoptive families and NMFA is working with a variety of organizations to provide more information for military families interested in adopting and thus to help ease the process for them. To learn about the adoption process, familiarize yourself with the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse website (http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/). To learn about the nationwide program promoting the adoption of children out of foster care visit the AdoptUSKids website (http://www.adoptuskids.org/). Finally, to learn about the benefits available to military families who adopt, including a reimbursement for some expenses, access the NMFA fact sheet DoD Adoption Reimbursement Program (www.nmfa.org/site/DocServer/DoD_Adoption_Reimbursement_11-05.pdf?docID=3561). There are even provisions in the House and Senate versions of the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that address benefits for military families who adopt. One provision would provide a special adoption leave of up to 21 days for servicemembers who have just adopted. Another would expand the types of adoptions eligible for reimbursement of expenses by DoD. NMFA will keep you informed about the disposition of these provisions as the FY 2006 NDAA is passed.
9. Coming Home: The Impact of PTSD on Military and Veteran Families: On Thursday December 8, Representative Lane Evans (D-IL, 17th), the Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is sponsoring a Congressional briefing and panel discussion to highlight both the pivotal role families play in encouraging a servicemember or veteran to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how PTSD can affect military families. Invited panelists include representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, mental health and family therapy experts, military and veteran service organizations, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. NMFA Director, Government Relations, Joyce Raezer, has been invited to participate in the family to discuss the family perspective on this issue. The briefing will be held at 10:00 a.m. on December 8 in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building.
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