Government and You E-News - February 28, 2006

Here’s the News!

1. Speak Out About Health Care!! Military families rate health care as one of their most important benefits. How satisfied are you with your TRICARE benefit? Which TRICARE option do you use? Where do you obtain your medications? What are your concerns about the future of this benefit? Go to: www.nmfa.org/health to take the new NMFA Health Care survey.

2. Sound Off About Your Pharmacy Benefit! March 30, 2006 is the next meeting of the Uniform Formulary Beneficiary Advisory Panel (BAP). The Panel will review and comment on the Department of Defense’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Committee’s recommendations on drugs that should be retained at Tier 1 or 2 co-payment levels (formulary) or move to the Tier 3 co-payment level (non formulary). The drug classes to be reviewed include Overactive Bladder agents, GABA-nergic Anticonvulsants, and miscellaneous Hypertension agents.

Any private citizen may communicate with the Panel electronically by sending their statement to richard.martel.ctr@tma.osd.mil by March 23. In addition, the first twelve private citizens who sign up the day of the meeting may address the panel in person. It is an open meeting and anyone can attend. The meeting will be held at the Naval Heritage Center Theater, 701 Pennsylvania, Ave, NW, Washington DC (the Navy Memorial metro stop) starting at 8 am. The specific recommendations of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee are usually posted on the Beneficiary Advisory Panel’s web page (www.TRICARE.osd.mil/pharmacy/BAP) approximately two weeks before the Panel’s meeting. The final decision on which drugs are retained at the Tier 1 and 2 levels and which move to Tier 3 is made by the Director of the TRICARE Management Activity.

Tier 1 co-payments are for generic drugs and are $3 for a 30 day supply at a retail network pharmacy (TRRx) and $3 for 90 days at the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP).Tier 2 co-payments are for brand name drugs and are $9 at TRRx for a 30 day supply and $9 for 90 days at the TMOP. Tier 3 co-payments are $22 for a 30 day supply at TRRx and $22 for 90 days at the TMOP. If beneficiaries and their providers can establish medical necessity for a Tier 3 drug, they may purchase it at the Tier 1 or Tier 2 co-payment levels. Military Treatment Facility (MTF) pharmacies are not allowed to carry Tier 3 drugs unless medical necessity is established and the prescription is written by an MTF provider.

3. Parents as Teachers Helps Military Families: More military families across the country will have access to the Parents as Teachers (PAT) childhood education program, thanks to $1 million in federal funding for the program’s expansion. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) recently highlighted this program, saying that military families with young children are often most impacted by the stress of military life. Currently, four installations operate the Parents as Teachers program called “Heroes at Home”. These are: Fort Leonard Wood, MO; Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas; and Fort Hood, Texas. The federal funding, which was included in the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations Act, will enhance those programs already in place and expand pilot programs to five more installations: Fort Bragg, NC; Fort Stewart, GA; Fort Campbell, KY; Fort Lewis, WA and Fort Wainwright, AK. NMFA looks forward to seeing this program expand to include even more military families and will monitor the progress of this program.

Parents as Teachers is an international early childhood parent education and family support program serving families throughout pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten, usually age five. It has 3,000 programs in all 50 states and abroad. The program was developed in the 1970s when Missouri educators noted that children were beginning kindergarten with varying levels of learning readiness. It is designed to enhance child development and school achievement through parent education accessible to all families. It is a universal access model. The program is adaptable to fit community needs. It is a national model, but a local program. Family participation is voluntary. For more information, go to: http://www.parentsasteachers.org/.

4. Virginia is Latest State to Consider Military Family Emergency Fund: The Commonwealth of Virginia joins several other states in trying to establish a state Military Relief Fund. The purpose of these funds is primarily to give financial assistance to National Guard and Reserve members who are called to active duty and provide living expenses for their families facing a financial emergency. Senate Bill 139 would set up such a fund in Virginia to offset part of the financial stress placed on the servicemembers and their families. There is a companion bill in the House of Delegates and $500,000 has been allocated in the state budget for the start-up. The bill also allows for individuals to support the fund by donating part or all of their income tax refunds. Action on the bill should take place in this legislative session.

Twenty-two states have a Military Family Relief Fund and thirteen other states, including Maryland, are considering creating such a fund for their military families. For more information about these funds go to http://www.operationhomefront.org/ or check your own state website to see if your state has established this fund.

5. Fight Continues to Eliminate DIC Offset to SBP: Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is preparing a letter to be delivered to the Senate Budget Committee asking the Committee to include funding in the FY 2007 Budget Resolution to end the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) offset to the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and to move up the date for paid-up SBP to 1 October 2006. The absence of budget authority has been a major obstacle to the passage of legislation to end this offset in the past. Last year, Senator Nelson’s amendment to the FY2006 Defense Authorization Bill concerning this issue was voted in by a 92-6 margin in the Senate but did not survive the Conference proceedings. Inclusion in this year’s Budget Resolution would go a long way toward the passage of S. 185, Senator Nelson’s bill to end the offset and speed up the implementation of the paid-up SBP. The Senate Budget Committee is chaired by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND).

NMFA believes that ending the DIC offset to SBP will provide the most significant long-term protection to the surviving family’s financial security. DIC is a special indemnity (compensation or insurance) payment that is paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the survivor when the servicemember's death is attributed to military service. It is a flat rate payment, which for 2006 is $1,033 for the surviving spouse and $257 for each surviving child. The SPB annuity, paid by the Department of Defense (DoD) reflects the longevity of the service of the military member. It is ordinarily calculated at 55% of retired pay. If a retiree dies due to a service- connected disability, their survivor is also eligible for DIC. Currently SBP payments to survivors are decreased by the amount of DIC paid to the surviving spouse. Ending the offset would recognize the length of commitment and service of the career servicemember and spouse and provide support for the surviving spouse in the long term.

For more information on how the DIC offset to SBP works or on the range of benefits available for survivors, go to the NMFA fact sheet “Benefits for Survivors of Active Duty Deaths,” at: http://www.nmfa.org/site/DocServer/Survivor_Benefits_Fact_Sheet_2-06.pdf?docID=4541.

6. Military Spouses: NMFA Scholarships are for You! The National Military Family Association is now accepting applications for the NMFA Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program. Any uniformed service spouse—active, retired, National Guard, Reserve or survivor—studying toward professional certification or attending post-secondary or graduate school is encouraged to apply. Scholarships are normally in the amount of $1,000, and the number awarded each year varies depending on funding. Scholarship funds may be used for tuition, fees, books, and school room and board. Applications can be found at www.nmfa.org/scholarships2006.

Scholarship selection is based on completion of some survey questions that will help NMFA advocate for education changes on your behalf, short-answer questions, and an essay question. Applications will only be accepted online and must be submitted by midnight April 15, 2006.

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