FRA NewsBytes May 23, 2014

NewsBytes 05/23/2014

NewsBytes 05/23/2014

In this issue:
Hold VA Executives Accountable
FY 2015 NDAA Moves Forward
FRA Addresses NAVSEA Senior Enlisted Symposium
TRICARE Nurse Advice Line Now Available
Memorial Day Observances


Hold VA Executives Accountable
The House passed an FRA-supported bill this week. The “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act” (H.R. 4031), sponsored by Veterans Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.), authorizes the VA Secretary to remove any agency senior executive if the individual’s performance warrants removal. It also requires the Secretary to notify the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees within 30 days after removing such an individual. “The House has voted to take an important first step toward ending the culture of complacency that is jeopardizing patient safety within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. While the vast majority of the department’s more than 300,000 employees and executives are dedicated and hard-working, VA’s well-documented reluctance to ensure its leaders are held accountable for negligence and mismanagement is tarnishing the reputation of the organization … and we need to give the VA Secretary the authority he needs to fix things,” Rep. Miller said.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2014, President Obama gave a statement from the White House Press Briefing Room. He spoke of growing concerns about questionable scheduling practices at various VA centers after more than 40 deaths occurred at a Phoenix VA clinic, and waiting list cover-ups were discovered at VA locations across the country. President Obama said if the allegations are true, he pledges to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

The VA’s scandal has spread from the VA facility in Arizona to 25 other facilities now under investigation. Obama did not announce any firings or resignations. He stated that he will wait for the outcome of several ongoing reviews before deciding who should be held accountable. Shinseki recently accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA’s undersecretary for health, who had previously announced his retirement, scheduled for this summer.

FRA believes that delayed and inadequate care for our veterans is a violation of a solemn vow by our nation to properly care for our veterans. The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Members are urged to use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their Senators to support this legislation.

FY 2015 NDAA Moves Forward
The Senate Armed Services Committee and its Personnel Subcommittee amended and approved the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA–S. 2089) this week. With the exception of the Personnel Subcommittee markup hearing, all deliberations were in closed session. The bill that will now go to the Senate floor:

  • Reduces active duty/reserve pay increase from 1.8 percent to one percent;
  • Increases pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled outside military treatment facility (MTF)—amount of increase is unknown;
  • Maintains the annual $1.4 billion commissary subsidy and requires the sale of generic products;
  • Rejects the combining of TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra into a single plan;
  • Holds Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) increase below the rate of inflation;
  • Allows payment of SBP annuity to special needs trust for disabled child;
  • Cuts end strength of all services by more than 50,000 except for the Navy; and
  • Grandfathers those who joined the military prior to January 1, 2016, (currently January 1, 2014) from one-percent cut in cost-of-living (COLA) for military retirement (CPI minus one percent).

The full House approved its version of the NDAA (H.R. 4355) that authorizes just over $600 billion in 2015 defense spending that provides:

  • No new TRICARE fee increases;
  • Rejects the combining of TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra into a single plan;
  • No cuts to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH);
  • Cuts to Commissary benefit by $100 million in FY 2015;
  • Cuts end strength of all services by more than 50,000 except for the Navy;
  • Eliminates the “good soldier defense” in sexual assault prosecutions and requires review of the terms of discharge for those who are victims of sexual offenses to ensure that they have not been persecuted for reporting crimes; and
  • Increases funding for behavioral and psychological health programs to address the scourge of suicides within the military.

After the Senate approves its version of the bill, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills that will be approved by the House and Senate and then sent to the President to be signed into law or vetoed.

FRA Addresses NAVSEA Senior Enlisted Symposium
National Executive Director Tom Snee and DLP John Davis provided a legislative update for the Secretary of the Navy Senior Enlisted Symposium. The symposium attendees were updated on current and pending legislative action on the FY 2015 Defense Authorization legislation (H.R. 4035 and S. 2089). In addition, FRA staff discussed the activities of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), which is scheduled to release its final report February 2015. The week-long symposium allows senior enlisted leaders to train, discuss and combine their knowledge and experience to improve the readiness and effectiveness of sailors and fleet operations.

TRICARE Nurse Advice Line Now Available
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to seek medical help for urgent health problems. The ability to consult a trusted medical professional at a moment’s notice is invaluable, and the new TRICARE Nurse Advice Line (NAL) does just that. All TRICARE beneficiaries in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii can get health advice by calling the NAL, toll-free and 24/7. The NAL number is 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273).

The NAL is a team of registered nurses who answer urgent healthcare questions. They give beneficiaries professional medical advice to help decide whether self-care is the best option, or if they should see a healthcare provider. They will recommend if it’s ok to wait for care, or if beneficiaries should seek urgent or emergency care. There is always a live person on the line to answer health questions. The NAL can also help beneficiaries find the closest medical care if they need it.

When beneficiaries call the NAL, a representative checks their eligibility in the Defense Enrollment and Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Beneficiaries with an urgent health care concern or question may speak with a registered nurse who asks the beneficiary a series of standard questions to recommend the next steps and give them best advice possible.

Read more at: www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/04_25_14_NurseAdviceLine.

Memorial Day Observances
FRA’s National President Virgil Courneya and National Vice President John Ippert will represent the Association at Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, May 26. They will join other national leaders in honoring of the men and women who have died in service to their nation by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Branches from the East Coast Region’s Central Liaison Committee are sponsoring a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial on May 26, and other FRA leaders will participate in Memorial Day ceremonies across the country to pay tribute to America’s fallen heroes.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 24 and 25, shipmates from around the D.C. area and members of the FRA National Headquarter (NHQ) team will staff an information booth at Rolling Thunder, an annual motorcycle tribute in the nation’s capital to show the country and the world that Vietnam POWs and MIAs are not forgotten.

FRA NHQ will be closed on Monday, May 26, in observance of Memorial Day.