«

»

Aug 29

FRA NewsBytes August 29, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 08/29/2014

FRA Newsbytes 08/29/2014

In this issue:
Ask Your Senators to Oppose Pharmacy Co-pay Increases and Pay Cuts While There’s Still Time
VA Takes Next Step to Modernize Scheduling System
Obama Announces Veterans Mental Health Efforts
$39.2M Prudential Deal with Military Families Gets OK’d
FRA NHQ Closed for Labor Day


Ask Your Senators to Oppose Pharmacy Co-pay Increases and Pay Cuts While There’s Still Time
If you have not already done so, please contact your senators while they are home about pharmacy co-pay increases and pay cuts. Congress has adjourned for its traditional August recess and will return September 8, 2014, and the Senate was unable to pass its version of the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before leaving town. The bill (S. 2410), approved by committee and awaiting senate floor action, dramatically increases pharmacy co-pays for retirees, reduces the FY 2015 active duty pay increase, and increases out-of-pocket housing costs for active duty. While senators are still back home, members are urged to call their local offices (phone numbers and talking points are provided in the alert), visit the office with other Shipmates and/or attend town hall meetings in your area to express your concerns about these provisions in the senate bill. The house version of the NDAA (H.R. 4435) does not include these provisions. Shipmates can still also use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to send an e-mail to Capitol Hill on this legislation. There is only one week left before your representatives return to Washington—let your voice be heard!

VA Takes Next Step to Modernize Scheduling System
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced plans to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a new medical appointment scheduling system in an effort to replace its antiquated legacy scheduling system. The new system will improve access to care for veterans by providing medical schedulers with cutting-edge, management-based scheduling software.
“VA chose a full- and open-competitive strategy to acquire a ‘commercial, off-the-shelf’ scheduling system,” said Stephen Warren, VA’s Chief Information Officer. “We want a system that is user-friendly and tailored specifically for our veterans.”
Even though VA has plans to replace the existing system, efforts are underway to make the current system easier to use for schedulers and veterans. This update is scheduled to begin roll out in January 2015. The VA is also developing mobile applications to allow veterans to directly request certain types of primary care and mental health appointments.
As part of the current RFP preparation process, VA is working with veteran service organizations (VSOs), including FRA, to incorporate the groups’ feedback on requirements important to veterans. VA’s VSO partners are currently reviewing user experience and business process documentation, and VA will continue to consult with VSOs as it works toward publishing its acquisition solicitation.
VA’s acquisition process will comply with recently established legislative requirements related to the Department’s scheduling software.

Obama Announces Veterans Mental Health Efforts
In his speech before the American Legion this week, President Obama touted new initiatives intended to improve mental health treatment and support for service members and veterans.
Other changes that were announced include:

  • A new recruiting campaign to fill shortages of doctors and nurses at VA hospitals. “Recruiting is job one right now.”
  • Automatically enrolling military personnel receiving mental health care in the Department of Defense system into mental health treatment programs administered by the VA, and better coordinating their medical records.
  • A partnership with five national banks to help veterans get lower-rate VA mortgages. The partnership cuts red tape where possible and establishes concrete steps to reduce the burden on service members by having participating mortgage servicers proactively identify, notify and assist in enrolling eligible service members.
  • New efforts to better understand traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including a $34.4 million VA suicide prevention study involving 1,800 veterans at 29 VA hospitals, and more suicide prevention training for military and VA personnel.

$39.2M Prudential Deal With Military Families Gets OK’d
Earlier this month, a Massachusetts federal judge gave preliminary approval to a $39.2 million settlement in a consolidated class action alleging Prudential Insurance Co. of America failed to pay death benefits to military service members, veterans and their families under a group life insurance program.

The plaintiffs claimed that Prudential didn’t pay lump sum death benefits under several group life insurance policies as required by law and instead provided military service members, veterans and other beneficiaries with an interest-bearing retained asset account. Prudential has denied any wrongdoing and claims its actions were authorized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The bulk of the proposed settlement will come in $20.5 million of charitable donations over the next five years from Prudential to an organization that focuses on veteran or military causes of the company’s choice. About $8.4 million will go into a common fund escrow account to provide cash payments to beneficiaries. The settlement proposal also noted that $9.7 million will go toward attorneys’ fees.

FRA NHQ Closed for Labor Day
FRA National Headquarters will be closed on Monday, September 1, in observance of Labor Day, and will reopen on Tuesday, September 2.