FRA NewsBytes September 5, 2014

FRA Newsbytes 09/05/2014

FRA Newsbytes 09/05/2014

In this issue:
DoD Reconsider Discharges of Vietnam Vets with PTSD
President Obama Sets Military Pay Raise at One Percent for 2015
Legislative Update: Doc Fix
Military Retirees Turning 65

DoD Reconsider Discharges of Vietnam Vets with PTSD
This week the Defense Department (DoD) announced it has agreed to reconsider other-than-honorable discharges for thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who may have suffered from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many were dishonorably discharged in an era before PTSD became a diagnosable condition.

The Pentagon said veterans from the Vietnam era and other past wars with other-than-honorable discharges will be given “liberal consideration” if they seek to correct their military records and provide some evidence of a PTSD diagnosis that existed at the time of their service.

Upgraded discharges could result in the restoration of some benefits, such as disability pay, separation pay or GI Bill benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—benefits that are typically denied to veterans who receive other-than-honorable discharges. Health care in the VA system, however, is typically provided to veterans regardless of their discharge status. For more information on this issue, go to: http://www.defense.gov/news/OSD009883-14.pdf.

President Obama Sets Military Pay Raise at One Percent for 2015
President Obama sent a letter to Congress this week, notifying them that he will cap military pay increases at one percent for next year. That would be 0.8 percent lower than private sector wage growth of 1.8 percent. The president can implement the pay raise unilaterally through an executive order, as he did with a one-percent rate increase last year. As it has for the past 14 years, FRA continues to fight hard to get Congress to reduce the gap between private sector and military pay and keep military pay raises at least in line with civilian pay growth.

Legislative Update: Doc Fix
The threat of significant cuts to reimbursement rates for physicians seeing Medicare and TRICARE patients was delayed earlier this year from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015. Efforts to identify and enact a permanent solution have dragged on for several years, with Congress approving only temporary fixes due to cost.

FRA strongly supports a permanent solution (the “doc fix”) by establishing sufficient reimbursement rates to ensure beneficiaries have continued access to quality medical care. The Association supports the “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act” (H.R. 4015), sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas), which will make the “Doc Fix” permanent by repealing the antiquated Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and replacing it with a fair, stable, simplified system of physician payments for Medicare and TRICARE programs. This legislation passed the House earlier this year and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. Shipmates are urged to use the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their Senators to approve this important legislation.

Military Retirees Turning 65
What does a military retiree need to do when he or she turns age 65? Do retirees need Medicare if they already have TRICARE? Do they need TRICARE if they already have Medicare? Questions like these are normal for beneficiaries who are unfamiliar with their options when they celebrate their 65th birthday.

TRICARE and Medicare are separate programs. Medicare is health insurance for people age 65 and older, as well as for people under age 65 who qualify for Social Security disability insurance. TRICARE for Life (TFL) is TRICARE’s Medicare-wraparound coverage and is available to all Medicare-eligible TRICARE beneficiaries. In order to be covered by TFL, beneficiaries must have Medicare part A (hospitalization) and Part B (medically necessary services like doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services, and other medical services) coverage.

For TFL beneficiaries, Medicare is the primary insurance and TFL acts as the secondary insurance, minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. There is no enrollment fee or paperwork associated with TFL; however beneficiaries must sign up for Medicare part B as soon as they become eligible to avoid late-enrollment penalties. There is a monthly premium for Part B coverage, based on income. For more information regarding Medicare enrollment, call 1-800-633-4227 or visit http://www.tricare.mil/tfl/.