FRA NewsBytes August 28, 2015

In this issue:
VA Achieves Major Milestone in Backlog Reduction
Avoid Urgent Care in Medical Emergencies
Reconstructing Lost Military Records
Communicate with Your Elected Officials

VA Achieves Major Milestone in Backlog Reduction
The Department of Veterans Affairs said on Monday that its disability claims backlog has fallen below 100,000 for the first time after reaching an historic high two years ago. Allison Hickey, the VA undersecretary for benefits, said the current backlog of 98,535 claims older than 125 days is the lowest since the agency started measuring the claims backlog in 2007. The decrease has not come at the expense of quality, Hickey said. Accuracy of disability decisions has improved from about 83 percent in 2011 to 91 percent today, she said. The gains were achieved in part through use of mandatory overtime for employees in the benefits division, a practice Hickey says officials hope to stop in September.

Avoid Urgent Care in Medical Emergencies
If you are a TRICARE beneficiary and you have an emergency, make sure you go to an emergency room in order to ensure insurance coverage of cost. Use of urgent care coverage depends on your plan and, unlike emergency care, requires an official referral in order to be covered. Read more about urgent care coverage here: http://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/UrgentCare.aspx.

For advice, you can also call the TRICARE Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-874-2273, option 1. When calling the Nurse Advice Line, you will talk with a registered nurse who can give you healthcare advice, help you find a doctor or schedule a next-day appointment at a military hospital or clinic.

There are even pediatric nurses who can assist you and will call you back to check on your child. For more information, visit the TRICARE Emergency Care website: http://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/EmergencyCare.aspx.

Reconstructing Lost Military Records
The blaze that ripped through the National Personnel Records Center in a St. Louis suburb shortly after midnight on July 12, 1973, consumed 16 million to 18 million official military personnel files in the days before computers kept such records safe. Few could have predicted the harm it would visit on the veterans who were denied VA benefits—some to this day—because they could not reconstruct their military service files.

Veterans whose records have been lost can fill out a specific form at the National Archives website (http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/na-13055-info-2-reconstruct-medical-data.pdf) that authorizes the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) to search for other types of documents that would assist the veteran with their VA healthcare access or compensation claim, or for valuable research their family member’s service history.

For more information, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website for veterans whose records were destroyed: http://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/NPRC1973Fire.asp.

Communicate with Your Elected Officials
In order to help shipmates communicate with elected officials in support of FRA-led initiatives, the Association publishes a guidebook, Communicate with your Elected Officials, which contains information for contacting your lawmakers by phone, mail, fax or e-mail. It also includes guidelines and suggestions for composing, addressing and sending correspondence.

Printed with the generous support of GEICO, the handbook is an adjunct to the FRA Action Center (http://action.fra.org/action-center) and is part of FRA’s ongoing campaign to encourage citizens to be active participants in the legislative process.

To receive your free copy of Communicate with your Elected Officials, contact FRA at 1-800-FRA-1924 (ext. 108) or e-mail your request (and mailing address) to Victoria Duran at VictoriaD@fra.org. Written requests may be sent to Fleet Reserve Association, Attn: Communicate, 125 N West Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2754.