FRA NewsBytes October 30 2015

FRA Newsbytes 10/30/2015

FRA Newsbytes 10/30/2015

In this issue:
Deal Lifts Defense Spending, Extends Debt Ceiling and Stops Medicare Premium Increase
Rep. Paul Ryan Selected to be Speaker of the House
House Subcommittees Hold Oversight Hearing on DoD and VA Interoperability
TRICARE Young Adult 2016 Premium Adjustments Announced
CFPB: Don’t be a Zombie about Personal Finances!


Deal Lifts Defense Spending, Extends Debt Ceiling and Stops Medicare Premium Increase
House leadership and White House staff reached an agreement on the FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget limits that would, for a two-year period, exclude Defense from sequestration cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. For the past four years, FRA has advocated that Defense should be excluded from sequestration. In addition, the agreement lifts the debt ceiling for the federal government until March 31, 2017.

The agreement also prevents a 52-percent increase in Medicare premiums for 30 percent of Medicare recipients. Many FRA Shipmates would have been among those Medicare beneficiaries, scheduled to see large increases in their Medicare Part B (physicians and outpatient services) premium payments.  The premium increase would fall on 30 percent of beneficiaries, a group that includes more than eight million low-income seniors enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, new Medicare enrollees, and higher-income beneficiaries.

The agreement would also avoid across-the-board Social Security Disability Insurance benefit reductions. The measure (H.R. 1314) had to pass by Monday, November 2, to avoid a first-ever government default on the debt payment.
Rep. Paul Ryan Selected to be Speaker of the House
The House selected Rep. Paul D. Ryan (Wisc.) to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, replacing outgoing Speaker John Boehner (Ohio). Rep. Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998, where he has served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee since 2007 and was recently selected to serve as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In 2012 he was selected as the Vice Presidential nominee in the unsuccessful presidential campaign effort of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Before being elected to Congress, Ryan served as a Senate Hill staffer and was hired by former Congressman Jack Kemp as a speech writer. He later worked at the think tank “Empower America,” which was founded by Jack Kemp and conservative pundit and former Secretary of Education William Bennett. He went on to serve as Legislative Director for Senator Sam Brownback (Kans.) before returning to Wisconsin to run for Congress.

As House Budget Chairman, he was involved with the December 2013 last-minute budget agreement (H. J. Res 59) that included a one-percent cut in the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for military retirees under age 62 that would have impacted 2016 COLA increases. This back-room deal was quickly enacted into law. Due to the strong reaction from the military retiree community, the measure was amended in February 2014 to only apply to service members who joined the military after January 2014.  It was later amended to apply only to service members who joined the military after January 1, 2016.
House Subcommittees Hold Oversight Hearing on DOD and VA Interoperability
The House Veterans Affairs (HVAC) Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the House Oversight and Government Reform (HOGR) Subcommittee on Information Technology held a joint hearing on the subject of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs sharing electronic patient health information. VA and DOD operate two of the nation’s largest health care systems, serving approximately 16 million veterans and active duty service members, and their beneficiaries, at total annual costs of over $100 billion. The departments have worked since 1998 to develop such capabilities. However, when VA and DOD abandoned their plans to develop an integrated electronic health record (iEHR) system in February 2013, both departments pursued separate efforts to modernize or replace their existing systems in an attempt to create an interoperable electronic health record. This hearing focused on the DOD and VA process in developing a fully interoperable Electronic Health Record, and also included a discussion of the cybersecurity posture and information technology policies at the two agencies.

In the opening statements, VA and DOD witnesses stated their full and total support for the completion of full interoperability between the DOD and the VA systems. Committee members, however, expressed their frustration and disappointment in the lack of progress, the amount of money spent, poor communication between the DoD and VA, failure of both organizations to meet deadlines, and the overall indication that progress was going to remain slow. Witnesses at the hearing claimed that DoD/VA Interoperability will take effect sometime in 2018.

FRA supports a permanent and independent office for the DoD/VA Interagency program to provide oversight of all components of achieving a seamless transition. FRA supports the full implementation of the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) for all currently serving military that will help ensure a seamless transition from DOD to VA for wounded warriors.
TRICARE Young Adult 2016 Premium Adjustments Announced
The Defense Health Agency (DHA) has announced the 2016 premiums for TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) Prime and Standard options that cover dependent beneficiaries between the ages of 23-26 years old. These premiums are adjusted on an annual basis and go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

For 2016, the monthly premium for TYA Prime is $306 per month, and TYA Standard is $228 per month. TRICARE is required to establish these premiums to cover the full cost of health care received by TYA beneficiaries. For the first time since TYA was created in 2011, TRICARE has sufficient statistically-valid cost data to set annual premiums.

For more information on TYA visit www.tricare.mil/TYA.
CFPB: Don’t be a Zombie about Personal Finances!
“The Walking Dead” is a television show about a world in chaos due to a zombie outbreak. The survivors face difficult decisions and run into trouble dealing with both zombies and the living.

In the real world, many service members, veterans, retirees, and reservists run into financial trouble or face difficult financial decisions, but may not be aware of consumer protections that are available to them. Unfortunately, some service members and former service members may be walking around like a zombie in a financial fog, unprepared for dangerous threats to their financial well-being.

In “The Walking Dead,” zombies often breach homes and buildings seeking out unsuspecting humans as their victims. In real life, hackers breach customer account information from merchants. If you are not taking steps to safeguard your information, you too could fall or may have already fallen victim to harm. Members should consult the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) consumer advisory on the steps you can take to protect your accounts at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/. CFPB also wants active duty to be aware of specific protections, such as placing an Active Duty Alert on your credit report prior to leaving for active duty (http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/search/?selected_facets=tag_exact%3Aactive+duty+alert).

Learn about additional protections by downloading the CFPB Fraud Alert fact sheet at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201508_cfpb_fraud-protection-tools-to-help-safeguard-servicemembers.pdf.