FRA NewsBytes – 5-30-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
HVAC Examines VA Claims Backlog
Protect Beneficiaries Forced Out of TRICARE Prime
TMA Asks Beneficiaries to Update DEERS Record
NEX Expands Price Match Policy

HVAC Examines VA Claims Backlog
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) recently held another oversight hearing on the disability claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Committee members voiced concerns about the scope of the backlog, employee training and performance reviews, and how VA plans to justify to veterans lengthy wait times for decisions. Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey spoke about the 34,834 claims that have been adjudicated within the last 30 days and how Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) will finalize an additional 32,000 by the end of June.

To help address the situation, HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) introduced legislation (H.R. 2189) that would establish and charge an independent task force to analyze VA’s claims processing system, examine the root cause of the backlog and provide solutions for ending it by 2015. Chairman Miller wants outside help from the private sector and the VSO community in working toward a solution.

Ranking Member Michael Michaud (Maine) expressed skepticism about eliminating the backlog on the legislation’s timeline. “In April 2011, it took an average of 182 days for VA to complete a claim. Today, it takes an average of 279 days. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has set a goal of processing all compensation and pension claims received in 125 days at 98% accuracy by 2015. VA is planning to increase staff, undertaken claims processing initiatives, and is in the process of rolling out the Veterans’ Benefits Management System (VBMS), a business transformation effort that is projected to result in a paperless environment for claims processing and benefits delivery,” said Michaud. “But there is no question that VA must do better, and the numbers don’t add up for VA to get there by 2015.”

FRA is closely tracking the claims backlog and believes the situation undermines the country’s solemn pledge to properly care for disabled veterans.

Protect Beneficiaries Forced Out of TRICARE Prime
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) introduced legislation (S. 1078) that would require the Defense Department (DoD) to continue offering the TRICARE Prime health care coverage option to beneficiaries who reside in areas where DoD plans to discontinue the program on October 1, 2013. Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced that TRICARE Prime Service Areas (PSA) will be limited to within 40 miles of military treatment facilities at active or former military bases throughout the U.S.  a move that will force 173,000 retirees and family members to switch from TRICARE Prime to TRICARE Standard.

The legislation is identical to a House measure (H.R. 1971) sponsored by Rep. John Kline (Minn.) and would help TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who are concerned about the extra cost associated with TRICARE Standard coverage.

The PSA policy change is viewed by beneficiaries as a reduction in earned benefits and FRA believes current TRICARE Prime beneficiaries who live in impacted areas should be authorized continued access to TRICARE Prime coverage until they re-locate or change their current primary care provider. The Association addressed this issue in recent congressional testimony and in meetings with legislators and their staff. FRA’s National Board of Directors (NBOD) also raised this issue during recent Capitol Hill visits on April 25, 2013.

Shipmates are urged to use the FRA Action Center to contact their legislators on this important issue by visiting:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62687216

TMA Asks Beneficiaries to Update DEERS Record
TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) reminds beneficiaries to keep their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) information current. This means making sure all personal information  phone numbers, postal and email addresses  is up to date. Also, just like when moving, sponsors who experience any of the following life events must update their DEERS records as soon as possible:

  •    Activation
  •    Deactivation
  •    Separation or retirement
  •    Marriage or divorce
  •    Birth or adoption of child
  •    Change in student’s enrollment status

    Making changes to DEERS information is easy and can be done online at milConnect (www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect), by fax or mail, or in person at the nearest uniformed services identification card office. Many DEERS updates require supporting documentation, such as marriage licenses, birth or death certificates, Medicare cards or DD-214 discharge forms. Be sure to bring copies of all paperwork that might be needed when updating DEERS information. For more information on how to update DEERS information, and for questions about TRICARE eligibility, please visit www.tricare.mil/DEERS. ;

    NEX Expands Price Match Policy
    The Navy Exchange (NEX) announced that it will now match online prices from Walmart.com, Target.com, Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, Sears.com, ToysRUs.com and BabiesRUs.com.

    “We expanded our Price Match Policy to be more responsive to our customers,” said Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi (Ret), Chief Executive Officer for Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). “More people are shopping online for their purchases and we want to assure them that they can get the same price at their NEX, so we are now matching major online retailers.”

    The qualifying competitive online price may be presented on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. If the price difference is $10 or less, the price will be matched on the spot. If the online site’s price is more than $10 lower than that offered at the NEX, it may be verified by a NEX associate or supervisor.

    The NEX will also continue to match the regular, everyday shelf price or advertised price in a local competitor’s current advertisement.  Customers should present the advertised price in the form of a printed advertisement or displayed on a mobile device.

    Shoppers should also be aware of NEX’s 14-day price guarantee:  If customers buy a qualifying item at a NEX and then find the identical item for less within 14 days in an NEX ad, a local competitor’s ad or at a qualifying online retailer (listed above), NEX will match the price. Simply bring in the original NEX store receipt and proof of the current lower price. Items already on layaway also qualify for a price reduction.

    It’s also important to remember that NEXCOM contributes 70 percent of its profits to Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs worldwide and that every purchase is also an investment in these important quality-of-life programs.

    For details and more information about the price matching policy and all NEX policies, visit
    www.mynavyexchange.com/command/customer_service/price_match.html or stop in and speak with an NEX associate.

  •    Becoming Medicare eligible or loss of eligibility