FRA NewsBytes – 8-16-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
Ask Legislators to Stop Defense Sequestration Cuts!
Study Would Delay Retirement Benefits
Medicare Reimbursement for VA Bill Introduced
VA Offers Retroactive Benefits
Ask Legislators to Stop Defense Sequestration Cuts!

Congress is on summer recess in August and it’s a perfect time to make a phone call or schedule a visit to legislators’ local offices, or attend local town hall meetings, etc.  These are great opportunities to let U.S. senators and representatives know about major concerns, particularly about the looming cuts to the Department of Defense (DoD) budget.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates another round of deep across-the-board budget cuts (sequestration) totaling $52 billion that will take effect on October 1, 2013, unless Congress and the Administration find alternatives to trimming government spending.  By law, half of these sequestration cuts must come from DoD and the remainder from other programs.

When speaking with elected officials by phone, in person or by e-mail, please do the following:

  •    Urge them to oppose the next round of sequestration Defense cuts.
  •    Tell them the Pentagon has already started implementation of $450 billion in cuts over 10 years and additional reductions will endanger national security, compromise essential military pay and benefit programs, and create a hollow force.
  •    Operations are winding down in Afghanistan, however, the nation is still at war and slashing DoD’s budget further will not reduce the related threats.
  •    The Defense budget is approximately 17 percent of the budget, but is set to absorb 50 percent of the cuts.
    It is also important to remind lawmakers that one percent of the population is shouldering 100 percent of the burden to maintain our national security. FRA strongly believes arbitrary reductions mandated by sequestration will negatively impact recruiting, retention and overall military readiness.

    Prewritten messages on these and other legislative proposals are available on the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org. ; Those planning to make phone calls to their elected officials can find phone numbers for local offices at  http://www.capwiz.com/fra/callalert/index.tt?alertid=62831516

    Study Would Delay Retirement Benefits
    The Strategic Studies Institute, which is part of the U.S. Army War College, recently published a report entitled A Framework for Restructuring the Military Retirement System, which proposes a plan for reforming the military retirement system. Dubbed the “10-15-55 plan,” the report calls for service members and the military to contribute to a 401(k) account, starting as soon as military service begins. If the member leaves the military after 10 years, he/she would get their contributions returned and 50 percent of the military’s contribution.  After 15 years of service, the service member controls his/her contributions and 100 percent of the military contribution.  Service members who stay for 20 or more years would also be eligible for a defined benefit plan as it currently exists, with the exception that they would not receive any benefits until age 55. Current service members would be grandfathered under the existing plan.
    The proposal is only a report and has not been introduced as legislation. In addition, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will also be examining the military retirement system. FRA strongly opposes efforts to “civilianize” military benefits that have been earned with 20 or more years of arduous military service.

    Medicare Reimbursement for VA Bill Introduced
    Rep. Michael Michaud (Maine), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation (H.R. 2953) that authorizes Medicare reimbursement for Medicare-eligible veterans receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. Introduced at FRA’s request, the bill seeks to improve access for older veterans and enhance health care funding for the VA.

    Under current law, Medicare is not authorized to reimburse VA hospitals for care provided to Medicare-eligible veterans. This forces these vets to decide between receiving medical care through the VA or using Medicare at a non-VA facility and foregoing the personalized (and often specialized) care of a VA hospital. The majority of veterans pay into Medicare for most of their adult lives, yet the law prohibits them from using the benefits at VA facilities when it’s needed.

    Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their U.S. representative to support this important legislation. To weigh in on this issue, visit
    http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62797626

    VA Offers Retroactive Benefits
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that veterans filing original, fully-developed claims (FDC) for service-connected disability compensation may be entitled to up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits. The retroactive benefit will be considered for FDCs filed between August 6, 2013, and August 5, 2015, and is a result of an FRA-supported comprehensive legislative package (H.R. 1627  P.L. 112-154) signed into law last year. Only veterans submitting their first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one year of retroactive disability benefits under the newly implemented law.

    “VA strongly encourages veterans to work with veterans’ service organizations (VSO) to file fully developed claims and participate in this initiative, since it means more money in eligible veterans’ pockets simply by providing VA the information it needs up front,” said Allison A. Hickey, Undersecretary for Benefits. “At the same time, it helps reduce the inventory of pending claims by speeding the process.”

    Filing an FDC requires the veteran to provide all supporting evidence in his/her possession when submitting the original claim. Doing so significantly reduces the amount of time VA must spend to gather evidence from them or other sources, which is often the longest part of the claims process. VA typically processes FDCs in half the time it takes for a traditionally filed claim.
    FDCs can be filed digitally at www.ebenefits.va.gov, the joint DoD-VA online portal. VA encourages veterans who cannot file online to work with FRA or other accredited veterans service organization (VSO) that can file claims digitally on veterans’ behalf.