FRA NewsBytes – 8-30-13

fra_logo_tr-c6-opt1In this week’s edition:
FRA Briefs Coast Guard Retiree Council
GAO Study Addresses VA Bonuses
VA Letter to TFL Beneficiaries Explained
FRA NHQ Closed for Labor Day
FRA Briefs Coast Guard Retiree Council
FRA’s Director of Legislative Programs John Davis and Phil Odom of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) briefed the Commandant of the Coast Guard’s Retiree Council this week, sharing information on current legislative issues associated with retiree benefits. Issues discussed included proposed TRICARE fee increases, the threat of the recently-appointed retirement commission to recommend cuts to benefits, and the possibility of more punitive sequestration cuts in 2014 and beyond.

FRA salutes the eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG-8) and Past National Chaplain Vince Patton and retired RADM Ronald Silva, USCG, who have served as council co-chairmen since 2002 and 2010, respectively. They are being relieved by RADM John C. Acton, USCG (Ret.) and retired MCPOCG-10 and FRA Shipmate Charles “Skip” Bowen for the coming year.  Penny Collins, FRA’s director of Membership Development, is a member of the council, which meets annually to ensure retirees’ concerns are brought to the attention of USCG leadership and that members of the retired community are kept informed on key legislative initiatives.

Council members also visited FRA NHQ for a reception this week, where Patton and Silva acknowledged the great work of NED Joe Barnes and the FRA Legislative Team and thanked FRA for its continued support of Coast Guard programs on Capitol Hill.

GAO Study Addresses VA Bonuses
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report indicates that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees have received millions of dollars in “excellent” performance bonuses while disabled veterans experience exorbitant delays in the adjudication of their disability claims.  GAO confirmed gaps in information, a need to more appropriately administer this type of performance award and improve oversight to ensure that medical centers comply with award requirements.

“I am very disappointed in these findings,” said House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael Michaud (Maine), who requested the study. “When I requested this evaluation, it was due to concerns that were raised through hearings and other forums that health care providers (at the VA) were being given performance pay and awards when they did not deserve it.  This report appears to confirm that perception.”

FRA is closely monitoring the backlog of disability claims and advocating a solution to the continuing problem for too many of our nation’s veterans, which is also a violation of the nation’s solemn commitment to properly care for disabled veterans.

A copy of the GAO report is available at:
http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/656185.pdf

VA Letter to TFL Beneficiaries Explained
More than 12,000 TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) beneficiaries who are also in Priority Group 8 at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently received a letter explaining a change in the out-of-pocket expenses incurred at VA medical facilities. In the past, when these veterans used VA facilities for care not related to a service-connected disability, they’ve paid very little out of pocket if they used their TRICARE benefit.

By law, TFL pays only after Medicare and any other health insurance benefit has been paid. Although the VA is TRICARE-authorized, it is not Medicare-certified, and therefore cannot receive payments from Medicare. Current reimbursement to the VA have been more than DoD was authorized to make and, effective October 1, 2013, TRICARE will pay the required 20 percent of TFL allowable charges. TFL beneficiaries seeking non-service-related care at the VA will have to pay the remaining balance.

Related to this issue, Rep. Michael Michaud (Maine) introduced the “Medicare VA Reimbursement Act” (H.R. 2953) to address this situation.  The measure seeks to authorize Medicare reimbursement for eligible veterans to improve access for Medicare-eligible veterans and enhance health care funding for the VA.  Most veterans pay into Medicare for most of their lives, yet the law prohibits them from using this earned benefit at VA facilities.

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center and ask their legislators to support this bill. To contact your legislator on this issue go to:
http://www.capwiz.com/fra/issues/alert/?alertid=62797626 ;

FRA NHQ Closed for Labor Day
FRA National Headquarters will be closed on Monday, September 2nd, in observance of Labor Day.  Our offices will reopen on Tuesday, September 3rd.