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June 2012
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1. Reserve Retirement Age:
The Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act reduced the archaic 60 year eligibility age for retired members of the Ready Reserve to collect retirement pay three months sooner for each aggregate of 90 days per fiscal year of active duty performed in Title 10 status in support of a contingency operation, or in Title 32 status in responding to a national emergency. However, the qualifying service must occur within a single fiscal year, thereby not crediting otherwise qualifying service spread over two consecutive fiscal years. For example, if one served 90 days in OIF from September 1, 2010 through November 29, 2010, that service would not be credited in reducing the retirement eligibility age. However, if the person served 90 days in OIF from October 1, 2010 through December 29, 2010, that service would be fully credited. This distinction unfairly penalizes those who serve bravely with orders spanning two fiscal years. 
Senate bill S.866 introduced by Se, Jon Tester (?-MT) on 2 MAY would correct this inequity by fully crediting each aggregate of 90 days of qualifying service served over any two consecutive fiscal years after 28 JAN 08. As of 26 MAY this bill had only 12 cosponsors. Those who would like to support this bill and see it passed through the Senate are urged to go to and submit the preformatted editable message to their legislators requesting their Senators sign on as cosponsors.
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3. Defense Bill Includes Tricare  Increases:
The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act this week.  The $533 billion defense bill (H.R. 1540) provides a 1.6-percent military pay increase, reduces the SBP-DIC offset for survivors, and would increase TRICARE fees for working-age military retirees.  Beginning with FY 2013, the committee voted to link future TRICARE increases to annual cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, which has been zero for military retirees for the past two years.  The committee did not vote to prohibit a fee increase for FY 2012, which now opens the door for DOD to raise TRICARE fees by 13 percent this fall.  The VFW will continue to oppose all TRICARE fee increases.  Military retirees paid for their healthcare through long and faithful service; for their children being uprooted repeatedly from school; for their spouses not being able to have full careers; for their homes accumulating no equity; and for some, for not being fully marketable because they served so many years in uniform.  The House, then the Senate, have to agree on the bill before it goes to the president for his signature.  The VFW urges you to redouble your efforts and get your representatives to reject the TRICARE increase when the bill comes up for a floor vote, and to contact your senators to reject the proposal if it makes it through the House. 
 
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5. Military Compensation:
In his remarks before the American Enterprise Institute on 23 MAY, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the next round of budget cuts could force lawmakers to pare back military pay and benefits. He indicated the government would have to "re-examine military compensation," consider altering the retirement system to reduce outlays for pay and pensions and do more to address spiraling health-care costs. None would be good for the military or retiree communities and any one of them could wind up harming individual service recruiting and retention efforts. A number of groups have called for reductions in earned military pay and benefit programs recently. Gates referenced one in his comments: the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. That group proposed a three-year freeze on basic pay, military housing and food allowances in addition to raising TRICARE-related fees for all beneficiaries (among other things). 
Additional recommendations are expected to be seen in coming months and the threat to earned military benefits 
will increase.
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6. Treasury Publishes Final Regulation to Phase Out Paper Checks by 2013:
WASHINGTON - The Department of the Treasury announced a new rule that will extend the safety and convenience of electronic payments to millions of Americans and phase out paper checks for federal benefits by March 1, 2013.  Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urge Veterans to sign up for electronic payment of their benefits.
“Receiving VA benefits electronically will increase the security, convenience and reliability of these vital payments,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA encourages Veterans who are now receiving their benefits in paper checks to set up direct deposits before the deadline.”
On March 1, 2013, VA will stop issuing paper checks.  People who do not have electronic payments for their federal benefits by that time will receive their funds via a pre-paid debit card.  Called the Direct Express card, it is issued by Comerica Bank as the financial agent of the U.S. Treasury.  
Another deadline affects people receiving VA’s compensation or pensions for the first time after May 1, 2011.  Those people will automatically receive the benefits electronically.  
Anyone already receiving federal benefit payments electronically will be unaffected by the changes.   To learn more about the federal government’s switch to direct deposit – or to change VA benefits to direct deposit visit  www.GoDirect.org.   Information about the federal government’s “Go Direct” campaign is also available at 1-800-333-1795.
Along with payments for VA benefit, the change will also affect recipients of payments from Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement Board,or Office of Personnel Management.
For more information about VA benefits and programs, go to www.va.gov or call toll free 1-800-827-1000.
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8. 

VA Mileage Reimbursement:

The nuclear power plant at McMurdo was 
known as PM-3A and was part of the Navy's effort to provide electrical power to remote areas. The plant was brought online in 1962 but experienced frequent malfunctions until it was finally shut down in 1973. The plant was disassembled and 7,700 cubic meters of rock and dirt were hauled away over the next several years. In the plant's final operating report issued after this shutdown in it was noted that it has experienced 438 malfunctions and 123 reports of radiation exposure in excess of allowable limits..More
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9. Vet Toxic Exposure ~ McMurdo:
The nuclear power plant at McMurdo was known as PM-3A and was part of the Navy's effort to provide electrical power to remote areas. The plant was brought online in 1962 but experienced frequent malfunctions until it was finally shut down in 1973. The plant was disassembled and 7,700 cubic meters of rock and dirt were hauled away over the next several years. In the plant's final operating report issued after this shutdown in it was noted that it has experienced 438 malfunctions and 123 reports of radiation exposure in excess of allowable limits..More
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       - Archives -
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2. COLA:
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A COLA is Finally Coming (We Think)-The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased for the 9th straight month in May. This time it increased by 0.5%. The CPI is the basis for calculating a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for many programs including military retired pay, veterans’ disability pay, SBP, DIC and Social Security. If nothing changes in the next 4 months, there should be a COLA of 3.4%. But it is likely that there will be further inflation so we are expecting a substantial increase. We will continue to follow the monthly findings and pass them on to you.
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4. Ever Wonder How VA Math Works:
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Veterans frequently ask how VA math determines their compensation percentages. A quick way to understand this process is described below. A veteran begins at 100% or the equivalent of a “whole” healthy person equaling 100. Let’s say that the veteran receives 40% disability for service connected back problems and 30% for each knee. If you add 40% + 30% + 30% you will calculate that the veteran is at 100%; however, that does not take into account that each disability percentage affects the overall whole (100) at different stages. So, consider the following: The highest value disability is calculated first; therefore, the 40% disability is calculated first: 100 X .60 = 60 or 60% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% of the whole healthy person. Now the 60% is used below. If the next largest disability is rated at 30%, multiply .60 (from the 60% above) by .30 (or 30%): 60 X .30 = 18 Then subtract 18 from 60 as follows: 60 – 18 = 42 or 42% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% to 42 % of the whole healthy person. Now the 42% is used below. Next calculate the third largest disability. In this case let’s use 30% disability. 42 X .30 = 12.6 or 12.6% of the whole Then subtract 12.6 from 42 as follows: 42 – 12.6 = 29 or 29% of the whole. The veteran has decreased from 100% to 60% to 29% of the whole healthy person. Now the 29% is used below. We originally started at 100% of the whole and must subtract 29% as the remnant of the procedure above and that leaves 71%… 100 – 29 = 71% Since the VA calculates in whole amounts, the veteran is now considered to have a 70% service connected disability by rounding to the nearest percentage.
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7. PTSD Update:
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A Vietnam veteran who received the Bronze Star and later was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder filed a federal lawsuit 21 APR trying to get the Army to modify his other-than-honorable discharge so that his sacrifice will be recognized and he can get disability benefits. John Shepherd, 63, says he battled alcoholism and struggled to stay employed for 40 years, but was not diagnosed with PTSD until 2004. "My other-than-honorable discharge has made me feel deeply ashamed for many years," Shepherd said in a statement. "I hope this lawsuit can finally change that." In 1969, Shepherd served a combat tour in the Mekong Delta, participating in patrols and search-and-destroy missions. The Army awarded him with a Bronze Star after his unit came under intense fire and Shepherd rushed toward an enemy bunker, entered it and threw a grenade that killed several enemy soldiers, according to the lawsuit....read on
 
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