RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

Archive for May, 2008

Warden Message 29 May 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th May 2008

U.S. Embassy Manila

Warden Message

May 29, 2008

An explosion occurred Thursday, May 29, in Zamboanga City , reportedly killing two people and injuring at least 17. Among the injured were several local employees of a USAID grantee; no direct-hire Mission employees were injured. The explosion is under investigation and few details are known at this time. Americans living or traveling in the Philippines are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, http://travelregistration.state.gov so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Philippines. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, the Philippines specific information, travel warnings, and other travel alerts can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada , a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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Posted by Service Officer on 20th May 2008

Clarification for tax filers who are using Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) vice Social Security numbers on their 1040 & 1040A tax forms for their spouse or children is provided in the below taken from the IRS website. Bottom line if your spouse does not have a SSN and you file jointly using his/her ITIN neither of you will receive a ECS payment. If you both have SSNs and your child does not you will receive your ECS payment but nothing for the child:

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Cost Containment Instead of Health Care For Military and Veterans

Posted by Service Officer on 19th May 2008

Last year, a firestorm erupted when it was found that 24,000 or more OEF/OIF veterans had been booted out of the military with Personality Disorder discharges. PD (once labeled "Section 8") discharges are a quicker and more cost-efficient way of dealing with service members who are exhibiting problematic behavior.

The problem, of course, was that some of the discharged were combat-injured Purple Heart recipients who may have instead been coping with PTSD, a fact that would allow them access to VA health care benefits to treat their condition.

This week, we’ve moved from the military’s diagnoses of Personality Disorder over PTSD to a Texas VAMC PTSD program coordinator advising that Adjustment Disorder diagnoses should be handed out over that of PTSD. The reason given? Saving money.

Click on More to read the rest of the story.

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VA psychologist to staff: don’t diagnose PTSD

Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

Article Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

A furor has erupted over a psychologist’s email directing staff at a Texas veterans facility to withhold diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder from soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the email, Norma J. Perez, PTSD program coordinator at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Texas, tells staff “given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out.”

Instead, she advises “consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder.”

Veteran Affairs staff “really don’t … have the time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD,” Perez wrote.

VA Secretary James Peak immediately called Perez’s email “inappropriate” and insisted that it didn’t reflect VA policy, the Washington Post reported Friday. In a statement, Peak said the staffer’s action was “repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization.”

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) makes it easier for veterans with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents such as their DD-214from their military files.

Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members can use NPRC’s online military personnel records system to request documents. The web-based application was designed to provide better service on these requests by eliminating the records center’s mailroom processing time. Also, because the requester will be asked online to supply all information essential for NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask veterans for additional information will be minimized.

The application can be accessed at http://vetrecs.archives.gov . Users will be required to complete the application online and then download a signature verification document that must be signed and mailed to NPRC WEB, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100 or faxed to (314) 801-9049 within 30 days. If NPRC does not receive your signature within 30 days, your request will be automatically deactivated and removed from their system. A service request number will be provided for follow up to (314) 801-0800, if necessary. Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete the Standard Form 180 which can be downloaded from the web at http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/standard-form-180.html . [Source: NPRC http://vetrecs.archives.gov May 08 ++]

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

The current maximum VA guaranty for all loans in excess of $144,000, except regular refinance loans, is equal to 25% of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for a single family home, adjusted for the year involved. Presently this is $104,250 ($156,375 for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands). This means lenders making loans covered by a VA guaranty up to $417,000 ($625,500 in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands) will receive at least a 25% guaranty. However, only $36,000 of a VA home loan guaranty can be used when the loan is being used to refinance a home loan, meaning that VA will not provide backing for a refinance loan in excess of $144,000. Additionally, present law limits regular refinance loans to 90% of the reasonable value of the dwelling, meaning that veterans without at least 10% equity cannot refinance their existing loan into a VA guaranteed home loan. On 30 APR the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved major improvements in this home loan program but details in the bill could delay or even prevent the initiative from becoming law. The home loan bill, Helping Our Veterans to Keep Their Homes Act HR 4884, would

• Increase the maximum loan available to veterans for new and refinanced homes to $729,750;

• Allow refinancing even if the homeowner has no equity; and

• Order a new streamlined process for buying condominiums with veterans’ home loans.

The committee chairman and chief sponsor of the bill Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), said the update is a response to criticism that the VA loan program has become irrelevant because of the current $417,000 cap on new loans and the $147,000 limit on refinancing, and a requirement that homeowners have at least 10% equity in their home to qualify. The problem with the bipartisan bill, which passed the committee by voice vote, is that it also eliminates loan origination fees for all loans except for those related to refinancing, which Filner said is necessary to make the VA home loan program competitive.

Fees now range from 1.4 to 3% for regular loans, depending on the amount of down payment, and are just 0.5% when refinancing an existing VA loan to reduce the interest rate. All those fees would be eliminated, leaving just a 1% fee for someone refinancing a non-VA loan with a new loan from the VA program. Fees generate money intended to cover administrative costs of the loan program. Eliminating them would create a $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion hole in the VA budget that will prevent the bill from being taken up by the House unless lawmakers can find a way to make up the difference, said Rep. Steve Buyer, (R-IN) ranking Republican on the committee. Buyer offered an amendment to keep the current fees, which he said would guarantee the House could take up the bill right away, but his effort was defeated on a voice vote. Filner said he hoped to find a way to pass the bill without imposing fees for most home loan users. [Source: Marine Corps Times Rick Maze article Posted 1 May 08 ++]

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

The Department of Veterans Affairs has updated the official estimate of the veteran population. Using its Veteran Population Model (VetPop), VA estimates a total veteran population of approximately 24,816,000 as of 30 SEP 07. Estimates are based on data from the Department of Defense (DoD), the Census Bureau and the Veterans Benefits Administration. VetPop, which was last updated in 2004, groups veterans into various demographic categories (age, sex, state, race, rank, military branch, and period of service) and projects results thirty years into the future. VetPop used the Census 2000 estimate of veterans—26,745,000 as of April, 2000—as a starting point. The population increases as service members separate from active duty and decreases through mortality. VetPop models these changes using DoD’s reports of past and projected separations as well as DoD mortality rates. VetPop2007 results are higher than VetPop2004 results due to lower mortality rates and higher-than-expected separations. The difference is 1.2% in 2007 and grows to 2.8% by 2015. Results can be accessed at http://www1.va.gov/vetdata/ by clicking on “Demographics”. The website includes results described above, estimates of veterans by county and by Congressional District, as well as descriptive documents and tutorials on how to access the data. Further questions regarding VetPop should be emailed to VetPop@va.gov. [Source: VA's Office of the Actuary 22 Apr 07 ++]

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

When a veteran needs emergency medical treatment, the VA allows that veteran to go to the nearest private or community hospital. Once the veteran is stabilized, the veteran must then be transferred to a VA hospital for any necessary continued care. The problem arises when there is a wait for a bed in a VA hospital. Current law "authorizes" but does not require the VA to reimburse the hospital for the care given after the point of stabilization. The Veterans Emergency Care Fairness Act (H.R.3819) introduced by Rep. Zack Space (D-OH-18) would simply close that loophole and require VA reimbursement for care. In rural areas, this problem is particularly pronounced. Often, a patient may be deemed "stable" but is not stable enough to make ambulance trips traveling long distances. Specifically H.R.3819:

• Requires (under current law, authorizes) the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reimburse certain veterans without a service-connected disability enrolled as active participants of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care plan for the cost of emergency treatment received in a non-VA facility until such time as such veterans are transferred to a VA facility.

• Requires (under current law, authorizes) the Secretary to reimburse certain veterans with a service-connected disability or a non-service-connected disability associated with or aggravating a service-connected disability for the value of emergency treatment for which such veterans have made payment from sources other than the VA.

As of 2 May, HR 3819 has 49 cosponsors. If your Representative has not co-sponsored you are encouraged to contact him/her with you concerns on the subject. This can easily be done utilizing a preformatted message found at http://capwiz.com/usdr/issues/bills/?bill=11330076&alertid=11330081. All you need do is enter your zip code and fill in your contact data. You can also personalize the message in any manner you desire. [Source: USDR Action Alert 2 May 08 ++]

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

Medicare alone will not meet your long-term care (LTC) needs. While Medicare covers some home health, skilled nursing and hospice care, it generally does not cover custodial care, such as cleaning or cooking, at home or in a nursing home. Medicare will help pay for your home care if:

• Your doctor certifies that you are homebound, meaning it takes a considerable and taxing effort to leave your home; and

• You need skilled physical, speech or occupational therapy services, or skilled nursing on an intermittent (less than seven days a week) or part-time (less than eight hours a day) basis. If you only require skilled nursing, you must either need it fewer than seven days a week (even as little as once every 60 to 90 days) or daily (seven days a week) for a short period of time (usually two to three weeks); and

• Your doctor certifies your need for home care, and

• You receive your care from a Medicare-certified home health agency (HHA).

If you qualify for the home health benefit, Medicare covers the following types of care:

1.) Skilled nursing services. Medicare pays in full for skilled nursing, which includes services and care that can only be performed safely and effectively by a licensed nurse. Administration of medications, tube feedings, catheter changes, observation and assessment of a patient’s condition, management and evaluation of a patient’s care plan, and wound care are examples of skilled nursing. Any service that could be safely performed by a nonmedical person (or one’s self) without the direct supervision of a licensed nurse is not covered.

2.) Skilled therapy services. Medicare pays in full for physical, speech and occupational therapy. Physical therapy includes exercises to regain movement and strength to a body area and training on how to use special equipment. Speech-language pathology services include exercises to regain and strengthen speech and language skills. Occupational therapy helps you become able to do usual daily activities by yourself, such as eating and putting on clothes. Medicare will pay for therapy services to maintain your condition and prevent you from getting worse; you do not need to have the potential to improve.

3.) Home health aide services. Medicare pays in full for a home health aide if you require skilled services. A home health aide provides personal care services including help with bathing, using the toilet, and dressing. If you ONLY require personal care, you do NOT qualify for the Medicare home care benefit.

4.) Medical social services. Medicare pays in full for services to help you with social and emotional concerns you have related to your illness. This might include counseling or help finding resources in your community.

5.) Medical supplies. Medicare pays in full for medical supplies provided by the Medicare-certified home health agency, such as wound dressings and catheters needed for your care.

6.) Evaluation services. Medicare pays for evaluation services if performed by a skilled nurse or therapist.

7.) Durable medical equipment. Medicare pays 80% of its approved amount for certain pieces of medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or walker.

The Medicare home health benefit covers a wide range of skilled nursing services as long as you need them fewer than seven days a week, or daily for a finite and predictable period of time (usually no more than 21 days in a row). Skilled nursing care includes services that can only be performed safely and correctly by a licensed nurse (either a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse) and is under the general direction of a doctor. For example: intravenous injections; tube feeding; oxygen to help you breathe; changing sterile dressings on a wound; training you to perform required tasks, maintenance and evaluation. Any service that could be safely performed by a nonmedical person (or one’s self) without the direct supervision of a licensed nurse is not covered. Regional Home Health Intermediaries (RHHIs) handle home health and hospice claims. You can call your intermediary for claim issues, and questions about coverage, complaints or denials. For additional info and a complete glossary of medical terms refer to http://www.medicareinteractive.org/page2.php?topic=counselor&page=glossary. [Source: Medicare Rights Center www.medicareinteractive.org May 08 ++]

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Posted by Service Officer on 17th May 2008

With growing recognition of the toll post-traumatic stress disorder has taken on U.S. forces, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Defense Department may consider awarding Purple Heart medals to combat veterans afflicted with it. “It’s an interesting idea,” Gates said when asked about the concept during a 2 MAY media availability at Red River Army Depot, Texas. “I think it is clearly something that needs to be looked at.” Gates’ comment followed his visit the previous day to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he toured the post’s Recovery and Resilience Center, which is using a holistic approach to treating troops with PTSD. John E. Fortunato, who conceived of and runs the center, told reporters that awarding the Purple Heart to PTSD sufferers would go a long way toward chipping away at prejudices surrounding the disease,. Because PTSD affects structures in the brain, it’s a physical disorder, “no different from shrapnel,” Fortunato said. “This is an injury.” The Army classifies PTSD as an illness, not an injury, so troops with PTSD don’t qualify for the Purple Heart. That distinction is limited to troops killed or wounded in a conflict. “I would love to see that changed, because these guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound,” Fortunato said. Not recognizing those with PTSD with a Purple Heart “says that this is the wound that isn’t worthy,” Fortunato said. “And it is.”

Fortunato said he’d also like to see a regulation prohibiting harassment of troops with PTSD, similar to regulations banning racial or sexual harassment. “Until there are sanctions that make a superior pay a price for harassing a soldier with mental health problems, I don’t know that it will change that much.” Soldiers still get laughed at for seeking mental-health services or told that it will ruin their careers, he said. Some in the force view people with PTSD as weak, believing that if those with the disease “just sucked it up and soldiered on, [they would] could get over this,” Fortunato said. “The Army is making a lot of strides toward changing that, but it’s a slow go, because it has to happen at the grassroots level,” he said. “Like any other prejudice, it’s hard to die.” During his visit to Fort Bliss, Gates announced a new policy as of 18 APR in which veterans no longer have to acknowledge on their Standard Form 86 federal security clearance forms mental health care that only involved marital, family, or grief counseling, not related to violence by the applicant, unless the treatment was court-ordered. They also do not have to acknowledge mental heath care if it was related to service in a combat zone. The revised wording has been distributed to the services and will be attached to the cover of the questionnaire. Gates said he hoped the policy would eliminate troops’ concerns that seeking mental health care can cause them to be denied a security clearance and threaten their careers. He also expressed hope it would take the stigma away from seeking treatment. [Source: AFPS Donna Miles article 3 May 08 ++]

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