RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

Archive for August, 2008

VETERAN LEGISLATION STATUS August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

Congress is in recess 6 AUG to 4 SEP. Refer to the Bulletin’s House & Senate attachments for or a listing of Congressional bills of interest to the veteran community that have been introduced in the 110th Congress. Support of these bills through cosponsorship by other legislators is critical if they are ever going to move through the legislative process for a floor vote to become law. A good indication on that likelihood is the number of cosponsors who have signed onto the bill. A cosponsor is a member of Congress who has joined one or more other members in his/her chamber (i.e. House or Senate) to sponsor a bill or amendment. The member who introduces the bill is considered the sponsor. Members subsequently signing on are called cosponsors. Any number of members may cosponsor a bill in the House or Senate. At http://thomas.loc.gov you can also review a copy of each bill’s content, determine its current status, the committee it has been assigned to, and if your legislator is a sponsor or cosponsor of it. To determine what bills, amendments your representative has sponsored, cosponsored, or dropped sponsorship on refer to http://thomas.loc.gov/bss/d110/sponlst.html. The key to increasing cosponsorship on veteran related bills and subsequent passage into law is letting our representatives know of veteran’s feelings on issues. At the end of some listed bills is a web link that can be used to do that. You can also reach his/her Washington via the Capital Operator direct at (866) 272-6622, (800) 828-0498, or (866) 340-9281 to express your views. Otherwise, you can locate on http://thomas.loc.gov who your representative is and his/her phone number, mailing address, or email/website to communicate with a message or letter of your own making. Refer to http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/cong_schedule.html for future times that you can access your representatives on their home turf.

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CRSC UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

Former Airmen receiving military retired pay who served less than 20 years may now be eligible to receive Air Force Combat-Related Special Compensation (CSRC). This is part of a legislative initiative designed to restore a veteran’s military retirement pay that has been reduced by Veterans’ Affairs compensation of at least 10% when the veteran’s disabilities are combat-related.

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SOCIAL SECURITY DEBIT CARDS August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

The U.S. government is offering Social Security recipients a new way to receive benefits: debit cards. The cards, which target the 4 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients without bank accounts, debuted this spring in four states—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma—and are expected to be available nationwide by the end of the summer. Those who choose to sign up for the debit program will receive a MasterCard debit card, which will be reloaded each month with benefit payments and secured with a personal identification number (PIN). The card can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash and at retailers for purchases and to get cash back. Some usage fees are attached: Paper account statements will cost 75 cents; online bill-paying service will be 50 cents per bill. The first ATM withdrawal each month will be free; additional withdrawals will cost 90 cents each, and some ATMs may assess their own usage fees. International ATM withdrawals will cost $3 plus a 3 percent currency conversion fee. Judy Tillman, commissioner of the Financial Management Service at the Treasury Department, says the debit card is a faster and safer way to deliver funds than mailing paper checks. In a small pilot study conducted last year in Illinois, 85% of debit card users said they were satisfied. But consumer advocates warn that individuals must be vigilant in tracking debit card spending and fees. While debit cards carry some protection if lost or stolen, a consumer’s maximum liability depends on how quickly a loss is reported. Debit cards “have a high risk of loss if stolen or abused,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at U.S. PIRG, a public interest research group in Washington. “But it’s an improvement on getting a check and going to a check cashier and running out of money before the end of the month [because of deduction of cashier’s fee], or getting mugged on the way out of a check cashier.” [Source: AARP Michelle Diament article Jul 08 ++]

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GI BILL UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

1. Who is eligible for the Post 9-11 GI Bill? Service men and women who have active duty service of at least 90 days since Sept. 10, 2001 qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Benefits range from 100% for 36 months cumulative service to 40% for 90 days service.

2. Are military retirees and National Guard/Reserve servicemembers eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill? Yes, if they have post-Sept. 10, 2001 federal active duty service of at least 90 days.

3. Can currently serving members transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to family members? Those who qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, have six years or more of service, and agree to extend their service for four years may be eligible to transfer their benefits to a spouse and/or dependent children subject to DoD regulations. Only currently serving members who agree to reenlist/extend after August 1, 2009 will be eligible. DoD may adjust the service criteria for Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability. Critical skill criteria no longer apply to the transferability program.

4. Will veterans, including military retirees, be permitted to transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to dependents? No. Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability is a force management tool that works just like a reenlistment bonus.

5. Are Service Academy/ROTC Scholarship commissioned officers eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill? Officers from these commissioning sources can qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. But, time spent satisfying their initial active duty service obligation does not count towards the service necessary to qualify for the benefits.

6. How does the Post-9/11 GI Bill compare to the current Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)? The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays benefits based on active duty service performed after Sept. 10, 2001. Benefits are tailored to a veteran’s specific school and location. MGIB benefits, on the other hand, are elective upon enlistment and require a $1,200 payroll reduction. MGIB rates are based on the enlistment contract and the course load taken regardless of the institution’s tuition/fees and location.

[Source: MOAA Leg Up 15 Aug 08 ++]

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COLA 2009 UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

In a story posted earlier this month, 2009 COLA was listed at 2.8%. That was dated information provided by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and not reflective of the impact on inflation the oil crises has generated this year. The first bad news item is inflation jumped 0.5% for the month of July. The higher cost of living is primarily the result of the ripple effect (on food and other items) because of the high price of oil. The good news is that federal and postal retirees under the old CSRS retirement system, retired military people and folks who get Social Security payments are now due a JAN 08 cost of living adjustment of 6.2%. Last month the 2008 COLA had hit the 5.7% level. The second round of bad news involves retired Americans who don’t get a federal or military retirement benefit. Most of them don’t qualify for any kind of pension from their former employer. Of those that do get a pension, the rise in living costs has no effect on that benefit. The overwhelming majority of those pensions were frozen at the time of retirement.

How much the January federal-military-Social Security COLA be depends on how much living costs rise (or not) this month and again in September. The COLA is based on the change in the Consumer Price Index from the third quarter of the current year (2008) over the CPI level for the third quarter of the previous year. In this case 2007. That means if the CPI holds steady for August and September the COLA payment will be 6.2%. If the CPI goes up either or both months the COLA will increase accordingly. If the CPI should decline the COLA will be adjusted according. Meaning it could, in theory, be less than 6.2%. But there would still be an increase. If you would like to run the numbers for yourself, check out this explanation from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees NARFE website www.narfe.org/departments/leg/guest/articles.cfm?ID=942 . It also gives the projected COLA increase for employees retired under the FECA program. [Source: Mike Causey’s Federal Report 15 Aug 08 ++]

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VA HEALTH CARE FUNDING UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

Hoping to avoid annual problems with veterans’ health care budgets that are too late and too small, a coalition of nine veterans groups proposes a radical change in how Congress funds Department of Veterans Affairs medical programs. The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform (PVHCBR) which includes the American Legion, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Vietnam Veterans of America is trying to solve two problems.

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VA SAH UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

A change in the law will increase the amount of grants available to seriously injured veterans seeking to modify their homes to accommodate their injuries. Prior to the change, eligible veterans and servicemembers could receive special adaptive housing grants of $10,000 or $50,000 from VA only once. Now they may use the benefit up to three times, so long as the total grants stay within specified limits outlined in the law. VA has averaged about 1,000 adaptive housing grant applications per year during the last 10 years, providing more than $650 million in grants to about 34,000 seriously disabled veterans since the benefit began in 1948. Eligible for the benefit are those with specific service-connected disabilities entitling them to VA compensation for a “permanent and total disability.” They may receive a grant to construct an adapted home or to modify an existing one to meet their special needs. VA has three types of adapted housing grants available:

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MEDICARE PART D UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

Medicare officials announced 14 AUG that the average monthly premium for Medicare’s prescription drug plan will increase to an estimated $28 in 2009, three dollars more than this year’s monthly premium. That 2009 figure is 37% lower than originally projected when Medicare’s so-called Part D drug coverage was introduced in 2003, the officials added. The Part D program offers prescription drug benefits to Medicare beneficiaries. “Part D continues to come in under budget, achieve consistently high satisfaction rates, and with it millions of Americans are living healthier, better lives,” Kerry Weems, acting administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during an afternoon teleconference. But, he added, “most beneficiaries will see a premium increase in their current plan. There will be some significant increases.” There are three reasons behind the premium increase, Weems said.

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MILITARY STOLEN VALOR UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

About two dozen members and guests of the Armed Forces E9 Association, Inc. gathered at the association’s national headquarters 16 AUG to hear Mary Schantag of the P.O.W. Network of Skidmore, Mo talk about the 3,400 names they’ve confirmed as fraudulent claimants of high military medals or disabled or prisoner-of-war status, or all three. “We’ve determined that 30% of the people listed as Medal of Honor winners never received the medal,” she said. “In all, 20 to 40% of all military records showing honors or qualifications for special government assistance are fraudulent. It breaks the law to make fraudulent claims and breaks others to use them to gain benefits, but the FBI and federal courts are overloaded with drug and violent crimes, so most people get away with this.” Schantag had a roster of about 3,400 names she said the network had established were bogus medal winners, disabled veterans or former prisoners of war taped to the wall.

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COMBAT ACTION MEDAL UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on 29th August 2008

If a nationwide veterans’ group gets its way, sailors and Marines who see combat would be decorated with a new Combat Action Medal, instead of the Combat Action Ribbon for which they’re currently eligible. The members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars adapted a resolution 17 AUG at their national convention in Orlando FL calling for Congress and Navy Secretary Donald Winter to create a Combat Action Medal to augment the existing ribbon. Retired Florida attorney Patrick Guarnieri, a former Seabee who served in Vietnam, drafted the resolution this winter after he realized that, of all the military services, the Navy Department’s was the only personal combat decoration without a medal or badge. He pointed to a decision by senior Air Force officials in early 2007 to create a Combat Action Medal, designed to recognize the growing numbers of airmen seeing action on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, as opposed to in the skies above. If the Pentagon is interested in keeping awards consistent across the military services — to the point that commanders changed the wording on four medals earlier this year and changed the size of eight others — it’s only fair that sailors and Marines be eligible for a combat medal, Guarnieri said. The VFW resolution calls on Congress to pass a law directing Winter to create a Combat Action Medal that would be retroactive to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Every sailor or Marine who had received a Combat Action Ribbon would be authorized to wear the medal — including Guarnieri, who said he received the CAR for action in Vietnam. [Source: NavyTimes Philip Ewing article 19 Aug 08 ++]

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