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Hvac-disability Claims Soar


Guest Berta

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Mike HArris sent me this info: scroll down to Issue # 3

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Quick Links 5 News Media Center Weekly Legislative Update New SBP Benefit & Open Enrollment Period BRAC Resources Military Identification (ID) Cards Give Me Ten!

MOAA Alert - Congress Decides on Military Benefits DoD Proposed Fee Increases (PDF) Current Legislative Alerts

Home Legislative Update Content for Homepage MOAA Legislative Update: DoD Proposes Healthcare Fee Increase

MOAA Legislative Update: DoD Proposes Healthcare Fee Increase

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Issue 1 MOAA, Coalition Protest Retiree and Reserve Health Fee Hikes.

MOAA and The Military Coalition are protesting to Congress over Defense Department plans to shift substantially more healthcare costs to Guard, Reserve, and retired military members and families.

Issue 2 TRICARE Reserve Select Enrollment is Climbing.

TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) enrollment numbers have increased dramatically in the last three months, seeming to contradict DoD assertions that healthcare is not a top priority for Guard and Reserve members.

Issue 3 VA Disability Claims Soar.

A House panel heard testimony Wednesday on the skyrocketing number of claims in the VA disability claims system. Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) promised help.

Issue 1 MOAA, Coalition Protest Retiree and Reserve Health Fee Hikes

The Defense Department has announced its intent to impose an 8.5% premium increase for TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS), the new healthcare option for drilling members of the Guard and Reserve. This increase - imposed even though the program has been offered only for a few months - is almost triple the percentage of the troops' 2006 pay raise (3.1%). Monthly TRS premiums will rise from $75 to $81 for single members and $233 to $253 for family plans.

If that weren't bad enough, MOAA has learned that Defense leaders are planning to propose shifting a far larger share of healthcare costs to all retirees as part of their budget submission for FY2007 (starting Oct. 1, 2006).

The new plan envisions establishing an enrollment fee for TRICARE Standard, which has no enrollment fee at present. It would also double the TRICARE deductible and more than triple the TRICARE Prime enrollment fee over the next three years, and then increase all of these fees annually by the percentage of inflation. Retired officers would be charged about one-third more than enlisted members. At this point, it appears that Medicare-eligibles would be exempt from the fee increases. It's not yet known whether the plan would also apply to survivors under age 65, but that would appear likely. See specifics of the plan, as related to us...

MOAA and The Military Coalition have sent letters to every member of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees protesting these plans.

Guard and Reserve members are already laying their lives on the line and disrupting their families for years at a time. This program was supposed to be a recruiting and retention incentive, but we're going to price the troops out of the market with these kinds of annual increases.

The fundamental issue is that military medical and retirement programs need to be substantially better than civilian programs. They are an essential offset to the extraordinary demands and sacrifices inherent in a military career - sacrifices that civilians don't have to deal with and wouldn't put up with. Jacking up healthcare costs for military retirees to follow corporate trends misses the whole point of why we have a unique military health plan.

Guard, reserve and retired families "already gave" to their country in a multitude of ways that civilians haven't and never will. If we're at all concerned about future recruiting, retention and readiness, we'd best not forget that.

A country that can afford billions for pork, billions to rebuild Iraq, and still cut billions in taxes every year can afford the cost of health coverage for military members and families who spent decades sacrificing their own freedoms to protect freedom for the rest of America.

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Issue 2 TRICARE Reserve Select Enrollment is Climbing

The TRICARE Reserve Select program (TRS) is a premium-based TRICARE health plan offered to drilling Guard and Reserve members who were ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation on or after Sept. 11, 2001 and agree to continue in the Selected Reserve.

After a slow start, signups have averaged more than 1,500 members per week since mid-September. As of last week, more than 31,000 Reserve component members have signed agreements signaling their intent to use TRS, and more than 15,000 members have executed the final contract agreements obtaining TRS coverage. Including family members, more than 24,000 people are now covered under TRS.

MOAA-supported legislation in the FY2006 Defense Authorization Bill - currently awaiting action by the conference committee - would let almost all Selected Reserve members purchase TRS coverage.

Send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message supporting this and other important provisions now.

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Issue 3 VA Disability Claims Soar

The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony this week from a retired USAF flight surgeon, senior VA officials, and a panel of veterans' service organizations (VSOs) concerning mounting challenges facing the VA claims system.

Dr. William Jones, USAF-Ret. said the VA system was programmed to procrastinate. His claims for service-connected disabilities have been held up for six years.

Since 2000, VA claims for initial disabilities have risen by 36%, from 579,000 to 788,000 in fiscal year 2005. Witnesses testified that the system is plagued with poor quality, inconsistencies between VA offices, mounting demand, and insufficient resources.

A GAO report released at the hearing noted there were 346,000 claims pending decision at the end of FY2005. The GAO said, "VA faces continuing questions about its ability to ensure that veterans get consistent decisions across its 57 regional offices." View the GAO report...

The average initial claim takes over six months to complete, and appeals of denied claims can take as long as three years. In addition to rising numbers, quality problems, and increasing claim complexity, the VA is also struggling to accommodate new legislative changes and court decisions.

The problems are compounded by accelerating retirements among experienced VA claims workers. Inexperienced replacements feel more pressed to make productivity goals than meet quality goals. By contrast, service officers with Veterans Service Organizations (DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc.) have a more extensive training program (DAV's entry-level service officer course is 16 months long).

When Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) asked Deputy Under Secretary for VA Benefits Ron Aument how many additional claims adjudicators it would take to reduce the average claim processing time to three months, Aument declined to answer the question directly. Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) said he planned to hold a series of hearings in 2006 to address the problem.

Committee Chairman Steve Buyer closed the hearing with a promise to push for more VA claims adjudicators in the coming year's budget. "The increase in disability claims can be directly related to the increase in U.S. military operations abroad," Buyer said. "Doing more with less is not a strategy of success. We need to increase the staffing at the regional compensation offices and at the Board of Veterans Appeals to attack this backlog and prepare for the anticipated increases in additional claims."

Legislative Update Archive

(Here is the GAO Report link :

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06283t.pdf- this is a National disgrace)

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