Misplaced Priorities, Again?
This week we learn that an appeals court in California has ruled the three-year-old Federal Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim to have received a medal from the US military, is unconstitutional.
A panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the defendant in a 2-1 decision, agreeing that the law was a violation of his free-speech rights and that because there is no evidence lies such as those told harm anyone, there is no compelling reason for those kinds of lies to be banned by the government.
The decision involves the case of Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, California, a water district board member who said at a public meeting in 2007 that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration.
NAUS Note: NAUS agrees with Justice Jay Baybee’s judgment (see quotation above). Unfortunately, Baybee’s view was on the losing side of the Appeals Court’s 2 to 1 decision. While the Court says Alvarez is free to claim the Medal of Honor, an eleven time all-star baseball player and former seven time Cy Young Award winner faces jail for telling Congress he did not use performance-enhancing drugs in the later years of his career. Don’t know how the Roger Clemens case will turn out but fully disagree with the 9th Circuit holding that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional.
Clarifying Survivors Insurance Program
Over the past several weeks much fury has been expended on a possible instance of large insurance companies using funds meant for survivors of military members, making larger profits than they offer to those whose money they are holding.
As reported last week, Bloomberg Markets magazine reported on July 28 that Prudential Insurance Company, which administers the program for the VA, holds payments owed to the families of fallen soldiers in its general corporate account and instead deposits that money into its own general fund.
This week, the Vice Chairman of Prudential Financial Mark B. Grier briefed NAUS in our offices. Grier clarified that the “checks” are in fact “drafts” the same as used by people who use credit union accounts to pay bills. The Prudential Vice President showed NAUS President Matz and the legislative staff that the interest rate paid to beneficiaries under the account was at the high end of the range of interest paid by banks and credit unions. He also presented copies of the materials given to survivors at the first meeting. He agreed that the paperwork needs could be written more clear and understandable, and he promised to work with the VA to make that happen.
In a separate VA briefing attended by NAUS, VA’s Director of Life Insurance Programs Thomas Lastowka stated that the purpose of the accounts, which have been in use for over ten years, is to provide beneficiaries the ability to immediately access needed funds and earn interest until they have decided what to do with the funds over the long term. He stated that VA is satisfied with how Prudential handles these accounts and although there will be an inquiry, he did not expect VA to demand many, if any, changes.
NAUS will continue to watch this matter closely to ensure the program benefits, as intended, the survivors of deceased military. We will pursue legislation, if necessary, to see that survivors receive financial counseling and disclosure information regarding life insurance payments
Sound Off on Key Issues – Make Sure Your Voice is Heard
As Congress continues its Summer District Work Period, your elected representatives are in their home districts/States working out of local offices, holding town hall meetings and attending various public venues. This is the ideal time for members to make contact with their elected officials and make their wishes known.
There is plenty of military and veterans-related legislation awaiting congressional attention including the defense authorization and appropriations bills. Lets not forget that in the not too distant future lawmakers must again address the ever-important issue of TRICARE and Medicare reimbursement rates. The action they took to address the issue in June was only temporary; it expires at the end of November.
Many NAUS members are likely concerned with the recent announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he intends to seek higher premiums and fees for TRICARE programs next year. Since the ultimate authority to increase rates rests with Congress, it’s a good subject to discuss with your representatives as well. And as we look to November, let them know your vote is contingent upon their support.
Final decisions on unfinished legislation won’t take place until the summer break is over. The House and Senate and House remain in recess until September 13. Until then, we encourage NAUS members to take advantage of each and every opportunity to communicate with their elected officials on these important issues.
HEALTH CARE NEWS
Early Prescription Refills Authorized for Parts of Missouri
A Public Health Emergency has been issued by the Secretary of Health & Human Services due to severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes in the Missouri counties of Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Cass, Chariton, Clark, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Howard, Jackson, Lafayette, Lewis, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Putnam, Ray, Schuyler, Scotland, Sullivan, and Worth. Due to this issuance, TRICARE has implemented the Emergency Refill Too Soon Procedures which will remain in effect until Sept. 17, 2010.
Who is eligible for TRICARE benefits under the TAMP Program?
Members and their eligible family members who meet the criteria below are eligible for TRICARE benefits under the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP):
- Members involuntarily separated from active duty.
- National Guard and Reserve members separated from active duty after being mobilized to active duty in support of a contingency operation. The active duty period must be more than 30 days.
- Members separated from active duty after being involuntarily retained under Section 12305 (also referred to as “stop loss”) of Title 10, U.S.C., in support of a contingency operation.
- Members separated from active duty following a voluntary agreement to stay on active duty for less than one year in support of a contingency operation.
- A member who receives a sole survivorship discharge as defined in Section 1174 of Title 10, U.S.C.
- A member who is separated from active duty who agrees to become a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of a reserve component.
If you think you may be eligible for TAMP, contact the Defense Manpower Data Center Support (DMDC) Office to check your eligibility status in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). You may do this by going to your nearest uniformed services ID card facility or by calling DMDC toll-free at 1-800-538-9552. To locate the nearest ID card facility, click here.
ACTIVE DUTY NEWS
Crew Members Needed for USS Constitution
The Navy is currently seeking applications from enlisted personnel for duty aboard the USS Constitution. Personnel with a projected rotation date of October 2010 through June 2011 are eligible. Applications can be sent via e-mail to email@example.com, by fax to (617) 242-2308, or by mail to USS Constitution, Command Master Chief, Building 5, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129-1797. For more information, visit the USS Constitution website or contact CMDCM(SW/SS/AW) David Twiford at (617) 242-2863
Air Force Transition Program
Airmen with plans to separate or retire are encouraged to participate in the Air Force Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help them make informed decisions after active-duty service. DoD officials partner with Department of Labor and VA officials to provide TAP workshops at installations worldwide. Airman and Family Readiness Center officials also offer congressionally mandated pre-separation counseling. For more information about TAP and other services available, contact your local Airman and Family Readiness Center. Additional information on TAP benefits available to those affected by force management can be found on the Air Force Personnel Center personnel services page.
Corporals Course to Become Promotion Requirement for USMC
Beginning in FY 2012, attending a corporal’s course will be required before Marines can be promoted to sergeant. Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway announced the upcoming change in All Marine Message 26/10. Plans are in the works to create a nonresident version of the course so Marines who don’t have the opportunity to attend a command-sponsored course will still be eligible under the new requirements.
Coast Guard Academy Receives Top Marks
The Coast Guard Academy earned a perfect score of 100 and the top honor as the #1 regional college in the North based on the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges 2011 issue released earlier this week. The academy was also recently named one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, for a second year in a row, by the Chronicle of Higher Education. You can read the complete story by going to the Coast Guard Compass, the official blog of the US Coast Guard.
Special Hiring Event for Veterans
Several Federal Agencies have an urgent need to fill essential positions. Veterans interested in continuing their service to America are encouraged to review open positions available now! Be sure to follow the specific instructions provided in the announcement no later than Aug. 24, 2010. Additional information on the positions available can be found at this special link.
VA’s Home Loan Program Performing Well
According to a recent VA press release, mortgage loans guaranteed by the department continue to have the lowest rate for serious delinquency and foreclosures in the industry. Currently, about 1.3 million active home loans have been obtained using VA’s Home Loan Guaranty Program. The program makes home ownership more affordable for Veterans, active-duty service members, and eligible surviving spouses by permitting low or no down payment loans and by protecting lenders from loss if the borrower fails to repay the loan.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association National Delinquency Survey, VA’s foreclosure rate for the last eight quarters and serious delinquency rate for the last five consecutive quarters have been the lowest of all measured loan types, even prime loans.
Since 1944, when home-loan guaranties were first offered under the original GI Bill, VA has guaranteed more than 18.8 million home loans worth $1.06 trillion.
To obtain more information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, Veterans can call VA at 1-877-827-3702. Additional information can be obtained by visiting VA’s Home Loan Information page.
NAUS on the Road
On Friday August 27, NAUS Legislative Director Rick Jones will be the keynote speaker at the Hill AFB, Utah, Retiree Appreciation Day. Come out and bring a friend.
Society of Military Widows (SMW) Convention
This year the SMW convention will be held in Lawton, OK, at the Best Western Convention Center (580-353-0200) 10-17 October. The hotel is $80 per night for two people. The registration is $125, which includes the Welcome Dinner, lunch at the Patriot Club, a tea/lunch, and the Banquet. Extra guests for the banquet are $38. There will be various tours offered every day and more than enough to keep you busy. NAUS Director of Chapter Management Jack Chmielewski will conduct a workshop on Friday. Checks are payable to the Society of Military Widows and should be mailed to: Gladys Thomas, 1108 NW 52nd Street Lawton, OK 78505.
Get Yours in Our Annual “I Got Mine!” Member-Get-A-Member Campaign
Do you have a son or daughter serving or who has served in the military? A cousin? A sibling? A friend? A neighbor? Invite them to join you as a member of NAUS to help protect their benefits. For each new member you recruit during the 2010 I Got Mine! Member-get-a-Member Campaign, you’ll receive one entry into the prize drawing pool. The more members you recruit, the more chances you have to win! You could win prizes like a NAUS sweatshirt or the Grand Prize: a $500 Marriott gift card! The campaign runs through Oct. 15, 2010. For a complete list of prizes, campaign rules, application forms and other information to help you get yours, click here.