Toxic Chemicals CONUS
As most are aware, seen on TV, in the newspapers, and from veteran sites across the country, TCE/PCE is a major issue.
TCE a chemical degreaser used on all bases and board ships is a carcinogenic chemical, and on the many military bases nationwide was disposed of into the ground behind buildings eventually contaminating the ground water and getting into the drinking wells.
Same thing with PCE which is a dry cleaning chemical used both on bases and off base nationwide, also being disposed of into the ground and eventually contaminating the ground water and getting into the drinking wells.
Most recently CNN did a broadcast show highlighting the male breast cancer cluster surrounding Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Personally I feel the anchor didn’t bother to do his homework very well, didn’t bring to light all the other medical issues or the families harmed by these chemicals.
There is also currently a bill in committee to award benefits, but in my humble opinion is limited in scope and restrictive to those who served at Camp LeJeune and doesn’t mention any of the 130+ bases nationwide listed on the EPA Superfund list.
Veterans-For-Change has a bill which was drafted back in February 2009 along with a petition to which we’re trying to collect at least 40,000 signatures in order to get either a Senator or Congressman to sign off and present the bill to the floor which will not only address TCE but PCE as well, and opens it up to all military, veterans and family members who served at any base where these chemicals were used and disposed of improperly thereby contaminating all who drank the water or who used the chemicals in their daily jobs.
Veterans-For-Change needs your support desperately to meet the number of signers on the petition. This is NOT an electronic petition, but a hard copy petition. We ask that everyone please go to www.veterans-for-change.com, and if you’re not a member to please subscribe, go to the documents section, then to the TCE/PCE and other Chemicals section and download the petition.
Sign and try to obtain at least 10 more signatures and mail the complete form into our California office ASAP.
Should you have any questions, please click HERE and send us an E-Mail and we’ll be more than happy to reply!
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Military Express Healthcare Concerns
By: Thomas D. Segel
Harlingen, Texas, March 23, 2010: The Health Care Reform legislation had just been voted and not yet signed into law by the President, yet cyber space was on fire with email concerns about the future of military health care, particularly the programs for retirees.
Depending upon the status of the military individual – active duty or retired – he or she and their dependents are provided healthcare coverage under a variety of programs called TRICARE. Those over age 65 and on Medicare have a supplemental coverage called Tricare for Life.
The email started numbering in the thousands after March 20, when Representative John Carter, the House Republican Conference Secretary sent out a news release that stated House Republicans had managed to turn back a power-grab by Democrats to fold the nation’s TRICARE programs into their national healthcare legislation. Said Carter, “House Republicans forced an immediate vote on the floor to remove TRICARE from the controls by the new federal health exchange which will overturn all existing health insurance plans.”
Carter also stated that once the attempt to place military health care under the provisions of the Health Care Reform legislation was unmasked the entire House voted to exempt TRICARE from the Democrat bill.
“If they tried to go after us once, they will do it again”, said James Fisher, an Air Force retiree from Dallas, Texas. Dozens of messages reflected the same concern.
However, those who administer the various TRICARE programs say they are unaware of any changes or impact on TRICARE of TRICARE for Life programs as a result of the Health Care Reform Legislation. Says the Wisconsin Physician Services, “Please keep in mind that TRICARE, including TRICARE for Life, is neither a health insurance company nor insurance policy. It is a federal health benefit program and therefore many of the rules that apply to private insurance companies may not apply to the TRICARE benefit.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also issued a statement to the TRICARE Management Activity web site (www.tricare.mil) “As Secretary of Defense, the health and well being of America’s men and women in uniform is my highest priority. Our troops and their families can be re-assured that the health care reform legislation being passed by the Congress will not negatively impact the TRICARE program, as it already meets the bill’s quality and minimum benefit standards. This was clarified by a vote in the House of Representatives yesterday and is expected to be re-affirmed by the Senate. The President and I are committed to seeing that our troops, retirees and their families will continue to receive the bet quality health care.”
On March 22, Senator Jim Webb, (D, Virginia), a highly decorated Marine and former Secretary of the Navy, introduced a bill that would explicitly state in law that TRICARE and the Department of Defense (DOD) nonappropriated fun (NAF) health plans meet the minimum essential coverage for individual health insurance required by the health care reform bill…” The TRICARE Affirmation Act would provide clarification by changing the tax code to state it in law. A companion bill has already passed the House of Representatives.
The military community is still keeping their fears about the future of TRICARE alive on the Internet. However, it looks as if key individuals of both political parties are involved with making sure there is legislation passed to ease those concerns.
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Senate veterans hearing shut down due to partisan obstruction
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing Wednesday, March 24 on VA’s plan to end veteran homelessness in the next five years. It is estimated more than 100,000 veterans – including at least 800 in Hawaii – are homeless in the United States on any given night.
The hearing ended abruptly at 11 a.m. after opponents of health insurance reform objected to allowing most committee hearings, including the Veterans’ Affairs hearing, to continue. Senate rules require unanimous consent on the Senate floor for committees to meet two hours after the Senate convenes. Objections to the routine procedure are extremely rare.
“The Senate should be a place for debate, but I cannot imagine how shutting down a hearing on helping homeless veterans has any part of the debate on the health insurance reform. I am deeply disappointed that my colleagues chose to hinder our common work to help end veteran homelessness,” Akaka said.
The hearing included witnesses from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as community providers who help homeless veterans, and a veteran in transitional housing.
Chairman Akaka was forced to gavel the hearing to an end in the middle of testimony from witness Dr. Sam Tsemberis from Pathways to Housing, a service provider with hands-on experience helping homeless veterans, particularly those with psychiatric disabilities and addiction disorders.
“With a growing commitment from Congress, the federal government, and community providers, we are on track to end veteran homelessness in five years. We must stay focused and work together to accomplish this important and ambitious goal,” Akaka said.
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New DoD Board Aims to Provide Uniform Disability Ratings
A new DoD board has been established to offer certain veterans an opportunity to appeal their service disability evaluation ratings.
At a meeting in the FHP&R offices in late February, Michael LoGrande, president of the DoD Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR), provided a group of military and veterans service organizations (MSO/VSO) with an overview of the new board, which was mandated by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
The PDBR offers a reassessment of service-assigned disability ratings to eligible veterans who apply. The PDBR uses the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities only, without any service-specific rules, which provides for a more uniform rating across all services.
About 77,000 veterans are eligible to apply to the board and appeal their original Physical Evaluation Board ratings. These include veterans who were medically separated from their service between Sept. 11, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2009 with a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less.
Although the PDBR is a DoD board, it is operated by the Air Force with representatives from all the Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard). Often the board’s recommendations result in higher disability ratings for veterans. “We’ve given the benefit of the doubt to the veteran applicant when it could go either way,” LoGrande said. “We gather their physical evaluation board documentation, service treatment records and any VA medical records. After a thorough review of all the documentation, the board convenes to re-adjudicate their case and make a recommendation to the appropriate service secretary.”
The service secretaries (or their designees) act as the final decision authority in determining the applicant’s overall disability rating.
About 800 veterans applied to the board in its first year, and that number is increasing daily. To date, the PDBR’s recommendations in 61 percent of the cases reviewed by the board have resulted in ratings which made applicants eligible for disability retirement. The Army and Air Force have adopted nearly 100 percent of the board’s recommendations, while the Navy has approved about 68 percent. LoGrande explained that the board’s review process is very thorough, and includes a doctor and two line officers. “The most prevalent conditions seen in the first six months have been disabilities due to PTSD, TBI, and back and musculoskeletal conditions,” he said.
Expressing concern, LoGrande said, “We currently have only six adjudicators and 77,000 potential applications.”
“This is not something that we as DoD can ignore,” LoGrande said. “It is mandated by Congress and we hope to get more resources and manpower to do this right.”
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DFAS Urges Retirees to Update myPay Accounts
If you have not updated your profile since the myPay security system was upgraded in November, accessing your pay records quickly may be difficult. Mypay users are encouraged to establish new login credentials, including personalized login IDs and passwords as soon as possible. With income tax deadlines looming, it is even more important to ensure you have access to your records. Avoid the last minute stress of missing tax documents by enrolling in myPay. With myPay you can log-on and access copies of your 1099R quickly and without the hold up of waiting for it to arrive via snail mail. Visit the DFAS website to establish your new login credentials, including personalized login IDs and passwords. Step-by-step instructions in both text and video are available at the myPay site and the DFAS website.
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Lawmakers Struggle to Find Medicare/TRICARE Rate Fix
Less than a week remains until the temporary moratorium expires on a 21.2 percent Medicare and TRICARE reimbursement rate cut and lawmakers are struggling to reach an agreement on legislation that will extend that deadline.
Several proposals are on the table including the Senate approved version of H.R. 4213, the Tax Extender Bill passed on March 10, which would delay these cuts through September and H.R. 4851, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, which would delay the scheduled April 1 cut for 30 days. While agreement is broad on avoiding the cuts, many in Congress disagree on the various methods found to date to offset the costs of avoiding the cut.
Thursday night, Senate leaders hammered out an agreement in principle on a fully paid, one-week extension, but House Democratic leaders rejected the shorter-term compromise. Today, the Senate is expected to take up S. 3135, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (same title as H.R. 4851), a fully funded bill that would extend the moratorium on Medicare and TRICARE rate cuts through the month of April. But the House has already adjourned, meaning any corrective action will have to be applied after the fact.
Failure to reach an agreement on an extension on the eve of the congressional two-week Easter recess could prove detrimental to TRICARE and Medicare beneficiaries even if Congress applied a retroactive solution when they return in mid-April. Doctors have become weary of the increasing number of short-term patches applied by Congress rather than a long-term solution. Some are already limiting the number of patients who use these programs and for military retirees. The end result could be decreased access, reduced quality, or higher costs to military retirees and their families for the benefits earned in career service.
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New Head Injury Evaluation Policy
Defense Department officials expect to launch a new policy in the coming months that will make head-injury evaluations mandatory for all service members who may have concussions. Under the new policy, every service member exposed to such an incident will be required to seek attention. Troops will be required to rest and will be excluded from their unit’s mission cycle for at least 24 hours. Line medics and Navy corpsmen can give the evaluation on the spot in about 10 to 15 minutes without troops having to be transported to a field hospital. For more information on traumatic brain injury, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury website and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center website.
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For more information: www.veterans-for-change.com
Jim Davis is the son of USMC MGySgt. Lesley Davis (Ret.) who passed away on April 24, 2006, from ALS caused by Agent Orange. His dad’s mission before he passed on was to ensure all veterans, spouses, children, and widows all received the benefits, medical care and attention, and proper facilities from the VA.
Because of the promise made to his dad to carry on the mission, in May 2006 Davis began as a one-man show sending out 535 letters every single week to all members of Congress requesting and politely demanding the fulfill their promises made over the past decades to care for life those who wore the uniform and their families.
Veterans-For-Change was born in August 2006 with a very small membership of 25 people composed of veterans, spouses, widows, family members, and friends and to date continues to grow.