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TREA Legislative Update for February 16, 2007

1) Senate Passes Final FY07 Appropriations Bill

2) Roll Out of Lautenberg/Hagel TRICARE Bill

3) New “Total Force GI Bill” Proposed

4) VA Announces New “State Benefits Seamless Transition Program”

Other News:

The Human Valentine is Sent to the Troops

New Pin For Retired Soldiers

Gathering of Eagles

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1) Senate Passes Final FY07 Appropriations Bill-Without much fanfare, or even notice, on Wednesday the Senate passed a $468 billion spending bill that closes up last year’s budget. The bill puts together the remaining 9 spending bills from the ‘07 budget. President Bush has signaled that he will sign it, although it does not include the $3 billion he asked for to finance the BRAC program. Most federal agencies and departments are frozen at the 2006 budget levels, but the VA’s health care budget received a 13% increase. Even before this was passed the 2008 appropriation cycle has begun. More information on this will be available in the future.

2) Roll Out of Lautenberg/Hagel TRICARE Bill-This week Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) held a press conference to announce the roll out of their bill “Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act” This bill (which does not yet have a number would stop DoD from enacting its proposed increases in enrollment fees and co-payments for military retirees, their families and survivors under the age of 65 in TRICARE Prime and Standard. It would also stop the proposed increases in the TRICARE Pharmacy Plan for all TRICARE Beneficiaries, except active duty members. The bill differs in many ways from Representative Edwards’ HR 579 in the House bill. This bill would limit any co-pay, deductible and fee increases to no more than the percentage of the most recent retired pay increase. TREA’s Executive Director Deirdre Parke Holleman attended the Press conference. While the bill itself is not yet on Thomas, if you would like a copy, please e-mail me at dholleman@treadc.org and I will be happy to send it on to you.

3) New “Total Force GI Bill” Proposed-On Thursday a bi-partisan group of Senators and Congressmen unveiled companion bills to “make adequate and equitable benefits for the Guard and Reserve components of our Armed Forces. The bills are sponsored in the Senate by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and original co-sponsor Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and in the House by Representative Vic Snyder (R-AR) and original co-sponsors Representatives John Boozman (R-AR), Stephanie Herseth (D-SD) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). The bills would consolidate the Active Duty and the Selected Reserve MGIB programs under one title of the Federal Code and under the single authority of the Veterans Affairs Committees in Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It would ensure that the Selected Reserve MGIB benefits would rise proportionality with Active Duty MGIB rate increases. It would grant a 10-year portability for Reserve Educational Assistance Programs. (At the present time all educational benefits that a Selected Reserve member earns on activated duty must be forfeited if they separate from service. And finally it would provide a month per month Active Duty rate for mobilized members. The Press Conference was attended by members of the Partnership of Veterans’ Education” including TREA. Again since this just happened, there are no bill numbers assigned yet. We will publish them as soon as possible.

4) VA announces new “State Benefits Seamless Transition Program”-After a four-month pilot program the VA has established a new program to help severely injured service members receive their state benefits. The new collaborative outreach program that will cover all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories. When Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs announced the program he said: “This initiative is a promising extension of VA's own transition assistance for those leaving military service. It is also an opportunity to partner with the states to make long-term support possible for our most deserving veterans throughout the country.” The program will have VA personnel presently located at 10 DoD medical facilities contacting state veterans affairs offices in the states where the service member is going to be transferred. The state offices will then contact the member directly to inform them about the benefits the state provides.

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Other News:

The Human Valentine is Sent to the Troops
Denver, CO – Over 1000 people braved the 10 degree temperatures to create “The Human Valentine” at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. The idea was created by the morning show of a local radio station, KYGO. Country star Darryl Worley started off the event by singing the National Anthem. It is hoped that the Valentine is sent around the world to all the troops currently serving as a way to say “Thank you for your service.” Several veterans, spouses and parents participated in the event.
Human Valentine

New Pin for Retired Soldiers
The Army has created a new pin for retired Soldiers to emphasize their lifelong bond with the Army. The pin combines the Army logo with the word "retired" emblazoned above. The new larger pin can be seen from afar and can be worn on clothing other than a suit jacket. Over the next few months, a packet containing the new pin will be mailed to all retired Soldiers. It will also include a letter underlining the unending commitment between the Army and its retired Soldiers. Completing the packet will be news on the Army Strong theme and the recently increased recruiting referral bonus. It will be sent to the correspondence address on file at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's Retired Pay Center. It will take over four months for everyone to get their pin. The goal is to have all pins in the mail by late spring.  Be looking for your special mailing.

Gathering of Eagles
1000 Hours, March 17, 2007
Viet Nam Memorial Wall
Washington, D.C.
www.gatheringofeagles.org