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TREA Legislative Update for January 19, 2007

The first 100 hours in the House is continuing (that is 100 hours of legislative time that is focused on 6 legislative areas. That is why the 100 hours seems much longer than normal). This week the House passed its’ bill on legislative earmarks. The Senate passed a new ethics and lobbying bill. Jury selection started on the Scooter Libby trial. We are still working to introduce new bills in the House and Senate on our many issues. Mainly, this has been a week of Task Forces and Study Commissions meetings. Washington is starting to heat up again. 

1) First Public Meeting of the “DoD Task Force” on the Future of Military Health Care
2) Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission Meeting
3) Special Military Earnings Credit for Social Security
4) TRICARE Reserve Weekly Count 

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1) First Public Meeting of the “DoD Task Force” on the Future of Military Health Care-On Monday TREA attended the new Military Task Force’s first public meeting. This Task Force was created by Congress last year to look at all of Health Care-but with a special focus on the proposed increases in enrollment fees and co-pays for retirees under the age of 65 for TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard. It is also tasked to look at proposed co-pay increases in the TRICARE Pharmacy Program for beneficiaries (except active duty members). They are directed to have an interim report on those issues by May 31. This would be in time to affect this year’s DoD legislation. This is, therefore, a very important and dangerous Task Force. On Monday they heard from Dr. David S.C. Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr. the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; John L. Kokulis, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; and Allen W. Middleton, (Acting) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. All four men explained why their plan last year was a good idea. This Task Force is expected to meet in Washington DC and throughout the country as often as every two weeks. (The next public meeting is set for DC on February 6, 2007). We will be watching its work very closely in the Capital, but it is important for all TREA members in the field to keep alert. They will have a web page where all the submitted papers, slides and a transcript of the meeting will be posted. Watch future updates to find the noted web page and other information.

2) Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission Meeting-On Thursday and Friday, I attended the Veterans’ Disability Commission’s latest 2-day public meeting. Among the many important issues, they heard testimony concerning proposed issue papers on the questions of: LINE OF DUTY, CONCURRENT RECEIPT, and CHARACTER OF DISCHARGE. Many of us VSOs coordinated testimony on these issues. At their next public meeting on February 21-23 they will take up several more important issues including: “SURVIVORS CONCURRENT RECEIPT” the SBP/DIC OFFSET, and PROPOSED TIME LIMITS FOR FILING VA DISABILITY CLAIMS”. We will be speaking on these issues as well. The proposed papers are going to be posted on the Commission’s web page. It is located at http://www.vetscommission.org. They are not yet there. Members of the public can submit written comments or present them in person on the days of the meetings. Directions on how to submit your comments are also available on the website.  

3) Special Military Earnings Credit for Social Security-If you served in the active duty military before January 2001 you can get up to $1200 a year earnings credit for the years you served. When you apply for Social Security bring your DD-214 to your local Social Security Office. You only get this benefit if you ask for it. To read more, go to the Social Security Website at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/military.htm. You do not need to be a retiree to qualify for this benefit, so please tell you friends, neighbors etc.

4) TRICARE Reserve Weekly Count-As of January 12, 2007 there are:
Tier 1 plans: 11,103
Tier 2 plans: 647
Tier 3 plans: 49
Total current TRS plans: 11,799
Total current TRS beneficiaries: 34,05