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TREA Legislative Update for January 25, 2007

This week work in Washington began in earnest. The President gave his State of the Union Address and members of the new Congressional Majority Democrats reacted to it. The Scooter Libby trial began. Lt. General David H. Petraeus appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for confirmation as a four star and Commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq. And this is all before the President sends up his proposed budget.

1) New Proposals Concerning TRICARE Costs Being Prepared
2) National Purple Heart Roll of Honor
3) Ken Burn’s THE WAR
4) Social Security and Military Service (Part II)

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1) New Proposals Concerning TRICARE Costs Being Prepared-It seems clear that DoD is going to include last year’s TRICARE fee plan proposal in the President’s 2008 Budget proposal. They may ask for more. As you remember their proposal last year included increased enrollment fees and deductibles and co-pays in TRICARE Prime for retirees under the age of 65 and creating an enrollment requirement and fee and increased co-pays and deductibles for TRICARE Standard for the same group of retirees. The new costs would be linked to a three tier scheduled based on rank at retirement. After 2 years of catch-up since 1996 the fees would raise annually based on the Federal Civilian Health Care Program (FEHBP). DoD personnel are talking about further proposed increases in the amounts that beneficiaries may pay. They are saying that a "re-balancing" must take place. This is something that all TREA members should watch closely and be ready to contact their representatives quickly.

2) National Purple Heart Roll of Honor-In November 2006 the National Order of the Purple Heart opened their National Museum and Roll of Honor in Vails Gate, New York. They are creating a data base and Roll of Honor of Purple Heart Recipients. If you are someone you know is a recipient please either call them at 845-561-1765 or go to www.thepurpleheart.com and get the info in the FAQ section as to what is needed for enrollment.

3) Ken Burn’s THE WAR-In September PBS will show a 14-½ hour series on the Second World War. The series has been created by Ken Burns the produced and director of PBS’s renowned series The Civil War. On Monday the VA hosted a showing of clips of the show and a question and answer session with Mr. Burns and his producing partner Lynn Novick. TREA members and staff were invited to the event. It looks like it is going to be another inspiring production. Keep your eyes open for its premier. This is something all Americans should be interested in seeing.

4) Social Security and Military Service (Part II)- Below is the fact sheet from Social Security that should help you get all the credits for which you are entitled.

Military Service And Social Security - 2007

Earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Social Security has covered inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988. If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but we gave you special credit for some of your service.

While you are in military service, you pay Social Security taxes just as civilian employees do. In 2007, the tax rate is 7.65 percent, up to a maximum of $97,500. If you earn more, you continue to pay the Medicare portion of the tax (1.45 percent) on the rest of your earnings.

To qualify for benefits, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain length of time. In 2007, you will receive four credits if you earn at least $4,000. The amount needed to get credit for your work goes up each year. The number of credits you need to quality for Social Security benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit for which you are eligible. No one needs more than 10 years of work.

Your Social Security benefit depends on your earnings, averaged over your working lifetime. Generally, the higher your earnings, the higher your Social Security benefit. Under certain circumstances, special earnings can be credited to your military pay record for Social Security purposes. The extra earnings are for periods of active duty or active duty for training. These extra earnings may help you qualify for Social Security or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit. Social Security will add these extra earnings to your earnings record when you file for benefits.

If you served in the military from 1940 through 1956, including attendance at a service academy, you did not pay Social Security taxes. However, we will credit you with $160 a month in earnings for military service from September 16, 1940, through December 31, 1956, if:• You were honorably discharged after 90 or more days of service, or you were released because of a disability or injury received in the line of duty; or • You are applying for survivors benefits based on a veteran’s work and the veteran died while on active duty. You cannot receive these special credits if you are receiving a federal benefit based on the same years of service, unless you were on active duty after 1956. If you were on active duty after 1956, you can get the special credit for 1951 through 1956, even if you are receiving a military retirement based on service during that period.

If you served in the military from 1957 through 1977, you are credited with $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.

If you served in the military from 1978 through 2001, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings, up to a maxi-mum of $1,200 a year, for every $300 in active duty basic pay. After 2001, additional earnings are no longer credited. If you began your service after September 7, 1980, and did not complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with us for more information.

NOTE: In all cases, the additional earnings are credited to the earnings that we average over your working lifetime, not directly to your monthly benefit amount.

In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security pays survivors benefits to your family when you die. You also can get Social Security benefits for you and your family if you become disabled. For more information about these benefits, ask us for Understanding The Benefits (Publication No. 05-10024).When you apply for Social Security benefits, you will be asked for proof of your military service (DD Form 214) or information about your reserve or National Guard service.

If you have health care insurance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or under the TRICARE or CHAMPVA program, your health benefits may change or end when you become eligible for Medicare. You should contact the VA, the Department of Defense or a military health benefits advisor for more information.

You can retire as early as age 62. But, if you do, your Social Security benefits will be reduced permanently. If you decide to apply for benefits before your full retirement age, you can work and still get some Social Security benefits. There are limits on how much you can earn without losing some or all of your retirement benefits. These limits change each year. When you apply for ben-efits, we will tell you what the limits are at that time and whether work will affect your monthly benefits. When you reach your full retirement age, you can earn as much as you are able and still get all of your Social Security benefits. The full retirement age in 2007 is 65 and 10 months, but it will gradually increase until it reaches age 67 for people born in 1960 and later. To help you decide the best time to retire, contact us for Retirement Benefits (Publication No. 05-10035).

For more information and to find copies of our publications, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call toll-free, 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. We treat all calls confidentially. We also want to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some telephone calls.