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TREA Legislative Update for February 9, 2007

Washington is moving in full throttle. In the last week the President rolled out the Executive’s proposed budget for FY08 and the Democrats responded. There were numerous hearings on the proposed budget; debate on whether to debate the surge of troops in Iraq; meetings all over town on military health care and meetings on the Hill with Representatives and staffers to push TREA’s legislative goals for this year.

News from Washington Office:

1) DoD Health Care

2) The Proposed VA Budget

3) Meeting with Speaker Pelosi and the Majority Caucus

4) The American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial

5) Senate Confirms New Army Chief of Staff and New Chief of the US Central Command

Other News:

"Gathering of Eagles"

Shopping for Charity E-Mall

Make A Donation to TREA

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1) DoD Health Care-The Department of Defense has not yet formally rolled out its proposals for TRICARE this year, but it is clear when looking at the budgetary figures that they are once again proposing huge enrollment fee and co-pay increases in the TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Standard programs for Military retirees under the age of 65. They are also clearly proposing to increase the co-pays for all TRICARE Pharmacy beneficiaries, except active duty members. DoD will have the authority to make most of these changes by regulation changes on or after October 1, 2007, unless Congress takes away that authority. (That is what Congress did last year on these proposals.) Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX), along with Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), have introduced a HR579 to stop these proposals. It already has 65 co-sponsors. Please contact your House member and ask him or her to co-sponsor this crucial bill.

On Tuesday the Task Force on the Future Military Medicine held its second public hearing in Washington DC. They announced that they intend to hold public hearings around the country in the next few months. As soon as they decide where and when, we will post them here. Please keep an eye out. This is a very important Task Force. Their recommendations may have enormous effects on all members of the military community. It is very important that they hear from the grass root retirees.

After Major General Smith (retired), a Task Force member, reported to the full committee on a meeting he held with 12 Veterans and Military groups (including TREA’s Executive Director Deirdre Parke Holleman) they heard briefs from representatives of the building who explained the numerous TRICARE Contracts and the TRICARE Pharmacy. In his briefing RADM Thomas McGinnis, USPHS, the Chief of the TMA Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate suggested that they consider:

1 Making all 3rd tier Maintenance Drugs available only through the Mail Order Pharmacy

2 Fill selected 1st and 2nd tier maintenance medications at MTF and Mail Order

3 Revise co-pays

He suggested that Retail co-pays (up to 30 day prescriptions) be $5 for generics and $15 for Tier 2 Name Brand. Tier 3 would not be available in the Retail Pharmacies. He suggested that the Mail Order Co-Pays (up to 90 day prescriptions) would be $0 for Generic; $15 for Tier 2 Name Brand and Up to 20%25% for Tier 3 drugs. These ideas are serious and we must respond to them.

2) The Proposed VA Budget-On Monday, Secretary Jim Nicholson held a briefing for VSO and MSO representatives to roll out and explain the FY08 VA proposed budget. The budget requests a total of $84.4 billion for FY08. That is a 13.3% increase over the amount the President requested last year. (This amount includes $36.6 billion for health care including $3 billion.) It is expected that the VA will treat approximately 263,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY08. Unfortunately, the budget once again proposes an increase in drug prescription co-pays from $8 to $15. It also proposes an annual enrollment fee for Veterans presently enrolled in Priorities 7 and 8. This time the proposed fees are tiered based on family income:

Family Income:                    Annual Enrollment Fee

Under $50,000                      None

$50,000-$74,999                  $250

$75,000-$99,999                  $500

$100,000 and above            $750

Happily the VA did not include these proposals in their budget. Therefore, if we are once again successful in fighting these proposals there will not be an automatic financial shortfall in the VA.

I received an electronic copy of the VA’s proposed budget. If you wish me to send you a copy, please call the Washington office. (Remember this is a huge document and will take an enormous amount of space on your hard drive.)

3) Meeting with Speaker Pelosi and the Majority Caucus-On Wednesday, Speaker Pelosi and over 25 members of her caucus met in the Capitol with Representatives of many VSOs and MSOs (including TREA Executive Director and Legislative Director Deirdre Parke Holleman and Larry Madison) to discuss Veterans and Retirees. For over an hour we discussed sufficient funding for the VA and DoD, military health care, concurrent receipt, education benefits, the SBP/DIC offset and many other critical subjects. The Chairmen of the House Armed Services and VA Committees were there- along with all the Chairs of the VA Subcommittees and numerous new Democratic members of the House. We are extremely pleased that the Speaker is continuing these very important and useful meetings now that they are in the Majority.

4) The American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial-On Wednesday evening, January 31, HealthNet sponsored a Congressional Reception to support the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. The proposed memorial will be at the foot of Capitol Hill. The law authorizing the memorials creation was sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-AZ); former Senator Max Cleland (D-GA), and Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX) and John Murtha (D-PA). It is clearly a bi-partisan proposal. The location and designed have been approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. However, all the money to build and maintain the Memorial must come from private funds. On January 23, Representative Dennis Moore (D- KS) for himself and Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced HR634 directing the Treasury to mint a commemoration coin that could be sold to raise money for the Memorial. (It was the same as bills that had been introduced by former Representative Sue W. Kelly (R-NY) in the House and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) in the Senate during the last session of Congress) In a short time it already has 185 co-sponsors. If you are interested in supporting the building of this Memorial please ask your House member to co-sponsor HR 634. If you want more information or to make a contribution, please call 888-525-2009 or go to www.avdlm.com.

5) Senate Confirms New Army Chief of Staff and New Chief of the US Central Command- After a serious debate the Senate confirmed General George W. Casey, Jr. as the new Army Chief of Staff. Fourteen Senators voted against confirmation saying that the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq should be held accountable for the present problems there. The day before by voice vote the Senate approved the nomination of Admiral William J. Fallon to be the new chief of U.S. Central Command, the top commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Other News:

"Gathering of Eagles"

"A helpless sparrow can drift with the wind. It takes an "Eagle" to fly against the storm."   

March 17, 2007 at the Viet Nam Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C.

The anti-war/anti-America groups are planning a “march to the Pentagon” on March 17, 2007. This group cannot be allowed to use the Viet Nam Memorial Wall as a back-drop to their event and stain the hallowed ground that virtually cries out with blood.

Many are encouraging a ”Gathering of Eagles” (symbolic of our freedom) at the Viet Nam Memorial Wall on March 17, 2007, as a signal that a segment of America does not agree with the “anti-war/anti-America” rally on the same day.  

Based on the input received, here is what is suggested as a means to identify those of us attending/visiting the Viet Nam Memorial wall and other Memorials on March 17, 2007 opposing the anti-war distortions.

We need to remember all American’s are invited to support our effort which is intended as a defender of hallowed ground and intended as a non-violent protest.