CLARK AFB VET CEMETERY UPDATE: While trying to get ready to leave town the Senate on 21 DEC unanimously approved New Hampshire’s Republicans Senator Kelly Ayotte’s S.2320 legislation that would restore the Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippians and transfer its operation and maintenance to the American Battle Monuments Commission. The original co-sponsor was Senator Mark Begich (D-AK). The cemetery is the final resting place for over 8,300 American servicemembers and their families. Clark Air Force Base was abandoned after 1991 when a volcanic explosion covered the base on which the cemetery was located with ash. Subsequently it was overgrown with weeds. Since 1994 volunteers have tried to maintain the cemetery without help from the U.S. government. Senator Ayotte said: The U.S. government has a moral responsibility to care for veterans cemeteries that honor those who have bravely served our country. The American veterans buried in Clark Veterans Cemetery deserve a dignified and well-maintained final resting place, and it’s time for the U.S. to again fulfill its responsibility to care for this sacred ground.” The bill still has to clear the House, which is expected to pass the bill and send it to the President for signature into law. [Source: TREA News for the Enlisted 21 Dec 2012]
VA HEPATITIS C TREATMENT UPDATE: The Food and Drug Administration is warning patients receiving treatment for hepatitis C with a triple drug regimen using Incevik, or telepriver, to be aware of a potentially dangerous, even fatal skin reaction. The FDA on 20 DEC announced it has altered Incevik’s label to include stronger warnings after some patients died from complications after developing a serious rash while taking Incevik along with two other medications for hepatitis C. More than 2,700 active duty service members were diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C between 2000 and 2010, according to Pentagon data. The Veterans Health Administration system has 170,000 patients with chronic hepatitis C, and more than 4,800 VA patients are receiving some kind of combination drug therapy for Hepatitis C. Officials urge anyone who takes Incevik and develops a rash that doesn’t improve or gets worse after two to three days, or who develops a fever, nausea, inflamed eyes, mouth sores or facial swelling, to seek immediate care.
According to an FDA release, at least two people worldwide have died from complications of the severe skin reactions, andsince May 2011, the FDA has received 112 reports of dangerous skin conditions on Incevik treatment.
Incevik and another medication, Victrelis, were introduced in 2011 to treat hepatitis C, a previously difficult-to-cure infectious disease, in combination with other drugs. Incevik is manufactured by Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Victrelis is made by Merck. Both regimens cost upward of $70,000 for treatment, which takes about a year and has a 75 percent cure rate. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 5.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, with baby boomers making up at least 2 million cases. [Source: Digitalgroup.info | Health | 20 Dec 2012]
SAVE OUR BENEFIT: Commissary and exchange benefits continue to be the target for budget cutters. Repeated attacks on the military resale benefit threaten to eliminate the taxpayer subsidy for commissaries, consolidate the commissary and exchange systems, and raise prices. Some members of Congress propose giving active duty service members a $400 cash allowance in lieu of the benefit - retirees, Medal of Honor winners, and survivors would get nothing. This would impact adversely on the millions of service members and their families who rely on commissaries and exchanges to stretch their household budgets. Under the present system the average military family of four can save $7,000 a year. In remote and overseas locations, it is often the only affordable shopping opportunity available. In metropolitan areas, where prices are consistently higher, commissaries and exchanges help keep prices affordable. For some junior enlisted military families and fixed income retirees, savings are the difference between making ends meet and filing for public assistance.
The commissary and exchange benefit continues to rank as one of the most important benefits for military families and is stronger today than ever. While the cost of other federal defense programs have doubled or even tripled in the past five years, the cost of commissary programs have remained constant and are a bargain for the taxpayer. However, if the taxpayer subsidy for commissaries and exchanges is eliminated, to compensate for the loss of funding, commissaries and exchanges would have to raise prices and cut services which could lead to a collapse of the military resale system. Military families and the Nation cannot afford for this to happen. The military resale system is too important of a benefit to lose. Last year it saved military families $5.6 billion and contributed billions of dollars to the military communities they support. The military resale system also employs 100,000 working Americans, is the largest employer of military families in the world and the leading employer of veterans in the Nation.
In MAR 2012 a coalition of military families, advocacy groups and American industry called Save Our Benefit formed to preserve shopping privileges on military bases. They applied for and were approved as a non-profit organization under the name ‘The Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits”. Their mission is to preserve and strengthen a 150-year-old benefit that provides thousands of dollars in annual savings on household necessities, billions of dollars in added employment income for military families and underwrites other billions of dollars in vital on-base community programs and facilities. Their purpose is to provide advocacy and support for military resale programs, which contribute more than a trillion dollars to our economy. Several misguided proposals put forth during the budget debate have called for radical restructuring and diminishment of these benefits under the false notion of saving taxpayer dollars. The Coalition aims to ensure that nothing happens to destroy these benefits and to educate key policy makers about the consequences of moving forward with these proposals.
Touting the significant household savings that commissaries and exchanges bring to military families, the Coalition aims to take a series of measures to insulate from budget reductions what is considered the most efficient and effective benefit provided to military people. For example, over the past five years, costs of commissary programs have remained constant, while the cost of most other Defense programs has doubled and tripled. In order to boost these savings even further, the Coalition aims to ensure that all eligible patrons know they can save 20 to 50 percent by using their benefit. As sales increase and a broader shopping base establishes, prices will be continually driven down, giving military patrons an even greater incentive to utilize their local commissaries and exchanges.
The Coalition brings together military members, partner associations, business and community leaders, and the public to support the continued funding and operation of military commissaries and exchanges. They provide information on the operation of the resale system, improve business conditions, and serve as a focal point to address the mounting threats against this critical military benefit. You can join the Coalition at http://saveourbenefit.org/register.html to receive the latest news, alerts, best deals, promotional events and take action on timely issues that impact the availability of this benefit for all those who are serving our nation. There are no fees or obligations associated with joining. [Source: http://saveourbenefit.org Dec 2012]
VA ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION REPORT (EVR): The Department of Veterans Affairs announced 20 DEC it is cutting red tape for Veterans by eliminating the need for them to complete an annual Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). VA will implement a new process for confirming eligibility for benefits, and staff that had been responsible for processing the old form will instead focus on eliminating the compensation claims backlog. Historically, beneficiaries have been required to complete an EVR each year to ensure their pension benefits continued. Under the new initiative, VA will work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify continued eligibility for pension benefits. “By working together, we have cut red tape for Veterans and will help ensure these brave men and women get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. VA estimates it would have sent nearly 150,000 EVRs to beneficiaries in January 2013. Eliminating these annual reports reduces the burden on Veterans, their families, and survivors because they will not have to return these routine reports to VA each year in order to avoid suspension of benefits. It also allows VA to redirect more than 100 employees that usually process EVRs to work on eliminating the claims backlog.
“Having already instituted an expedited process that enables wounded warriors to quickly access Social Security disability benefits, we are proud to work with our federal partners on an automated process that will make it much easier for qualified Veterans to maintain their VA benefits from year to year,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The IRS is taking new steps to provide critical data to help speed the benefits process for the nation’s Veterans and Veterans Affairs,” said Beth Tucker, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support. “The IRS is pleased to be part of a partnership with VA and SSA that will provide needed data quickly and effectively to move this effort forward.” All beneficiaries currently receiving VA pension benefits will receive a letter from VA explaining these changes and providing instructions on how to continue to submit their unreimbursed medical expenses. More information about VA pension benefits is available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension and other VA benefit programs on the joint Department of Defense—VA web portal eBenefits at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov. [Source: VA News Release 20 Dec 2012]
DFAS MYPAY SYSTEM UPDATE: New myPay Password Reset Process. Beginning in mid-December, Defense Finance and Accounting Service customers will be able to reset their myPay passwords online by answering a few security questions. Before this new feature, myPay users received new passwords by email or mail. After logging in to their accounts in mid-December, users will be given a list of 17 possible security questions to answer. Users need to answer eight of those 17 questions to set up their online password reset capability. In the spring of 2013, however, all myPay users, including those who use Army Knowledge Online, the Air Force Portal and smart cards, will be required to answer eight security questions. Until then, those who choose to bypass the questions will not be able to reset their passwords online until they have answered the questions. For more information, contact the DFAS Customer Care Center at 888-332-7411 (Source: Military.com Week of 10 Dec 2012]
DFAS DIRECT DEPOSIT UPDATE: The Department of the Treasury has announced that all payments from the federal government must be made electronically and not by paper check beginning March 1, 2013. This means most military retirees and annuitants receiving paper checks will be required to sign up for direct deposit. This will save the American taxpayers about $120 million every year. Each check costs $1.04 while each electronic payment only costs 8 cents. With direct deposit, DFAS sends your payment straight to your bank account. Direct deposit gives you immediate access to your money on pay day, and it eliminates the risk of lost or stolen checks, forged signatures and identity theft. There are three ways to start direct deposit. Before you enroll, you’ll need to gather information including your financial institution’s routing transit number and account number. Then do one of the following:
• Send a signed Fast Start Direct Deposit Form available at http://www.fms.treas.gov/eft/2231.pdf to Defense Finance and Accounting Service, U.S. Military Retired Pay, P.O. Box 7130, London, KY 40742-7130;
• Use your myPay account at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx to set up a direct deposit to your checking or savings account; or
• Call the DFAS Retired and Annuitant Pay Customer Care Center at 800-321-1080.
Don’t have a bank account? Find a bank or credit union in your area that is reputable and provides the services you need at little or no cost. And make sure they offer FDIC coverage of your account and accept direct deposit. Military members or civilian employees paid by DFAS should contact their base finance office, employer’s Customer Service Representative (payroll liaison) or human resources office to start direct deposit if they’re unable to access myPay. Those needing additional assistance can call DFAS customer service at 1-800-321-1080 (for retirees and annuitants) or 1-888-332-7411 (for military and civilian employees). It can take 30 to 60 days from the day we receive your enrollment for direct deposit to start. If after enrolling you receive a paper check, cash or deposit it as you normally would. DFAS will send you a notification when we process your enrollment. [Source: DFAS Newsletter 19 Dec 2012]
FLAGS: The American Legion Post 70 has on hand American flags, all of the military service flags, POW/MIA flags, and SC State flags. Contact a member of Post 70 to purchase flags; the cost is $5.00
AMERICAN LEGION POST 70 - Meeting at 1800 on the 3rd Tue of the month. For more info please contact Thomas Crisp at 940-2793.
AMERICAN LEGION POST 24, of Newberry, meeting is on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 1830. The AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY – UNIT 24 meet the same day at 3 p.m. at Post 24