VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY
January 24, 2014
1. Comprehensive Veterans Bill Needs Your Support:
VFW-supported legislation to expand and improve healthcare and benefits for all generations of veterans and their families was introduced by Senate VA Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). S. 1950, the "Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014," fulfills many VFW's priority goals, to include expanding family caregiver benefits, in-state tuition rates and the veterans retraining assistance program, and would provide advance appropriations for mandatory VA accounts so that disabled veterans, survivors and GI Bill recipients would continue to receive their monthly payments regardless of future government shutdowns. The bill would also repeal the 1 percent COLA penalty on working-age military retirees younger than age 62. VFW National Commander Bill Thien called it "The most comprehensive veterans' legislation to be introduced in decades," and is now urging all VFW members and advocates to contact their members of Congress to support S. 1950. To take action, click here: http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=63063196
. To read the VFW press release, go to http://www.vfw.org/News-and-Events/Articles/2014-Articles/VFW-Supports-Sanders-Bill/
2. VA Warns of Pension Poaching Scams:
The VA is warning everyone of potential pension poaching scams. Be cautious if someone offers to move your assets around in order for you to qualify for VA pension. This type of scam is often directed toward veterans and family members who "do not" actually qualify for VA pensions. Other examples:
•Organizations who cold-call veterans or survivors, charge money for assisting with a VA pension claim, and take credit card information from veterans over the telephone.
•People who charge as much as $6,000 upfront to represent claimants before VA, with a percentage of any eventual back payment from VA as a portion of the ultimate fee.
Please note that VFW's nationwide cadre of VA-accredited service officers assist all eligible veterans and survivors for free, and last year helped 125,000 veterans to recoup $3.7 billion in earned benefits. For more information about VA pension eligibility requirements, go to www.benefits.va.gov/pension
or call toll-free 1-800-827-1000. To download a pension poaching awareness postcard, go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/PENSION/PensionPoachingPostcard.pdf
3. TRICARE to Close 189 Walk-In Facilities: On April 1, TRICARE will close 189 walk-in facilities in the United States. The reasons giving are the majority of beneficiaries use the Internet or phone to make changes, and that closing the contractor-operated CONUS facilities would save $254 million over five years. The change does not affect TRICARE benefits or healthcare services, and overseas walk-in facilities will remain open. According to TRICARE officials, all of the administrative services that walk-in TSCs currently provide can be handled by TRICARE websites, mobile apps and toll-free phone centers. Beneficiaries can do the following on the TRICARE website:
◦Enroll in or purchase a plan
◦File a check or claim
◦View referrals and prior authorizations
◦Find a doctor
◦Change primary care managers
◦See what services and procedures are covered by their health plans
Read more at http://www.tricare.mil/Home/ContactUs/TSC.aspx.
4. New Service Members Mortgage Protections:
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has written new rules to protect service members and their families from serious financial challenges. According to the CFPB, more than a third of the complaints from military families are mortgage-related, including poor mortgage servicing, sloppy lender recordkeeping, and inconsistent foreclosure practices. Some of the changes being implemented will address the worst problems in the mortgage servicing industry, and provide new rights and protections to borrowers with an emphasis on military families. For more details about the new mortgage protection rules, click here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/servicemembers-you-have-new-mortgage-protections-in-2014/.
5. New Bergdahl Video Surfaces:
A new video surfaced this month showing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known American service member being held against his will. It is the sixth known video to show him in captivity after being captured in eastern Afghanistan by the Taliban on June 30, 2009. They initially demanded $1 million and the release of 21 Afghan prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. The Taliban later reduced their demand to five prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl. This is an extremely difficult situation for the U.S. Government. Bergdahl is being held in an unknown location by an enemy combatant who represents an ideology, not a country. Plus, the Taliban's offer for a prisoner swap goes against U.S. policy to not negotiate with terrorists. The VFW knows that pinning down his location and launching a successful rescue operation remains a top U.S. priority. We remain hopeful, and have communicated our support directly to the Bergdahl family.