 Congress Looking at Changes to Military Retirement

Congress is considering changing, for the first time in decades, the way service members get retirement pay.
Military retirement now carries an all-or-nothing pension plan that requires a minimum of 20 years of service. The new plan would cut those pensions to 40 percent of pay from 50 percent, and create a matched 401(k)-style plan open to all service members.
The new retirement rules would affect all troops enlisting after the new plan is put in place in October 2017, Military Times reported. Troops already in the ranks could opt into the new plan or stick with the current “cliff vesting” system, it said
The plan is still at the subcommittee level in both the U.S. House and Senate.

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 DoD rejects Tricare reform, does not oppose military retirement changes:

The Pentagon for the first time has offered a detailed response to a slate of proposed military pay and benefits reforms, flatly rejecting the idea of overhauling the military health care system but giving a cautious green light to fundamentally changing military retirement benefits.
After a three-month review, the Defense Department bluntly dismissed the controversial idea of scrapping the Tricare health system in its current form and instead providing military dependents with private-sector health insurance similar to federal civilian employee benefits.
On the issue of military retirement, DoD “generally agrees there are merits to a blended retirement” system that would shrink the size of the current pension but create 401(k)-style investment accounts that would for the first time provide a retirement benefit to troops who serve less than 20 years, according to a Pentagon memo obtained by Military Times.

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Message from Secretary McDonald

The Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion, No FEAR, and Whistleblower Rights and Protection Policy Statement
As Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I am committed to providing our Veterans the world-class benefits and services they have earned.  Accordingly, it is critical that all of us at VA reaffirm our commitment to our Mission and our Core Values – Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.  Our commitment to serving our Veterans must be steadfast and unwavering.  Likewise, our commitment and obligation to proactively prevent unlawful discrimination, harassment, and reprisal must be clear, convincing, comprehensive, and consistent.  As such, I am committed to a VA workforce that draws from all segments of American society and that ensures every VA employee has the opportunity and access to fully contribute to VA’s important mission of serving our Nation’s Veterans.
This Policy Statement reaffirms our commitment to a fair, equitable, and open work environment, and guides us in promoting healthy relationships with a diverse, cooperative, supportive, and engaged workforce.  I believe each of us must adhere to the highest standards of accountability, commitment, compassion, professionalism, and stewardship.  To that end, we must all champion the principles of MyVA as a means of orienting our workforce to being employee-led and Veteran-centric.  We all have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of our Nation’s Veterans by promoting and sustaining the Department’s mission and vision.
Executives, managers, and supervisors bear a unique responsibility to comply with and ensure the policies and processes outlined in the Policy Statement, which is available at http://www.diversity.va.gov/policy/statement.aspx, are given the widest dissemination and fullest measure of execution and implementation.
Thank you for your commitment, dedication, and hard work to this noble cause.
Robert A. McDonald
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New VA Medical Advisory Group

Group of Respected Medical Experts to Advise VA on Health Care for 9 Million Veterans
Special Medical Advisory Group Led by Dr. Jonathan Perlin of Hospital Corporation of America
           WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a new
11-member Special Medical Advisory Group (SMAG) composed of leading medical experts to assist the Department in delivering health care to the 9 million Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration.
The SMAG is a reconstituted federally-chartered committee that advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, through the Under Secretary for Health, on matters related to health care delivery, research, education, training of health care staff and planning on shared care issues facing VA and the Department of Defense.
“We want the best of the best to work on behalf of our nation’s Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “We are honored these respected leaders from the private, non-profit and government sectors have agreed to join in our mission improve how we provide the quality health care our nation’s Veterans need and deserve.”
The appointment of the new members of the SMAG comes at a time when VA is experiencing increased demand for its health care services. Nationally, VA completed more than 51 million appointments between May 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015. This represents an increase of 2.4 million more completed appointments than during the same time period in 2013-2014. In March 2015, VA completed 97 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veteran’s preferred date.
Serving as SMAG Committee Chair is Dr. Jonathan Perlin, who previously served as VA Under Secretary for Health from 2004-2006. Dr. Perlin is currently Chief Medical Officer and President of Clinical Services for the Nashville, Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).  In this capacity, Dr. Perlin provides leadership for clinical services and improving performance for HCA’s 166 hospitals and more than 800 outpatient centers and physician practices. Recognized perennially as one of the most influential physician executives in the United States by Modern Healthcare, Dr. Perlin is a recipient of numerous awards.
Other Committee members: 
·         Karen S. Guice, MD, M.P.P.
Dr. Guice serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and Principal Deputy Director, TRICARE Management Activity. In these two roles, Dr. Guice assists in the development of strategies and priorities to achieve the health mission of the Military Health System (MHS), and participates fully in formulating, developing, overseeing and advocating the policies of the Secretary of Defense. The Office of Health Affairs is responsible for providing a cost effective, quality health benefit to 9.6 million active duty uniformed Service Members, retirees, survivors and their families. The MHS has a $50 billion annual budget and consists of a worldwide network of 59 military hospitals, 360 health clinics, private-sector health business partners, and the Uniformed Services University.
·         Joy Ilem, Deputy National Legislative Director, DAV
Ms. Ilem, a U.S. Army service-connected disabled Veteran, was named Deputy National Legislative Director of the of the 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans (DAV), in June 2009. In this capacity, Ms. Ilem directs the advancement of DAV’s public policy objectives.
·         Thomas Lee, MD
Dr. Lee serves as Chief Medical Officer for Press Ganey, which advises and consults with healthcare businesses to help identify the best practices for the organization and the patient. Dr. Lee joined Press Ganey in 2013, bringing more than three decades of experience in health care performance improvement as a practicing physician, a leader in provider organizations, researcher and health policy expert. As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lee is responsible for developing clinical and operational strategies to help providers across the nation measure and improve the patient experience, with an overarching goal of reducing the suffering of patients as they undergo care and improving the value of that care. In addition to his role with Press Ganey, Dr. Lee is an internist and cardiologist, and continues to practice primary care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
·         Ralph Snyderman, MD
Dr. Snyderman is former president and CEO of the Duke University Health System and director of Duke’s Center for Research on Personalized Health Care. He currently serves as Chancellor Emeritus for the Duke University Department of Medicine. He is former Chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
·         Jennifer Daley, MD
Dr. Daley is a Senior Adviser for the consulting firm, Cambridge Management Group. She is nationally recognized for her expertise in operational improvement, patient safety, quality and service excellence. Dr. Daley is a past recipient of a U.S. Naval Academy‑Harvard Business Review Ethical Leadership Award in July 2007.
·         James Henry Martin, MD
Dr. Martin has been practicing emergency medicine and primary care medicine in the Chicago area since 1978 and is currently on the medical staffs of Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, North Chicago; and Metro South Medical Center, Blue Island, IL. He has extensive clinical research experience in the area of nasal insulin studies. Dr. Martin is currently developing a nasal mupirocin spray foam to eradicate nasal MRSA, and a nasal foam medication formulation. He has had 14 US patents issued and over 40 foreign patents issued, including a patent in 2014 covering the formulation above.
·         Melvin Shipp, OD, MPH, DrPH         
Dr. Shipp serves as Dean Emeritus, College of Optometry for The Ohio State University. He has served as a consultant, panelist and reviewer for several federal institutions –notably, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration and in several capacities with the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Shipp also has assumed leadership and membership roles within a variety of non-federal, national health-related organizations. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and a Diplomate and former Chair of the Public Health and Environmental Optometry Section. Dr. Shipp is only the second optometrist to receive the DrPH degree; he is the first to do so through the highly competitive Pew Health Policy Doctoral Fellowship Program at the University of Michigan.
·         James Weinstein, DO, MD 
Dr. Weinstein serves as Chief Executive Officer and President of Dartmouth Hitchcock, a nonprofit academic health system that serves a patient population of 1.2 million in New England. Anchored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, the system includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center; the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock; affiliate hospitals in New London, NH, and Windsor, VT; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. Under Dr. Weinstein’s leadership, Dartmouth-Hitchcock is working to create a “sustainable health system” for patients, providers, payers and communities. Dr. Weinstein also is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. He serves on the IOM Committee on advising the Social Security Administration on Disability. Most recently, Dr. Weinstein was one of four members appointed to the IOM Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice.
·         Deborah Trautman, PhD, RN
Ms. Trautman is Chief Executive Officer for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), a role she assumed in 2014. At AACN, she oversees strategic initiatives, signature programming and advocacy efforts led by the organization known as the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education. She has authored and coauthored publications on health policy, intimate partner violence, pain management, clinical competency, change management, cardiopulmonary bypass, the use of music in the emergency department and consolidating emergency services.
·         Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, President and CEO, America’s Essential Hospitals
Dr. Siegel serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of America’s Essential Hospitals (formerly the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems). Dr. Siegel has an extensive background in health care management, policy and public health. Before joining NAPH, he served as Director of the Center for Health Care Quality and Professor of Health Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. He also previously served as President and CEO of two NAPH members: Tampa General Healthcare and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. In addition, Dr. Siegel has served as Commissioner of Health of the State of New Jersey. Among many accomplishments, Dr. Siegel has led groundbreaking work on quality and equity for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as well as projects for the Commonwealth Fund, the California Endowment and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. He also was ranked as one of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives” and one of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” in 2011 by Modern Healthcare. Currently, he chairs the National Advisory Council for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The announcement of the Special Medical Advisory Group follows the introduction of the Veterans Health Administration’s “Blueprint for Excellence,” which lays out strategies for transformation to improve the performance of VA health care now —making it more Veteran-centric by putting Veterans in control of their VA experience.
The SMAG Committee is scheduled to conduct its first meeting on May 13, 2015.  More information about SMAG may be found at www.va.gov/ADVISORY/SMAG.asp.
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 Senate Votes to Expand Veterans’ Access to Private Care:

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation instructing the Veterans Affairs Department to allow veterans living within 40 miles of a VA facility to get non-VA care if the department hospital or clinic cannot provide the service.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, filed the bill as an amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution, Moran spokeswoman Garrette Tuner said. The vote was 100-0. Turner said that Moran’s amendment will ensure VA administers the Choice Act “as Congress intended.” It calls on the VA to provide veterans access to non-VA health care when the nearest VA medical facility within 40 miles drive time is incapable of offering the care the veteran seeks, she said.

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 Run For The Wall – May 13 – 23, 2015:

The mission statement for this run is “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families; to call for an accounting of POW/MIA’s; honor the memory of those killed in action and to support our military personnel all over the world.
These riders start in California and during their journey to Washington, DC they visit VA medical centers, Veterans’ Memorials, Veterans’ Outreach Facilities, and schools along the 3 routes.
They also participate in Rolling Thunder in support of their demand for government accountability for POW/MIA’s.
As of April 1, 2015 there are 208 registered motorcycle riders who will be on the route riding through Oklahoma and we need to show our support for these riders as they pass.
We should recognize DAV chapter 54 in Shawnee for meeting the riders in Shawnee and showing their support.

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 VA Aid & Attendance Update:

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is proposing new rules on who can get monthly Aid & Attendance benefits. The VA feels the rules are needed to prevent people from “gaming” the system by giving away assets and then applying for aid. However, The Aid & Attendance benefit provides money to needy veterans and surviving spouses who require daily assistance for necessary activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. For now, if a veteran or surviving spouse has less than $80,000 in assets — not including a house or car — and that veteran has a high deductible medical expenses that net out his/her income, they may qualify. A single veteran’s maximum monthly benefit is $1,788, and a surviving spouse’s is $1,149, tax -free. The proposed rules would establish a new combined net worth and income limit of $ 119,220, impose a 36-month look- back period on asset transfers (like Medicaid’s Congressionally -mandated five-year look- back period), and a penalty period of up to 10 years related to gifts.

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 VA Vet Choice Program Update:

The Veterans Affairs Department has asked for new legislation that would let it pay for private health care for veterans who live near a VA clinic but can’t get the treatment they need because it’s not offered at that location. VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee 24 MAR that vets are “frustrated” with the VA Choice program, particularly the requirement that measures eligibility by a veteran’s proximity to any VA health facility
even those that are not full-service medical centers. Gibson said many veterans are excluded from the program because of this provision in the law and few have applied or waivers to the rules. “Many veterans are frustrated with the Choice program,” Gibson said. “Such confusion leads to lower use of Choice.”
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson acknowledged that veterans are frustrated with the Veterans Choice program, but said VA is intent on fixing the issues that have cropped up with the new initiative.

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H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act.

This bill would end the unfair policy of forcing many military longevity retirees to forfeit some of their retired pay in order to receive equal amounts of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The effect of this policy means military retirees are paying for their own disability with their military retired pay. This unfair policy has adversely impacted disabled veterans and their families for more than a century, but was partially repealed by Congress in 2004. Under current law disabled veterans with 20-plus years of active military service who are also in receipt of a VA disability determination of 50 percent or higher may retain both military retirement pay and their VA compensation.

In line with DAV resolution 014, H.R. 303 would end the longstanding and unfair practice of the government’s withholding of military longevity retired pay in exchange for VA disability compensation, regardless of disability rating. DAV believes what is unfair for a veteran rated 50 percent disabled or higher by the VA is equally unfair for a disabled veteran rated 40 percent disabled or lower. Disabled military longevity retirees should not be penalized by the government for any reason.

Currently, H.R. 303 has bipartisan support. This legislation was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for a period to be determined by the Speaker of the House. Please use the prepared email, or draft your own message, to request that your Representative support this important bill and ask that it be brought to the floor for a vote and passed as soon as possible.

Thank you for all that you do for veterans and their families. We need your grassroots action to gain Congressional enactment of this important legislation.

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2015 Oklahoma Veterans Awareness Day

“Job well done” to all the Members and Chapters who made their way to our State Capital on Wednesday April 1st.  Remarks by the Lt Governor Todd Lamb, Speaker of the House Jeffrey Hickman and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman were very gracious and respectful to the Service and Sacrifices made by our Military and fellow Veterans. While both the Citizens and elected officials in Oklahoma honor our service it is our “collected responsibility” as Veterans to remain vigilant in all matters that affect the men and women who have borne battle; to that end I would ask each and every one who attended Veterans Awareness Day to not only “spread the word” but return next year with someone new….for there truly is “strength in numbers”

Thank You for your continued service to our Country and fellow Veterans                               OKDAV Adjutant

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