March Newsletter for Incarcerated Veterans Mar 10, 2014 17:26:15 GMT -6
Post by ron on Mar 10, 2014 17:26:15 GMT -6
• VA Announces Rollout of Secure Veteran Health Identification Cards
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced on February 20th the phased roll out of newly designed, more secure Veteran Health Identification Cards. The new cards are distinguished by additional security features and will have a different look and feel. In addition to being more secure, the card has been transformed into a Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC). Similar to a typical health insurance card, the VHIC displays the Veteran’s Member ID, a new unique identifier, as well as a Plan ID, reflecting the Veteran’s enrollment in VA health care. “VA is committed to providing high quality health care while ensuring the personal security of Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These new identification cards are an important step forward in protecting our nation’s heroes from identity theft and other personal crimes.” The VHIC is personalized to display the emblem of the Veteran’s branch of service.
• Gulf War and Health, Volume 9: Long-Term Effects of Blast Exposures
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are known for the enemy’s reliance on improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It’s estimated that explosive weaponry accounts for 75 percent of all US military casualties. Since 2001, more than 1,000 US soldiers in the Afghanistan war have been killed in action and nearly 10,000 wounded in action – causing a variety of injuries – because of IEDs. From March 2003 to November 2011, more than 2,000 US soldiers in the Iraq war were killed in action and close to 22,000 wounded in action due to IEDs.
Concerned about the long-term health effects of exposure to blast, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked the IOM to assess the relevant scientific information and to draw conclusions regarding the strength of the evidence of an association between exposure to blast and health effects. The IOM’s report makes recommendations for future research on the topic.
• Congress Repeals Military COLA-Cut
NAUS is pleased to see the House and Senate act with speed and in unison to ensure veterans receive all the benefits they have been promised and have earned while fighting in the uniform of our country.
First the House on Tuesday, February 18, 2014, and then the Senate on Wednesday, February 19, 2014, approved legislation (S. 25) that would undo the cuts to military retirement pay enacted under the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA), otherwise known as the Ryan-Murray budget deal.
Passage in both chambers was overwhelming; 326 to 90 in the House and 95 to 3 in the Senate. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.
Our men and women in uniform face specific challenges when it comes to their own financial security. It can be difficult to save for retirement while serving abroad or to build equity in a home when relocating every few years.
Having a COLA you can depend on and plan for is crucial to building financial security.
• House Passes In-State Tuition Bill for Veterans
The House approved Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller’s bill (HR 357) without a single dissenting vote, 390-0. The bill would require schools to ease residency rules for vets — or lose GI Bill eligibility entirely.
The measure must still pass the Senate and be signed by the president to become law, and a more expansive veterans bill in the Senate, which covers many issues in addition to in-state tuition, appears to lack the broad, bipartisan support of the House bill. But such a show of support in the House likely means the chances are good that some version of the in-state tuition proposal will become law by the end of the year.
The House vote “sends a strong message that both parties believe veterans should never be disqualified for in-state tuition at public colleges because of past military obligations,” Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in a written statement.
• Update on TRICARE Automatic Payments
An electronic fund transfer (EFT) is an easy, low-maintenance option for managing TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) payments.
While TRS beneficiaries are required to setup an EFT to pay their premiums, it is not foolproof and missed payments can result in a loss of health care coverage. One major reason for missed payments is an expired credit card. Check the expiration date on the credit card used for TRS EFTs, and update the regional contractor with any new or pending account information.
• Pentagon plans to shrink US Army to pre-WWII level
It was announced on February 24, 2014 that the Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II, signaling a shift after more than a decade of ground wars.
Saying it was time to "reset" for a new era, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended shrinking American forces from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000.
In a speech outlining the proposed defense budget, he said Monday that after Iraq and Afghanistan, US military leaders no longer plan to "conduct long and large stability operations."
If approved by Congress, the Pentagon move would reduce the army to its lowest manning levels since 1940, before the American military dramatically expanded after entering World War II.
The proposed 13 percent reduction in the army would be carried out by 2017, a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The proposed cut in manpower along with plans to retire some older aircraft and reform benefits for troops could run into stiff resistance in Congress.
A senior US military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the political challenge.
"We're going to need some help from our elected representatives to get this budget across the finish line," the officer said.
• Bill approved to address state's high female incarceration rate
The Senate Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval to a measure seeking to lower Oklahoma’s high female incarceration rate. Senate Bill 1278, by Sen. Kim David, would authorize the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to enter into a Pay-for-Success (PFS) contract pilot program for those criminal justice programs that have had proven outcomes with reducing public sector costs associated with female incarceration.
Oklahoma has had the highest female incarceration rate in the country for several years now. Oklahoma’s history of imprisoning nonviolent women, rather than treating them, is expensive, ineffective and damaging to families. It’s important that we offer alternatives to incarceration to get these women rehabilitated and back to the workforce and their families, said David, R-Porter. Incarceration and poverty are a vicious cycle in our state that we can stop by giving these women the counseling and education they need to get clean, find a job and be able to support themselves without returning to a life of drugs and crime.
With a PFS contract, the government negotiates with a program to deliver a specific outcome, such as reduced incarceration.
The PFS contract would be delivered in Tulsa County, which is the largest contributor to the female offender population in Oklahoma. Since FY12, Tulsa County has outpaced Oklahoma County and the rest of the state in its female offender receptions.
• Other Than Honorable Discharges:
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, “To be considered a “Veteran” eligible for Department of eterans Affairs health care benefits, a former service-member must have been discharged “under conditions other than dishonorable.” Under VA regulations, administrative discharges characterized by the armed services as “Honorable” or “General Under Honorable Conditions” are qualifying, and punitive discharges (Dishonorable or Bad Conduct) issued by general courts-martial are disqualifying.
The in between categories, administrative “Other than Honorable” discharges, and punitive “Bad Conduct Discharges” issued by special courts-martial, may or may not be disqualifying for purposes of general VA benefit eligibility or VA health benefits eligibility specifically. In assessing whether such discharges are issued “under conditions other than dishonorable.” VA must apply the standards set for in Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations (.F.R.)3.12.”
• “Other Than Honorable” Discharges – Special Health Care Rules:
An individual with an “Other than Honorable” discharge that VA has determined to be disqualifying under application of title 38 still retaines eligibility for VA health care benefits for service-incurred or service-aggravated disabilities unless he or she is subject to one of the statutory bars to benefits set forth in Tile 38 U.S. Code 5303(a).
• DOC and VA Pending:
DOC is working with the Department of Veteran Affairs on obtaining a listing of incarcerated veterans and the status of any disabilities awarded and/or pending in an effort to insure that incarcerated veterans know what, if any, benefits they may be eligible for.
While this will probably take some time to attain fruition we feel that you need to be aware of what is going on for your benefit. Battle Buddy representatives will keep you informed as to the progress of this project.
• House Hearing Explores Private Sector Veterans Employment Initiatives:
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee explored veteran recruiting and retention initiatives of the private sector. Wal-Mart, Microsoft Corporation, and JPMorgan Chase were among those testifying at the hearing.
“Any employer should be proud to have an employee with the resiliency, leadership and collaboration skills that are fundamental to all our service men and women. However, far too often these experiences are not readily translated to match the needs of the private sector. It may take a bit of work, but the initiatives discussed at this hearing show it’s well worth it—businesses get highly skilled and motivated individuals and veterans build careers that can benefit their families and communities. While progress has been made, the private sector and the government can and must do more,” said Representative Mike Michaud (ME-02), the committee’s top Democrat.
• Chairman Sanders Vows to Continue Fight for Veterans:
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), On March 5, 2014, pledged to continue fighting for passage of a comprehensive veterans bill that includes a provision to extend a successful job-training program due to expire at the end of March.
In a short-term reprieve, the White House today announced a three-month extension of the program so veterans already enrolled in classes can complete spring semester courses.
The Senate bill would reauthorize for two years the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which has provided increased educational opportunities that lead to careers in high-demand professions. The initiative already has provided job training for more than 74,000 older veterans who are not eligible for assistance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The program offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed veterans who are 35 to 60 years old. The legislation also would expand the program by allowing veterans to enroll in eligible programs at a four-year college if classes aren’t available at a community college or technical school.
The measure also includes provisions to improve health and dental care services, allow the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities, improve access to care and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military and restore full cost-of-living adjustments for future military retirees.
• Changing of the Guard Ritual
Changing of Guards
While in Washington D.C. I had the honor to observe the “Changing of the Guard” and it is extremely moving.
The guard is changed every hour on the hour Oct. 1 to March 31 in an elaborate ritual. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5 to 7 p.m.
An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknowns who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor. Then the relief commander orders the relieved sentinel, "Pass on your orders." The current sentinel commands, "Post and orders, remain as directed." The newly posted sentinel replies, "Orders acknowledged," and steps into position on the black mat. When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.
The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp "shoulder-arms" movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed -- the 21-gun salute.
Duty time when not "walking" is spent in the Tomb Guard Quarters below the Memorial Display Room of the Memorial Amphitheater where they study Cemetery "knowledge," clean their weapons and help the rest of their relief prepare for the Changing of the Guard. The guards also train on their days off.
The Guards of Honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are highly motivated and are proud to honor all American service members who are "Known But to God."
When the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed a bugler from the Guard appears and plays Taps. When a wreath is exchanged from the front of the tomb the wreath being removed is placed at the rear of the tomb.