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AUSA Newsletter - October 15, 2009

Association of the United States Army | Family Programs

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>Operation Thanksgiving Eagle >AUSA Family Programs Survey >House Passes Bill Stopping Medicare Premium Hikes >Part B Premium Relief Coming >Bill Would Extend Current Stop-Loss Payments >Bill Would Expand Off-Base Housing Options >Bill to Help Homeowners Moves Forward >$555 Million DoD Homeowners Assistance Program Details Announced >Bill Would Boost Education Payments for Some >VA Struggles with New GI Bill Claims Load >GI Bill Delays Frustrate More Student Vets >Emergency GI Bill Payments: How to Get Yours >Bill Would Allow Retirees to Transfer GI Bill >Lawmakers Conflicted on VA Claims Fixes >Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline >Joining Forces as the New McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Base >TRICARE Offers Options for Beneficiaries Struggling With Weight >TRICARE Inpatient Costs Increase Slightly for Fiscal Year 2010 >TRICARE: Breast Cancer Screening: Early Detection is the Key >TRICARE Area Office Europe Changes Title >Health Agencies Create Post-Vaccine Monitoring Systems >Joint Chiefs Chairman Seeks Brain-Injury Limit >DoDEA Names New Education Official >DeCA Announces 'Commissary Commando' Winners >U.S Army Card Game Marching Onto PX Shelves >Siblings of Troops Often are Forgotten Mourners >Respite Child Care Coming to a YMCA Near You: >Sesame Street Tours Bases >Reports Show Possible Link Between MRSA and Pets >Children's Tylenol® Voluntarily Recalled >Civilian Employees to Receive Equal Base Salary Increases >Pioneer Services' Military Spouse Finance Guide Receives American Bankers Association Award

Operation Thanksgiving Eagle
AUSA Family Programs is pleased to announce our participation in the Operation Thanksgiving Eagle (OTE) event again this year.  Operation Thanksgiving Eagle is a project to thank the children of the military for their daily sacrifices by providing free copies of Debbie Fink's children's activity book, It's a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and Their Families. We were able to launch Operation Thanksgiving Eagle during the Family Forum events last year, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Raytheon. This year, we have expanded the project, as BAE Systems has joined forces with Raytheon, further increasing the number of school age children we are able to thank this Thanksgiving.  The book will be provided to Army families at no charge on a first come, first serve basis. Numbers are limited so order early by going to: and click on the cover of the book to request a copy.

AUSA Family Programs Survey
You are invited to participate in our AUSA Family Member Survey.  We are interested in understanding the hardships family members must endure while their Servicemember is deployed, as well as your access and availability of healthcare provided by the TRICARE program. It will take approximately 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. It is very important for us to learn your opinions in order to create family programs to meet your needs. Your survey responses will be strictly confidential and data from this research will be reported only in the aggregate. If you have questions at any time about the survey or the procedures, you may contact the AUSA Family Programs Directorate at 800.336.4570 or by email at [email protected].
Thank you very much for your time and support. To take part in the AUSA Family Programs survey, please go to the following link:

House Passes Bill Stopping Medicare Premium Hikes
Millions of Medicare patients would be spared monthly premium increases next year under a bill passed by the House.  The House voted to eliminate all premium increases for Medicare Part B, which provides coverage for doctor's visits.  The bill now goes to the Senate, where the Finance Committee is expected to take it up.  The bill would not affect scheduled increases in premiums for the Medicare prescription drug program, known as Part D.  Average monthly premiums for the drug program will increase slightly, from $28 this year to $30 in 2010.  To read this article in full, please go to:

Part B Premium Relief Coming
As the potential implications sink in concerning the absence of any 2010 Social Security COLA, House leaders have rushed to pass legislation to prevent some unintended consequences for certain groups of Medicare enrollees. A special law protects most Medicare enrollees from seeing any Part B premium increase in the event that there's no COLA for Social Security. Without that protection, a Part B hike would result in a net reduction of the person's Social Security check as of January 2010. But the premium increase exemption doesn't apply to about 25% of Medicare recipients, including those who will newly qualify for Medicare, low-income seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, and those with incomes above $85,000 ($170,000 for a married couple) who already are subject to "means-tested" (higher) Part B premiums. An additional wrinkle in the law requires disproportional Part B premium increases for that 25% to help make up for the loss of revenue from the 75% who are protected from the premium hike. To read more, to go:

Bill Would Extend Current Stop-Loss Payments
A bill to keep the government running for another month while Congress continues work on the 2010 budget includes a provision which would prevent an abrupt end next week to stop-loss allowances for deployed Soldiers.  The extension lasts only through October 31, 2009. After that date, payments would cease unless another extension is approved.  The continuing resolution allows most federal agencies, including the Defense Department, to continue spending at 2009 levels, and allows the military to spend any approved supplemental war funding.  The 2010 VA budget includes advance funding for the 2011 budget for veterans medical services, support and facilities accounts. Once enacted, it would fulfill the top legislative priority for veterans groups.  To read this article in full, please click on the following link:

Bill Would Expand Off-Base Housing Options
A Virginia lawmaker wants to improve off-base living conditions for enlisted troops with families by making it easier for them to qualify for affordable housing.  Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code would give tax breaks to developers who build affordable apartments that are restricted to low-income families.  Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va., wants to give service members a better chance of getting into the apartments by excluding military housing allowances from being counted as income when determining eligibility for housing built under Section 42.  For further information, please go to:

Bill to Help Homeowners Moves Forward
The House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a bipartisan military homeownership tax bill with provisions designed to help service families buy or sell a home in a down market.  The bill, a collection of several tax-related initiatives for service members and their families, is on a fast track for consideration by the House of Representatives.  To read more about the key provisions of the Servicemembers Home Ownership Act of 2009, please go to:  For further information about the Homeowners Act of 2009, please go to:|/bss/111search.html

$555 Million DoD Homeowners Assistance Program Details Announced
The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced details for the temporary expansion of the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP).  Using $555 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), this program is designed to partially reimburse eligible military personnel, surviving spouses, and federal civilian employees whose service to the nation has required them to relocate and sell their primary residence at a loss.  For further information, please go to:

Bill Would Boost Education Payments for Some
A federal student aid reform bill passed by the House includes provisions that would change some payments under the Post – 9/11 GI Bill.  The legislation, HR 3221, would create a supplemental education grant payable to private-school students if their fees are less than the Post 9/11 GI Bill fee caps for the state in which they are enrolled.  It would not apply to students at public institutions.  The grant would make the Post- 9/11 GI Bill more like previous education benefits in which students received the same basic payment regardless of the cost of their education.  For further information, please click on the following:
To read more about legislation HR 3221, please go to:|/bss/111search.html 

VA Struggles with New GI Bill Claims Load
Mandatory overtime has been ordered for Veterans Affairs Department claims processors working on Post – 9/11 GI Bill certifications as the VA digs out from an avalanche of more than 277,000 claims.  More people also have been added to answer the VA's GI Bill hotline, which students complain often has a wait of an hour or longer.  While more than 277,000 Post 9/11 GI Bill claims have been received, most are requests to certify eligibility of a service member, veteran, or the spouse or child of a service member.  Only about 28,000 enrollment certifications have been filed for students actually attending school.  For further information, please go to:

GI Bill Delays Frustrate More Student Vets
Frustrations caused by delays in Post 9/11 GI Bill payments are on the rise as veterans who expected the new education program to fully cover their college costs are now wondering what happened to the money.  The head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a group that played a major role in getting the Post 9/11 GI Bill enacted, said delayed payments are hurting veterans.  Veterans Affairs Department officials say the delays are the result of two things: the complex two-step procedure of approving veterans first for eligibility and then for enrollment, and because the program is new for both claims processors and the school admissions and financial officials who help file claims.

Emergency GI Bill Payments: How to Get Yours
The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department has come up with a simplified system to provide emergency payments for students waiting for their Post-9/11 GI Bill claims to be processed. Students who need the promised $3,000 payments right away can receive an on-the-spot check by visiting one of the VA's 57 regional offices with a copy of their class schedule and photo identification in hand. Those who don't need a check right away, or who cannot make it to the VA, can file emergency requests on the VA's Website. Electronic payment will come in six to 10 days. The checks will be up to $3,000. To learn more, go to:

Bill Would Allow Retirees to Transfer GI Bill
Just two months after the Post-9/11 GI Bill was officially launched; House lawmakers are considering a number of changes to the program, including allowing military retirees to transfer benefits to spouses or children. “While the transferability option is a welcome change for Servicemembers who are eligible to re-enlist, it fails to provide this option to retirees who are most likely in a better position to transfer the benefit, considering many have already received their college education and most likely have children who are eligible to attend college,” according to the sponsor Representative of the legislation. The new bill would cover anyone eligible for the GI Bill who retired with 20 years or more of service. Depending on how the details are worked out, this could mean retirees who had served 90 days or longer on active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. To read the full article, go to:

Lawmakers Conflicted on VA Claims Fixes
One reason that efforts to overhaul the veterans disability compensation system are taking so long could be due to conflicting pressures being applied by Congress.  Studies funded by the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) have shown that some veterans are underpaid and some are overpaid therefore, calculating the appropriate level of compensation for disabled veterans is a “complex matter”.  A  major focus is a review of mental-health problems such as post-traumatic stress, which studies have shown can be a bigger impediment to a veteran's earnings potential than other disabilities.   To read this article in full, please go to:

Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) have founded a national suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have  free, 24/7 access to trained counselors.  To operate the Veterans Hotline, the VA partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Veterans can call the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and press “1” to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.  For more information, please go to:

Joining Forces as the New McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Base
Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, along with Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station are now the nation's only tri-service megabase. The changes are a part of the evolution of the American military into a leaner, meaner fighting machine. About 2 billion in savings are expected over the next 20 years from 2005 Base Realignment and Closure legislation directing the Department of Defense to collapse 26 installations into 12 joint bases. The Army portion of the base will be one of six mobilization-training centers in the country. To learn more, go to:

TRICARE Offers Options for Beneficiaries Struggling With Weight
TRICARE beneficiaries with weight issues that pose serious health risks have surgical alternatives available to them. For those who medically qualify, TRICARE covers gastric bypass, gastric stapling and gastroplasty procedures including vertical banded gastroplasty and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, commonly known as Lap-Band surgery. These procedures are covered for non-active duty beneficiaries who suffer from morbid obesity and meet specific medical criteria. For a TRICARE beneficiary to medically qualify, he or she must weigh 100 pounds or more over their ideal weight for height and bone structure, and the excess weight must be associated with a severe medical condition. Beneficiaries who weigh more than twice their ideal weight for height and bone structure are also eligible. To learn more, click the link:

TRICARE Inpatient Costs Increase Slightly for Fiscal Year 2010
TRICARE-covered inpatient services are reviewed and are subject to change every year. For the coming fiscal year 2010, which runs from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, the increase for some out-of-pocket costs paid by TRICARE Standard beneficiaries at civilian hospitals for inpatient care and inpatient behavioral health services is small.  For additional information, go to:

TRICARE: Breast Cancer Screening: Early Detection is the Key
Almost 1.5 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in 2009. For American women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. TRICARE and the National Cancer Institute urge women 40 and older to have a mammogram every one to two years. Women younger than 40, but with risk factors for breast cancer, should ask their health care provider when they should have a mammogram and how often. To make it easier for women to get mammograms, TRICARE beneficiaries in specific age and risk categories have no co-payment for mammograms. TRICARE's clinical preventive services cover annual mammograms for women age 40 and older. To learn more, click here:

TRICARE Area Office Europe Changes Title
TRICARE Area Office (TAO) Europe has changed its name to TRICARE Area Office Eurasia-Africa. The new title does not add any new territory to the area the TAO supports, but rather recognizes that the office's responsibilities extend far beyond the European continent.  To read more, click here:

Health Agencies Create Post-Vaccine Monitoring Systems
The government's system to track possible side effects of mass flu vaccinations will begin next month The  intention is to detect any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the inevitable coincidences that are sure to cause some false alarms. Health authorities hope to vaccinate more than half of the population against swine flu, which doctors call the 2009 H1N1 strain in just a few months. Vaccination is voluntary, and how many get it depends partly on confidence in its safety.  To read this article in its entirety, please go to:

Joint Chiefs Chairman Seeks Brain-Injury Limit
US Servicemembers who suffer up to three mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions, typically from roadside bombs, during a deployment, could be pulled out of combat for the duration of their tour.  The military estimates the cost of troops removed from combat may be minimal, with only about 1% to 2% of the 15,000 to 20,000 US Servicemembers in Afghanistan routinely exposed to roadside bombs sidelined during a period of several months, or about 150 to 400 people.  Those troops would remain on forward operating bases performing other duties, even after any concussive symptoms go away.  The recommendations would also apply to Iraq, but the number of roadside bombings there have dropped dramatically in the past year.  To read this article in full, please go to:

DoDEA Names New Education Official
Navy veteran Patrick Dworakowski, has been named assistant associate director for education for the Defense Department's school system.  During his seven YEARS IN UNIFORM, Dworakowski served on the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and spent a tour at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, FL.  To read more about Patrick Dworakowski, please visit:

DeCA Announces 'Commissary Commando' Winners
The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) announced the six winning teams who exposed the most single Servicemembers to their commissary benefit during May's Commissary Commando Competition.
In Texas, at Sheppard Air Force Base, the Single Airman Program won the $1,500 grand prize, while the following five teams earned place awards and honorable mention respectively:
1st place, $1,000: Single Marine Program, Marine Corps Base Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan.; 2nd place, $750: Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Fort Eustis, Va.; 3rd place, $500: Liberty Northwest, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.; 4th place, $250: Single Marine Program, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Calif. Honorable mention, $150: Single Marine Program, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
As part of Commissary Awareness Month, the recently renamed Commissary Commando Competition introduces young single Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to commissary shopping through an annual competition of single Servicemember groups. To read the full article, go to:

U.S Army Card Game Marching Onto PX Shelves
The U.S Army Top Trumps series is now available at more than 100 AAFES PXs and Shoppettes throughout the Continental United States, Pacific and Europe. Developed using the U.S. Army guidelines, the new, Top Trumps series comes with stats, pictures, facts on units ranging from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to the 10th Mountain Division. To learn more, please go to:

Siblings of Troops Often are Forgotten Mourners
Unlike a parent or a spouse the brothers and sisters of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, do not typically get an official notification of a sibling's death. On September 25, 2009, about 100 siblings and their spouses met in Las Vegas for a weekend retreat organized by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a Washington-based nonprofit that offers support to anyone who has lost a loved one in the Armed Forces. TAPS says there are thousands of surviving siblings from the recent wars. The majority are in their 20s or 30s — who a time when many are starting careers and families. can possibly have elevated risk levels of divorces and suicide attempts. To read the article in its entirety, please go to:

Respite Child Care Coming to a YMCA Near You:
Since October 1, 2009 YMCA respite child care has been expanded to licensed child care programs at YMCAs in all states that wish to participate in the program. The service was previously offered only at select YMCAs in nine states to provide temporary relief or a short break for the parent or guardian who is responsible for caring for a deployed service member's child. For a listing of the participating YMCAs and for a copy of the registration form, go to:

Sesame Street Tours Bases
Elmo, Cookie Monster and their buddies are taking their Sesame Street message to military children at bases in Europe, Alaska and Hawaii. The Muppet USO tour started Sept. 8 at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. Military children are being treated to Muppet performances and giveaways from the Sesame Workshop and the USO. Each installation will determine the procedures for admission to the shows, For more information, go to:

Reports Show Possible Link Between MRSA and Pets
For decades, the drug-resistant germ called MRSA was almost exclusively a concern of humans, usually in hospitals and other health-care settings.  In recent years, the germ has become a growing problem for veterinarians, with an increasing number of infections turning up in birds, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, rabbits and rodents.  The infectious-disease is becoming a hazard to humans who own or spend time with these animals.  It is unknown how often pets play a role in human infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vice versa; physicians and veterinarians do not routinely trace such infections to their source.  To read this article in full, please click on the following link:

Children's Tylenol® Voluntarily Recalled
McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson, informed physicians and other providers of the Children's Tylenol recall due to possible bacterial contamination in a September 18, 2009 letter.  No bacteria has been found in finished products, but were detected in an examination of the bulk materials used to make the medicine. Infection with the bacteria can be serious in high-risk persons, including those with pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, or immune systems that are otherwise compromised. Young children and elders using these preparations for pain control should be warned.
The recall covers 21 flavors of its pediatric acetaminophen product, and several cold and cough medications that include acetaminophen, manufactured from April 2008 through June 2008, which includes: 
• Children's Tylenol® Suspension 4 oz. strawberry
• Children's Tylenol® Pediatric Suspension 1 oz. cherry
• Infants' Tylenol® Suspension Drops 1/2 oz. grape 
For the complete list and associated lot numbers, see:

Civilian Employees to Receive Equal Base Salary Increases
Department of Defense (DoD) employees paid under the National Security Personnel System will receive the same base salary increases this year as their General Schedule counterparts. The move comes as senior Defense Department, Office of Personnel Management and White House officials work to determine the future of the troubled pay-for-performance system. A report this summer by the Defense Business Board found the system's "pay pool" process complicated and confusing for most employees. Employees questioned the assessment and evaluation process and didn't understand the pay pool process. Last year, a portion of the money allotted for base-salary increases was placed into the overall pay pool, which is then divided among those in the pool based on performance ratings. This year, no money allotted for base-salary increases will go into the pool, according to the Department of Defense's executive officers for NSPS. Employees under the NSPS system who receive a satisfactory performance rating of 2 or higher will receive a salary increase equal to their GS counterparts. Those who receive an unsatisfactory rating of 1 will not receive a base salary increase. To learn more, go to:

Pioneer Services' Military Spouse Finance Guide Receives American Bankers Association Award
Established in 11972, the ABA Awards recognize those who have displayed excellence in their financial materials, and are one of the most coveted awards in the financial services industry.    Pioneer Services was recognized recently, receiving runner-up for its Military Spouse Finance Guide: Financial Advice for the Homefront.  The foreword was written by the Director of AUSA Family Programs, Mrs. Sylvia Kidd. AUSA Family Programs also distributed several hundred free copies.  The book offers comprehensive financial education for military spouses, and was published last year.  This is the second ABA award for Pioneer Services, the company won last year for its entire range of financial education materials.



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