Benefit News



USDA Veteran Initiatives Now Part of DoD’s Transition Assistance Program

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 — Agriculture and farm business opportunities became the newest career training choice for transitioning service members this week when the Agriculture Department announced it would ensure service members attending the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, would receive information on veteran training and counseling programs in agriculture. DoD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office Director Susan Kelly told a class of transitioning troops in the Pentagon Sept. 14 that they are the first to learn about the USDA’s new program during their weeklong Transition GPS -- goals, plans, success -- curriculum.


Check Health Care Compliance Before Tax Season Kicks Off, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2015 — The Defense Department wants its service members and civilian employees to know it’s not too early to make sure their 2015 health insurance paperwork is in order before filing their federal taxes, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said in a recent interview with DoD News. Dr. Karen Guice said the upcoming tax season, which begins Jan. 1, is the first time DoD, like other employers, must verify to the Internal Revenue Service that its employees had health care coverage throughout 2015. “The [Affordable Care Act] says everyone should have access to basic health insurance,” she said, noting that TRICARE and all plans offered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program meet the ACA’s standards for required minimum essential coverage.


Changes Coming to TRICARE Pharmacy Benefit

Falls Church, Va, September 1, 2015 - Starting October 1, 2015, a new law requires all TRICARE beneficiaries, except active duty service members, to get select brand name maintenance drugs through either TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or from a military pharmacy. Beneficiaries who keep using a retail pharmacy for these drugs will have to pay the full cost. Maintenance drugs are those you take regularly for a long time, such as drugs to control blood pressure or cholesterol. The law does not apply to drugs you take for a short time, like antibiotics, or generic drugs. Beneficiaries living overseas, or with other prescription drug coverage, are not affected.


TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Fraudulent Secret Shopper Offer


Fall Church, Va, August 27, 2015 - The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of return envelopes from mailings by a bogus organization. In the letter they identify themselves as TRICARE SURVEY INC., to TRICARE beneficiaries across the country and are attempting to solicit beneficiary to be “Secret Shoppers” for TRICARE. Please know that TRICARE does not employ “Secret Shoppers”.


TRICARE Pharmacy Rules Changing for Maintenance, Brand-name Drugs

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2015 — TRICARE beneficiaries who take certain brand-name medications on a regular basis will be required to fill prescriptions at a military treatment facility or through a mail-in program beginning Oct. 1, a Defense Health Agency official said yesterday. George Jones, DHA’s pharmacy operations division chief, said the new policy does not apply to active-duty troops, overseas beneficiaries, nursing-home residents and those with other health insurance that has a prescription-drug program. In certain circumstances, he added, some beneficiaries might be waived from the program on an individual basis.


Soldiers must complete school before promotion

By C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service,

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, August 17, 2015) -- Soldiers will no longer be promoted without first having successfully completed related professional military education, or PME, courses, according to recently-signed Army Directive. Soldiers will need to complete their schooling before they are allowed their new stripes. "By linking structured self-development and the NCO Education System [NCOES] to subsequent promotion, we better prepare NCOs [noncommissioned officers] for the complexities of today's operational environment while reinforcing the benefits of a deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive professional development strategy," wrote Army Secretary John M. McHugh in Army Directive 2015-31, which was released Aug. 13.


VA Announces New Rules Regarding Service Animals in VA Facilities

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2015 - Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has revised its regulation regarding the presence of animals on VA property. The updated regulation will ensure VA practices remain consistent with applicable federal law. It will also assist individuals entering VA facilities in developing a clear and consistent understanding of the criteria governing facility access for service animals. “As I have traveled to VA facilities throughout the country, I have heard from many Veterans about what a vital role their service animals play in their lives,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “The revised regulation will ensure Veterans and employees have clear guidance regarding the presence of service animals in our facilities. VA remains committed to ensuring America’s Veterans have access to the health care benefits for which they are eligible.”


VA Launches New No-Cost Training Programs

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today launched two new no-cost training programs, Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs, to help transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials, and advance in civilian careers following separation from service. ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), promoting education and employment opportunities for Veterans through integrated networks of support in 50 cities. VA launched the VECI program in response to President Obama’s August 2014 challenge to help Veterans and families integrate with their communities and find meaningful jobs that can lead to economic success. Under VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s MyVA transformation, VECI is now in place in cities across the United States.


What You Should Know About Durable Medical Equipment


Falls Church, Va, August 4, 2015 - Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is any equipment for beneficiary use that helps them live a better quality of life. DME, covered by most health insurances, is also covered by TRICARE when ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider. To be considered DME, the equipment must be medically necessary and reusable. TRICARE covers the cost of medical supplies when related directly to a covered medical condition and when those supplies are obtained from a medical supply company, a pharmacy, or an authorized provider.


External Health Insurance Must Be Divulged, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2015 – The Defense Department wants to remind its health care beneficiaries who carry commercial health insurance to provide their policy information to their TRICARE providers, a Defense Health Agency official said recently. Mark Ellis, a DHA senior health program analyst, said the issue is important to DoD because by law, commercial health care insurance companies pay first and TRICARE pays second on medical bills. When commercial health care insurers pay first, it saves DoD and insured patients money, because beneficiaries will have little to no copayments, he said. “Beneficiaries don’t pay their normal cost shares and deductibles, because the other health insurance combined with the TRICARE insurance typically covers most of their out-of-pocket expenses,” Ellis pointed out.


Final Rule Puts More Teeth Into Military Lending Act

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2015 – The Defense Department today closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, President Barack Obama said this morning at the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The heightened level of financial and consumer-rights protection against unscrupulous practices, called the final rule of the Military Lending Act, covers all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit and credit cards, DoD officials explained.


Stateside Travel: On the Go with TRICARE


Falls Church, Va, July 20, 2015 - Whether you travel for business or pleasure, it’s important to know that TRICARE is portable and travels with you wherever you go. You should receive all routine care and get your prescriptions filled before traveling. If you have a medication that you take regularly, get enough to take with you and be sure to pack your medication in your carry-on luggage.


Prepare for Tax Season Now, Register Your Family in DEERS


Falls Church, Va, July 6, 2015 - When you register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), you provide information necessary for you and your family to receive the full spectrum of your military benefits. Not adding your family to DEERS can affect their access to health care, submitted claim forms and now, your income tax reporting.


VA-led Consortium Launches Brain Bank for Research on PTSD

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2015 - A consortium led by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has launched the first brain tissue biorepository (also known as a “brain bank”) – to support research on the causes, progression and treatment of PTSD affecting Veterans.


New ‘Peer’ Consultation Service Debuts at Military OneSource

By: Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2015 – A “peer-to-peer” specialty consultation service that began June 15 offered by Military OneSource is the newest resource to support and connect service members and their families with professionals who understand the military life, a Defense Department personnel and readiness official said. In an interview with DoD News, Air Force Lt. Col. Tammy S. Hinskton, director of the non-medical counseling office in personnel and readiness, said peer consultants are or have been connected to the military and have a minimum of a master’s degree. The military’s unique life, in which deployments, relocations and transitions are a commonplace, makes it essential to find consultants with similar life experiences, she said.


VA Launches Community-Based Employment Service for Homeless Veterans

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2015 – The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced a new employment program aimed at helping job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness, and those on the brink of homelessness, gain stable and long-term employment. The new program, Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES), relies on Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) who know their communities and can work with local employers to identify suitable jobs based on a Veteran’s skills and abilities.


TRICARE’s Breast Pump Policy Updates Effective July 1


Falls Church, Va, June 8 , 2015 - TRICARE’s Breast Pump policy was recently updated to include coverage of breast pumps and supplies and breastfeeding counseling. These supplies and services will be retroactively covered as of December 19, 2014. To get full details about this important benefit change, as well as an opportunity to ask questions, TRICARE will host a Facebook Town Hall on June 22, 2015, 1:00 pm EDT. Ms. Bobbie Matthews, the Defense Health Agency's subject matter expert with the Medical Benefits and Reimbursement Office, will be online available to answer your questions directly.


New Peer-to-Peer Service Aims to Provide Counseling Support

By: Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – Starting this summer, the Defense Department will offer an additional counseling service to help military service members, transitioning troops and family members deal with a host of issues before they become crises. Peer-to-peer support, which will be available through Military OneSource, will offer assistance from counselors who have at least a master’s degree in the social or psychology field as well as military experience to help with a host of issues, Rosemary Freitas Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said yesterday.


DoD Disability Initiative Reaches Milestone

By By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – A Defense Department program designed to help disabled service members, wounded warriors and federal employees access free assistive technology recently made its 150,000th accommodation. Founded in 1980, the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program provides free assistive technology and support services for federal employees with disabilities and service members with functional limitations. Granted by U.S. Congress, and established by the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, CAP became the first centrally funded reasonable accommodation program in the federal government and is the largest assistive technology program in the world.


VA Secretary Waives Resident-Rate Requirements of the Choice Act through December, 2015

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – In order to make it easier for Veterans and their families to receive their GI Bill benefits where they choose, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has used his authority to waive the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill® students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions. Under Section 702, VA must disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) benefits if a school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.


DoD Education Activity Focuses on College, Career Readiness

By: Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2015 – The Department of Defense Education Activity will begin a new initiative in the fall to better prepare its students for college or careers, the organization’s director said May 8. DoDEA operates 181 accredited schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The system serves more than 78,000 children of active duty military and DoD civilian families.


TRICARE Revises Compound Drug Coverage


Falls Church, Va., May 1, 2015 - On May 1, 2015, Express Scripts, the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, begins screening the ingredients in all compound drug claims to ensure they are safe and effective, and covered by TRICARE. This screening process is like the one TRICARE uses for other prescription drugs, and will help meet the Military Health System’s goal of ensuring we are providing safe and effective care to service members and their families.


New TRICARE Pharmacy Contract Brings New Web Features for TRICARE Beneficiaries


Falls Church, Va., April 30, 2015 - The fourth generation TRICARE Pharmacy contract, or “TPharm4” kicks off on May 1, 2015. The contract is staying with the current contractor, Express Scripts, meaning that beneficiaries shouldn’t experience any disruption in their pharmacy benefits. However, Express Scripts is offering new web services to help beneficiaries manage their prescription drugs.


VA Expands Choice Program Eligibility, Effective Immediately

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2015 - In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program based on the distance between a Veteran’s place of residence and the nearest VA medical facility using driving distance rather than straight-line distance. This change has been published in the Federal Register and is effective immediately. “VA is pleased to announce the distance calculation change from straight-line to driving distance for the Veterans Choice Program,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “This update to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. We look forward to continued dialogue with Veterans and our partners to help us ensure continued improvements for Veterans’ to access care.”


New Tuition Assistance Tool Attuned to Troops’ Educational Needs

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – The Defense Department continues to invest in its service members and has introduced a new online informational tool tailored to their unique school programs and educational needs, the Defense Department’s chief of voluntary education said in a DoD news interview this week. Dawn Bilodeau discussed a new online tool called “Tuition Assistance DECIDE.” “Tuition Assistance DECIDE, or TA DECIDE, as we like to call it,” she said, “is a tool tailored to the unique needs of our service members.” It’s designed to support their decision-making in areas such as selecting schools or choosing programs to enroll in, she explained. It came online April 17.


TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Call Centers and Others For Unsolicited Medical Prescriptions


Falls Church, Va, April 10, 2015 - The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of concerns from our TRICARE beneficiaries regarding unsolicited attempts by “Call Centers” to encourage them to provide personal identifying information and health information so that they can allegedly provide prescribed cream medications to the TRICARE beneficiary. TRICARE and its contractors never call and ask for personal identifying information or health information. Beneficiaries should be wary of unsolicited attempts by any entity asking them for personal or health information, either by phone or in person.


Military Children: Two Steps to Keep Them Covered


Falls Church, Va, April 7, 2015 - New baby coming or just arrived? There’s so much to remember! In order to keep up with your baby’s growth and medical checkups, add ‘Enroll in DEERS’ on your to do list to keep your child covered by TRICARE. Step two is to decide in the first 60 days after birth if you want your child in TRICARE Prime or Standard.


TRICARE’s Beneficiary Web Enrollment Portal Just Got Easier to Use


Falls Church, Va., March 31, 2015 - Eligible TRICARE beneficiaries currently can use BWE to update their personal information and manage enrollments in TRICARE plans including USFHP, TYA, and TRICARE dental plans. Recently, the Beneficiary Web Enrollment (BWE) website underwent several exciting changes to make the site more user friendly. Among the new BWE enhancements are 24/7 availability, greater security, and expanded user features to make managing benefit information easier.


VA Makes Gains in Faster Disability Claims Processing

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 - The federal initiative to provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has crossed a major milestone in its final sprint to eliminate the backlog of Veterans’ benefits claims. The major transformation effort to apply new technology and process solutions has paid off at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It reduced its inventory of backlogged claims from a high of 611,000 claims in March of 2013 to fewer than 200,000 this week, while at the same time improving decision quality.


Easy Access to TRICARE’s “First Eight” Mental Health Appointments


Falls Church, Va, March 26, 2015 - Do you know? Counseling, psychotherapy, and family therapy are covered benefits under TRICARE. It’s no secret—the first eight appointments with a TRICARE authorized provider do not require a Primary Care Manager (PCM) referral, just your military identification card. Don’t wait until your family has an emergency, take your time and find a provider that makes you comfortable. Your PCM or family doctor can give a recommendation. If you are unsure of the differences in provider types, their education, treatments, and ability to prescribe medication, use the “Find a Doctor” tool on the TRICARE website.


Requirement of Standardized Claim, Appeal Forms

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 - With the goal of making the application process easier and more efficient for our Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now requires Veterans seeking disability benefits to use standardized claim and appeal forms. These standardized forms guide Veterans to clearly state the symptoms or conditions for which they are seeking benefits and provide the information necessary for VA to start processing their claims and appeals.


VA Works to Expand Choice Program Eligibility

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2015 - In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will change the calculation used to determine the distance between a Veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight line distance to driving distance. The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks. The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA).


Applications Accepted for 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently accepting applications from Veterans interested in competing in the 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games. Applications can be completed online at, and will be accepted through May 15. Veterans ages 55 and older who are enrolled for VA care are eligible to participate. The 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games takes place in Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 8-12. Nearly 800 athletes are expected to compete in the national multi-event sports and recreational competition for senior Veterans. The event encourages participants to make physical activity a central part of their lives, and supports VA’s comprehensive recreation and rehabilitation therapy programs. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, bowling, cycling, dominoes, field, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track.


VA Eliminates Net Worth as Health Care Eligibility Factor

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Effective 2015, VA eliminated the use of net worth as a determining factor for both health care programs and copayment responsibilities. This change makes VA health care benefits more accessible to lower-income Veterans and brings VA policies in line with Secretary Robert A. McDonald’s MyVA initiative which reorients VA around Veterans’ needs.


TRICARE Revises Compound Drug Coverage


Falls Church, Va, March 12, 2015 - Starting May 1, 2015, Express Scripts, the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, will screen all ingredients in compound drug claims to ensure they are safe and effective, and covered by TRICARE. This screening process is like the one TRICARE already uses for other prescription drugs, but it will now apply to the ingredients in compound drugs.


VA encourages Eligible Veterans to Apply for 2015 Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Washington, March 6, 2015 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is accepting applications from Veterans interested in participating in the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. The 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic will be held Sept.13-18 at the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego, California. The annual event is expected to attract Veterans from all over the country who have sustained a variety of injuries ranging from traumatic brain injury and polytrauma, to spinal cord injury or loss of limb.


Air Evacs Are Covered When Medically Necessary and Only to the Nearest, Safest Place


Falls Church, Va., February 18, 2015 - Following retirement from active service, many retirees and retiree family members decide to travel or live overseas. If they do, it is important they understand that if they need air ambulance services (aeromedical evacuation or “air evac”), TRICARE only pays if the transport is medically necessary and to the closest, safest location for medical care.


Troops to Receive Millions Under Service Members Civil Relief Act

By: DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 9, 2015 – The Justice Department announced today that under its settlements with five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, 952 service members and their co-borrowers are eligible to receive over $123 million for non-judicial foreclosures that violated the Service Members Civil Relief Act. The five mortgage servicers are JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.; Wells Fargo Bank N.A. and Wells Fargo & Co.; Citi Residential Lending Inc., Citibank, NA and CitiMortgage Inc.; GMAC Mortgage, LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and Residential Capital LLC; and BAC Home Loans Servicing LP formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP (Bank of America). In the first round of payments under the SCRA portion of the 2012 settlement known as the National Mortgage Settlement, 666 service members and their co-borrowers will receive over $88 million from JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and GMAC Mortgage. The other 286 service members and their co-borrowers already have received over $35 million from Bank of America through an earlier settlement. The non-judicial foreclosures at issue took place between Jan. 1, 2006, and Apr. 4, 2012.


Online Prescription Tracker Gives Veterans 24/7 Online Access to Status

By: VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2015 - Veterans can now track the status of most of their prescriptions online, thanks to an innovative idea by a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) employee. The new 24/7 service allows online tracking for most prescriptions mailed from the VA Mail Order Pharmacy.


Small Increase to TRICARE Pharmacy Copays Begins February 1, 2015


Falls Church, Va, February 2, 2015 - New copayments for prescription drugs covered by TRICARE will go into effect February 1, 2015. The Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires TRICARE to increase most pharmacy copays by $3. Drugs from military pharmacies and generic drugs from TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery still cost beneficiaries $0.


DoD Launches Child Care Website to Ease Moving Transitions

By: Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2015 – As military families move frequently and face a host of concerns, finding child care can be one of the greatest challenges, Barbara Thompson, director of military community and policy’s office of family policy/children and youth/special needs, said. To streamline and standardize what can be a daunting search, the Defense Department unveiled, an online resource to help military, DoD civilian and contractor families find an array of military-operated and military-subsidized child care options for children between the ages of 4 weeks and 12 years, Thompson said.


Legal Expert Offers Tax Time Solutions for Maximum Benefits

By: Amaani Lyle, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2015 – Winter brings not only cold weather, but for some, the dreaded confusion of tax season. However, service members, retirees and family members can get fast, free, professional help in filing their tax returns between now and June 2015, a Pentagon official said. Army Lt. Col. Samuel W. Kan, an attorney and Certified Financial Planner®, said the Defense Department’s volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program has partnered with Military OneSource to offer tax preparation services from trained preparers with access to attorneys, accountants, and certified financial planners.


TRICARE and the Affordable Care Act

By: Tricare

Falls Church, VA- January 22, 2015 - With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, TRICARE beneficiaries may have questions about how it would affect them. The ACA and TRICARE are very different, governed by two different pieces of legislation so changes in one have no effect on the other.


TRICARE Patients Must Attest to Health Care Coverage

By: By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2015 - As tax season begins, Defense Department officials want to remind TRICARE beneficiaries of changes in the tax laws, which require all Americans to have health care insurance. For the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2012, all U.S. citizens, including service members, their families, military retirees, DoD civilians and nonappropriated employees, must report health care coverage on their 2014 taxes, said Mark Ellis, a Defense Health Agency health care operations program analyst.


Applications Accepted for 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Washington, January 14, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is accepting applications for the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Registration began in early January and will close April 15. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems. Each year, hundreds of disabled Veterans travel from around the country to compete in the Games, which is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. With them, they bring the fighting spirit and tenacity that defines the Veterans of our Armed Forces.


Free Tax Preparation, Advice Available to Military Families

By: Nick Simeone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Washington, January 13, 2015 - With the new year comes the annual dread of tax-filing season and the confusion and stress that can go along with it, especially for military families whose tax returns can be further complicated by frequent relocations, involvement of rental properties and other aspects of military life.


Certificates of Creditable Coverage No Longer Needed for Beneficiaries Losing TRICARE Coverage


Falls Church, Va, January 12, 2015 - TRICARE will no longer send beneficiaries certificates of creditable coverage when they lose TRICARE eligibility. These certificates are no longer needed when beneficiaries transition off TRICARE. Beneficiaries will instead receive notice that their TRICARE coverage is ending.


E-Prescribing – Coming Soon to a Military Pharmacy Near You!


Falls Church, Va, January 8, 2015 - The Military Health System has deployed electronic prescribing in military pharmacies across its system of clinics and hospitals in the United States (and in Guam and Puerto Rico). This capability will allow civilian providers to send prescriptions electronically to military pharmacies, reducing the need for handwritten prescriptions.


DoD Releases 2015 Military Pay and Compensation Rates

By DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 22, 2014 – Today, the Department of Defense announced the 2015 military pay and compensation rates for service members, with most service members receiving a one percent increase in basic pay. The new rates for basic pay, basic allowance for housing, basic allowance for subsistence, and the cost of living allowance rates for the contiguous United States will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Basic pay for service members will increase one percent, except for general and flag officers who will not see an increase in 2015. For example, an E-4 with 3 years of service will see an increase in basic pay of $22.20 per month, while an O-3 with 6 years of service will receive a basic pay increase of $54.30 per month in 2015.


New Webpage Allows Vets With PTSD To Apply For Discharge Upgrade

By Lisa Ferdinando, Army News Service

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 16, 2014) -- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who were discharged under "other than honorable" conditions can apply on a new webpage to have their discharge upgraded if it was due to PTSD. The Army launched a webpage for the veterans to get information and ultimately enable them to apply for the change in status, said Col. Matthew B. Coleman, the military assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of the Army at the Army Review Boards Agency.


Thinking About Urgent Care? The Nurse Advice Line Can Help


Falls Church, VA, December 15, 2014 - When an urgent health problem arises, it is hard to know whether you should try to tough it out or seek medical care. Luckily, TRICARE beneficiaries can call the Nurse Advice Line (NAL) to get advice on their health care questions. Not all health problems require a visit with a medical specialist but a Registered Nurse at the NAL can help you make the decision on whether you should seek care at an urgent care center.


VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun a two-year pilot to study innovative approaches to quickly search electronic medical records and medical literature for relevant published studies. During the pilot, VA will assess how the technology may accelerate evidence-based clinical decisions.


Family Planning and the TRICARE Benefit


Falls Church, Va, December 11, 2014 - There are many options for managing your reproductive health. TRICARE covers several birth control options, but only when prescribed by a TRICARE-authorized provider. There are several types of birth control; intrauterine devices, hormonal methods and barrier methods. Each of these methods is reversible and should be considered effective when being used correctly and consistently. It is best to speak with your health care provider to discuss which option is best for you and your family.


VA Implements National Hypoglycemic Safety Initiative

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2014 - As part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ongoing effort to improve Veterans’ access to healthcare, VA is announcing the launch of a national Hypoglycemic Safety Initiative (HSI) to encourage diabetic Veterans receiving VA care to seek support to lower the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The new initiative will enable Veterans living with diabetes to work more closely with their VA clinicians to personalize health care goals and improve self-management of the disease.


Some Ohio War Bonuses Ending Soon!

December 4, 2014 - Continuing a tradition that dates back to the Civil War, Ohio awards a state/federal tax-free War Bonus during periods of conflict that applies to any Ohioan who wears or has worn a uniform of the United States armed forces – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and Army Reserve and the families of the fallen. Although the bonus awards any active service, it is higher for those who serve in an actual combat theater. For those claiming Iraq service, the chance to apply for the bonus will end December 31, 2014. Application for Afghanistan service will continue for three years after the president declares an end to U.S. involvement.


Transitioning Active Duty Service Members Get More Time to Access MilConnect


Falls Church, VA, December 4, 2014 - TRICARE sponsors, spouses, and their dependent children 18 years and older have access to their personal information, health care enrollments, eligibility and other information through MilConnect, an online resource provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). A new initiative gives separating service members and their families more time to access this important information.


VA Expands Eligibility for VA Health Care Related to Military Sexual Trauma

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, December 1,2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), under authority from the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“VACAA”), today announced expanded eligibility for Veterans in need of mental health care due to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred during their military service. This trauma is commonly known as military sexual trauma (MST). This expansion, which primarily pertains to Reservists and National Guard members participating in weekend drill, gives the authority to offer Veterans the appropriate care and services needed to treat conditions resulting from MST that occurred during a period of inactive duty training.


Understanding TRICARE’s Autism Care Demonstration


Falls Church, VA, November 24, 2014 - TRICARE and Military OneSource are co-hosting a webinar to educate TRICARE beneficiaries about the recently announced Autism Care Demonstration. The webinar will take place on Friday, December 5, 2014, from Noon – 1:00 p.m. EST.


Active Duty Service Members Must Change Roth TSP Contributions

By Abigail C. Reid, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, November 18, 2014 -- Active duty members of the Army, Air Force or Navy making dollar-amount Roth contributions to a Thrift Savings Plan account should know that these deductions will stop on Jan. 31, unless action is taken. "The Roth [Thrift Savings Plan] contributions are going from a dollar figure to a percentage of pay," said Kent Thompson, Financial Readiness Program manager for Army Community Service. This change will allow Service members to track their contributions to date, said Thompson. By contributing a percentage instead of dollar amount, Service members also avoid Thrift Savings Plan, referred to as TSP, updates as their pay rises.


VA Implements Second Phase of Choice Card Program

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it began mailing Veterans Choice Cards on November 17 to Veterans currently waiting more than 30-days from their preferred date or the date that is medically determined by their physician for an appointment at a VA facility. “VA continues to focus on implementation of this new temporary benefit so that Veterans receive the timely quality care they need in a way that reduces confusion and inefficiencies,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald, who penned an open letter to Veterans announcing the implementation of the Choice Card program.


TRICARE Plan Spotlight: The US Family Health Plan


Falls Church, VA, November 12, 2014 - TRICARE offers several different health plans to its 9.5 million beneficiaries. Although many are familiar with the most popular Standard and Prime options, there are other less well known health plans, including the US Family Health Plan (USFHP).


VA’s Center for Women Veterans Partners with the Center for American Women and Politics

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, November 10, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Center for Women Veterans (Center) entered into a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, to increase women Veterans’ leadership and career opportunities, which will benefit the Nation’s workforce and address women Veterans growing needs. The MoA will allow the Center and CAWP to leverage existing resources and increase coordination of activities to help women Veterans develop public service and community engagement skill sets, so they will be prepared for public and community service opportunities.


Military Health System Provides Easy Access to Behavioral Health Care for School-Age Children and Youth


Falls Church, VA, October 22, 2014 - Children and teens face normal anxieties because of their growth, development and social needs. For military families, there is the added stress of deployments, relocations and re-establishing family life in new communities. To address these additional needs, the Military Health System provides easy access to outpatient behavioral health care for children, teens and college students.


VA Accepting Provider Applications to Extend Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, October 21, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it is currently accepting proposals for the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (AL-TBI). The program had been slated to sunset this year, however the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”) extends the program through October 6, 2017. “Due to the severity and complexity of their injuries, Veterans with TBI can require an extraordinary level of care and other support services,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Carolyn Clancy. “The AL-TBI program provides specialized assisted living services to eligible Veterans with traumatic brain injury to enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life and community integration.”


VA Expands Fry Scholarship to Surviving Spouses of Servicemembers Who Died on Active Duty

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will begin accepting applications by mail on Monday, November 3, 2014, for the Fry Scholarship under newly expanded eligibility criteria to include surviving spouses. The expanded criteria for the Fry Scholarship is the latest in a series of VA actions to implement provisions of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”). Specifically, Section 701 of the Choice Act expands the Fry Scholarship to include the surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. Prior to this expansion, only children of those who died in the line of duty were eligible for this benefit.


Nationwide Telephone Scam Affecting TRICARE Beneficiaries


Falls Church, VA, October 17, 2014 - TRICARE beneficiaries need to be aware of a telephone scam affecting beneficiaries over 65 and on Medicare nationwide. A caller will usually identify themselves as being an official Medicare vendor, and will then offer to sell you back braces. The caller may have specific information that makes the call seem official, typically your address, phone numbers and doctor’s name. The caller is hoping this will convince you they are a legitimate vendor and that you will give them your social security number and additional personal information. If you receive a call like this, DO NOT give any of your personal identifiable information, such as birth date, social security number or banking information. TRICARE never asks beneficiaries for this information when calling for an official Department of Defense survey. The Defense Health Agency (DHA) Program Integrity Office is closely monitoring this situation. If you receive a call of this nature, please do not provide your information and contact the DHA Program Integrity Office directly. For more information on fraud and abuse reporting visit,


TRICARE Delays Change in Autism Reimbursement to April

By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, October 10, 2014 – TRICARE has delayed until April a 46-percent reduction in the reimbursement level for some autism services while it awaits the results of an independent assessment of the prevailing rate for the services, defense officials said today. The reduced reimbursement rate -- for one-on-one therapy with a board-certified behavior analyst for those with autism spectrum disorder -- was one of several program changes scheduled to go into effect Oct. 20 as TRICARE implements its new Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration, or Autism Care Demo. On Sept. 19, after the Defense Department published related changes to the TRICARE Operations Manual, providers and beneficiaries raised issues.


VA Processes More than 1.3 Million Veterans’ Claims in FY14

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, October 9, 2014 - More than 1.3 million Veterans received decisions on their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal year (FY) 2014 - the highest number in VA's history, surpassing last year's record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims. This second year of record-breaking production comes as VA continues to transform the way it provides benefits and services, to deliver faster and higher quality decisions, to Veterans, their families and survivors. At the end of the year, the disability claims backlog (defined as any disability claim pending longer than 125 days) was reduced by 60-percent from the peak backlog in March 2013 and is at its lowest number in nearly 4 years. Veterans waited, on average, 119 fewer days for a decision on their claim than Veterans did in FY 2013. VA is on target to hit its 2015 goal.


Department of Veterans Affairs Partners With Walgreens to Expand Real-Time Sharing of Medical Information of Vaccines Provided by Walgreens to Enrolled Veterans

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2014 – In a first-of-its-kind partnership, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will join forces with retailer Walgreens to provide greater access to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended vaccinations to Veterans across the country. This partnership grew out of a successful pilot program that began in Florida to provide flu vaccines to Veterans throughout the state. Based on those results, VA is expanding the pilot nationwide. Through its nearly 8,200 locations nationwide, Walgreens will offer flu and other recommended vaccinations to Veterans. Pharmacists can administer vaccinations to Veterans and will leverage eHealth Exchange, through its Walgreens Cloud Electronic Health Records platform, to securely share immunization records with VA to help ensure complete patient medical records.


TRICARE Beneficiaries Will No Longer Receive Mailed Letters for Benefit Updates


Falls Church, Va, October 1, 2014 - TRICARE beneficiaries need to watch their email and ensure they have a milConnect account to receive information about changes to their TRICARE coverage. The Department of Defense is no longer sending paper letters to notify beneficiaries about changes to their coverage and eligibility status. Beneficiaries will now receive emails or post cards directing them to online resources where they can view their information.


VA Develops Mobile Application “Concussion Coach” To Help Support Treatment for Veterans Who Suffer From Mild to Moderate Concussions

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2014 - To better meet the needs of Veterans and others who have suffered mild to moderate concussion associated with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed "Concussion Coach," a mobile application (“app”) that provides portable tools to recognize symptoms and to identify and make use of coping strategies. The Concussion Coach app is designed to educate users about concussions, related symptoms, treatments and to enable users to recognize and assess symptoms. The app identifies resources for managing symptoms and planning tools to build resilience. It also provides access to crisis resources, including personal support contacts and ways in which the user can obtain professional health care.


VA Names New National Cemetery in Nebraska

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, September 5, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) selected the name Omaha National Cemetery for the national cemetery that VA will construct in the Omaha region. “The Veterans of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa deserve a final resting place worthy of their service to our nation,” said Robert A. McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. VA purchased the Sarpy County land located along South 144th St. (Highway 50), at 14250 Schram Road for $6 million in December 2012. The cemetery will serve more than 112,000 Veterans in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa not currently served with an open national, state or tribal Veterans cemetery within 75 miles of their residence.


VA Rallies Community Support for Veterans During Suicide Prevention Month

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, September 4, 2014 – One small act could save the life of a Veteran or Servicemember in crisis – that’s the inspiration behind “The Power of 1” campaign. The campaign will launch this September during Suicide Prevention Month and is a joint project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). “The campaign emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation, or one act can have on the life of a Veteran or Servicemember by offering hope and opening the door to support,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “It also is designed to spread the word about VA and DoD mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts.”


Participants Selected for Pilot Program in Rural Communities

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, September 2, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced selection of five organizations and State and local governments to participate in a new pilot program to assist Veterans and their families who are transitioning from military service to civilian life in rural or underserved communities. The Rural Veterans Coordination Pilot (RVCP) is two-year program that awards up to $2 million to the five participating governments and organizations. Grantees are expected to use the funds designed to aid in the adjustment to civilian life in one or more of the following areas: (1) Increasing coordination of health care and benefits for Veterans; (2) Increasing availability of high quality medical and mental health services; (3) Providing assistance to families of transitioning Veterans, and; (4) Outreach to Veterans and families.


VA Releases New Version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 28, 2014. - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today launched an improved version of the GI Bill® Comparison Tool, which was first launched in February 2014. The GI Bill Comparison Tool is designed to make it easier for Veterans, Servicemembers, and dependents to estimate their GI Bill education benefits and learn more about VA's approved college, university, and other education and training programs across the country. It also provides key information about college affordability and value so beneficiaries can choose the best education program to meet their needs.


HUD, VA, AND USICH Announce 33% Drop in Veteran Homelessness Since 2010

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) today released a new national estimate of veteran homelessness in the United States. Data collected during the annual Point-in-Time Count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America, a decline of 33 percent (or 24,837 people) since 2010. This includes a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street. HUD, VA, USICH, and local partners have used evidenced-based practices like Housing First and federal resources like HUD-VASH (the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program) to get veterans off the street and into stable housing as quickly as possible. Since 2008, the HUD-VASH program has served a total of 74,019 veterans.


VA Moves to Streamline Identification of Rural Land Areas

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 22, 2014 – In order to more accurately identify and serve rural Veterans, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is improving the method it uses to define urban, rural and highly rural land areas. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to providing high quality health care to Veterans when and where they need it, including rural and highly rural areas of the country,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “With this change, we will be better able to deliver services to Veterans when and where they need them.” The current method is being replaced by a more accurate method, modeled on one used by other leading federal agencies. It is anticipated that implementation will begin before October 1, 2014. The Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCA) system, developed by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, has become more accepted because of its sound social science basis and its adaptability for special programs.


VA Expands Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) Contracts to Provide Access to Primary Care

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2014 -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that primary care has been added to the services available to Veterans through VA’s Patient-Centered Community Care (PC3) contracts, a key and evolving part of the non-VA medical care program. Eligible Veterans are already able to access inpatient specialty care, outpatient specialty care, mental health care, limited emergency care and limited newborn care for female Veterans following childbirth under PC3.


VA Announces New Grants to Help End Veterans Homelessness

BY VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 11, 2014 - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald today announced the award of approximately $300 million in grants that will help approximately 115,000 homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. The grants will be distributed to 301 community agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is awarding grants to private non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that provide services to very low-income Veteran families living in – or transitioning to – permanent housing. Those community organizations provide a range of services that promote housing stability among eligible very low income Veteran families (those making less than 50 percent of the area median income). The grants announced today will fund the fourth year of the SSVF program.


Obama Signs Act to Give VA New Money, Authorities

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2014 – President Barack Obama today signed into law the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 during a ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The bill provides the Veterans Affairs Department with additional resources to improve access and quality of care for veterans. The impetus for the act came from revelations of “inexcusable misconduct” at some VA health care facilities, the president said. Some VA hospitals were cooking the books, and veterans were denied care they had earned. “This is wrong,” the president said. “It’s outrageous.”


VA Fights Against Veteran Identity Theft

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it has launched a new campaign to educate Veterans about identity theft prevention. The new campaign, titled More Than a Number, references the personally identifiable information that VA encourages Veterans to protect. “We recognize that for Veterans, as for all Americans in the digital age, identity theft is a growing concern,” said Steph Warren, VA’s Chief Information Officer. “Our goal is to help educate and protect those who have protected this great country.” VA’s Office of Information and Technology recently announced the launch of a new website containing identity theft resources for Veterans and their beneficiaries. The website can be found at and features educational information, interactive multimedia and links to other online identity theft prevention resources. The campaign also includes a toll-free help line offering support for Veterans, their beneficiaries and VA employees who have questions and concerns about identity theft. The toll-free number is 1-855-578-5492, and it will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., EST.


TRICARE Website: Easier to Use


Falls Church, Va., August 5, 2014 - On July 24, unveiled a new design to give TRICARE’s 9.6 million beneficiaries clear and easy access to benefit information. Users now have more ways to browse our site. We’ve added easier navigation, a login button for quicker access to our partner’s secure services, and a section on the homepage dedicated to life-changing events. We’ve also streamlined and reorganized our content so users can find what they’re looking for in the way they’re expecting.


TRICARE Nurse Advice Line Offers Health Care Guidance

By American Forces Press Service (From a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center News Release)

BETHESDA, Md., July 22, 2014 – TRICARE beneficiaries in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii can now access the Nurse Advice Line to receive health care guidance and advice. The service, launched in April, offers professional help by phone at a moment’s notice, officials said. “Our mission at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is to provide patient-friendly access to high quality health care for all we are privileged to serve -- service members and their families [and] our retirees and their families,” said Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark, the medical center’s director. “The Nurse Advice Line provides patient-friendly access to high-quality medical information, guidance for self-care, and appointments, if necessary, for those we are privileged to serve. This is a benefit for our patients and for our mission success.”


The Army Voting Assistance Program

July 21, 2014 - The Primary season is just around the corner and Americans will soon be going to the polls. With the constant demands faced by our Soldiers, families and civilian workforce, the Army wants to ensure every eligible voter has the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The voting process is a key element in our nation's governmental process and the Army Voting Assistance Program provides our voters the resources necessary to exercise that right. The U.S. Army Voting Assistance Program informs and educates Soldiers and their eligible dependents on their right to vote. The goal is to encourage the Army community to participate in the nation's voting process and know their vote will be counted no matter where they are stationed. Voting Assistance Officers (VAOs) at installation and unit levels provide assistance, information and guidance to our communities including material on the voting process, requesting absentee ballots and mailing the completed ballots. All that being said, it is still the responsibility of the individual voter to register, request an absentee ballot and cast their vote.


TRICARE Increases Access to Qualified Mental Health Counselors


Falls Church, Va., July 18, 2014 - The TRICARE mental health benefit just got bigger. Beneficiaries can now choose between two qualified mental health counselor types: independently practicing TRICARE Certified Mental Health Counselors (TCMHC) and Supervised Mental Health Counselors (SMHC). TRICARE will authorize TCMHCs as independent providers who meet specific qualification criteria. They must have a master’s degree from a mental health counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) and pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) by Jan. 1, 2017. TCMHCs can independently treat TRICARE beneficiaries as well as oversee SMHCs. SMHCs will continue to practice under the referral and supervision of TRICARE-authorized physicians while getting the required 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical practice to become a TCMHC.


Veterans Benefits Administration Processes One Millionth Claim in FY 2014

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Washington, July 14, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has completed its one millionth disability claim in fiscal year 2014, and is on track to complete more than 1.3 million claims this year – ensuring that nearly 200,000 more Veterans will receive decisions on their disability claims than fiscal year 2013. Since 2011, VBA has been implementing the largest transformation in its history, fundamentally redesigning and streamlining the way it provides benefits and services to Veterans, their families and survivors.


New Regulations Automate Burial Payments for Veterans’ Survivors

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2014 – New burial regulations effective today will now allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to automatically pay the maximum amount allowable under law to most eligible surviving spouses more quickly and efficiently, without the need for a written application. Under former regulations, VA paid burial benefits on a reimbursement basis, which required survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally paid at the maximum amount permitted by law.


New School Directory Guides Parents of Special-needs Kids

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – A permanent-change-of-station move prompts its own challenges, but family members with special-needs children face another complexity when looking for the right schools at their new home, a Defense Department official said here yesterday. Ed Tyner, acting deputy director of DOD’s special needs program, told DoD News that service members and their families can find a comprehensive tool in the newly updated Education Directory for Children with Special Needs, which addresses opportunities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Available on the Military OneSource website, the directory gives parents guidance to make informed decisions on new school districts, programs and services for special-needs children. “DoD is supportive of all families with special needs,” Tyner emphasized.


VA Announces $5 Million in Grants to Aid Homeless Veterans With Special Needs

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is making renewed funding available to 25 organizations in 11 states that provide transitional housing and supportive services to homeless Veterans with special needs. The Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) Special Need Grants – totaling $5 million to grantees – will allow the organizations to continue providing housing and necessary services to homeless Veterans from any or all of the following groups with special needs: women, frail elderly, terminally ill, chronically mentally ill and individuals who care for minor dependents.


MWR Summer Recreation Activities Open to Troops, Families

By Terri Moon Cronk, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014 – With summer just beginning, Defense Department officials want to remind service members and their families that low- to no-cost fitness and recreation opportunities exist to maintain military family readiness, a morale, welfare and recreation official said today. Chris Wright, MWR program analyst with DOD’s military community and family policy office, emphasized how feeling healthy and fit contributes to personal and professional success, which is essential to national security. “MWR has been linked to readiness -- it helps build resilience in service members and family members and builds esprit de corps within units,” Wright explained. “That’s tied directly to staying fit and promoting healthy lifestyles and to [help] the service member fight mentally and physically.” The summer activities program also is open to DOD civilians, he added.


VA Celebrates 70th Anniversary of the Original “GI Bill”

BY VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is celebrating 70 years of investment in the education and economic prosperity of America’s Servicemembers and Veterans. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the “GI Bill” was enacted on June 22, 1944. The law provided a wide range of benefits for Veterans returning from World War II, including low-cost home loans, education and vocational training. The original GI Bill was heralded as a success and major contributor to America's stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth across the Nation. Today, a new group of Veterans is accessing the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education benefits, following in their footsteps.


VA Provides Guidance to Same-Sex Married Couples Seeking Benefits

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Washington, June 20, 2014 - After close consultation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing guidance to same-sex married couples on the benefits and services to which they are entitled under current laws and regulations. "VA worked closely with DOJ to develop guidance to process cases involving same-sex marriages and to implement necessary changes swiftly and smoothly in order to deliver the best services to all eligible Veterans," said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which governed the definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" for all federal agencies. However, there remain certain provisions of federal law governing Veterans' benefits and services that, like DOMA, define a spouse as a member of the opposite sex. In September 2013, the U.S. Attorney General announced President Obama's directive to cease enforcement of those VA-specific definitional provisions.


VA Releases Latest Nationwide Data on Access to Veterans Health Care

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) posted the second in a series of bi-monthly data updates showing progress on its efforts to accelerate access to quality health care for Veterans who have been waiting for appointments. Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson announced that VA has now contacted approximately 70,000 Veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics for medical appointments. Gibson also announced the release of the latest updated, facility-level patient access data, which demonstrates that the number of appointments has increased by almost 200,000 from May 15 to June 1. “In many communities across the country, Veterans wait too long for the high quality care they’ve earned and deserve,” said Acting Secretary Gibson. “As of today, we’ve reached out to 70,000 Veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, but there is still much more work to be done. As we continue to address systemic challenges in accessing care, these regular data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on Veterans’ access to quality health care. Trust is the foundation for everything we do. VA must be an organization built on transparency and accountability, and we will do everything we can to earn that trust one Veteran at a time.”


Autism Care Demonstration Simplifies TRICARE ABA Benefits

By TRICARE News Release

June 16, 2014 - Starting this summer, a new Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) policy will cover all TRICARE beneficiaries with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under a single benefit. The Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) will start July 25, 2014 and will run until Dec. 31, 2018. All beneficiaries currently receiving ABA under TRICARE will transition seamlessly to the new benefit with no gap in coverage by Dec. 31, 2014.


Arlington National Cemetery Plans Anniversary Commemoration

By American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., June 13, 2014 – A special program will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery on June 15. "Arlington at 150" is an hour-long live military show featuring musical performances by "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band and a joint chorus composed of singers from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are on tap, as well as a wreath ceremony and historical vignettes that showcase how military conflicts have shaped the nation and the cemetery. The event is free and open to the public. The show will start at 8:30 p.m. EDT, with a pre-show at 8 p.m. in the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater. This is the first time Arlington has hosted an evening event in the amphitheater, officials said. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Officials said people to arrive early to ensure access and should plan to be seated by 8 p.m.


VA Releases Data on Quality, Access to Veterans Healthcare

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the results from its Nationwide Access Audit, along with facility level patient access data, medical center quality and efficiency data, and mental health provider survey data, for all Veterans health facilities. Full details made public at follow Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson’s commitment last week in Phoenix, Arizona and San Antonio, Texas to provide timely access to quality healthcare Veterans have earned and deserved.


Commission Seeks Service Members’ Compensation Preferences

By American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2014 – The commission tasked by President Barack Obama and Congress to modernize military compensation and benefits programs is seeking input from service members on their preferences. Alphonso Maldon Jr., chairman of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, said understanding service members’ compensation preferences is central to the commission’s effort to craft modernization recommendations. “Our primary goal is to ensure the uniformed services can maintain the most professional all-volunteer force, provide for a high quality of life for the members of the uniformed services and their families, and ensure that compensation and retirement systems are financially sustainable,” he said. “Our fundamental objective is to craft an integrated compensation and personnel system that will continue to be valued by service members, provide flexibility for the uniformed services, and be cost effective.”


VA Receives Donation for New Yellowstone National Cemetery

By VA Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2014 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received a donation of property in Yellowstone County for the new Yellowstone National Cemetery, Montana, which will be dedicated in a Memorial Day Ceremony on May 26, 2014. “We are pleased to expand burial service to Veterans and their families in Montana,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Yellowstone National Cemetery will help us reach Veterans in the rural parts of Montana who have not previously had reasonable access to a national or State Veterans Cemetery.” VA’s National Cemetery Administration will begin burial operations at Yellowstone National Cemetery on May 26, 2014. Effective May 26, Veterans and family members who wish to schedule an interment or inurnment at the cemetery should call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800 535-1117. VA will manage committal services for burials that were previously scheduled by the City of Laurel, Mont.


DOD Releases Figures on Sexual Harassment in Military

By Nick Simeone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 – Emphasizing that the Defense Department continues to encourage victims to come forward, Pentagon officials released a report today that says just under 1,400 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the military last year. The congressionally mandated report defines sexual harassment as an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that can affect a career, job performance or create an abuse workplace.


Sallie Mae Ordered to Pay $96.6M for Violating Troops’ Rights

By American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 – Justice Department officials announced an enforcement action yesterday against the nation’s largest servicer of federal and private student loans, which was found to be systematically violating the legal rights of U.S. service members. Sallie Mae -- also known as Sallie Mae Bank and Navient Solutions -- is ordered to pay $96.6 million in restitution and penalties, officials said, adding that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also reached a settlement with the companies that addresses allegations of student loan servicing misconduct. “I commend Attorney General Eric Holder, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg, and the staff at the Department of Justice and FDIC for taking action to protect student loan borrowers,” said Holly Petraeus, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau assistant director, who leads the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs.