Medicare Cannot Be Billed For VA Health Care

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

You should ensure to also advise writers like Genevieve that Medicare cannot be billed for VA health care; and neither can most Medicare supplements, such as TRICARE for Life.

Exception: The only situation where Medicare can be billed is quite rare. That would be when VA refers the patient to a private non-VA provider. Only then can Medicare be billed for residuals not covered by the VA.

Respectfully,
Rich
Command Sgt. Major, USAF, Retired

Dear Rich:

Thanks for sharing this additional information for our vets and their families.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign Wars in applauding yesterday’s introduction of S. 470 to lower the Pentagon’s new Distinguished Warfare Medal to below the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the military order of precedence. The Senate bill is a companion to H.R. 833 that was introduced in late February to correct what immediately became an extremely unpopular decision by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

“It is very important to properly recognize all who faithfully serve and excel, but this new medal — no matter how well intended — quickly deteriorated into a morale issue,” said John E. Hamilton, a combat-wounded Marine Corps rifleman in Vietnam who leads the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

In announcing the new medal on Feb. 13, the Pentagon said the Distinguished Warfare Medal was created to recognize the extraordinary impact that modern battlefield technology has enabled service members to have on the battlefield, regardless of distance.

Mr. Hamilton said he agrees that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact, and so does Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) when they introduced S. 470.

“Our only disagreement is the medal’s placement,” said Mr. Hamilton, who discussed this issue with President Obama in the Oval Office last week and included it as testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees last Tuesday.

“We are grateful for the president’s interest and the bipartisan congressional support, because now is the time to lower the new medal’s precedence — now before the first one is awarded,” he said. “We know that overruling a predecessor’s decision puts Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel into an uncomfortable position, but it is the absolute right thing to do for the troops. Medals that can only be earned in combat must mean more than new medals awarded in the rear.”

• Congratulations to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), one of three nonprofit organizations to receive a Dole Foundation Innovation Grant for executing significant clearly recognized unmet military family caregiver needs. The grant will provide immediate relief to caregivers by creating an online manual titled “Tips for Lifelong Caregiving.”

“We are honored to receive this grant to produce a manual comprising what we have learned from our work to improve the physical and psychological well-being of wounded, ill and injured warriors, families and caregivers over the last decade,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr. said. “The manual includes useful information collected from six years conducting symposia and roundtable discussions at which MOAA and our partners listened to caregivers.”

MOAA is working on the project with two initial partners: USAA is providing expertise in the area of financial information, products and services; and the American Bar Association is adding its expertise in legal issues.

The Dole Foundation also announced recently that Google Inc. also has agreed to provide digital support services to MOAA and other Dole Foundation grant recipients.

MOAA will provide the labor, expertise, project management and associated work-related efforts to develop and implement the guide. The guide will be a Web-based financial/legal tool to aid caregivers in their contingency planning and decision-making. The tool will be available to the public and will augment existing programs sponsored by the Dole Foundation, DOD, VA and other agencies and individuals supporting caregivers.

Topics covered in the guide will include:

* Medical-Disability Insurance and Benefits Programs (for example, DOD, VA Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security, Caregiver and Aid & Attendance; In-Home & Nursing Care, Retirement;

* Guardianship;

* Fiduciary Matters;

* Powers of Attorney (Durable/Non-Durable; for example, financial, medical, military, benefits, tax, debt);

* Advance Directives;

* Legal Pro-bono Services & Resources;

* Wills;

* Financial-Estate Planning;

The guide is being developed with the active participation of caregivers and will be aimed at helping address the broad variety of needs they face in caring for their loved ones over time.

A task force of key contributors and pro-bono support will leverage existing collaborative relationships and financial and legal expertise.

The initial digital guide is targeted to be available by the end of June 2013. Updates will be added on an ongoing basis.

• Kudos to the Gold Star Wives of America, for the organization is being recognized this year on April 5 on Gold Star Wives Day.

This nonprofit organization provides a unique service to its members not available from any other organization. For more than 68 years, Gold Star Wives has been dedicated to securing the health and welfare of its members and their children by appearing before House and Senate committees to speak about issues related to the improvement of benefits in education, medical care and other military survivor programs.

Through the years, Gold Star Wives have spearheaded increased dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) retention after age 55 if remarried, elimination of the DIC offset to the survivors benefit program (SBP) and improved health and pharmacy benefits.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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About

Sgt. Shaft was hatched in April of 1982 at the home of the veterans' newspaper, Stars & Stripes, in Washington, D.C. This moniker combines the name of its creator, John Fales, Marine MOS in Vietnam and "Scout Sgt.," with the military expression when wronged, "Shafted."

Sgt. Shaft's wry sense of humor, empathy for the underdog, and strong love of country and fellow veterans closely mirror the nature of its creator.

In addition to writing the column, John Fales is President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. His decorations include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Sgt. Shaft has no twin.

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