1. Kansas and Kentucky Deliver Great News for Military Families! Last week, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear both signed into law the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.NMFA applauds Kansas and Kentucky for being the first states to signthis important compact which will help ease the transition militarychildren face when moving. This year, twenty-one states are consideringthe compact and 14 of those state legislatures have bills in one orboth chambers.
As a member of both the Advisory Committee and Drafting Team, NMFAhas been actively supporting the adoption of this compact from itsbeginning. Military families have long needed the support of individualstates during the transition process; whether transferring within astate, from state to state, or from an overseas location. NMFA firmlybelieves that in order for families to have smoother transitions, eachstate must become a better "receiving" state as well as "sending"state. By adopting this compact, each state can do its part toalleviate some of the many challenges our military children face whenmoving.
For further information on the compact, NMFA has provided a link tothe Council of State Governments website under our Military Children'sEducation section: http://www.nmfa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=childrens_education
2. Apply Now for Military Spouse Financial Counseling Fellowship:Are you interested in an exciting career that offers flexibility,upward mobility, and can move with you? The Association for FinancialCounseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®) in association with theNational Military Family Association (NMFA) and the FINRA InvestorEducation Foundation is pleased to announce applications are beingaccepted for the Military Spouse Fellowship for the AccreditedFinancial Counselor Program. This program will provide up to 200military spouses with the education necessary to enter the financialcounseling career field.
The fellowship covers the costs associated with completing theAccredited Financial Counselor (AFC) training and testing. Uponsuccessful completion of the program and required practicum, theparticipant will be awarded the Accredited Financial Counselordesignation from AFCPE.
Many employers such as credit unions, financial aid offices, andcommunity housing agencies need well-trained, ethical and caringfinancial counselors to meet the increasing demand for financialcounseling services. Military spouses can fill this need while buildinga rewarding career that is flexible to the demands of the militaryfamily lifestyle.
Time is running out, applications must be received by April 30th. Apply now!
3. Happy Tax Day! Most Americansknow today is the due date for filing federal tax returns. Somemilitary families are not required to file a federal return becausetheir income levels fall below the minimum filing threshold. This yearthese families should consider filing.
Starting in May, the Treasury will begin sending economic stimuluspayments to more than 130 million households. To receive a payment,taxpayers must have a valid Social Security number, $3,000 of incomeand file a 2007 federal tax return. Eligible people will receive up to$600 ($1,200 for married couples), and parents will receive anadditional $300 for each eligible child younger than 17. Millions ofretirees, disabled veterans and low-wage workers who usually are exemptfrom filing a tax return must do so this year in order to receive astimulus payment.
Economic stimulus payments will be issued according to the lasttwo-digits of the main filer's Social Security number. People who usedirect deposit will be among the first to receive payments starting May2. Paper checks will be put in the mail beginning May 16 and will bemailed to the last known address on file with the IRS. If you havemoved, you should file a Form 8822 with the IRS and a change of addressnotice with the U.S. Postal Service. This will ensure your check issent to your new address. Without your current address, the check couldbe returned to the IRS as undeliverable.
Complete details regarding the stimulus program are available on the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=177937,00.html.
4. GAO Report Finds Retail Drug Spending Costly for DoD: TheUnited States Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report toCongressional committees titled, "DoD Pharmacy Program: ContinuedEfforts Needed to Reduce Growth in Spending at Retail Pharmacies",GAO-08-327. According to the report, the Department of Defense (DoD)spent over $6.2 billion on medications in fiscal year 2006 (FY06),which is a three-fold increase over $1.6 billion spent in FY 2000.Spending at TRICARE Retail Pharmacies (TRRx) was found to be the reasontotaling $3.9 billion and 63 percent of overall drug spending in FY06.Over 2 million TRICARE beneficiaries used only retail pharmacies.
DoD has tried to address prescription drug spending in several ways:through its uniform formulary, voluntary manufacture rebates, andbeneficiary use of TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy (TMOP). The uniformformulary helped DoD avoid spending $916 million in FY07. DoD hascollected over $28 million in FY07 from voluntary manufacturer rebatesfor formulary drugs that were dispensed to beneficiaries in retailpharmacies. DoD started an outreach initiative of TMOP benefits in 2006to encourage beneficiaries to use this as an alternative method whengetting medications. NMFA, along with the Military Coalition, played alarge role in getting this implemented. DoD also established a MemberChoice Center to help beneficiaries easily move their prescriptionrefills to TMOP in August 2007. According to Express Scripts, this hasprovided over $800,000 savings to beneficiaries and $9.3 million toDoD. For more information on TMOP and MCC download the factsheet on ourwebsite, www.nmfa.org.
There are two factors that will play a role in DoD's ability tolimit future drug spending. They include the recent Task Force on theFuture of the Military Health Care's report and the National DefenseAuthorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA FY08). The Task Force hasrecommended changes to the pharmaceutical tier structure and copaymentsin order to encourage beneficiaries to buy certain medications andpurchase drugs from more cost-saving sources, such as TMOP. The NDAAFY08 included a federal drug pricing provision for medicationsdispensed in retail pharmacies to help decrease retail spending.However, these many not be enough. According to the GAO, DoD will needto monitor these changes for its impact on cost savings and determinewhat other initiatives may be necessary to ensure fiscalresponsibilities.
NMFA believes the focus should not be solely on cost-savings whenmaking decisions, but must include looking at the affect these changesmay have on beneficiaries behaviors and its economic impact. NMFAencourages Congress to require DoD to utilize peer-reviewed researchinvolving beneficiaries and prescription drug benefit options, alongwith performing additional research involving TRICARE beneficiaries,before making any recommendations on prescription drug benefit changes,such as copayment and tier structure changes for military servicemembers, retirees, and their families. NMFA also recommends DoD mustlook for additional ways to implement savings. We believe it isimperative for all of the medications available through TRRx be madeavailable through TMOP. Medications for treating chronic conditions,such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension should be made available atthe lowest level of copayment regardless of brand or generic status.NMFA also agrees with the Task Force's recommendations for Over theCounter (OTC) drugs to be a covered pharmacy benefit and for thereto be a zero co-payment for TMOP Tier 1 medications.
To view the report on the GAO webpage: http://www.gao.gov/index.html. Search by report number: 08-327.
5. NMFA Comments on FMLA Regulations: The comment period on the Notice of Proposed Rule Makingregarding regulations for the military expansion of the Family andMedical Leave Act (FMLA) closed Friday. As discussed in previouseditions of the Government and You ENews, Congress expanded FMLAprotections for military familiy members in National DefenseAuthorization Act (NDAA) for 2008. Currently the Department of Labor(DoL) is crafting the regulations to govern the expanded coverage.
In addition to submitting comments, NMFA signed on to the commentsof the National Partnership for Women and Families, the organizationthat drafted the original legislation 15 years ago.
To read NMFA's comments, visit our website at: http://www.nmfa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=testimonies.
To view the comments of the National Partnership for Women and Families go to: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ourwork_fmla_FMLARegulations.
6. Children's Website Retooled: TheAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently redesigned andupdated their Military Child and Youth Deployment Support website. Withnew information and resources, this site provides needed mental healthsupport to military children, families, and youth professionals whoserve the military community. Areas of interest include: advocacy andawareness; research; best practices; links to resources for parents;and video support programs such as, "Military Youth Coping withSeparation: When Family Members Deploy" and "Mr. Poe and FriendsDiscuss Reunion after Deployment".
Visit the AAP website at: www.aap.org/sections/uniformedservices/deployment/index.html