July 22, 2008
1. Congress Overrides Presidential Veto to Pass Medicare Bill:On July 15th, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Actof 2008 (H.R. 6331) became Public Law No: 110-275. The law prevents ascheduled 10.6 percent cut to physician payment rate for 18 months andcreates a 1.1 percent payment increase in 2009. For the complete textgo to: http://thomas.loc.gov/.
The National Military Family Association (NMFA) has beenfollowing this bill closely because of its impact on TRICAREbeneficiaries. Last week, H.R. 6331 had passed both Congressionalchambers and was presented to President George W. Bush on July 7th. OnJuly 15th, as promised by President Bush, he vetoed the bill because ofthe inclusion to cut the Medicare Advantage program that he opposed.Congress immediately took action to successfully override PresidentBush's veto. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Actof 2008 became law on that very same day.
2. VA Announces Online Claims Applications:Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced thatonline applications are now accepted from veterans, survivors, andother claimants filing initial applications for disabilitycompensation, pension, education, and vocational rehabilitation andemployment benefits without the additional requirement to submit asigned paper copy of the application. Effective immediately, VA willnow process applications received through its online applicationwebsite (VONAPP) without the claimant's signature. The electronicapplication will be sufficient authentication of the claimant'sapplication for benefits. Normal development procedures and rules ofevidence will still apply to all VONAPP applications.
The online application also provides a link to apply for VA health care benefits and much more. To access VONAPP go to: www.va.gov/onlineapps.htm.
For more information about VA benefits, go to VA's website at http://www.va.gov/ or call the toll-free number at 1-800-827-1000.
3. Admiral Mullen Opens 2008 NG Family Training Conference:Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen,addressed almost 1,500 participants of the National Guard Bureau (NGB)Joint Family Program Volunteer Workshop and Youth Symposium in St.Louis this week. The annual conference, being held from July 20ththrough the 23rd, offers training for volunteers and staff members whoserve the families of the National Guard. In his remarks, AdmiralMullen offered his thanks to the volunteers and families for theirsupport of the Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard and recognizedhow they and their service members are an important link to thecommunities of America. He also remarked on the challenges facingfamily support and how the military uses those support resources. Inwhat he called "this time of change" he cited the need for commandersto stress to their service members the importance of keeping theirfamilies connected to all available resources. He applauded thevolunteers in the room as vital leaders, but reminded them to take careof themselves as they cared for others and to "recruit your relief."The audience was very appreciative of the Chairman's remarks and theopportunity to ask questions at the end of his talk.
This year's conference also spotlights a change in title of the NGBfamily program it will now be called the Joint Family Program in lightof their new tasking of supporting family members of all the servicesand components through the state Joint Family Assistance centers. Thisjointness was emphasized by the attendance of family support staffmembers of other reserve component family programs. The conferencecontinues with breakout sessions addressing the myriad of issuesaffecting National Guard families in all stages of deployment. Theconference also marks the changing of the guard as COL Tony Baker,longtime chief of family programs, hands his duties to COL Martha Wong.NMFA thanks COL Baker and his wife Della for their service to NationalGuard families and welcomes COL Wong and looks forward to working withher.
4. Dr. Casscells Asks for Your Input for Health Care Improvement:On a recent Military Health System (MHS) blog, the Department ofDefense's Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, S. WardCasscells, MD, wrote (July 9th) about "Finding a Doctor." Dr. Casscellsdecided to use his blog to assist military families in finding a"great" doctor. He stated "choosing a doctor is not a casual decision"and provided a "foolproof system" to find one. Dr. Casscells provided arunning commentary on what you should do. Here is a short list:
- Have the ability to pick your own doctor
- Know the doctor's interests
- Know the doctor's ratings
- Doctors should possess certain traits, such as provide quality care, treat me with respect, conscientious, and listen
Dr. Casscells recommended paying attention to the doctor's staffwhen you call and during your visits because of the saying "birds of afeather." He also stressed, it is not a marriage between you and thedoctor. If you're disappointed, then request/find another doctor untilyou are satisfied.
Dr. Casscells wants to know what the MHS could do better, "so thateveryone can find a doctor they trust." Please take the time to readhis blog at: http://www.health.mil/MHSBlog/Article.aspx?ID=297 and make your suggestions.
NMFA is pleased that Dr. Casscells is taking on this importantissue. Frequent military moves coupled with the deployment of ourmilitary providers have changed the landscape within our MilitaryTreatment Facilities (MTFs). We often hear of the difficulties gainingaccess to our MTFs and issues surrounding the referral process. NMFAwould appreciate if you would also share your recommendations for whatneeds to done to improve the MHS with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Army Lengthens Family Time with Newborns, Newly Adopted:Last week, the Army announced a policy change that will lengthen thecurrent deployment deferment period to six months for military mothersof newborns and certain military parents adopting a child.
Effective August 1st, 2008, Army mothers of newborns and certainSoldiers adopting a child will be able to stay home two months longerbefore being assigned on a permanent change of station to adependent-restricted overseas tour, accompanied overseas tour whereconcurrent travel is denied, temporary duty away from their homestation, or on a deployment.
This expanded policy applies to a Soldier who is a new mother, to asingle Soldier who adopts a child, or to one member of a dual-militarycouple who adopts a child, with the deferment period beginning the datethe child is placed in the home as part of the formal adoption process.
Soldiers who are currently on a postpartum deferment that will endprior to August 1st will follow the four-month deferment guidelines;however, commanders are encouraged to grant a longer deferment periodwhen operationally feasible. Soldiers who are on a deferment on August1st will be eligible to extend from their current four-month defermentto the expanded six-month deferment; the Soldier may waive thisextension.
6. NMFA Attends Preventive Health Care for Children Conference:On May 28 - 29th, a member of the National Military Family Association(NMFA) attended a two-day conference regarding family and communityissues held by Family Voices in Chicago, IL. Over 13 organizations fromaround the country that represent a wide range of family and communityissues were in attendance. The reason for the meeting was to provideattendees with information regarding Bright Futures (a resource guidefor children's good health); learn about other's activities andinitiatives; and to begin a dialogue on ways to share ideas andcollaborate efforts on promoting family health care issues.
A key partner in implementing Bright Futures was the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP has been working in partnershipwith the federal government's Maternal and Child Health Bureau on theBright Futures initiative. Bright Futures is built on the principlethat every child deserves to be healthy and their materials stress thecrucial role the family plays in preventative health care for children.The AAP recently released new material on Bright Futures titled, The Bright Futures Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents.
NMFA often speaks about the importance of military family memberspartnering with their health care providers. We encourage TRICAREManagement Activity to adopt Bright Futures initiatives as theirstandard of care for our military children. More information on BrightFutures is available online at: http://www.brightfutures.aap.org/.
7. TRICARE Covers New Back Surgeries:The Department of Defense's TRICARE Management Activity announced July8th they will be covering new back surgeries. TRICARE beneficiaries whohave been diagnosed with fractured vertebrae qualify for percutaneousvertebroplsy and kyphoplasty. The policy change is retroactive to March1, 2007.
Traditional treatment for this condition was bed rest along withanti-inflammatory medication for approximately three months, followedby spinal fusion surgery if the patient's pain/discomfort did notimprove. These new treatments are done on an outpatient basis with thepatient returning to a relatively normal condition within 24 hours.Beneficiaries must seek approval from their provider before seekingsurgery. Questions about this procedure and its coverage can beprovided by your health care provider and http://www.tricare.mil/ for additional information.
After the story, there will be a live moderated discussion withKim's husband, Justin, as well as Virginia Ruehrwein, the Director ofYouth and Community Outreach at the Armed Services YMCA of San Diego.Barbara Schochet from The Soldiers Project will also join the webcast.The discussion features a groundbreaking component where viewers canjoin the webcast using their web cameras from their homes or offices.Just send a video skype or video instant message to itbmac5 and you can ask your question live.
Log on to http://www.intheirboots.com/ on Wednesday, July 23rd at 7pm Eastern (4pm Pacific) to watch the fourth live webcast of IN THEIR BOOTS.