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VFW WASHINGTON WEEKLY, Feb. 13, 2009

Posted at 06:54 PM on Friday, February 13, 2009 by Dept MO-VFW

In This Issue

NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE
1. Advance Funding Bill Reintroduced
2. Senate Holds VA Appeals Process Hearing
3. FY 2010 Independent Budget Now Online

NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS
1. Camp Lejeune Water Study
2. Army Referral Bonus Program
3. TRICARE for Retired Reserve
4. Reserve Retirement


NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE

1. Advance Funding Bill Reintroduced: Senate VA Committee Chairman
Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and House VA Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA)
reintroduced advance funding legislation at a press conference
yesterday. A VFW priority goal, advance funding (or advanced
appropriations) would require Congress to approve a VA budget a full
year ahead of time, instead of just for the upcoming fiscal year. The
bill, "Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009,"
or S. 423 and HR 1016, respectively, would deliver a budget to the VA
that is sufficient, timely and predictable, which would enable the VA to
more properly and efficiently care for America's veterans past and
present. The VFW thanks the two chairmen and their early cosponsors for
their support. We also urge the entire Congress to support this much
needed legislation. To read the VFW press release, go to:
http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=4924.

2. Senate Holds VA Appeals Process Hearing: The Senate VA Committee held
a hearing to examine ideas that could improve the timeliness of claims
at the appeals level, as well as the relationship between the Board and
the Court. According to witnesses, the complexity of the appeal process
adds months and sometimes years to the timeliness of a decision, and
increases the workload at every level. One witness said about 100,000
appeals were generated from the VA's 824,844 claims decisions in 2007.
In 2009, it is estimated 132,000 appeals will be created from the
942,700 claims decisions VA will make this year. Members of the
Committee questioned the need for drastic changes to include a military
style "surge" to decrease claims decisions. Other ideas discussed were
holding federal workers more accountable for errors, and shortening
deadlines for filing and ruling, to include reducing the amount of time
a veteran has to appeal a case. For more on the hearing, visit the
Senate committee website at:
http://veterans.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?pageid=16&release_id=11839&v
iew=all.

3. FY 2010 Independent Budget Now Online: The Independent Budget, now in
its 23rd year of publication, is now available online. Co-authored by
VFW, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of
America, the Independent Budget is a comprehensive look at what VA truly
needs to provide healthcare, benefits and services to its veteran
population. It also contains our recommendations to Congress on what
the budget should look like for the upcoming fiscal year. To read the
FY 2010 Independent Budget, go to: http://www.independentbudget.org/.

NATIONAL SECURITY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

1. Camp Lejeune Water Study: Unregulated chemicals were discovered in
some of Camp Lejeune's drinking water systems in the early 1980s. The
Marine Corps is funding health studies to determine when the drinking
water was first impacted, who may have consumed it, and whether or not
there may be an association between exposure to the water and certain
health conditions. All those who resided at Camp Lejeune from 1957-1987
are encouraged to register at www.marines.mil/clsurvey to receive
updated information and notifications regarding the ongoing water study.
The Marine Corps is also reaching out to other government agencies,
including the IRS, in an attempt to reach Marines, civilians, and family
members who resided at Camp Lejeune during this period. If you receive
a letter from the IRS and are already registered, no action is required.
You can also call this toll free hotline (1-877-261-9782) for more
information.

2. Army Referral Bonus Program: Soldiers, U.S. Military Academy Cadets,
Army component retirees, and Department of the Army civilian employees
can now earn $2,000 for referring an acquaintance to Army and Army
Reserve recruiters, if those referrals result in an enlistment. Read
more about the program at: http://www.2k.army.mil/bonus_program.htm.

3. TRICARE for Retired Reserve: Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH) has introduced
legislation (H.R. 270) that would allow Retired Reserve members younger
than age 60 to be eligible for TRICARE Standard health benefits. This
benefit would also include family members and require the retiree to pay
the full premium. The VFW supports this initiative, as it will provide
continuity of health care between reserve retirement and age 60, when
the member is eligible for TRICARE Standard. Action Needed: Contact
your member of Congress at http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/ and ask
them to sign on as a cosponsor to H.R. 270, the TRICARE Continuity of
Coverage for National Guard and Reserve Families Act of 2009.

4. Reserve Retirement: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced H.R. 208, the
National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act, to amend
Title 10 to ensure members of the Reserve Components of the Armed Forces
-- who have served on active duty or performed active service since 9/11
in support of a contingency operation -- receive credit in determining
eligibility for early receipt of retired pay. Since Jan. 28, 2009, a
Reserve Component members' retirement pay eligibility age is lowered by
three months for every 90 days served on active duty during a
contingency operation. This legislation will make that eligibility
retroactive to 9/11. The VFW supports this initiative and will continue
to work to reduce the retirement pay eligibility age to 55 for all
members. Action Needed: Contact your member of Congress at
http://capwiz.com/vfw/dbq/officials/ and urge them to cosponsor H.R.
208.


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