As of January 28, 2013, the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) will be required by the United States Post Office for all automation letters and flats, including Business Reply Mail letters that qualify for Qualified Business Reply Mail prices and Permit Reply letters. The new barcode format provides greater information to the Post Office and allows closer tracking of the mail. For small branches that don’t use bulk rate, this will not change anything. They will just put a first class stamp on the letters since they are paying full price on their postage. They will not need the IMb.
Larger branches that have been getting the automation discount will need to begin to use IMb. To use this, the branch must register with the Post Office and get a Customer Registration Identification number (CRID) and a Mailer Identification number (MID).
NHQ will not have the CRID or MID for each branch and can not provide the IMb on mailing labels for the branch (as it has the MID embedded in it). The branches can not use the MID for NHQ as each mailer has a separate identification and it is restricted by mailer.
https://gateway.usps.com/bcg/login.htm is the first stop to getting a MID and CRID.
The branch must either download the IMb software and create their own labels using their MID, or work with a local letter shop to imbed their MID into their IMb on their mail. The letter shop should be able to design and print the IMb on their letters after the branch provides the list in an Excel format. NHQ will provide the Excel format to replace current labels, or branches can download their own from the Area For Branch and Regional Officers under Advanced Search. (Directions on how to do this are on the site).
If a branch uses business reply mail (BRM) pieces, they can work with a Mailpiece Design Analyst to design the new BRM with your new IMb. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and the service is free. CFC Ends on December 15th
Federal employees still have time to make a contribution to the FRA Education Foundation through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Tax-deductible donations can be made using Charity Code #80236 though December 15, 2012.
Eileen Murphy is the Director of Marketing and Communications and serves as the Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact her at email@example.com. Return to Table of Contents
FROM THE BRIDGE
First, I wish to thank all the Shipmates and Auxiliary members throughout the Association that sent cards, letters and e-mails to me this past summer during my illness. Your wishes for a full and speedy recovery worked and I hit the deck running albeit a little slow in Reno ready, willing and able to step up to the plate as your National President.
In that vein, I also want to thank you Shipmates for giving me the honor and privilege of serving as your National President for this coming Association Year. Together with a National Board of Directors that has new blood and fresh ideas we hope to stem the tide of our declining membership.
During my “campaign” year for National Vice President and my early travels this past year, I stressed the importance of personalization in all our membership matters. This is especially critical in our communications with our renewing and/or past due members. Although we may be recruiting well, we are not focusing nearly as much energy towards retaining our members which is the primary reason for our decline in membership. To me, personalization is not what is said but rather that you cared to say anything at all. Over the past year our dedicated Headquarters Staff, or “Team FRA” as I call them, have worked and prepared to bring the renewal process in-house, which will provide the control and flexibility to personalize our renewal notices while creating greater cost savings for the Association. A huge BRAVO ZULU to Team FRA for working so hard behind the scenes in addition to their regular work to make this happen over the past year.
Strategic Planning needs to continue and more importantly, the proposals researched and made need to be presented to the Delegates at the National Convention. To this end, the Delegates at this past National Convention passed the resolution to re-establish the Standing National Committee on Future Planning. This committee is chaired by Past National President Joseph Maez and solicits ideas and suggestions from all of the Shipmates around the Association. A letter with contact information has already been distributed via our weekly mail to branch secretaries; however, let me provide Shipmate Maez’ contact information again: Chairman, FPC, P. O. Box 13152, Reno, NV 89507-3152, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I truly hope that our Shipmates will fully utilize this conduit to present new and innovative ideas.
Last month I had the honor to have breakfast at the White House in commemoration of Veterans Day prior to the formal ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. It was my distinct privilege to “show the flag” and represent the Fleet Reserve Association at both of these events, and I am pleased that the LAFRA National President Diane Hoover was available to join me and participate in our wreath presentation at Arlington.
I look forward to meeting and talking with you, the Shipmates of our great Association, during my travels in the coming year. Although the title of this article is “From the Bridge” I have always viewed myself as more of a “deck plate” type of individual; so please feel free to contact me with either your ideas or concerns — after all this is YOUR Association.
Mark Kilgore is FRA’s National President for the 2012–2013 Association year. He is a member of FRA Branch 22 in Pensacola, Fla. Return to Table of Contents shipmate forum
Kudos for Navy Divers
BRAVO ZULU on your recent (October 2012 FRA Today) article on the “Brotherhood of the Deep.” It described the pride and camaraderie of U.S. Navy Divers and the work they do. Keep up the good work with more articles like this.
Thank you for the excellent article about Navy Divers in your October 2012 edition. It was great to see, as there never seems to be enough good articles about Navy Divers.
I was a Navy Diver from 1976 until my retirement in 2003 and I was assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit ONE in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We were the infamous Detachment 419, based in San Diego, Calif. We had great pride in our unit, our mission and in being United States Navy Divers. I still take great pride in the elite group of people I have been associated with through Navy Diving and believe your article was just the tip of the iceberg for really representing what Navy Divers are all about, but very well done! Thanks again for a great article!
Murray D. Warren Benefits of Pharmacy Home Delivery
Express Scripts not only e-mails acknowledgement of receipt of prescriptions, it also e-mails when the prescriptions are to be mailed. Other benefits not mentioned are the automatic refill function, again with appropriate e-mails, plus an e-mail reminder that a prescription is about to run out and must be refilled.
Regarding returned mail-in prescriptions: they will also be returned if the doctor has not actually signed the prescription; computer-generated signatures are not acceptable. I learned of this the hard way and even confirmed the signature requirement by phone to Express Scripts.
Tricare for Life is the greatest—and one of the few—benefits Congress has ever given us old guys.
Stanley W. Sokolove
High Praise for VRAP
I would like to share my experiences in utilizing the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). I recently began attending Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, through this program and feel it is very worthwhile to those of us who have been separated from the workplace for a long period of time. VRAP is designed for veterans, with or without jobs, ages 35 to 60 to attend a school training program. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Labor as a means for veterans to retrain and obtain a job.
VRAP will pay you for 12 months to attend school and receive a certification in numerous training programs. Del Mar College offers the majority of the programs listed in the VRAP brochure, and I’ve chosen to retrain to obtain a security job (with the Department of Homeland Security) in one of our nation’s airports.
This program has not been easy for me, as I have not been in a classroom for 40 years. But I feel confident that I will finish the program as I am receiving lots of help through tutors. (I had to go back and take remedial classes in English and Math.) I should mention that VRAP is paying me a stipend to help with expenses which, for me, is a real life saver.
Shipmate Donald Larson, Branch 94’s secretary, is always on the lookout for programs to benefit veterans. When he approached my wife about this program, I was hesitant at first and afraid I couldn’t complete the program. But after much discussion I became determined to utilize this program and I am grateful to Shipmate Don for bringing it to our attention.
It is my hope that every Veterans’ Resource Center has copies of the VRAP brochure and I further hope that if your branch doesn’t have a copy, that you will contact the VA to get one. If you, or anyone you know, could use this program I highly recommend it.
Robert D. Middleton Correction
Shipmate Ernie Plantz, who was featured in the News From the Branches section of last month’s magazine as he accepted his FRA Life Membership certificate, was a POW for three-and-a-half years during World War II — not during the Vietnam War as indicated. We regret the confusion the error may have caused.
Submissions: Send Shipmate Forum letters to: Editor, FRA Today, 125 N. West St. Alexandria, VA 22314. E-mail submissions may be sent to email@example.com. Please include “Shipmate Forum” in the subject line. FRA reserves the right to select and edit letters for publication. Letters published in Shipmate Forum reflect the opinions and views of FRA members. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of FRA as a whole. FRA is not responsible for the accuracy of letter content. Return to Table of Contents On & OFF Capitol HILL Busy Last Weeks of 112th Congress
As the post-election, “lame duck” session of the 112th Congress draws to a close, lawmakers will be pressing hard to finalize a variety of bills that affect FRA shipmates. Many issues need to be addressed before January 1, 2013, when automatic budget cuts (sequestration) take effect. This so-called “fiscal cliff,” which involves drastic cuts that will take effect unless Congress takes action, includes additional Defense budget reductions and a 27-percent reduction to reimbursement rates for providers who see Medicare and TRICARE patients. As a result, spending and authorization measures and legislative proposals to meet or delay the sequestration deadline will move very quickly.
Members are urged to subscribe to FRA NewsBytes, our free e-mail update on legislative changes that affect military and veterans benefits, to ensure they can respond promptly to critical, fast-moving legislation. To subscribe, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “Subscribe” in the subject line and your name and address in the body. If you are a member of FRA or the Auxiliary, please include your member number as well.
The FRA Legislative Team is also preparing for the 113th Congress, which convenes in early January. As a result of the November elections, the Democrats retain control of the White House and increased their majority in the Senate, while Republicans retained their majority status in the House. As pressure grows to reduce the deficit, Congress will be forced to make tough choices about pay and benefits for active duty military personnel, Reservists, retirees and veterans. Consistent with its mission, FRA continues its work to preserve and enhance the quality of life of current and former enlisted personnel, their families and survivors.
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ACTIVE DUTY/RESERVE ISSUES
Electronic TRS and TRR Payments
TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) and TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR) beneficiaries who currently pay monthly premiums by check must begin making payments electronically before Jan. 1, 2013. TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) will only accept monthly premium payments by recurring automatic credit or debit card transactions, or by recurring electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a linked bank account.
Current TRS and TRR beneficiaries should have also received notice from the Defense Manpower Data Center. Failure to pay premiums electronically by the due date can result in termination of coverage.
For more information on this issue, go to www.tricare.mil
The 2012 Department of Defense (DoD) Recovering Warrior Task Force (RWTF) Report was recently released, providing extensive analysis of the numerous congressionally-mandated programs to help wounded warriors and their families. The report assesses the effectiveness of these programs and recommends structural improvements. The report provides 35 recommendations, segregated into the following four categories that reflect a holistic and patient-centered approach for the recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration process:
• Enabling a better future;
• Optimizing ability;
• Restoring into society; and
• Restoring wellness and function.
To get a copy of the report go to www.icfi.com/insights/reports/2012/recovering-warrior-task- force-2012-annual-report
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It’s important for shipmates to remember there is no law protecting their military or veterans benefits. What Congress gives, Congress can take away. FRA was established in 1924 to protect military pay and benefits, and our mission hasn’t changed. Today’s FRA gives current and former Sea Service enlisted members a voice on Capitol Hill and, now more than ever, shipmates’ voices need to be heard. Through our combined efforts, FRA and its members have spoken out to halt health care fee increases, increase pay, significantly improve health care and other benefits, and enhance a variety of quality-of-life programs
The legislative process is complex and heavily influenced by grassroots pressure from advocacy groups like FRA and individuals communicating with their respective members of Congress. There is strength in numbers and this combined approach is more likely to persuade members of Congress to see, and act on, our point of view.
FRA encourages all members to be as informed as possible about legislative initiatives that impact them. In addition to the “On & Off the Hill” section of FRA Today, the Association offers several ways shipmates can stay up to date on new bills being introduced and their progress toward enactment.
NewsBytes:NewsBytes is FRA’s weekly e-mail update that provides a snapshot of what’s happening on Capitol Hill. It’s distributed each Friday afternoon to subscribers, or shipmates can listen to a recorded version by calling 1-800-FRA-1924, ext. 112. To subscribe, please e-mail email@example.com with “Subscribe” in the subject line and your name and address in the body. If you are a member of FRA, please include your member number as well.
FRA’s Action Center: It’s easy to share your views with your elected officials using FRA’s Action Center at www.fra.org. The website offers pre-written e-mail messages (or users can draft their own) that address specific legislative issues that can be sent to members of Congress or local media outlets with the click of a button. The Action Center also allows users to see which bills their legislators are supporting.
Making Waves: When you use the Action Center to weigh in on a particular issue, FRA works hard to keep you posted on the progress of that initiative. When legislative proposals threaten existing benefits, FRA sends Making Waves to those shipmates via e-mail, inviting them to reiterate their concerns to their elected officials.
It’s vitally important for FRA shipmates to be informed about legislative proposals that affect them and share their opinions on these proposals with their elected officials. Communicating concerns to your representative and senators is at the heart of FRA’s grassroots lobbying efforts and has a direct influence on the Association’s ability to effectively represent shipmates and their families on Capitol Hill.
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Concurrent Receipt Update
As FRA Today goes to press, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has indicated that he will offer a Senate floor amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, S. 3254) that seeks to authorize comprehensive concurrent receipt of military retired pay and veterans disability compensation for all disabled retirees, including Chapter 61 retirees — those medically retired with less than 20 years of service. The amendment is similar to Reid’s “The Retired Pay Restoration Act” (S. 344).
Other concurrent receipt legislation includes:
H.R. 303 (Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Fla.) has 103 co-sponsors and proposes to eliminate the 10-year phase-in period for retirees with a disability rating of 50 to 90 percent and extends concurrent retirement and disability payment (CRDP) eligibility to retirees rated less than 50 percent.
H.R. 333 (Rep. Bishop Sanford, Ga.) has 166 co-sponsors and includes elements of H.R. 303 and would also open CRDP to medically retired personnel with less than 20 years of service (Chapter 61 retirees).
H.R. 186 (Rep. Joe Wilson, S.C.) has 35 co-sponsors and would benefit all Chapter 61 retirees who would become eligible for CRDP over a five-year period.
These legislative proposals are listed on the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org
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TRICARE Prime Service Areas to be Reduced
According to press reports, the Department of Defense (DoD) is apparently planning to eliminate TRICARE Prime availability in several states and cities in the TRICARE West region, beginning on April 1, 2013. With some exceptions, most Prime beneficiaries in these areas will be moved to TRICARE Standard coverage, a more costly fee-for-service TRICARE option. Affected beneficiaries include retirees, Active Guard and Reserve troops, and family members in Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon, as well as in Reno, Nev., and Springfield, Mo.
DoD is not commenting on the plan, however, under new TRICARE contracts, TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) is only required to provide Prime coverage to beneficiaries who live within 40 miles of Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and in areas affected by the 2005 base realignment and closure (BRAC) process. Contracts awarded in 2010 specified this restriction, but numerous appeals of the contract awards delayed implementation.
Exceptions to the new policy may be authorized for some beneficiaries if there is a network of providers beyond the 40-mile limit and within 100 miles of the beneficiary. FRA is closely monitoring this and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
For more information, read Tom Philpott’s Military Update column (11-8-2012) at www.fra.org.
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Retirees Beware of Auto Sales from the “Exchange”
A military retiree publication is warning retirees of misleading advertisements in Auto Trader magazine and major metropolitan newspapers offering automobile sales through a company calling itself “Exchange Inc.” Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles in the continental United States and these advertisements have left consumers from Texas to Colorado with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Exchanges.
Military Exchange facilities are located solely on military installations. While military exchanges have mail order and Internet offerings, they do not advertise in civilian outlets such as metropolitan newspapers or automobile sales magazines. All advertisements for legitimate Exchange offerings are published in outlets whose audiences are mostly comprised of military members.
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FRA Worked on Capitol Hill During Recess
During the seven-week, pre-election congressional recess, members of FRA’s Legislative Team and representatives from other organizations in The Military Coalition (TMC) visited the offices of senators who are likely to be conferees for the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, S. 3254). The meetings focused on potential floor amendments and strategies for advancing provisions that relate to FRA’s priority issues, which include dropping the Senate provision that would dramatically increase TRICARE pharmacy co-pays as compared to the House-passed legislation that links future adjustments to the same inflation index as retired pay and requires home delivery of prescription medications for TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) beneficiaries. The Senate plan to create a one-year BRAC-like commission to “reform” military retirement benefits and military pay was also addressed.
The House passed its version of the NDAA back in May and, once the Senate passes its version, a conference committee will reconcile differences, resulting in a conference report to be voted on by both chambers and approved or vetoed by the President.
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Diet COLA for 2013
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the official Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for 2013 is 1.7 percent. This increase, which takes effect on December 1, 2012, is less than last year’s 3.6 percent COLA and will be reflected in military retired pay, VA benefits for disabled veterans, survivor annuities, and Social Security benefits paid on December 31, 2012.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks the inflation rate and is used to calculate the annual COLA. The index is based on the cost of a “basket of goods” for the average American during the period from October 1 to September 30 each year.
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Service Members’ Growing Student Loan Debt
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Holly Petraeus, assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Office of Service Members Affairs, and Chuck Milan, acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, participated in a press conference recently to discuss the unique obstacles reported by service members seeking to pay off student loan debt. According to a new CFPB report, 41 percent of active duty service members are paying off education-related loans. Panetta stated that financial health of military personnel is important and that financial difficulties are the number one reason service members lose their security clearance.
For more information about how the CFPB can help service members and student borrowers, visit www.consumerfinance.gov/servicemembers and www.consumerfinance.gov/students
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VRAP Helps Unemployed Vets
Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, recently issued a status report on the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), indicating that more than 45,000 unemployed veterans have started, or will soon start, classes to learn a new trade through VRAP. They will be enrolled for one year, with the costs covered by the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). (To read a first-hand endorsement of VRAP, read Shipmate Middleton’s letter to “Shipmate Forum” on page 6.)
VRAP was established by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act that was signed into law November 21, 2011 (H.R. 674 – P.L. 112-056). Miller was the original sponsor of the legislation and predicts that 99,000 veterans will participate in the program in FY 2013.
For more information go to: http://benefits.va.gov/vow/index.htm
President Signs Military Commercial Drivers License Act
President Obama recently signed the “Military Commercial Drivers License Act” (S. 3624) into law. Sponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine), the bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to accelerate licensing procedures to assist veterans acquiring commercial driver’s licenses. The bill eliminates a previous restriction that only allowed veterans to obtain a commercial license in their home state of record. Service personnel can now apply their military training and earn a commercial license where they are stationed, which will help their future employment prospects.
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VA Releases Fact Sheet
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a current fact sheet on VA pension programs that includes important information for veterans, survivors and their families. The fact sheet explains who is eligible to receive pension benefits and who is eligible for “aid and attendance.” The document also provides a website list of accredited representatives that are available to assist claimants with preparation, presentation and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits.
The information is accessible at www.vba.va.gov/VBA/docs/PensionProgramInfo_final.pdf Return to Table of Contents
The FRA Legislative team is Joe Barnes, National Executive Director; John Davis, Director of Legislative Programs and Branch 181 President; Bob Washington, Health Care Advisor and Outreach Manager; Chris Slawinski, National Veterans Service Officer and Ed Dockery, Assistant Director of Legislative Programs.
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FRA’s 2013 Legislative Agenda
FRA will fight to preserve and enhance benefits and quality-of-life programs for active, Reserve, retired, and veterans of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard plus their families and survivors. The Association will continue its opposition to sequestration (automatic budget cuts) as mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act due to the adverse impact of implementation on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans’ Affairs health care programs and other benefits. FRA’s proposed legislative agenda for 2013 is as follows:
EXPAND HEALTH CARE OPTIONS
Health Care Reform: Monitor health care reform and ensure that TRICARE and VA Health Care programs are not adversely impacted by unanticipated consequences during implementation.
Oppose Excessive TRICARE Enrollment Fee Increases: The Defense Department must sufficiently investigate and implement other options to make TRICARE more cost-efficient as alternatives to shifting costs to TRICARE beneficiaries and oppose any indexing of future TRICARE Fee increases beyond COLA increases.
Support Adequate Funding for Military Health Service: Ensure adequate funding for the Military Health Service (MHS) in order to meet readiness needs, fully fund TRICARE, and improve access and awareness of benefits for all beneficiaries regardless of age, status or location, including Reservists participating in TRICARE Reserve Select, TRICARE Retired Reserve, and Individual Ready Reserve personnel.
DOD/VA Health Care Resource Sharing: Ensure adequate funding for Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) health care resource sharing in delivering seamless, cost effective, quality services to personnel wounded while participating in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and other veterans, and their families.
Pharmaceutical Drug Benefit: Monitor the pharmacy benefit and ensure that pharmacies maintain a broad uniform formulary. FRA supports efforts to reduce prescription costs through “federal pricing” and other discount programs, and will encourage increased utilization of home delivery prescriptions to limit co-pays for beneficiaries and reduce costs as alternatives to higher fees, and co-payments.
Allow Military Retirees to Pay for Healthcare with Pretax Dollars: Secure authorization for military retirees to pay health insurance premiums on a pretax basis and allow for a tax deduction for TRICARE supplemental insurance premiums.
PROTECT PERSONNEL PROGRAMS
Active Duty Pay: Secure annual active duty pay increases that are at least equal to the Employment Cost Index (ECI).
Ensure Early Retirement Benefits for Involuntarily Separated Personnel: Early retirement and other benefits must be authorized for service members involuntarily separated with less than 20 years of service: including the temporary early retirement authority (TERA) program to minimize the impact of end strength reductions on career personnel.
Defense Budget: Advocate for a Defense (DoD) Budget that is at least five (5) percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to ensure adequate funding for both personnel and weapons programs.
Military Resale System: Oppose privatization and ensure adequate funding for the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) to preserve the value of the current benefit and access for all patrons, and oppose consolidation of military exchanges based on results of costly recent studies on this concept and opposition from the services.
End Strengths: Track Reserve and active duty end strengths to ensure there are adequate personnel available to meet the demands of Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom, and other operational requirements, and to minimize expanding deployment periods and reduced dwell times.
BAH: Reform enlisted housing standards by allowing E-7s and above to reside in separate homes, track the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to ensure it is commensurate with actual housing costs, ensure adequate housing inventory and that housing privatization programs are beneficial to service members and their families.
PCS Reform: Track the PCS process; ensure adequate funding of the Transition and Relocation Assistance Programs, and authorization of increased PCS mileage rates and higher household goods weight limits for senior enlisted personnel. Also advocate for shipment of a second POV for accompanied overseas assignments.
SCRA Enforcement: Ensure that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is enforced by regulatory agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Office of Military Affairs.
Coast Guard Parity: Ensure funding parity with DoD of pay, benefits and housing for Coast Guard personnel plus adequate resources for same within the U.S. Coast Guard budget.
Impact Aid Program: Ensure that the Department of Education has adequate funding to reimburse local school districts for educating military children and that the DoD budget includes sufficient supplemental funds to provide support for highly impacted school districts.
Reservists Out-of-Pocket Expenses: Allow full tax-deductibility of non-reimbursable expenses related to military training and weekend drill.
Sea Services Recruiters: Work to ensure that recruiters have unrestricted access to secondary schools, colleges and universities on the same basis as private sector employers.
Improve Department of Veterans’ Affairs Funding: Support initiatives to help ensure adequate funding for the VA, with special attention for VA health care to ensure access and care for all beneficiaries.
Support Blue Water Navy Agent Orange Disability Claims: Seek to reverse the VA’s policy that prevents “blue water” military retirees and veterans from claiming disability benefits for diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Improve VA Fiduciary Program: Ensure adequate oversight of the VA fiduciary program that cares for the most vulnerable veterans; and streamline regulatory oversight for those who are both caregivers and fiduciaries and regulated by separate VA programs.
Oppose Access Fees: Oppose establishing a tiered enrollment fee structure for veterans in Priority Groups 7 and 8 within the VA Health Care System.
Improve VA Claim Processing: Work to eliminate the backlog of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs and support reform of the antiquated Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) paper claims system.
Education Enhancements: Ensure full and timely implementation of improvements to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and work to improve other education benefit programs for veterans, and survivors of disabled or deceased veterans who died of a service-connected disability, were killed on active duty or while on drill status.
Reserve Retirees Veterans’ Status: Seek full veteran status for Reservists with 20 years or more of service, who do not otherwise qualify for full veterans’ benefits under current law.
SAFEGUARD RETIREE BENEFITS
Protect Military Retired or Retainer Pay: Fight efforts to reduce military retired or retainer pay and ensure equitable cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for all military retirees commensurate with their service and sacrifices, and oppose efforts to civilianize the military retirement system. And advocate for rounding up to the next dollar for retired pay and other benefits.
Concurrent Receipt: Support legislation authorizing the immediate payment of concurrent receipt of full military retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation for all disabled retirees.
Reserve Retirement Age: Support extension of authority for early retirement (90 days active duty = three months reduction) for all Reservists who have served since 9/11/01, and the elimination of fiscal year specific rule associated with same.
USFSPA: Encourage the introduction and enactment of legislation to eliminate inequities in the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA).
Retention of Final Month’s Retired Pay: Support legislation authorizing the retention of the full final month’s retired pay by the surviving spouse (or other designated survivor) for the month in which the member was alive for at least 24 hours.
SBP/DIC Offset: Support legislation to repeal the SBP/DIC offset for surviving spouses of personnel who die of service-connected causes.
Paid-up SBP at Age 67: Work to change the minimum age for paid-up SBP from age 70 to age 67 which will allow those who joined the military at age 17, 18 or 19 and serve 20 years to only be required to pay SBP premiums for 30 years.
Base Closures: Support retention of military treatment and other facilities at BRAC sites that are patronized by sizeable retiree and Reserve populations and closely monitor the impact of closures and realignments.
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Member Benefits TAKE ACTION!
FRA provides the Action Center on www.fra.org and a pocket guide called Communicate With Your Elected Officials to make communicating with members of Congress easy and convenient. On the Action Center, you can access a list of hot issues and send pre-written messages (or write your own) to your legislators to weigh in. You can also look up your senators and representative to see how they’ve voted on issues of importance to FRA shipmates. Both the Action Center and the Communicate With Your Elected Officials guide are free benefits brought to you by FRA. If you would like a copy of Communicate With Your Elected Officials, please e-mail Eileen@fra.org and include your name and mailing address.
FRA offers Communities on www.fra.org to help shipmates keep in touch with their branch, communicate with HQ, and get information. Use the Communities and be involved! Login to www.fra.org and click Communities. You will see the communities to which you belong — each branch and MALs have individual communities. There are also communities for FRA Today and OnWatch readers, people concerned about health care, and more. This is a place to ask the experts or share your opinions or frustrations.
NewsBytes is a free weekly legislative e-mail update designed to keep recipients up-to-date between issues of FRA Today. To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and include your member number (found above your name on the cover of this magazine). To listen to NewsBytes by phone, call 1-800-FRA-1924, ext. 112.
FRA is very interested in hearing from you. There’s always a survey available at www.fra.org/survey. The surveys are quick, easy and help us share your concerns with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Visit www.fra.org/fb to view FRA’s Facebook page and join our growing list of fans who “like” us. It’s a great place to post photos, videos, have discussions and find old friends. If you’re already on Facebook, you can invite others to check out FRA and use the page as a great recruiting tool! Our fans also are the first to hear of breaking news, get links to items of importance and shortcuts to other pages of interest.
When you login to www.fra.org, not only can you access members-only information, you can also control your membership record. Would you like to subscribe to NewsBytes? Simply click a box. Are you needing a replacement membership card or invoice? Click a box and we’ll send you one within 24 business hours. You can also donate directly to FRA online and even print out a copy of your donation history for your records.
FRA Affinity Partners
FRA also has partnerships with several companies for the benefit of FRA members. When you use these companies, not only do you get a discount, but FRA receives a royalty as well. It’s a win-win situation — and a fantastic way for you to help FRA while you are helping yourself!
FRA MasterCard from USAA
FRA is partnering with USAA to administer a new FRA MasterCard program. This award-winning financial services company is committed to providing outstanding customer service to our shipmates.
GEICO Car Insurance
Call 1-800-MILITARY (1-800-645-4827) and ask for the FRA member benefit discount.
FRA members and spouses are eligible for tuition discounts at Capella University, an accredited, military-friendly, online university that has built its reputation by providing high quality online degree programs for working adults. Visit www.capella.edu/FRA for more information.
Columbia Southern University
In an education alliance with FRA, Columbia Southern University offers competitive tuition rates, waives application fees for service members and offers discounts to FRA shipmates. Visit www.columbiasouthern.edu/Partners/LearningPartners/fleet for further details.
FRA Endorsed Insurance Programs
As an FRA member you can choose from high quality, competitively priced insurance plans to help protect you and your family. Each quality plan has been designed for FRA members like you. You can select insurance protection to meet your family’s insurance needs at economical group rates. Request information regarding the plans of your choice through this website: www.FRAinsure.com or call toll-free 1-800-424-1120.
Navy Times/MARINE CORPS TIMES
FRA members qualify for a special subscription rate of 52 weeks for $39.95. Call 1-800-368-5718 to start or renew your subscription. Use FRA priority member code: 1516N3.
Avis Car Rentals
When making reservations through Avis at 1-800-331-1212 or www.avis.com, be sure to use your FRA membership benefit discount: AWD#T867500.
HERTZ Car Rentals
When making reservations through Hertz at 1-800-654-3131 or www.hertz.com, be sure to use your FRA membership benefit discount: CDP#332104.