MCRA News

Defense Policy Bill Talks Stumble Over Military Benefits Dispute

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 / Legislative News

By Megan Scully, CQ Roll Call

Negotiations on the final defense policy bill have stalled amid disagreements between House and Senate Armed Services committee leaders over issues affecting military benefits, congressional sources tracking the bill said Tuesday.

Committee leaders had hoped to finalize the negotiated bill early this week, but they have reached an impasse over differences in the two measures on cost-saving Pentagon proposals to increase some TRICARE pharmacy co-pays and reduce the basic housing allowance for military personnel.


Senate Committee on Armed Services Completes Markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2015

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 / Legislative News

The bottom line of the mark-up includes:

  • Includes the Department’s proposals concerning the pay raise (1 percent rather than the 1.8 percent under current law), the housing allowance (allowing the Department to increase BAH at a rate below inflation), and increased pharmacy copays for prescriptions filled outside of military treatment facilities.
  • Does not include the Department’s proposals to establish enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life beneficiaries, the reorganization of the TRICARE program, or the cut to the commissary subsidy (although it does authorize the commissaries to purchase and sell generics).

House Passes Defense Authorization Bill

Friday, May 23, 2014 / Legislative News

By Connor Obrien, CQ Roll Call

The House Thursday passed its fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill by a wide bipartisan margin, on the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to approve its own measure.  The House advanced 325-98 the annual defense policy legislation (HR 4435) after disposing of 169 amendments, debating all proposals Wednesday night and holding a rapid-fire vote session Thursday morning before final passage.

Thursday’s vote puts the authorization measure on the path to enactment for the 53rd consecutive year. At the outset of floor debate, House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who will retire from Congress at the end of his current term, called


40 U.S. veterans die while on Phoenix VA hospital's cost-cutting secret wait list

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 / VA News

At least 40 U.S. veterans have died waiting for medical appointments at Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system undefined including many placed on a secret waiting list.  The list was part of a complex cost-cutting scheme set up by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix aiming to hide the fact that between 1,400 and 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait up to 21 months to see a doctor, according to whistle-blowing retired top VA doctor and high-level sources.

Internal emails reveal managers at Arizona’s VA hospital knew about the practice and even condoned it.  Retiring Dr. Sam Foote, who spent 24 years with the VA system, told CNN that the Phoenix VA worked off two patient appointment lists.  The "official" list shows the VA was offering timely appointments within 14 to 30 days. Foote called this a “sham list” because there was another secret document where waits were much longer.


House panel rejects benefits cuts in 2015 defense budget

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 / Legislative News

In the first official congressional action on the Pentagon’s proposed 2015 budget, House lawmakers have rejected proposed cuts in housing allowances and commissary funding, as well as an overhaul of the Tricare system that would increase out-of-pocket costs for some beneficiaries.

But members of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel remained noticeably silent on the Defense Department’s proposed 1 percent basic pay raise for troops next year, opening the door for another smaller-than-expected pay boost in January.

And the lawmakers also signaled that they want service members to play a role in deciding what pay and benefits cuts they’ll see in the


VA Hospital's $56 Million "Star Wars Center" Almost Ready in Tampa

Monday, April 14, 2014 / VA News

One of the most modern Department of Veterans' Affairs Hospital Centers in the US is nicknamed the "Star Wars Center."  Spread out over more than 170,000 square feet on two floors, the new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is a $56 million project four years in the making.

It was planned after a scandal involving conditions at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and designed to replace Haley’s interim polytrauma center, the busiest of the five in the nation. VA officials say it will capitalize on rapid technological advancements, centralize treatment for troops and veterans who have suffered multiple injuries and accommodate what officials expect will be increasing numbers of patients as people leave the service with lifelong damage.


Care and Benefits for Veterans Strengthened by $164 Billion VA Budget

Monday, March 10, 2014 / VA News

WASHINGTON – Continuing the transformation of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a 21st century organization, the President has proposed a $163.9 billion budget, a 6.5 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2014, that will support VA’s goals to expand access to health care and other benefits, eliminate the disability claims backlog, and end homelessness among Veterans. The budget includes $68.4 billion in discretionary spending, largely for healthcare, and $95.6 billion for mandatory programs – mostly disability compensation and pensions for Veterans.

“This budget will allow us to continue the progress we have made in helping Veterans secure their place in the middle class,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “It is a tangible demonstration of the President’s commitment to ensuring Veterans and their families have the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”


VA WALK IN SERVICES

Saturday, March 8, 2014 / VA News

Today, the Department announced that on April 1, 2014, administrative walk-in services will no longer be available at TRICARE Service Centers (TSC) in the United States. Tricare Service Centers do not provide treatment to patients, but rather administrative services only. This change will not in any way affect TRICARE eligibility or the delivery of healthcare services to TRICARE beneficiaries. TRICARE service centers overseas are not affected. The majority of customer service visits to TSCs concern billing, enrollment, changing a Primary Care Manager (PCM), general information on benefits and plans, or referrals. All of the walk-in services currently provided at TSCs can be delivered by existing toll-free call centers or multiple Internet and mobile application sites. TSCs cost more than $50.0 million per year to operate and maintain. Over the next five years, the $250 million saved will allow TRICARE to invest in more important healthcare services for our military members, eligible veterans and their families.


Senate Blocks S. 1982

Thursday, March 6, 2014 / Legislative News

WASHINGTON (AP) undefined A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation's veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran. Each party covets the allegiance of the country's 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes.

Republicans used a procedural move to block the bill after Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chided GOP lawmakers about their priorities.


Automation Speeds Benefits Processing for Post-9/11 GI Bill Students

Friday, February 28, 2014 / VA News

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decreased the time it takes to process requests for GI Bill and other education benefits for returning students by nearly 50 percent compared to fiscal year 2012. VA attributes the faster process in large part to improved claims automation that uses rules-based, industry-standard technologies to deliver Veterans’ benefits.


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