Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014

[This came to our chapter leadership from AUSA National Headquarters]

An Open Letter to America’s Veterans

At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you-our Veterans-and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric-the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than 3-months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding, and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

From June 1 to September 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities-a 46.6-percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans.

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program (Choice Program) under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on November 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners-Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others-to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at www.va.gov/opa/choiceact<http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact> where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Sincerely,

Robert A. McDonald

Posted in Legislature, News, Programs, Veterans | Tagged , ,

More Veterans Day News from your AUSA Chapter

1.  Veterans’ Day Luncheon: All AUSA members are invited to a Chapter Veterans Day luncheon on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, at 12:30 in the Lone Star Steakhouse on Route 13 in New Castle.  The room will be open at Noon, and a short program with lunch will begin at 12:30.  Cost is $15.00.  If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Gary Dawson at (302) 230-6074, or contact Laura Sievert at lauralsievert@gmail.com or (302) 545-6736.

2.  Veterans’ Day Ceremony:  The Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs and the Military Order of the Purple Heart will host the Veterans Day Ceremonies on Tuesday, November 11, 2014. While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day (observed on November 11), this day is intended to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is our citizens’ opportunity to thank living Veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served have sacrificed and done their duty. The program, scheduled to commence at 10:30 a.m., will be held at the Memorial Plaza, Delaware Memorial Bridge, New Castle, Delaware.

The National Veterans Day Committee in Washington, DC has designated Veterans Day in New Castle, DE, as a 2014 Regional Site. This is our twenty-third year of participation along with 67 similarly recognized sites throughout the United States and it’s territories.

3.  Veterans’ Day Discounts:  Military.com has posted a comprehensive list of Veterans Day discounts and free resources on their website under their Veterans Day Center. This is an excellent resource for military members to explore and includes the history of Veterans Day, tributes to Medal of Honor recipients, ways to honor veterans and much more.

News Flash:  National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the Association  of the U.S. Army Join Forces Against Budget Cuts!

Two of the nation’s leading military associations have joined together to urge Congress to get rid of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president, and retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army, wrote a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee leadership last week. The letter urges committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., to “end sequestration now.”

“The continued effects of sequestration on the Department of Defense will cause the Army, Active, Guard and Reserve, to fall into unreadiness,” they warn.

“The nation will be left with its smallest ground forces since 1940 – unable to carry out our defense strategy,” they said. “Troop levels so low put at risk our role as a guarantor of world security and embolden our enemies.”

Sequestration, which was enacted as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, cuts funding for Defense Department initiatives without regard to the importance of the individual program. The Pentagon was able to avoid the full impact of the cuts thanks to a legislative deal last year, but without additional action by Congress the cuts will come back in fiscal 2016.

“It’s no secret that we have some different priorities than AUSA, but there is no daylight between us on this issue,” said Hargett. “These cuts hurt our ability to defend the nation and respond in the homeland, and it’s time to get rid of them for good.”

Posted in Army National Guard, Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, Events, Family, Free, Membership, News, Soldiers, Veterans | Tagged , , ,

Veterans Day discounts and free resources

Military.com has posted a comprehensive list of Veterans Day discounts and free resources on their website under their Veterans Day Center. This is an excellent resource for military members to explore and includes the history of Veterans Day, tributes to Medal of Honor recipients, ways to honor veterans and much more.

Posted in Free, Programs, Veterans | Tagged ,

Coach Krzyzewski receives the George Catlett Marshall Medal

Coach Krzyzewski, Duke’s renowned head basketball coach, received the George Catlett Marshall Medal for his support of Soldiers and their families during the Marshall dinner at the AUSA annual meeting. The Marshall Medal is the highest award presented by AUSA.

http://www.dvidshub.net/video/embed/371243

Posted in Events, Family, Membership, News | Tagged , , ,

Report: Fewer Veterans in the U.S. Congress

Fewer than 100 veterans could be serving in Congress when a new House and Senate are seated in January. An analysis by the group Veterans Campaign found only 183 of the 865 major-party candidates on ballots next month have served in the armed forces. Forty-six of them served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

If the number does fall below 100, it will be the first time since the 1950s that veteran representation has been that low, according to a story on the report in Military Times. Back then, World War II veterans were on the ballots across the country.

Currently, 106 veterans are among the 535 House and Senate members in the nation’s capital.

According to the National Guard Association of the U.S., more than 30 current and former National Guard members are on ballots next month seeking re-election or election for the first time.

The nonpartisan Veterans Campaign says it is the first time in recent memory that fewer than 200 veterans are running for Congress.

“We’re used to seeing this steady decrease every two years, but this could be an even steeper drop than we normally expect,” Seth Lynn, the executive director of Veterans Campaign, told Military Times. “This is going to be the election that puts us below earlier levels.”

Posted in News

Proposal to Freeze Military Pay

The Administration’s contention that military pay has drastically increased is accurate, but there is much more to the story.   Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, military pay was capped by Congress below private-sector wage growth which resulted in a 13.5% gap between military and civilian pay and was a serious retention and recruiting crisis by the early 2000s.  Why would good soldiers remain in uniform if they were earning less that comparable jobs in the civilian sector?  Over the last decade, Congress has worked hard to fix the pay gap, ensuring it kept pace with the private sector. But now, history is repeating itself. The Fiscal Year 2015 administration budget submission keeps pay caps in place for not just a second straight year, but for six straight years!  Therefore pay would remain stagnant for military jobs that often require, long hours, hazardous duty, and overseas deployment.

It has taken Congress 10 years to make military pay competitive with the civilian sector again. It would be a travesty to undo that.

Posted in Legislature, News, Soldiers | Tagged , , ,

**Fourth of July **

On July 4, 1776, not even a month after the U.S. Army was formed, the thirteen colonies proclaimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Lee’s words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed, but a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting t o the world the colonies’ case for independence. Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.
On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the ‘Lee Resolution’ for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence followed, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that he signed his name “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”
Happy Independence Day!

Posted in News

Our Community Salutes 2014

The Delaware Chapter (AUSA) again teamed with Wilmington University (WU) to conduct the Third Annual “Our Community Salutes” (OCS) event at Wilmington University’s New Castle, DE campus on May 6th from 6-8pm. This event recognizes and honors the Delaware high school seniors (and their parents) who have chosen to enlist into the military after graduation this spring.

Over 160 people participated in the event, including local celebrities, area college officials, and support agencies such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Red Cross, Military OneSource, and the USO. Sponsors included Summit Aviation Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA, Calvert Comfort Heating and Cooling, and the Delaware City Refining Company.

Forty-four high school seniors and their families attended the event and Tim Furlong, the Delaware Correspondent for NBC News Philadelphia, returned as the emcee. Our speakers included Major General Frank Vavala, the Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard, and Lieutenant Colonel Donald Moor, Executive Officer of the 4th Marine Corps District. The Junior ROTC cadets from William Penn High School handled the colors and provided an exhibition rifle drill team. Each attending enlistee received Letters of Appreciation from both U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative Carney. Also, student enlistees received a letter of commendation from the Delaware General Assembly signed by the Chairmen of both the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Photos will be posted to http://www.ocsde.org.

Posted in News

Sequestration is Choking our Military

At the heart of many of the budget challenges facing the Defense Department is the devastating effect of the sequestration (across the board spending cuts) provision. Our government’s approach to deficit reduction has become rigid and unresponsive to the ever changing security needs of our nation. Sequestration, though eased somewhat this year, specifically targets the defense budget for the next five years.
In August 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to resolve the debt ceiling mess. Lawmakers in both chambers passed this act with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law. The legislation included $1.2 trillion in cuts and directed that a joint House and Senate super-committee be created to find another $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23, 2011. The super-committee failed in its mission and sequestration went into effect in 2013.
Each year, budget cuts are split evenly between non-war defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. Sounds fair until you realize that the overall Defense portion of the Federal Budget is only 17 percent! Therefore, the BCA was skewed against Defense programs from the start with disproportionate sequestration cuts coming from America’s military.
DoD’s portion of sequestration is $52 billion per year through 2021 on top of the $487 billion already agreed to with the Army absorbing the lion’s share of the cut. Over the past two years sequestration has managed to set America on a path to reduced military readiness and security. Sequestered budgets are rapidly shrinking the nation’s military force to unprecedented levels thereby creating units less able to accomplish their mission, particularly in a world that is increasingly uncertain and dangerous (Ukraine).
With sequestration, Congress has driven a wedge between our active military forces and our reserve and National Guard forces, most notably in the United States Army. It has created unnecessary divisiveness, and acrimony within the U.S. military between servicemembers and leaders who just months ago were serving side by side in combat.

Please write to Congress and urge them to apply deficit reduction measures more evenly across the federal budget, and stop sequestration. Go to AUSA.org, go to Legislative Agenda, click contact Congress.

Posted in News

Happy Birthday, U.S. Army Reserve!

Today, the U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 106th birthday. Generations of Reserve soldiers have followed in the footsteps of servicemembers before them who embraced the nation’s call to duty by volunteering to serve as Citizen-Soldiers in the Army’s Reserve force. The Army Reserve is an important element in The Army multi-component unit force, training with Active and National Guard units so that all three components work as a fully integrated team.

The Army Reserve performs a complementary role to the Active component, providing combat support and combat service support functions to enable the Army to ramp up its capabilities to protect combat forces and sustain mobilization. The Army Reserve makes up only 20 percent of the Army’s organized units, but it provides about half of the Army’s combat support and a quarter of the Army’s mobilization base expansion capability.

Posted in News