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SHIPMATE FORUM



Commissary Confusion

My wife has a friend who swears that anyone can shop at the exchange and/or commissary as long as they have someone with them who has a military ID card. I told her that it is not legal for anyone to shop anywhere on a naval station except sponsors and/or their authorized dependents. She promised if FRA said it was illegal for anyone to shop at the exchange or commissary, except authorized sponsors and their authorized dependents, she would believe it.



SKC Harvey C. Swinford

FRA Response: Guests are authorized to enter a commissary, but are not authorized to shop. The following is from the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) website (www.commissaries.com):

Authorized commissary patrons, as defined by Department of Defense Instruction 1330.17, Armed Services Commissary Operations, include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, 100-percent disabled veterans, and their authorized family members. (Please refer to this instruction for a complete list of authorized commissary patrons, including organizations and activities, along with qualifications and any exceptions, such as access to U.S. commissaries overseas.)



Department of Defense regulations permit an authorized patron to bring guests into a commissary during shopping visits. However, while you and your guest are in the commissary, you are responsible for the actions of your guest. Your guest is NOT authorized to make commissary purchases, and you are NOT permitted to make commissary purchases for your guest.

Also, you need to be aware that local military regulations in some areas prohibit guest access to a commissary. This being the case, we recommend that, if you plan to bring a guest with you during a shopping visit to a commissary, you contact commissary management prior to your shopping trip to find out if you’ll be permitted to take your guest with you into the commissary.”

Exchanges have slightly different rules because there are different PX/BX systems for each service. If you’re eligible to shop in one, however, you’re eligible to shop at any. The Military Times Benefit Handbook website (projects.militarytimes.com/benefits-handbook/pay-benefits/other-benefits/) explains it like this:

Eligible [exchange] shoppers include all ranks of active duty, retired, National Guard and reserve members and their families, some disabled veterans and their families, surviving spouses and former spouses. Limits or restrictions may apply; check with local exchanges. Those eligible can shop at any exchange, regardless of service affiliation.”


Troubled Branches

While it is good to acknowledge recruitment efforts, we should consider acknowledging those branches that are losing members or are in jeopardy of collapsing. For example, I recall that, at one time, there was an FRA branch in Detroit, about 70 miles from me; but it is no longer listed. Perhaps if we listed branches in trouble, distant members (like me) would be willing to affiliate with a branch even though they might not be able to regularly attend meetings. The trick would be to have events that would draw enough participation to warrant an ‘occasional’ membership program.



Lorence F. Brown

Going Off Script

How are we to respond when Express Scripts (ES) considers any package to have been received by the addressee strictly on the basis of USPS stating that it was delivered? ES does not require the addressee’s signature, so there is no other method of validation. Among the various possibilities could be that the package was placed in a different mailbox and whoever received it did not bother to bring it to me (I’m in an apartment) or to return it to the post office. My mailbox is often stuffed with mail meant for others.

I was charged by ES for such a shipment and then told that I could not receive another bottle until enough time had expired. Of course I would be charged for that as well. It happened to be a controlled medication, so obviously the doctor might think I was engaged in some illicit activity by asking for another RX, which ES would not accept anyway until it was time for a refill.

My response was to chalk that one up to experience and to use the local pharmacy. It costs more, but at least I receive it reliably. Now if only DoD and TRICARE would realize that it is not always beneficial to use ES.



John Dorosky

FRA Response: Thank you for sharing your experience. Your concerns have been relayed to our liaisons at TRICARE and Express Scripts.

Submissions Send Shipmate Forum letters to Editor, FRA Today, 125 N. West St. Alexandria, VA 22314. E-mail submissions may be sent to fratoday@fra.org. 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.




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ON & OFF CAPITOL HILL




Sequestration, Fee Increases, Doc Fix and Commission Report Threaten Benefits


As FRA Today goes to press, there is uncertainty on Capitol Hill about whether sequestration-mandated budget cuts for FY 2016 will be allowed to take effect. If enacted, these cuts will require a $38 billion reduction in the Department of Defense (DoD) budget, while the Obama’s Administration’s FY 2016 budget request seeks funding at a level 7 percent higher than sequestration would allow. The proposed FY 2016 budgets for departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Homeland Security (DHS) all increase spending by 8 percent higher than FY 2015 levels. With projected federal deficits shrinking, the president urged Congress to move beyond the “mindless austerity” of sequestration-mandated budget cuts (see page 10), but it’s not all good news. The budget request also calls for increases to TRICARE fees, which FRA strongly opposes.

Other major concerns include the recently-released Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) report and its 15 recommendations for drastic changes to military pay and benefits (see page 10), “Doc Fix” provisions that are set to expire on April 1 (see page 12) and the need for Congress and the Administration to address the debt ceiling this year. The president claims that raising the debt limit does not authorize new spending, but rather allows the federal government to pay for the obligations it has already approved. House and Senate leadership claim that it is irresponsible to continue deficit spending without implementing greater fiscal restraint.

This congressional session could be the most challenging in recent memory for FRA shipmates. Members should keep up to date on legislative activities that could impact their pay and benefits. If you are not already signed up for FRA NewsBytes (our weekly electronic legislative newsletter), please sign up today! You can subscribe to this free service by e-mailing Newsbytes@fra.org and putting “subscribe” in the subject line.

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FRA Recognizes Outstanding USN Recruiters

FRA’s National President John Ippert, National Executive Director Tom Snee, and members of FRA’s headquarters staff participated in several events honoring the Navy’s 2014 Recruiters of the Year. At a special ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial, Ippert presented awardees with a complimentary two-year FRA membership and certificate. On the final day of the event, FRA hosted a luncheon for the awardees on Capitol Hill and sponsored a tour of the Capitol. FRA NHQ and several branches contributed to the success of the event and were recognized among a select group of “Friends of the Navy.”



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FRA Honors Outstanding Marine Corps Personnel

For the 16th consecutive year, FRA recognized outstanding Marines at the Combined Awards Ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Newly appointed Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford attended the event, and FRA National President John Ippert presented special certificates and FRA challenge coins to all awardees. FRA sponsored the annual recognition event for the Corps’ top recruiters, drill instructors, combat instructors, security guard, career planners and athletes of the year and also hosted a celebratory reception afterwards.



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