Lauren Armstrong has been writing feature articles for this publication each month since August 2006. There is much discussion and planning about what will be on the editorial calendar for the coming year, and efforts to balance topics including current military issues, articles of general interest, health-related items and historical articles, to name a few. Each year there is a feature that focuses on the location for the upcoming National Convention (such as this feature on Kansas City) and a wrap-up after Convention to let readers know about the news from the week. Often the historical articles receive the greatest reaction, however. This was the case with the tribute to the Montford Point Marines, the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps since its reestablishment in 1798, published in the December, 2010 issue of FRA Today.
Lauren chose to highlight the Montford Point Marines because of their significant role in racially integrating the Corps and the nation as a whole — and because it is a story rarely published. To paraphrase James Averhart, who is quoted in the article, the Montford Pointers’ story is not just Marine Corps history or black history; it’s American history. The article includes interviews with several of the original Montford Pointers, as well as other minority Marines who followed in their footsteps.
Not only was the response from FRA shipmates incredibly positive, but there have been countless other accolades as well. Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret.), Publisher/Editor of Leatherneck magazine, hailed it as “an exceptional tribute to the Montford Point Marines.” The Montford Point Marine Association asked for copies for their convention in July so they can distribute it to attendees. The Marine Corps Cryptologic Association and the Black Marine Reunion organization received permission to repost or redistribute the story to their members.
On April 16, 2011, Lauren Armstrong received The Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. Award for the Montford Point Marines article. The award is given by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in memory of one of their founders who was a distinguished Marine Corps officer, journalist, and historian. The award is given to the author of the best article pertinent to Marine Corps history published in a newspaper, magazine, journal, or other periodical during the preceding year.
We congratulate Lauren, and appreciate her service to FRA — and for always making sure that a story is well told.
Eileen Murphy is the Director of Marketing and Communications and serves as the Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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military update: Disability Evaluation Reforms
by Tom Philpott
After a three-year effort by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to improve the process, ill and injured military members still endure a long, complex and often contentious evaluation system when seeking disability ratings and compensation for service-related health conditions.
The process has been made more convenient and even shortened by an average six to eight months under a pilot program jointly run by the two departments and which continues to be expanded to more military bases.
Yet the Defense Department’s personnel chief and the Army’s surgeon general both have concluded, and said publicly, that the “integrated” disability evaluation system, or IDES, remains a disappointment.
More dramatic changes, they suggest, have to occur or else wounded warriors and other disabled service members still will be saddled with a process not befitting their sacrifices to serve the country.
Clifford L. Stanley, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, first revealed the depth of his concern to the annual Military Health System conference in January. Stanley said he had been “raising Cain” over the time that injured and ill members still spend in “limbo” awaiting medical appointments and medical review board decisions.
Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, Army’s top medical officer, told the House military personnel subcommittee in March that the pilot run by the two departments since late 2007, called IDES or the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, “remains complex and adversarial.”
Soldiers, he said, “still undergo dual adjudication where the military rates only unfitting conditions and the VA rates all service-connected conditions.” That produces separate ratings “confusing to soldiers and leaves a serious misperception about Army’s appreciation of wounded and injured soldiers [and their] medical and emotional situation.”
Interviewed in his Pentagon office last Tuesday, Stanley said he agrees with that criticism of IDES, though the pilot continues to be improved as it replaces, base by base, the far more flawed legacy DES.
The legacy system, still used for 40 percent of members seeking disability ratings, requires each service to conduct its own medical evaluation to identify only “unfitting” conditions and award them a rating. If the rating is 30 percent or higher, the member is retired and draws a lifetime annuity and other retiree benefits including access to military medical care.
If the rating is below 30 percent, the member is separated, usually with a lump sum severance payment. Veterans then go to VA where a new evaluation process begins, this time of every service-related condition found. VA ratings and compensation usually are higher than the service allowed.
Back in 2007, it took an average of 540 days to clear both DES processes. The pilot program to integrate them uses one set of medical examinations done by VA doctors to VA standards. It has honed the total process time down to an average of just over 300 days. Members leave service with both their military and VA ratings set and with their compensation, usually based on the VA, starting immediately.
Stanley and Schoomaker agree that IDES, where it operates, has been an improvement. Yet both leaders say it doesn’t go far enough to simplify and accelerate the process for the 26,000 members moving through it at any given time. Stanley has had a working group studying its weaknesses. Recommendations to improve it will be presented to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at the end of April.
The ideal system, Stanley said, would produce “a single evaluation based upon one medical record,” and over which Defense and VA officials “have joined hands and made a decision: ‘Here’s the disability rating. Period.’ That’s what we’re looking for … That’s nirvana.”
But such a change, presuming the one and only rating was set by VA, would make many more military members eligible to be disabled “retirees” thus driving up DoD retirement and medical costs. Neither Stanley nor Schoomaker have addressed, at least publicly, the possible cost consequences of their vision.
What both appear to be embracing is a key recommendation of the 2007 Dole-Shalala Commission, which Congress and the Department of Defense choose to ignore because of the costs involved. Dole-Shalala, formerly called the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, was formed after the scandal involving neglected wounded warriors on the campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
It recommended getting “DoD completely out of the disability business” by giving VA sole responsibility for setting disability ratings and awarding compensation. It urged replacing “confusing parallel systems” of DoD and VA ratings with a single simple and more generous system.
Congress instead passed more modest reforms to partially integrate the two processes. In the pilot, DoD and VA use the same set of exams. Both ratings occur while members remain on active duty. But IDES still allows the military to rate only “unfitting conditions” for determining retirement eligibility and the VA to rate all conditions.
Stanley, in our interview, said this dual adjudication process keeps the system too long and complex, and shakes the bond of trust members should have with their service branch as they leave for civilian life.
Disability evaluation shouldn’t be something that the private first class, or even the general, has to be briefed on for hours “to understand,” Stanley said. It should just be there to serve them well and fairly.
Stanley isn’t persuaded, as some DES experts are, that the law would have to be changed to allow the services to use more than just “unfitting conditions” to set disability ratings for determining retirement eligibility.
While that debate continues internally, Stanley is pressing IDES officials to take more steps to cut down wait times for members, and at the same time ensure that their rights to due process are protected.
“At no time in this process are we talking about going faster than they want to go,” Stanley said. “We’re not trying to rush people out. We’re talking about respecting them [and] giving them an opportunity to go through a process that is not dehumanizing.”
Military Update is posted weekly at www.fra.org and is reprinted here with permission of the author. It replaces this month’s NED Update column. FRA continues its strong support for reforming the disability evaluation system, which is vitally important to determining service-related conditions and associated care and benefits for uniformed services personnel. The Association consistently references this in its congressional testimony before key oversight committees.
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USFSPA is Unfair
How can the military and U.S. government say the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) of 1982 is fair to our service men and women? If someone in the service gets divorced, the former spouse is able to collect a portion of the service member’s retirement for life, depending on how many years they were married.
Don’t you think that it would be fair to limit it to the same number of years they were married? Also how is it fair that ex-spouses are able to collect the retirement even after they remarry? Why should the service member be punished and forced to support two households with his/her retirement? If they divorce their new spouse, they can reapply for the service member’s retirement pay.
I am sure that my fellow veterans would agree that someone needs to fix this law for all of us. It looks like a deal in some back room and not in the open for all to see. I’ve watched as my fellow service brothers and sisters do their jobs and their spouses have others fill the missing space. While the service member was away defending our country the spouse was out with someone else spending allotment money, giving them a place to stay, etc. I’ve also watched as the ex-spouse finds another service member and marries them for long enough to get a portion of that retirement also. Is this fair?
Whoever has control of the USFSPA needs to get their head out of the sand and fix this for all our retirees who have served, those who are serving and for the ones that will serve this great country we call home.
FRA Response: FRA has been a consistent leader in the call to reform the USFSPA. The existing law is poorly written and is often ignored or misapplied by courts adjudicating divorce settlements. The Association believes the measure should be amended to ensure more equitable treatment of service members.
Agent Orange Exposure
I want to thank you for fighting for the blue water veterans. I have been married to a veteran who served on the USS Coral Sea Air from 1969 to 1972. His main duties were in the boilers, but other duties included moving barrels of Agent Orange. He returned to service in the Army and in 1986 fell down a 40-foot embankment with full gear on. He was eventually ousted from service because he could not pass the PT test, even though he could perform his job in his MOS.
My point is this: his spine, knees, and thumbs joints are deteriorating and/or are gone with only six full disks left in his back; two of those are wafer thin. He also has a diagnosis of soft tissue in his hands (undetermined), diabetes, coronary problems and peripheral neuropathy, to name a few.
My husband has repeated many times to his doctors that he believes the rapid deterioration of his spine and joints is due to his exposure to Agent Orange. We don’t know where to turn.
Please continue to fight because our veteran’s hospital is moving toward the new veterans and trying to oust the older ones.
Joyce Tucker Clarification
In last month’s feature article about Agent Orange exposure, we suggested that veterans who’d been exposed to the herbicide file a claim with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) for disability benefits. We should have specified that claims for benefits should only be filed if the veteran is experiencing health problems. In order to request benefits for VA compensation based on the presumption of exposure to herbicides, a veteran must also have a condition or illness listed in Subsection 3.309 of Title 38 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Visit http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/ for more information.
Additionally, several shipmates have asked why their ship’s name doesn’t appear on the VA registry of ships exposed to Agent Orange. The list, available at www.fra.org/agentorange, is updated as documentation of exposure becomes available. Blue water veterans with Agent-Orange health concerns should include as much information as possible when filing a claim for VA benefits. The name of the vessel, the dates the vet served aboard the ship, and the date(s) and geographic location the vessel sailed into brown water, was docked to shore or crewmembers went ashore should be included with as much detail as possible.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call Chris Slawinski, FRA’s national veterans’ service officer, at 1-800-FRA-1924, ext. 115.
Submissions: Send Shipmate Forum letters to: Editor, FRA Today, 125 N. West St. Alexandria, VA 22314. E-mail submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.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. Return to Table of Contents
On & OFF Capitol HILL
Support Retiree Health Care Legislation
Your efforts are needed to help stop TRICARE fee increases. With a huge and growing budget deficit, the pressure for Congress to reduce costs is enormous. Pentagon proposals to increase TRICARE enrollment fees for working-age military retirees in FY2012 and beyond prompted Rep. Walter Jones (North Carolina) to introduce legislation that would require congressional approval for such increases. FRA strongly supports the “Military Retirees Health Care Protection Act” (H.R.1092), which is similar to legislation introduced in the 111th Congress (2009–2010) and garnered 202 cosponsors. FRA has also written to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey) asking him to reintroduce a Senate bill from the 110th Congress that would restrict TRICARE fee increases for military retirees.
The Department of Defense (DoD) is proposing moderate TRICARE enrollment fee increases — a $30 hike for individual coverage (from $230 to $260/year) and $60 for families (from $460 to $520/year) – for military retirees under the age of 65. Starting in 2013, the annual enrollment fees would increase based on a yet-to-be-determined index. FRA opposes the indexing plan and agrees with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that management efficiencies and cost-saving initiatives can significantly offset higher health care costs. The Association has consistently called for cost efficiencies in its congressional testimony since drastic retiree TRICARE fee increases were first proposed in 2006, including recent testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services’ Personnel Subcommittees. (See below for more information on FRA’s congressional testimony.)
Rep. Don Young (Alaska) also introduced a bill (H.R. 652) that seeks to limit TRICARE premium increases to no more than half the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase received by military retirees for the same year. Although active duty personnel do not currently pay TRICARE fees, the bill also seeks to limit any prospective fee increases for service members to no more than their annual pay increase.
Now is the time for shipmates to contact their elected officials and remind them that the cost of retiree health care has been paid for with 20 or more years of military service. Please use the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org to contact your U.S. representative to urge their support for H.R. 1092 and H.R. 652.
Return to Table of Contents FRA Testifies Before House and Senate Armed Services Subcommittees
FRA’s National Executive Director (NED) Joe Barnes testified before the Personnel Subcommittees of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in recent weeks. He spoke on behalf of FRA and also as co-chair of the 33-member Military Coalition. Barnes specifically addressed health care issues including the Administration’s proposed TRICARE fee increase for TRICARE Prime, pending cuts to doctor reimbursement rates for providers who treat TRICARE and Medicare patients (a.k.a. the “doc fix”) and proposed changes to pharmacy co-payments.
DoD seeks “modest” increases in annual TRICARE Prime enrollment fees for FY2012, and FRA spoke against future fee hikes pegged to health care inflation, which is significantly higher than cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). The plan does not include TRICARE for Life fees and FRA supports efforts to increase the use of TRICARE’s Home Delivery program by eliminating the pharmacy co-payment for mail-order generic drugs, which is also part of the proposal.
A permanent solution to pending cuts in Medicare physician reimbursement rates is also essential to ensuring access to care for all Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries. Congress has repeatedly punted on this matter and the latest extension preventing cumulative reimbursement rate cuts now totaling 29.5 percent expires on December 31, 2011.
Read FRA’s complete written testimony at www.fra.org/testimony.
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FRA Storms the Hill, Presents Pinnacle Award to Congressman LoBiondo
Members of FRA’s National Board of Directors (NBOD) brought the enlisted perspective to Capitol Hill as they visited their respective elected officials in Washington, D.C. In more than 35 office visits, FRA leaders shared the Association’s perspective on priority legislative issues with their senators and representatives, asking them to support legislation that would benefit their shipmates.
Later in the day FRA National President Jim Scarbro and Auxiliary National President Helen Courneya presented FRA’s prestigious Pinnacle Award to New Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo. The lawmaker was recognized for his efforts to improve access to healthcare and other services for veterans, expand benefit eligibility for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, and advance housing and childcare improvements for Coast Guard personnel.
Like FRA on Facebook at www.fra.org/fb and see more photos and videos of the day’s events.
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Active Duty Issues
FRA Cosponsors House Reserve Component Caucus Breakfast
As part of its strong support of Sea Services Reserve Component personnel, FRA joined 10 other military and veterans’ organizations in cosponsoring the 14th annual House Reserve Component Caucus Breakfast on Capitol Hill in mid-March. Representatives Duncan Hunter (California) and Tim Walz (Minnesota) cochair the bipartisan caucus and attendees included caucus members, Defense officials, the Reserve Component Chiefs and senior enlisted leaders, and members of key military associations, including FRA.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Dennis McCarthy was the keynote speaker. He addressed a new period of transitioning the Reserve Component from a mobilized combat force to a more innovative and efficient force, resetting equipment and the importance of supporting Reserve personnel and their families.
Vice Admiral Dirk Debbink, chief of the Navy Reserve, stated that one-third of the Reserve force is activated, with 8,000 either in or preparing to go into combat, many of whom are serving as Individual Augmentees (IA). Debbink asked lawmakers to allow Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) personnel to purchase TRICARE Reserve Select in order to maintain physical readiness and continuity of care.
Chief of the Marine Corps Reserve Major General Darrel Moore cited the need to retain bonus dollars to help the service recruit and retain the Corps’ best and the brightest.
Capt. Steve Vanderplas of the Coast Guard Reserve named parity for the Coast Guard with the other DoD services as his top priority — a call echoed in FRA’s legislative agenda for pay and benefit parity for USCG personnel with their DoD counterparts.
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Helping Military Families with the Mortgage Problems
Congressman Gerry Connolly (Virginia) recently introduced legislation (H.R. 237) that would expand the eligibility period for the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) to include more service members who were forced to sell their homes at a loss when they moved on government orders. If enacted, more service members may be eligible for partial reimbursement of financial losses, funds to pay off the mortgage, or assistance if they are forced to default on the mortgage.
The current law requires that homes had to be bought by July 1, 2006, and applications for benefits were due by September 30, 2010, to be eligible for the program. Many believe this time period is too restrictive and this bill seeks to give the Department of Defense the ability to change the eligibility dates for a specific military installation when circumstances require. Members are encouraged to go to the FRA Action Center (www.fra.org) to contact their representative on this issue.
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Senior Enlisted Leaders Testify Before Congress
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent, and their Army and Air Force counterparts summarized prepared testimony and ranked their respective quality-of-life concerns in late March before the House Military Construction (MilCon), Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.
MCPON West informed the subcommittee that to date more than 90,000 Sailors have served as Individual Augmentees (IA) in support of Overseas Contingency Operations and there are currently 11,000 Navy IAs deployed — most of whom are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and conducting counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. The Navy will add 7,000 new childcare spaces, reducing waiting time to three months for access to military childcare facilities. The Navy has also made significant progress in improving bachelor housing with its Homeport Ashore program that, after repeated delays, is now scheduled to eliminate substandard bachelor housing by 2016.
Sergeant Major Kent told the subcommittee the Marine Corps is working to obtain a 1-to-2 dwell time ratio (7 months deployed to 14 months at home) for combat units, and that the Corps increased child care capabilities from 64 to 73 percent of USMC families, with a projection to meet a goal of 80 percent by FY2012.
These senior enlisted advisors gave similar testimony before the Senate Armed Services’ Personnel Subcommittee in mid-April.
Note: Because the Coast Guard is not part of the Department of Defense, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael Leavitt did not testify before these subcommittees.
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FRA Seeks Faster VA Claims Processing, Equity for “Blue Water” Veterans
FRA’s Director of Legislative Programs (DLP) John Davis recently expressed the Association’s top veterans’ concerns before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Committees, asking the committees’ support to resolve the chronic claims-processing backlog of pending disability claims, eliminate restrictions on disability claims filed by veterans who were exposed to herbicides while serving off the coast of Vietnam, and to continue effective oversight of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
FRA called on both committees to take steps to eliminate the staggering backlog of unresolved claims for VA benefits and support the recommendations of the Independent Budget that proposes an eight-percent hike in VA funding for FY2012 and restores cuts in various VA construction, information technology, and medical and prosthetic research programs proposed by the Administration. FRA also urged members of the House VA Committee to approve the “Agent Orange Equity Act” (H.R. 812), legislation that would amend the VA’s definition of Vietnam service to include those veterans who served off-shore. Many of these “Blue Water” veterans are not eligible to receive VA benefits for health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. The complete written statement is available at www.fra.org/testimony.
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VA Medicare Subvention Legislation Introduced
Rep. Bob Filner (California), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee, recently introduced legislation that would authorize Medicare payments to VA medical facilities for services provided to Medicare-eligible veterans being treated for non-service-connected conditions. Under current law, Medicare is not authorized to reimburse VA hospitals for care provided to Medicare-eligible vets. This results in veterans being forced to decide between receiving medical care through the VA or using Medicare at a non-VA facility and foregoing the specialized care of a VA hospital.
Most veterans pay into Medicare for the bulk of their adult lives, yet the law prohibits them from using this benefit for care at VA facilities. This issue is consistently referenced in FRA’s congressional testimony and members are urged to strengthen that call by using the FRA Action Center at www.fra.org to ask their representatives to support the “Medicare VA Reimbursement Act” (H.R. 814).
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Supreme Court Allows Filing Flexibility for Disabled Vets
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed a lower court ruling (Henderson v. Shinseki) to support a mentally ill veteran who missed a judicial review deadline by 15 days. The Plaintiff, David Henderson, was a 100-percent disabled Korean War veteran suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, who missed the filing deadline because he was bedridden.
The high court specified that the VA is responsible for assisting veterans in developing their claims and rigid enforcement of filing deadlines is contrary to the agency’s duty to assist veterans. Henderson died last October before the high court ruling, but his wife took over the case.
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Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Established
The Senate recently passed a resolution (S. Res 55) that declares March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina), ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored the measure that seeks to honor and recognize veterans who served in Vietnam for their service and sacrifice. March 30 is the date in 1973 when U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
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VA Moves Forward on Implementation of Caregiver Law
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has submitted an Interim Final Rule (IFR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to speed up the process of implementing certain provisions of Public Law 111-163. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 was supported by FRA and signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. This condensed rule-making process is in part due to pressure from House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (Florida), Senate VA Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Washington), and Ranking Members Rep. Bob Filner (California) and Sen. Richard Burr (North Carolina), who have expressed frustration with the slow pace of implementation.
The Law directs the VA to provide an extensive range of new support services and benefits to caregivers of eligible veterans and service members seriously injured in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001 (Post 9/11). These benefits and services are in addition to those currently available at VA to all enrolled veterans and their caregivers. As part of the legal process, VA must issue regulations in order to implement these new authorities. The VA hopes to fully implement the law this summer.
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Update of PDBR Review of Disability Claims
The Physical Disability Review Board (PDBR) announced that more than half of the claims it has reviewed have been upgraded to a disability rating of 30 percent or more. The PDBR was mandated by the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act to reassess the accuracy and fairness of claims that resulted in combined disability ratings of 20 percent or less for service members who were separated from service due to medical conditions rather than being medically retired. To be eligible for a PDBR review, service members must have been medically separated between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2009, with a combined disability rating of 20 percent or less, and found ineligible for retirement.
This review panel is authorized to recommend an increase in a disability rating, uphold the previous finding, or issue a disability rating when the previous board did not assign one. The board, however, cannot recommend a lower rating. Eligible veterans can request a board review by submitting a Department of Defense Form (DD) 294 (Application for Review of Physical Disability Separation from the Armed Forces of the United States). This form is available online at www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0294.pdf.
Veterans requesting a review must mail their completed and signed DD-294 to SAF/MRBR, 550 C St. W., Suite 41, Randolph Air Force Base, TX 78150-4743. Applicants may submit statements, briefs, medical records or affidavits supporting their application.
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 REmembers PNP Eugene smith
ENC (SS) Eugene Smith, U.S. Navy, Retired
FRA National President 2000-2001 FRA Past National President Eugene Smith joined the staff of the Supreme Commander on April 18, 2011. He will be remembered for his devotion to the FRA and his shipmates and always doing what he believed was in the Association’s best interest.
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Smith joined the Navy in 1947 to begin a 20-year career as an Engineman (EN). Throughout his long and distinguished service career, Smith spent a combined total of 16 years on sea duty, including duty aboard eight different vessels. His shore assignments included attendance at the Navy’s sonar school and nuclear power school, as well as his final active duty station at Navy Recruiting Command in Louisville, Kentucky. After his retirement from the Navy in 1967, Smith was employed for 27 years by Alcoa, Inc., in Newburgh, Ind., where he worked as the company’s superintendent of maintenance.
Smith joined the FRA in 1965 and played a significant role in establishing several branches in the Association’s North Central Region. A Life Member of the FRA and a member of Branch 105 (Owensboro, Kentucky), he held leadership positions as branch secretary, treasurer, vice president and president. He also served as a member of the branch’s board of directors for more than three decades and served one year as FRA’s national chaplain. He served as his region’s vice president in 1989 and was elected Regional President North Central in 1990. In 1999, his shipmates elected Smith as the Association’s national vice president and then elected him to serve as FRA national president in 2000. Throughout his FRA service, Smith was actively involved in the Association’s operation, serving on various committees, and was a member of FRA’s Employees’ Pension Committee at the time of his death.
During his tenure as the Association’s senior elected official (2000-2001), FRA played a significant role in securing a robust package of military benefits that included TRICARE for Life for Medicare-eligible military retirees, expanded eligibility for severely disabled retirees to receive special compensation, and the authority for service members to participate in a Thrift Savings Plan. FRA also sought resolution to absentee voting difficulties experienced by service members during the 2000 federal elections and supported legislation honoring the memory of USS Cole (DDG-67) crewmembers killed in the 2000 terrorist attack.
Shipmate Past National President Smith is survived by his wife, Lois, and daughters Marsha and Cheryl.
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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 email@example.com and include your member number (found above your name on the cover of this magazine). To listen to NewsBytesby 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 great products and 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.
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.