Website Edition Note: Anyone receiving this who does not want it should click on the automatic “Change address / Leave mailing list” tab at the bottom of this message. THIS BULLETIN CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES == Wreaths Across America  ------ (Arlington Placement)
== Notes of Interest ---------------------------------- (1-15 Dec 2011)
== Medicare Fraud  ----------------------------- (1-15 Dec 2011)
== Medicad Fraud  ----------------------------- (1-15 Dec 2011)
== State Veteran's Benefits ------------------------- (South Carolina)
== Military History ---------------------------------- (Cu Chi Tunnels)
== Military History Anniversaries ----------- (Dec 16-31Summary)
== Military Trivia  --------------------- (Greatest Commanders)
== Tax Burden for Iowa Retirees ---------------- (As of DEC 2011)
== Veteran Legislation Status 12 DEC 2011---- (Where we stand)
== Have You Heard? ---------------------- (Military Pilot Takeoffs)
Attachment - Veteran Legislation as of 12 DEC 2011
Attachment - South Carolina State Veteran's Benefits
Attachment - Vet License Plates Nevada
Attachment - Cu Chi Tunnels
** Denotes Military Times Copyrighted Material
********************************* ********************************* Wreaths Across America Update 05: The Defense Department's top enlisted service member, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, said that placing 100,000 holiday wreaths at the graves where veterans "lie in rest and peace on the hallowed grounds" of Arlington National Cemetery is a tribute to their sacrifices for the nation. "Our veterans deserve nothing but the best," emphasized Battaglia, senior enlisted adviser to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. Now in its 20th year, "Wreaths Across America" makes sure veterans' graves at national cemeteries are adorned during the holidays with large, evergreen wreaths bearing bright red bows. Thousands of volunteers -- veterans, family members, Boy Scouts and others place the wreaths on the headstones. "Isn't it great to to see that?" Battaglia asked. "It's very refreshing as a service member, but also as an American, [to see] our veterans held in such high regard that [people] would volunteer their time to come out here in the cold, as a matter of fact, to perform work in service and honor of our veterans."
"Wreaths Across America not only gives citizens the chance to pay their respects, it allows for the spirit of the holidays for the fallen and their family members," he said. "To have this privilege and honor in such a dignified way, to spread holiday cheer and spirit," Battaglia said, "shows even though they may have gone before us, our veterans are still a part of our team and family." This year's largest wreath delivery, at three times its average size, began its six-day journey from Maine to the cemetery in a convoy of more than 20 tractor trailers and other vehicles, also bringing veterans and families. The parade of vehicles made stops at schools, veterans' homes and national cemeteries along its way. 10 DEC began with the wreaths arriving before dawn at the cemetery, amid a parade of backed-up vehicular and foot traffic, creating an early crowd of people vying to attend the ceremonies. Battaglia said the event spoke for itself. "You could see by the audience gathered in the amphitheater for the opening ceremony with standing room only," he said, "the number and mixture of folks here, ... who came here on these hallowed grounds to give their respects," he said.
The wreaths covered many sections of the cemetery's grave sites, touching on dignitaries such as President John F. Kennedy, and winding its way from Civil War veterans' grave sites to service members just buried. The day concluded with the wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns. "Regardless of conflict, our veterans have given and sacrificed much," he said. "[The least we can do] is what we're doing today." Battaglia said the family of Morrill and Karen Worcester who began Wreaths Across America made sacrifices, too, to make the annual event possible.
"You really have to admire their motto of 'Remember, Honor and Teach,'" Battaglia said. "Even though a lot of the focus is placed on the children to grow up in the true American spirit, I've learned some very valuable lessons today." [Source: AFPS Terri Moon Cronk article 11 Dec 2011 ++]
For the 20th year, Wreaths Across America is laying holiday wreaths on headstones at Arlington and in 500 other cemeteries throughout the United States and overseas A line of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery displays its colorful holiday wreaths designed by "Wreaths Across America" *********************************
Burn Pit Toxic Emissions Update 17: Open-air burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many returning Veterans are concerned about their exposure to smoke from burning trash and human waste. The most recent Institute of Medicine report on burn pits, “Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan” [http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Long-Term-Health-Consequences-of-Exposure-to-Burn-Pits-in-Iraq-and-Afghanistan.aspx] was released on 31 OCT. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of report but is currently is assessing the report and is sponsoring several other studies on possible health effects which include:
Asking the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an in-depth review of the existing literature on the potential adverse health effects of exposure to smoke from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report, “Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan”, was released on October 31. VA currently is assessing the report.
Conducting the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans. The study group includes 30,000 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Veterans and 30,000 Veterans who served elsewhere during the same time period. The study covers a wide spectrum of health effects, including those that may be associated with exposure to smoke from burn pits.
Participating in the Millennium Cohort Study, a Department of Defense epidemiological study begun in 2001 that has almost 150,000 participants. The study is designed to evaluate how military service may affect the long-term health of service members. Data are being collected on respiratory health.
The VA/Department of Defense Pulmonary Health Working Group is looking at pre- and post-deployment health and also reviewing the health records of military working dogs that receive the same exposures that the troops do. These dogs may serve as sentinels for human health.
Sponsoring additional studies by individual VA researchers and tracking other studies by non-VA researchers.
Smoke produced by the burn may spread a variety of pollutants through the air that blows into working and living areas. These toxins can include dioxin, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, hexachlorobenzene, and ash. The make-up of the smoke depends on what is being burned, which is not consistent from one burn pit to another, or from one time period to another at the same burn pit. Health effects depend on a number of factors, such as the kind of waste being burned, individual susceptibility, duration of exposure, air flow patterns, and closeness to the pit. You may be at greater risk if you burned waste at the pit compared to those were only in the vicinity of the smoke. Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: Chemicals, Paint, Medical and human waste, Metal/aluminum cans, Munitions and other unexploded ordnance, Petroleum and lubricant products, Plastics and styrofoam, Rubber, Wood, and Discarded food .
Exposure to toxins may affect the skin, eyes, respiration, kidneys, liver, nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. At this time, research has not shown long-term adverse health effects from exposure to the burn pits. VA takes this issue seriously which is why it has undertaken the above mentioned studies on possible health effects. Most of the irritation related to solid waste burning exposure is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. These include:
Eye irritation and burning
Coughing and throat irritation
Skin itching and rashes
You may find out more about your exposure by getting an exposure assessment offered by VA's War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers. Exposure assessments are provided upon request to all combat veterans, veterans who participated in military Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Tests, and veterans who participated in Project 112 or SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense). The War Related Illness and Injury Study Centers (WRIISCs) provide clinical expertise for Veterans with deployment health concerns or difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. WRIISCs are in three locations: Washington, DC; East Orange, NJ; and Palo Alto, CA. For an appointment at a WRIISC, a VA primary care doctor must make a referral. For guidance on obtaining a referral refer to http://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/clinical/national-referral.asp. Veterans who were exposed to toxins released by burn pits during military service may be eligible for:
Health care benefits, including a free Gulf War Registry health exam for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn Veterans
Disability compensation benefits for disabilities that VA determines are associated with exposure to burn pits during military service
Other benefits, including home loans, vocational rehabilitation, and education
[Source: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/index.asp Dec 2011 ++]
Tricare Data Breach ~ SAIC Update 04: Officials with the military's health care program have verified that a mass mailing informing beneficiaries they are eligible for free credit reports in the wake of a September data breach is not a scam. The letter from contractor Science Applications International Corp (SAIC). has aroused suspicions on an Air Force Facebook page and in retiree and military spouse Internet forums. It offers free credit monitoring and restoration services for one year to TRICARE beneficiaries whose personal information was exposed when backup computer tapes with health records of 4.9 million people were stolen from an SAIC employee's car.
Postings on the official Facebook page of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany not only called the letter a scam, but said one squadron at the base "sent out an email saying it was a scam and to turn all letters into them as they had opened an investigation" with the Office of Special Investigation."
The Scam Checker website contains numerous posts depicting the message as a fake, and others deeming it authentic.
One recipient even called the FBI to determine if the letter was legitimate, which the bureau confirmed.
CincHouse, a website for military women and wives, confused the issue even more with posts that looked at different parts of the SAIC letter and came to the conclusion that there were two letters in circulation: a real one and a scam.
An online forum at Military.com also mixed up parts of the SAIC letter and determined there were two versions floating around.
The SAIC letter signed by Walter P. Havenstein, the company's chief executive officer, is "NOT a hoax," TRICARE spokesman Austin Camacho told Nextgov in an email. "Please remind your readers to double-check the letter they receive from SAIC to ensure contact information matches the toll-free phone numbers as these are the ONLY valid phone numbers to verify authenticity and obtain assistance," Camacho said in his email. Concerned beneficiaries in the United States should contact the SAIC Incident Response Call Center toll-free at 1-855-366-0140. Those abroad can call collect: 1-952-556-8312. "We understand that some recipients of the letter are concerned that it may be a scam," SAIC spokesman Vernon Guidry said. "They may reassure themselves that the letter is genuine by accessing the TRICARE Management Activity website" (at http://www.tricare.mil/breach/). [Source: NextGov.com Bob Brewin article 8 Dec 2011 ++]
DoD-VA Pharmacy: According to Bob Brewin of the NextGov newsletter, the TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) in DEC kicked off the process to develop a joint electronic pharmacy system for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments with a Request for Information to industry for commercial products that could handle the task. The joint system would manage 190 million prescriptions a year. TMA, which manages Military Health System (MHS) information technology projects, asked for a single solution to track prescription and medication orders and improve patient safety by flagging drug interactions. MHS annually fills 50 million prescriptions while VA fills 140 million -- 32 million a year in hospitals and clinics and 108 million through seven mail order pharmacies. Industry sources said the ability to handle this scale of transactions, which would make the program the largest pharmacy system in the world, will be a key criteria as the procurement process moves forward.
TRICARE wants a pharmacy system with links to other systems, including electronic health records, automated pill dispensing machines and drug company systems. The joint pharmacy system will need to track medications tagged with both bar codes and radio frequency identification chips and support an interface to package tracking systems used by the U.S. Postal Service and United Parcel Service. The pharmacy system is the first project under a joint electronic health record project approved earlier this year, and is formally called the integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) Pharmacy initiative. Both MHS and VA have unique functions that will be handled as separate applications. These include battlefield care, obstetrics and pediatrics for MHS and nursing home, long-term care and nursing homes for VA.
Computer Sciences Corp. currently runs the MHS pharmacy data transaction service under a 51-month contract awarded in October 2010. VA developed its pharmacy systems internally in its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture and it includes 13 applications that gather, process and store data pertaining to prescriptions and orders written and filled. VA and MHS have failed so far in their efforts to develop a small-scale joint pharmacy system at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported. GAO said deployment of the prescription order system at Lovell also has been delayed pending high-level review at the two departments. As a result, the Lovell joint VA/DoD hospital had to hire five full-time pharmacists to manually check individual patient records in each of the departments' electronic health record systems to identify possible harmful interactions between drugs prescribed in the two separate systems. At present any civilian drug store can check on drug interactions which raises the question
why is it taking VA and MHS so long to be able to do this? [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 9 Dec 2011 ++]
Homes4WoundedHeroes Program: The nonprofit Military Warriors Support Foundation (MVSF) is giving away free homes to veterans who qualify and are now accepting Open Applications for their Homes4WoundedHeroes program. If you are a combat wounded hero, injured during the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts, and do not currently have a mortgage, you are eligible to apply. The homes are donated by banks and are renovated to be fully accessible. The website http://www.militarywarriors.org/ has the listed inventory of homes that are currently available and instructions for applying . For the first three years of occupancy, the nonprofit holds the deed to the house. Veterans selected for homes have to show they can adapt, are financially responsible, substance free, crime free, and so on. They also must participate in monthly financial counseling in order to learn how to budget and be aware of how to be a homeowner. At the end of the three years, if successful, they will be given the deed to the house. Requirements include:
If a home is not available in the veteran's area, the veteran can put in a "wish list" and if selected the nonprofit will try to find one in their preferred location. Applicant’s are encourage to designate as many areas, within the United States, as possible that would work for them. Applicants will still undergo our typical review process. MVSF tries to place veterans not only by their preference but by access to medical facilities, good schools, and veteran friendly environments. In total, MVSO has given away over 100 homes this year. A great achievement for this organization and a great benefit to our military servicemen and families that have given so much. For more information call the MWSF Communications Coordinator Jana J. Wyze at (210) 615-8973 (Office) (907) 854-1340 (Cell) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Source: Director, Nevada Office of Veterans Services 7 Dec 2011 ++]
GI Bill Update 108: According to recent reports the DoD’s new Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding policies and procedures are forcing several schools to reconsider accepting military students who wish to use their TA (Tuition Aid) benefits. The schools complain that the MOU forces participating colleges and universities to subject themselves to increased DoD inspections, payment procedures, and new rules for transferring credits between schools, granting academic credit for military training and residency requirements for servicemembers. Many schools feel that the MOU restricts their academic authority. While the institutions of higher learning may be rightfully concerned that the MOU infringes on their academic authority, the DoD MOU also has revenue impacts that some schools may be concerned about. For example, the MOU requires schools to accept credit card payments from the DoD for tuition. Considering the costs associated with such a large balance, the impact could reduce the school’s revenue. In addition, accepting more military experience credit (ACE) recommendations and relaxing residency requirements can also hurt the bottom line.
School’s – whether for-profit or non-profit — count on their revenue to pay administrative salaries, operational expenses, and reinvest in their schools. Not to mention that it also covers student support programs such as veteran centers, counseling services, and the added cost of processing the additional federal paperwork. It is important to note that the DoD released a clarifying policy statement to try to soften the restrictive legal language of the MOU’s less popular restrictions and policies. However, many schools are wary of the policy statement because they fear it is non-binding. Many see the MOU as the DoD overstepping their authority. To varying degrees many of the schools that are pushing back, already accept transfer credits, military experience (ACE) credits, take credit cards, and adhere to the Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC) consortium guidelines and the Military Student Bill of Rights. For many smaller schools the issue is also about not being staffed to evaluate the ACE credit recommendations or send the DoD the required information such as degree plans and course registrations in a timely manner, making it nearly impossible for them to meet the DoD’s requirements. Many current military students stand to be hurt if the DoD cannot come to a compromise with the schools. [Source: Military.com Terry Howell article 6 Dec 2011 ++]