Issue 2006-08 — August, 2006
|This newsletter is published monthly by the Military Retiree Assistance Office outside Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Korea. It is provided primarily for the information of retirees of all services and their families living in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The information contained herein may not necessarily reflect the views or official positions of the Department of Defense, the U.S. military services and their component commands. If you are receiving this newsletter directly by e-mail, it is because you have subscribed to it and confirmed the subscription. To subscribe or unsubscribe, please follow the instructions contained at the end of the newsletter. All issues of the newsletter are maintained in HTML, PDF Print and Text formats on an index at the Retiree Activities Office web site. The index allows direct access to each news item in each newsletter.
Contact the MRAO: in Korea 031-663-0319; outside Korea 82-31-663-0319; e-mail: email@example.com
The Retiree Activities Office will be closed for vacation Sep 20-29. Please note this on your calendar as Jack Terwiel will be out of touch during this time.
AAFES will hold it's annual Still Serving show of appreciation for military retirees and their families during the weekend of Sep 29-Oct 1. For retirees who have ordered from the AAFES catalog or AAFES on-line, a booklet of coupons will be mailed by AAFES. For other retirees, we are hoping that AAFES will come through with some additional booklets that can be handed out to retirees during that weekend by retiree volunteers at your local AAFES main store.
The United States Military Retirees Association Korea annual membership meeting and election of officers will be held on Sep 30 at the Army Community Services (Bldg 4106, Yongsan South Post) starting at 1000.
After years of rising early to work at the office, you looked forward to retirement – a time when you'd toss out that annoying alarm clock and catch some quality zzz's. But now you're finding that even though you'd like to sleep late, you're still rising with the sun. And the sleep you do get overnight isn't as restful.
Having difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep (insomnia) is common as you get older. But that doesn't mean insomnia can't be avoided. Explore what could be causing your sleeping difficulties. Once you've figured out what's causing your insomnia, there's plenty you can do to get a good night's rest.
What's normal sleep as you age
As you age, your body secretes smaller amounts of key substances that help your body decide when to sleep and when to wake up. Levels of growth hormone, which promotes deep sleep, and melatonin, which regulates your sleeping and waking cycle, decrease as you age. As a result, your circadian rhythm – the internal clock that tells you to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning – changes. You might find yourself going to bed earlier and waking up earlier.
As you get older, you might find that getting a good night's sleep becomes more difficult. You might find that:
But despite the frustrating disturbances, you still need the same amount of sleep that you needed when you were younger – generally seven or eight hours a night. Because you likely wake up more often during the night and don't sleep as soundly, you may spend more time in bed at night or you might need a nap during the day to get those same eight quality hours of sleep.
On their own, these age-related changes don't usually signify a sleep disorder. If you're experiencing insomnia, your age usually isn't to blame.
Causes of insomnia in older adults
About half of all seniors report difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Several different factors can cause this problem.
Health conditions that may contribute to insomnia
As you age, you're more likely to develop health problems that could cause your sleep patterns to change. Examples include:
Some conditions, such as arthritis, cause pain, which can make falling asleep difficult. Also, if you have chronic pain, you might wake yourself up if you adjust your sleep position during the night.
If you have diabetes, leg edema, enlarged prostate or incontinence, these conditions might cause you to urinate more frequently. Add to that the fact that your bladder capacity shrinks as you age, and you might find yourself getting up at night to use the toilet more often. Getting up so often can make it hard to get back to sleep.
Other conditions, such as heart disease and COPD, can cause breathing difficulties. If you have trouble maintaining steady, rhythmic breathing while you sleep, you might wake up several times in the middle of the night. Waking up like this may prevent you from reaching deep sleep.
Pay attention to what awakens you at night or what keeps you from sleeping. Talk to your doctor about your specific health condition. Changes to your treatment plan may reduce your sleep disturbances.
Anxiety and depression
Anxiety, depression and other emotional problems can make it harder to sleep at night. At the same time, not sleeping at night can add to your anxiety and depression. Understand that anxiety and depression can be serious conditions. Don't hesitate to tell your doctor if you have feelings of sadness or anxiousness that keep you up at night. These feelings can be treated.
Some common medications can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, including:
As you get older, you're more likely to be taking some type of medication. Talk to your doctor about your medications and the chance that they might be causing your sleepless nights. Your doctor might prescribe a different drug that doesn't cause insomnia, or he or she might discuss changing the time of day you take your medication.
Common nonprescription drugs such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine also can make it harder to fall asleep. Try cutting down on these or eliminating them altogether. Be aware that nicotine withdrawal symptoms and even the nicotine patch can keep you up – but this is usually only a temporary problem.
As your responsibilities and daily activities change, your body adjusts accordingly. You might not get as much exercise as you did in the past. Being in a more rested state during the day means that your body doesn't feel the need to sleep like it used to. If your doctor says it's OK, increase your daily activities, for example, by taking a walk or spending more time in the garden.
Do your exercising during the day, or at least more than two hours before you go to bed. Exercise increases your core temperature, making it harder to fall asleep.
You might not spend enough time outdoors these days. Sunlight helps keep your body's circadian rhythm working appropriately. In general, you need about two hours of bright-light exposure each day to help your body gauge when to sleep and when to wake up. If you can't get outside to enjoy the sunshine, talk to your doctor about a light box – a box that emits a bright light that mimics the light given by the sun.
With more indoor time and less activity, you might find it tempting to nap during the day. If you nap for more than 20 minutes, you could find yourself having more trouble getting to sleep at night.
Some sleep disorders are more prevalent among older adults, including sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. Both can wake you up in the middle of the night. If you think you might have either condition, talk to your doctor. Your sleep partner might be aware of your sleep disorder because loud snoring or movement might wake him or her up. Your partner might be able to give your doctor some information about your sleep behavior.
What you can do
The key to helping you get back to sleep is treating the problem that's causing your sleeplessness. If your sleep problem is affecting your daytime functioning, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Also talk to you doctor if:
Sleeping pills: Not a long-term solution
Sleeping pills, whether over-the-counter or prescribed by your doctor, aren't a long-term solution to your sleeplessness. Medications can sometimes be used short term and should be used only as directed by your doctor. Using prescription sleeping pills incorrectly can cause addiction or dependence. Sleeping pills, which can make you drowsy, can also put you at risk of falls and broken bones.
If you're struggling with your sleep, ask your doctor if sleeping pills might help. But don't turn to sleeping pills rather than remedying the underlying cause of your sleep problems.
When someone else's snoring keeps you up
The loud sound of your partner snoring next to you can be enough to wake you up and make it impossible to fall back to sleep. Snoring is common, and chances are that you or your partner has done a fair share of snoring every now and again. As you get older, snoring becomes more common, so as you both age, you and your partner are more likely to snore.
Sometimes snoring indicates something more serious, such as sleep apnea. But usually it's just annoying. Snoring can be caused by:
Talk with your partner about what could be causing his or her snoring. If avoiding alcohol or losing weight doesn't seem to stop the snoring, your partner might want to talk to his or her doctor.
In the meantime, try to block out the noise by:
Don't accept sleeplessness
Don't accept sleeplessness as part of the aging process. The sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner you and your doctor can get to work on a solution. Then you can get back to a good night's rest.
I recently posted an item on the web site about my experience with Korean Health Insurance. Subsequently, a retiree told me that he couldn't afford the Korean Health Insurance because it would cost too much to buy in to it. He had arrived in Korea in 1986, so he'd have to pay 20 years worth of premiums. In the first place, the Korean insurance did not become available to foreigners until 1999. But in his case, he still would not have to pay back even that far.
My wife asked when he had gotten his resident visa, and he responded that he'd lost his SOFA job in 2003 and gotten the resident visa at that time. Since he'd gotten his resident visa three years ago, he would only have to pay back premiums for that period of time. Granted, it's still expensive, but it's better than having to come up with $3,000 catastrophic cap to cover serious medical problems when TRICARE covers 75% of your medical costs. The other good part of the Korean insurance is that your out-of-pocket costs are reduced up front by 60%. When you have to pay the bill in full before the hospital will release you, that's significant.
One of the myriad problems of aging is that muscles weaken. This is especially true when the muscles are not regularly exercised. One muscle that's virtually ignored is the pelvic floor muscle. This one's important because when it weakens, it could be a source of both bladder and bowel incontinence (leaks).
There is a way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle with pelvic floor exercise (PFE). Three years ago, the RAO web site included Self-Care Examples on PFE for men under Health Matters. A recent e-mail newsletter from the Mayo Clinic included a link to an article on Kegel exercises, which includes PFE for women.
The nice thing about PFE is that the exercise can be done at most any time, while sitting or standing, so it's a good exercise habit to get into while watching TV or other types of sedentary activity. It may take eight to twelve weeks to see results, but the positive results could make it a worthwhile solution to those embarassing moments.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)'s Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) will be strictly voluntary, with eligible persons free to take vision or dental benefits, both, or neither, and there will be no government contributions. Eligibility for active employees will depend on eligibility for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) – but not actual FEHBP enrollment – although all retirees will be eligible regardless of FEHBP eligibility. Some of the plans will be offered by the same health insurance companies that offer FEHBP plans but individuals enrolled in the FEHBP plans will be free to enroll in other dental and/or vision plans if they want.
For FEHBP plans that provide vision or dental benefits, that plan would act as first payer, with FEDVIP secondary. There will be no pre-existing conditions limitations, although there may be waiting periods for some orthodontic benefits.
Approximately 100,000 disabled retirees are due retroactive pay. The underpayment occurred as DoD and VA officials implemented a complex series of laws, starting in 2003, to end the ban on "concurrent receipt" of both military retirement and VA disability compensation.
Those eligible for back pay have combat-related injuries and illnesses, or service-connected disabilities that the VA rates as at least 50 percent disabling. All of them also had military careers of lasting 20 years or longer. It is reported that as many as 20,000 recipients of Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) and 78,000 recipients of Concurrent Retirement and Disability (CRDP) are owed back pay.
Final details for provision of the back payment are being worked out between DoD and VA. An article authored by Tom Philpott (see link below) reports that credit for making the case on this matter goes to a number of retirees who discovered the underpayment, including NAUS Board Member Col Win Reither, USAF (ret).
For more information, read the article from our friends at Military.com.
Federal retirees have accumulated 3.1 percent toward their January 2007 COLA, following an increase of 0.2 percentage points in June in the consumer price index used to set the COLA. There are three months left in the count toward the COLA.
The Bush administration has nixed one year of free credit monitoring for the 26.5 million veterans whose personal information was on a laptop computer and external hard drive stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee last May. White House budget director Rob Portman wrote House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., July 18, withdrawing the request for $160.5 million to pay for the monitoring, because the laptop and hard drive had been recovered. The FBI said it had a "high degree of confidence" that thieves had not accessed the files. The Veterans of Foreign Wars expressed outrage, asserting that a "high degree" is not 100 percent, especially since the thieves had the files for eight weeks. The VFW says the administration is taking an "all safe" stand, "despite computer industry experts saying the exact opposite." (Additional comments are available at the Director's Corner.)
In a July 28 letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee members, MOAA and The Military Coalition (TMC) highlighted top priorities and recommendations for resolving more than 100 differences between the separately-passed versions of the FY2007 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 5122 and S. 2766).
Top TMC priorities include:
Accompanying the letter was a matrix detailing dozens of important personnel-related differences between the House and Senate versions of the defense bill, with Coalition recommendations and rationale for their resolution.
Hopefully, congressional leaders will be looking at TMC positions with particular interest in this election year.
To review the TMC letter and matrix, visit The Military Coalition Web Site. (This file may take a moment to download, please be patient.)
MOAA and The Military Coalition can send Congress our priorities, but what really motivates legislators is a large volume of individual constituent inputs. Please visit our Web Site to send them MOAA-suggested e-mails on the key issues.
On Monday, President Bush signed the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, an Act that would bar condominium and homeowner associations from restricting how the American flag can be displayed.
Sponsored by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), the resolution simply says that a homeowner or condominium owner cannot be prohibited from displaying an American flag on their own property. It also says that the association may place reasonable limits on the time and the manner of displaying the flag. The action is a commonsense accommodation of the rights of the associations to maintain the value of their properties and the rights of Americans to fly the flag.
Both the House and the Senate passed the bill (H.R. 42) unanimously.
"Americans have long flown our flag as an expression of their appreciation for our freedoms and their pride in our nation," Bush said in a statement. "As our brave men and women continue to fight to protect our country overseas, Congress has passed an important measure to protect our citizens right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions."
Bill of Interest – S.418
Title: A bill to protect members of the Armed Forces from unscrupulous practices regarding sales of insurance, financial, and investment products.
Sponsor: Senator Enzi, Michael B. [WY] (introduced 2/17/2005) Cosponsors (12)
Latest Major Action: 7/19/2006 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent. 7/20/2006 Held at desk.
Summary: Military Personnel Financial Services Protection Act -
Amends the Investment Company Act of 1940 to state it is unlawful: (1) for any registered investment company to issue any periodic payment plan certificate; or (2) for such company or any other person to sell such a certificate.
Amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require a registered securities association to establish a system for collecting and retaining registration, disciplinary, and other information, including a toll-free telephone listing for prompt response to inquiries regarding registration information on members
Amends the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 to authorize the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require an investment adviser to file with the SEC, through any designated entity, any fee, application, report, or notice required to be filed. Directs the SEC to require such entity to establish and maintain a toll-free telephone listing, or a readily accessible electronic or other process, to receive and promptly respond to inquiries regarding registration, disciplinary, and other information involving investment advisers and associated persons.
In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee leaders, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) are asking their colleagues to ensure the Senate holds firm in insisting on retaining two key Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) fixes in the FY2007 Defense Authorization Bill.
The Senate-passed version of the bill would (1) end the deduction of VA survivor benefits from SBP annuities and (2) accelerate the effective date of 30-year, paid-up SBP coverage to Oct. 1, 2006 (vs. Oct 1, 2008). But the House did nothing on these issues, and now House and Senate negotiators will decide whether to keep the provisions or drop them.
Last year, an identical Senate proposal was stripped out of the FY2006 defense bill in final negotiations, and the Nelson/Hagel letter is aimed at shoring up support for these much-needed SBP fixes.
Sens. Nelson and Hagel hope to send the letter next week, so they need senators to sign on immediately.
You can help build that important signature list by visiting our Web Site and clicking on the "Sign Senate SBP Letter" link to send a MOAA-suggested message urging your Senators to sign the Nelson/Hagel letter.
The Defense Department announced July 5 that the American Forces Network (AFN) will cease broadcasting play-by-play sports on radio later this summer. The decision came because worldwide audience surveys of service members and civilian employees stationed overseas showed that they simply prefer to watch sorts rather than just listen to them. Some motor sports programming will remain on AFN radio's schedule in order to complete their seasons, with the September 9 NASCAR Nextel Cup race from Richmond International Raceway scheduled to be the final AFN radio sports play-by-play broadcast.
I hate the idea of going under the knife. So I was very upset when the doctor told me I needed a tonsillectomy.
Later, the nurse and I were filling out an admission form. I tried to respond to the questions, but I was so nervous I couldn't speak. The nurse patted my hand and said, "Don't worry. This medical problem can easily be fixed, and it's not a dangerous procedure."
"You're right. I'm being silly," I said, "please continue."
"Good," the nurse went on, "Now, do you have a living will?"
My job as a land surveyor took me to a golf course that was expanding from 9 holes to 18 holes.
Using a machete to clear thick brush in an area I was mapping, I came upon a golf club that an irate player must have tossed away. It was in good condition, so I picked it up and continued on.
When I broke out of the brush onto a putting green, two golfers stared at me in awe. I had a machete in one hand, a golf club in the other, and behind me was a clear-cut swath leading out of the woods.
"There," said one of the golfers, "is a guy who hates to lose his ball!"
MOAA's COL Steve Strobridge (USAF-Ret) and CDR John Class (USN-Ret), along with other Military Coalition members, met with the GAO (Government Accountability Office) on July 13 to discuss beneficiary concerns about DoD's proposed increases in TRICARE fees.
The GAO is looking at all issues surrounding the proposed increases. The scope will be refined once the FY2007 Defense Authorization Act is passed - the House and Senate versions of the bill both require GAO to study the TRICARE system, its costs, possible inefficiencies and ways to reduce spending.
MOAA stressed the importance of ensuring DoD pursues all possible internal efficiencies before proposing significant cost increases for beneficiaries, and provided GAO a list of alternative cost-saving initiatives that wouldn't affect beneficiary access or cost.
Other issues addressed with GAO included:
MOAA will continue communication with the GAO as the study progresses.
Regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs data loss problem above, we note that other computer industry experts may not agree with the VFW statement. FBI computer forensics experts do have means of checking to determine if the data may have been accessed. The VA decision was apparently made primarily because of the assessed relatively small risk, and because the $160.5 million can be better used for other programs to support military retirees. So far we have not heard of any instances of identify theft resulting from the theft of this laptop computer and external hard drive. We do believe it is prudent for those whose data was in the stolen files to put an initial fraud alert in place with the credit reporting agencies, and to always carefully scrutinize all bank and credit card statements, i.e., see the June issue of "Still Serving in Korea".