Issue 2012-03 — March, 2012
|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. Outlook users should use the 'Print' button at the right. Others may use the 'Print' button or other print options.
Contact the MRAO: in Korea DSN 784-1441, commercial 0505-784-1441; outside Korea 82-31-661-1441;
Daylight Savings Time goes into effect on March 11, 2012 at 2am in the local U.S. time zones. The clocks advance by one hour so that, for example, the Eastern time zone will change from 14 hours behind Korea time to 13 hours.
All the quotes enclosed in boxes in this newsletter, such as the one below, are but a sample of the many aphorisms that can be found in Eric Hoffer's books. Because he believed in the virtue of brevity in the art of writing, nearly every sentence he wrote can stand alone as an individual idea, complete in itself.
The Feres Doctrine was originally intended to shield the government from liability related to military service, such as combat situations. However, the US legal system has historically extended this restriction to medical care in garrison as well. Under current federal law service members cannot sue the government for medical malpractice as a result of negligent care at a military medical facility.
Now, under new and expanded interpretation of a 1950 Supreme Court, the Feres Doctrine, which bars troops from suing the government in most situations, government lawyers in Florida are seeking to expand that restriction to include the dependents of service members. A U.S. attorney in Florida is arguing that even if military doctors make medical errors, service members should not be allowed to sue for negligent care provided to their dependents. However, in the past the government has settled many medical malpractice cases involving military family members.
A federal judge in Florida is scheduled to soon rule on the government's motion to dismiss a military medical malpractice suit involving the death of a military spouse that occurred in Florida. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update, 27 Jan 2012]
The speed someone walks may predict the likelihood of developing dementia later in life, according to researchers in the US.
They also told a conference that grip strength in middle-age was linked to the chance of a stroke. The scientists said more studies were needed to understand what was happening. Experts said the findings raised important questions, but more research was needed.
Suggestions of a link between slow walking speed and poor health have been made before.
A study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2009, said there was a "strong association" between slow walking speed and death from heart attacks and other heart problems. A Journal of the American Medical Association study suggested a link between walking faster over the age of 65 and a longer life.
A widely available cancer drug has shown remarkable success in reversing Alzheimer's disease in mice, raising hope of a breakthrough against incurable dementia in humans, US researchers said Thursday.
Mice treated with the drug, known as bexarotene, became rapidly smarter and the plaque in their brains that was causing their Alzheimer's started to disappear within hours, said the research in the journal Science.
"We were shocked and amazed," lead author Gary Landreth of the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio told AFP. "Things like this had never, ever been seen before," he said. (more…)
This fact sheet tells you about heart attack signs and what to do if you are having any of these signs. Done is plain language with extensive graphics. Designed for low literacy audiences [and some foreign spouses], but useful, easy to understand information for all health consumers and care givers. The URL for the fact sheet is http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/mi/heart_attack_low-lit_fs.pdf.
Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
After discovering that a group of nonmedical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions.
They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage. (Verified at http://www.hoax-slayer.com/identify-stroke.html)
Out-of-pocket health care costs for military retirees and for users of the TRICARE retail pharmacy network would jump next October if Congress approves President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget request delivered Monday [Feb 13].
Annual active duty pay raises also would be impacted but not until January 2015 when raise caps would begin and last three years. The 2015 raise would be half of a percentage point, to be followed by a one percent across-the-board raise in 2016 and a 1.5 percent raise in 2017, if Congress accepts the administration's plan to dampen compensation growth.
In defending these changes, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called current TRICARE fees for retirees, nearly frozen since 1996, "an anachronism" the military no longer can afford.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), chairman of the House subcommittee on military personnel, vowed to oppose every initiative to curb compensation growth or to raise retiree health fees. But criticism of these proposals from colleagues on the armed services committees was muted.
Lawmaker after lawmaker did lament the possibility of base closings and other various planned cuts even as they acknowledged that Panetta and Dempsey had to propose lean budgets to implement $487 billion in defense cuts over 10 years ordered by Congress under last year's Budget Control Act. (Note: See first item in Pay Matters for details on TRICARE cost increases.)
Well, we finally can see what the Administration wants when it comes TRICARE for retirees. Most of it is expected; some is surprising; none of it is good. The Administration says that they are not proposing any cuts in benefits (and while that is not quite true) what they have primarily done is proposed increasing retiree beneficiaries out of pocket cost.
In 2012 there was an increase in the yearly enrollment fee for retirees and their families for TRICARE Prime that was passed into law. It is not a surprise that they are proposing further yearly increases in the enrollment fees. But it is slightly surprising that while creating these proposed fees they decided to set up 3 tiers based on a retiree's retired pay.
Below you can see a chart of the Administration's proposal. As you can see the amount of the proposed fee goes up with the increase in retired pay. When they were talking about this idea a while back, DoD's idea of tiers was going to be based on a retirees' total yearly family income (which would have included subsequent jobs, spouses' incomes, etc) so they clearly backed off that on that idea.
They have also exempted from these proposed increases the medically retired and survivors of members of the military who died on active duty. (That means the wounded warriors and the widows/widowers of those who died on active duty.) So this cuts out the people who the general public cares the most about. And, I am sure DoD believes that will make their proposals much easier to get through Congress.
Please note: When I asked the TMA representatives about survivors whose service member spouse died from service connected injuries, they said did not know. But we bet the answer will be (like last year's go around) that they are not exempt.
|Proposed TRICARE Prime Yearly Enrollment Fees
For Retirees Under the Age of 65
|Retired Pay||Fiscal Year|
|Tier 1 $0-$22,589||$460/$520||$600||$680||$760||$850||$850|
|Tier 2 $22,590-$45,178||$460/$520||$720||$920||$1,185||$1,450||$1,523|
|Tier 3 $45,179 & up||$460/$520||$820||$1,120||$1,535||$1,950||$2,048|
From FY2016 the proposal is that the enrollment fees will go up by the National Medical Cost Index for the infinite future.
They are also proposing a yearly enrollment fee for retirees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra. At this time there is no yearly enrollment fee. DoD has tried to get this for years and years. If the proposal is adopted it would fundamentally change what the TRICARE Standard benefit is. It would make it just another insurance plan. One should remember that a retiree in TRICARE Standard is already paying 25% of the health care bill (a substantial amount.) Presently a retiree can start to use TRICARE Standard at any time in the year. If he is using a civilian insurance plan that does not cover something that TRICARE Standard does he can use it then. He (or she) always has it in his or her back pocket — so if they decide to leave a job or have an adventure they can use it. When I asked the TMA representative If there would be an open season; if a retiree would need to enroll during that season before using it the answer was again: we don't know. They promised to get back to us and if we get an answer we will print it immediately. (but all of these gaps will probably be placed where they think they can negotiate.)
|Proposed TRICARE Standard and Extra Annual Enrollment Fees|
Proposed Yearly Enrollment Fee for TRICARE for Life (TFL)
The Administration is proposing that retirees on TFL should pay a yearly enrollment fee! The proposed fees listed below are per person. So a couple would need to multiply these numbers by 2 (just as they have to when paying the monthly Medicare Part B premium.) Again, there are proposed tiers and after FY2016 the increases are based on National Medical Cost Index. When asked what the basis of these numbers were, TMA representatives said it was a percentage of the costs of a Medigap policy.
|TFL Yearly Enrollment fees
Please notice this is per individual, so a couple would have to double it
|Tier 1 $0-$22,589||$0||$35||$75||$115||$150||$158|
|Tier 2 $22,590-$45,178||$0||$75||$150||$225||$300||$317|
|Tier 3 $45,179 & up||$0||$115||$225||$335||$450||$475|
DoD emphasized that the tiers' income levels will increase based on the COLA so no one will be moved up to a higher tier. But, again, from 2016 on they propose that the increases will be indexed to medical inflation rather than the COLA (remember last year's fight) so the proposed increases will eat into the retired pay — since the medical index has been much higher than the COLA for the last 25 years.
The Administration's FY2013 budget also has proposals to change the TRICARE Pharmacy plan and the catastrophic cap.
Last Friday, lawmakers approved legislation blocking a 27.4 percent cut in payments made to doctors who treat Medicare and TRICARE patients through the remainder of this year. The provision is part of a larger deal aimed at continuing a payroll tax break and extending unemployment insurance. The bill, H.R. 3530, The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, now awaits the President's signature. According to a summary document from the House Ways and Means Committee, a number of healthcare-related cuts were used to help offset the delay in reimbursement cuts. They include:
A permanent fix to Medicare's sustainable-growth-rate (SGR) formula used to calculate reimbursement payments to doctors continues to elude Congress, primarily because of the costs involved. Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that freezing Medicare rates for 10 years would cost $316 billion and the 10-month delay provided by H.R. 3630 is expected to add about another $25 billion to that tab. Though a permanent fix is ideal, the new temporary moratorium on cuts is welcome. It also means Congress must revisit the issue prior to January 1, 2013, at which time an even greater cut in payments is expected.
Note: The following items were included as part of a longer report from the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) on the budget proposal by the Obama Administration. Other items on this subject may be covered elsewhere in this newsletter, such as in the previous article.
Military Retirement Modernization Commission
The President did not propose any changes to the military retirement system in his budget for FY 2013 but did ask Congress to establish a Commission to review military retirement in the context of overall military compensation. The Commission would be charged with determining whether there are cost effective changes that should be made to the current system. The President and the Secretary of Defense strongly recommend that any recommended changes be fully grandfathered — that is, they would only apply to new recruits. The special Military Retirement Modernization Commission would operate under the following procedures which are similar to those that govern actions by a BRAC Commission:
Base Realignment and Closure
The Administration believes additional money can be saved through additional rounds of base realignments and closures (BRAC). In his FY 2013 Budget Proposal, the President requested two rounds, one in 2013 and another in 2015. Of course Congress will have to authorize any new BRAC rounds and when this possibility was announced in January, many key lawmakers called the proposal "dead on arrival." This is likely to be one of many issues that stall congressional talks on key defense-related legislation in the coming months.
VA Funding Increased
Unlike most federal agencies, [the Department of Veterans Affairs] VA is one department that would actually receive a boost in funding if Congress approves their part of President's FY 2013 Budget Proposal. That's good news. The VA request for FY 2013 is $140.3 billion which includes almost $64 billion in discretionary resources and nearly $16.4 billion in mandatory funding.
The discretionary budget request alone, much of which is used to provide healthcare to veterans, represents an increase of $2.7 billion, or nearly 4.5 percent over the 2012 enacted levels. The VA plan also provides 64.5 Billion for educational benefits like the Post 9/11 GI Bill – an increase of $1.6 Billion compared to FY 2012 – and $1.06 billion for Vocational Rehabilitation which is $50 million higher than current year levels.
As is often the case, special emphasis is being placed on improving the veteran's claims process, enhancing veterans employment opportunities and ending homelessness for veterans.
"Doc Fix" Update
Early this morning, the committee charged with dealing with the payroll tax cut finalized a deal that extends the payroll tax cut, emergency unemployment benefits and most importantly, the reimbursement rate for doctors that treat TRICARE and Medicare patients. House and Senate leaders plan to bring the bill the floor for consideration by the full chambers soon, but it is not known when that will actually happen.
Under current House rules, the chamber is technically not supposed to vote on the measure before Saturday. It is clear however, that Congress is on track to pass this legislation prior to Feb 29, which is when the current extension expires. AFSA will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation and report the outcome of their efforts in future editions of On Call.
I forward a part time job announcement from my Contractor Company – Inverness. We conduct the 2.5 day Job Seekers' Workshops with our Army [Career and Alumni Program] ACAP and Air Force [Transition Assistance Program] TAP teams.
Our Facilitators guide military and their family members through transition back to civilian life, in identifying and applying for new jobs. Training skills and confidence, and a professional demeanor, are some main descriptions of a strong candidate.
It does offer SOFA status, but it does not provide privileges like Commissary and Exchange. That is why we target Veterans with privileges and, likewise, Family Members.
Current job openings are available at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul and at Yokota Air Base in Japan. . Click on the location link for a job description. If you know of folks who fit our requirements and are interested in a part time job, please refer to me. They need to make a Resume that is targeted to the qualifications of our Facilitator requirements.
We will also have a position opening at Humphreys Army Garrison in Pyeongtaek in late Spring.
In a report that attempted to control for the many differences between the federal and private sector workforces, [the Congressional Budget Office] CBO has concluded that federal employees on average are paid about 2 percent more, but that there is a wide difference by educational level, in part because the federal salary range is narrower than that of private sector employers.
It said, for example, that for those with a high school education or less, federal pay is 21 percent ahead, for those with a bachelor's degree it's 2 percent ahead, but for those with a master's degree it's 5 percent behind and for those with a doctorate-level degree it's 23 percent behind.
Federal benefits also were better on average, particularly the health insurance and defined-benefit retirement programs. Counting the value of benefits, average total compensation is 16 percent higher for federal employees, it said. However, CBO noted that comparisons of benefits are less reliable because of different ways to assign value to promises of future benefits.
Chances of federal employees having to pay more toward their retirement – without receiving any additional annuity benefits –have increased due to the Obama administration's inclusion of that idea in its budget proposal for fiscal 2013.
As it did last autumn, the White House proposed raising the required contribution by 1.2 percent of salary, phased in over three years starting in 2013. Several measures that have advanced to various stages in Congress would raise the required contribution by 1.5 percentage points, also over three years and also starting next year, so the White House's proposal could mean that the only remaining debate will be over exactly how large an increase to impose, and in which new law.
A newly enacted law to increase federal employee contributions toward retirement affects only employees newly hired after this year, but current employees still could be facing an increase through other action. Under a Social Security/unemployment insurance bill passed late last week, employees newly hired into the government beginning in 2013 will have to pay 2.3 percent more of salary toward the civil service portion of their FERS retirement benefit (unless they have at least five years of prior federal service on hiring).
The current [Federal Employee Retirement System] FERS civil service retirement contribution is 0.8 percent of salary, meaning the contribution for them will be 3.1 percent. Like current FERS employees, the new hirees also would pay the standard Social Security tax. The new law would among other things continue through the rest of this year the reduction in that tax from 6.2 to 4.2 percent of salary. That benefits federal employees who pay into Social Security through the FERS and [Civil Service Retirement System] CSRS Offset systems, but not those in standard CSRS, who don't.
One day my Gramma was out, and my Grampa was in charge of me.
I was maybe 2-1/2 years old. Someone had given me a little 'tea set' as a gift, and it was one of my favorite toys.
Grampa was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I brought him a little cup of 'tea', which was just water. After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Gramma came home.
My Grampa made her wait in the living room to watch me bring him a cup of tea, because it was 'just the cutest thing!' Gramma waited, and sure enough, here I came down the hall with a cup of tea for Grampa, and she watched him drink it up.
Then she said, (as only a Gramma would know), "'Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is the toilet?"
Jack's Comment: I wonder how many wives would say at least a few of these also apply to husbands.
One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, "I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week." The florist was pleased and left the shop.
When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.
Later, a policeman comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, "I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week." The policeman was happy and left the shop.
The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.
Then an MP [Minister of Parliament] came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, "I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The MP was very happy and left the shop.
The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen MPs lined up waiting for a free haircut.
And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.
A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon a genie's lamp. She picked it up and rubbed it. Lo-and-behold a genie appeared.
The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes. The Genie said, "Nope. Due to inflation, constant downsizing, low wages in third-world countries and fierce global competition, I can only grant you one wish. So, what'll it be?"
The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other."
The Genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Gadzooks, lady! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm good, but not THAT good! I don't think it can be done. Make another wish."
The woman thought for a minute. She said, "Well, I've been trying to find the right husband. You know, one that's considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, has a great sense of humor and gets along with my family, doesn't watch sports all the time and is faithful. That's what I wish for. A good mate."
The Genie let out a long sigh and said, "Let me see that map again."
There were 11 people hanging on to a rope that came down from a helicopter. Ten were men and one woman.
They all decided that one person should get off because if they didn't, the rope would break and everyone would die. No one could decide who should go.
Finally the woman gave a really touching speech on how she would give up her life to save the others, because women were used to giving up things for their husbands and children and giving in to men.
All of the men started clapping
I have so far been unable to find a solution to the problem that some of us (me included) have in receiving the newsletter, or actually, in not receiving the newsletter. One thing that I tried was to unsubscribe my primary e-mail address and then re-subscribe to the newsletter with the same e-mail address.
I tested it with the draft HTML version of the newsletter and it did result in a change. However, the only part of the newsletter that was delivered to my inbox was the PHPlist image at the bottom of the newsletter.
On brighter note, I then sent the test newsletter to another of my e-mail addresses and that one worked. So I'll keep working on the problem to see if I can find a full, repeatable solution.
Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China. Although negotiations are in the early stages, officials from both governments said they are favorably inclined toward a deal. They are scheduled to intensify the discussions in late January in Washington before higher-level meetings in March. If an arrangement is reached, it would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and to station Navy warships in Singapore.
Among the options under consideration are operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises. Under each scenario, U.S. forces would effectively be guests at existing foreign bases.
The sudden rush by many in the Asia-Pacific region to embrace Washington is a direct reaction to China's rise as a military power and its assertiveness in staking claims to disputed territories, such as the energy-rich South China Sea. "We can point to other countries: Australia, Japan, Singapore," said a senior Philippine official involved in the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the deliberations. "We're not the only one doing this, and for good reason. We all want to see a peaceful and stable region. Nobody wants to have to face China or confront China." (more…) [Source: Washington Post, Craig Whitlock article, 25 Jan 2012]
The president's FY 2013 budget proposes "tiering" military health care fees based on retired pay levels, so retired E-6s and below would pay one rate, E-7s to O-4s would pay higher rates, and O-5s and above would pay the most.
The Pentagon offers this proposal as if basing health care fees on retired-pay level is doing retirees a favor. In fact, it's an insidious attack on the very nature of service-earned benefits. They may use terms like "tiering" all they want, but let's call it what it really is: means-testing.
To start, let's recognize this proposal is uniquely discriminatory toward the military community. No other federal health care beneficiary pays income-based premiums. The president, the speaker of the house, and the secretary of defense all pay the same health care premiums as the lowest-grade federal civilian. Means-testing health care fees also is rare in the private sector. Why? Because it's a benefit that's earned by service to an employer or, in the military's case, to the country.
What kinds of things are means-tested? Welfare programs, social insurance programs, and other unearned benefits that are provided as a government gift or "safety net" for those in need of assistance. I'm sorry, but military health care benefits most emphatically are not a gift, and [the Military Officers Association of America] MOAA believes these proposals represent inappropriate increases for all grades, regardless of retired pay level. (more…)