Issue 2012-06 — June, 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;
A second Army Retirement Services Officer (RSO), Mr. Carl Reed, has been hired and he joins Mr. Mark Wade to serve retirees throughout Korea. With this change, the Retirement Services schedule of operations has changed to a fixed monthly schedule. The schedule shown in the following paragraph is preliminary and may change. When complete information is available, the schedule will be posted at the RSO web site and maintained with the most current visit schedule.
The preliminary schedule for the two RSOs is as follows:
Effective June 1, 2012, TRICARE Overseas beneficiaries must submit proof of payment with all claims. When submitting your DD Form 2642, you should also include an itemized bill or invoice, diagnosis describing why you received medical care, and/or an explanation of benefits from your other health insurance, if applicable.
Starting Friday, Jun 1, and every Friday thereafter, the Osan AB Retiree Activities Office will provide support from the downtown office (near and across from the New Seoul Hotel). This change will allow us to provide service to those who have trouble getting to the on-base office. It also allows for support on a regular schedule to those who cannot enter the base.
Hours of operation remain the same as the on-base office: 9am - 3pm. There may be a small sign on the office door, but the large window is covered by venetian blinds and these blinds will remain closed during office operation.
The next meeting of the EUSA Retiree Council will be at 0730, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at the Glass Room, Main Street Cafeteria (formerly the Town House). As always, it's a breakfast meeting, so please come early, go through the food line, and be prepared to sit down for the meeting (while you enjoy breakfast) at 0730.
Officers of the Area Retiree Councils and members of the EUSA G1 Staff are always welcome at EUSA Retiree Council meetings.
Manage Your TRICARE Retiree Dental Program benefits and Account Information from anywhere in the world via the new and improved Consumer ToolkitŪ.
The convenient, self-service Consumer Toolkit has long been available to TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) enrollees to verify their eligibility, get up-to-date benefits information, find out the amount of their annual maximum and deductible that has been used to date, review processed claims and reimbursements, and even print extra ID cards for family members.
Some new features have been added recently to the Consumer Toolkit that make it an even more dynamic tool, letting TRDP enrollees manage and stay well-informed about every aspect of their dental benefits program, all in one place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on trdp.org (Current Enrollees section).
New enrollment enhancements made to the toolkit include the ability to do the following:
New billing features allow enrollees to view their current account balance and billing transaction history, print an account statement, and pay past-due premiums (for either a government allotment or electronic funds transfer account). Enrollees who are billed directly for their TRDP premiums can now make their premium payments via the Consumer Toolkit using a credit card or electronic check, sign up for electronic funds transfer (EFT), and even change EFT account information.
You can log on now to the Consumer Toolkit and begin managing your TRDP account at https://www.ddfgptoolkits.com/ct. If you are new to the toolkit, you must first register with a username and password before you can begin using all the great features that are available to you.
The Social Security Board of Trustees has released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. In brief, Social Security's health is weaker than it was a year ago. In 2011, the trustees reported that Social Security will be "exhausted" in 2036; this spring, the projected exhaustion date is 2033.
Some commentators are saying that this means benefits will be trimmed by 25% after 2033. For example, someone receiving $2,000 a month from Social Security would get only $1,500 a month.
That's not likely. Right now, there are 55 million beneficiaries of Social Security. Who knows how many millions will be added by 2033? Few, if any politicians, will agree to such drastic cuts for so many voters.
Judging by the past, Washington eventually will get around to tinkering with Social Security. It's likely that "full retirement age" will be extended, taxes will be increased on current workers as well as retirees, and there might be some tightening of cost-of-living increases.
The bottom line is that Social Security alone probably won't deliver a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. You may have to keep working longer and you should save as much as practical while you're working, to build up your own retirement fund.
Social Security Statements are now available at http://www.socialsecurity.gov. The new online statements provide eligible workers with access to a history of their Social Security earnings and projected benefits. You can get estimates for retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, so these statements can be an important financial planning tool.
At the Social Security website, you'll be asked to provide information about yourself that matches information already on file with Social Security. Experian, a major credit bureau, provides additional verification. After your identity has been verified, you can create a "My Social Security" account with a user name and password for access to your online statement.
These statements not only can help with financial planning, they also provide you with a convenient way to check that your earnings are accurately posted to your Social Security records. Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over your lifetime; if the earnings information is not accurate, you may not receive all the benefits to which you are entitled. Thus, viewing your statement gives you the opportunity to correct any errors that are on file.
Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined forces this week to introduce a bi-partisan bill to stop unfair TRICARE fee hikes for military beneficiaries.
Their "Military Health Care Protection Act of 2012" (S. 3203) would:
"We're grateful for Sen. Lautenberg's and Sen. Rubio's leadership in introducing this bill to protect uniformed services beneficiaries from disproportional TRICARE fee increases," said [Military Officers Association of America] MOAA President VADM Norb Ryan (USN-Ret).
"Repeated proposals to raise their healthcare fees by up to $2,000 a year have been extremely unsettling to the military community. The Lautenberg-Rubio bill would restore a much-needed sense of stability for this core career retention incentive."
Because the bill was introduced only yesterday, no electronic link is available yet. Look for an alert in next week's legislative update to urge your Senators to cosponsor this critical piece of legislation.
Last week, the administration released a statement opposing many of the provisions included in the House-passed defense authorization bill (H.R. 4310).
Among several issues raised, the administration objected to provisions in the House bill that would:
The Administration letter said it considers the TRICARE fee increases to be important because "DoD needs these savings to balance and maintain investments for key defense priorities."
Multiple studies have shown a Unified Medical Command would generate significant savings.
As [the Military Officers Association of America] MOAA has said many times before, Defense leaders need to look at their own responsibilities for efficient management rather than simply shifting the cost to military beneficiaries because it's easiest to do that.
On Tuesday [May 22], the Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for VA and DoD health care programs for FY2013, including an integrated electronic health record system linking VA and DoD health records.
The legislation would provide $104 million for the project. The Committee language directs the VA to submit a plan with deadlines and encourages the departments to use open-source architecture for developing the system.
The bill provides $71.9 billion in discretionary funding for fiscal 2013 — $227 million more than fiscal 2012, but $465.9 million less than the president's request. The bill also provides $54.5 billion in advanced fiscal 2014 appropriations for veterans' medical care.
An integrated health record system between DoD and the VA would be a major step toward providing seamless transition for servicemembers and veterans, but previous attempts have failed to live up to expectations.
The FBI has warned that hundreds of thousands of Internet users across the world may lose access to the Internet by July in the aftermath of a hacker's scam that infected their computers with malicious software.
International hackers ran an online advertising scam designed to infect and take control of computers around the world. The FBI responded to the threat by setting up safety measures using computers procured by the government. The measures were designed to avoid disruption of infected computers. But by July, the FBI plans to shut down the system and is calling on users to visit a web site run by its security partner where they can determine whether they have been infected and learn how they can fix the problem if they have been.
July 9 is the deadline for Internet users with infected computers to visit the web site and learn how to clean their computers. After July 9, all infected computers will not be able to connect to Internet. However, most victims of the hacker scam do not even know that their computers are infected, though the malicious software might have slowed down their web surfing, disabled their anti-virus software and exposed their machines.
According to the Associated Press, last November, the FBI was investigating a hacker ring running an Internet scam on a massive scale by taking over infected computers.
According to Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent: "We started to realize that we might have a little bit of a problem on our hands because if we just pulled the plug on their criminal infrastructure and threw everybody in jail, the victims of this were going to be without Internet service. The average user would open up Internet Explorer and get 'page not found' and think the Internet is broken."
According to the FBI, the hackers infected a network consisting of probably more than 570,000 computers worldwide. They exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system to install malicious software on victim's computer. The malicious software disabled anti-virus updates and modified the way computers reconciled web site addresses on the Internet's domain system. The malicious software reprogrammed infected computers to use rogue DNS servers owned by the hackers, allowing the hackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of web sites. According to the AP, the hackers made profits from advertisements on web sites that victims were redirected to and earned about $14 million. But the scam also hooked thousands of machines on the rogue severs.
When the FBI and their collaborators arrested six Estonians last November, the rogue servers were replaced by Vixie's. Running the substitute servers has cost federal government about $87,000.
Last Friday President Obama signed an executive order that protects users of GI Bill benefits. We were pleased to note his directive incorporates a number of suggested actions that [the Air Force Sergeants Association] AFSA and other veterans and military service organizations submitted to the White House early this year. The directive signed by the President on Friday:
AFSA applauds the president's action to protect GI Bill users. We continue to work with Congress and our partner organizations to ensure each student receives a high quality education by schools that are not simply looking to garner a greater share of GI Bill dollars.
Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places are convenient, but they're often not secure. When using a hotspot, it's best to send information only to websites that are fully encrypted.
You can be confident a hotspot is secure only if it asks you to provide a WPA password. If you're not sure, treat the network as if it were unsecured.
How encryption works
Encryption is the key to keeping your personal information secure online. Encryption scrambles the information you send over the Internet into a code so that it's not accessible to others. When using wireless networks, it's best to send personal information only if it's encrypted - either by an encrypted website or a secure Wi-Fi network. An encrypted website protects only the information you send to and from that site. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send using that network.
How to tell If a website is encrypted
If you send email, share digital photos and videos, use social networks, or bank online, you're sending personal information over the Internet. The information you share is stored on a server — a powerful computer that collects and delivers content. Many websites, such as banking sites, use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server.
To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the "s" is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn't encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.
Don't assume a Wi-Fi hotspot is secure
Most Wi-Fi hotspots don't encrypt the information you send over the Internet and are not secure.
If you use an unsecured network to log in to an unencrypted site - or a site that uses encryption only on the sign-in page - other users on the network can see what you see and what you send. They could hijack your session and log in as you. New hacking tools - available for free online - make this easy, even for users with limited technical know-how. Your personal information, private documents, contacts, family photos and even your login credentials could be up for grabs.
An imposter could use your account to impersonate you and scam people you care about. In addition, a hacker could test your username and password to try to gain access to other websites - including sites that store your financial information.
Protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi
So what can you do to protect your information? Here are a few tips:
Reprinted on May 14, 2012, courtesy of http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov. For more information, please visit onguardonline.gov.
Unemployed veterans ages 35 to 60 can apply for up to 12 months of paid training through a new program sponsored by the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs.
VA officials said the population the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program will serve is particularly in need. Of about 900,000 U.S. veterans who are unemployed, nearly two-thirds are between 35 and 60, according to the Labor Department.
The program, which began today, provides 12 months of training assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty program, which currently pays $1,473 per month.
Participants must be enrolled in a community college or technical school program approved for VA benefits. The program must lead to an associate degree, non-college degree or certificate. To qualify, a veteran also must:
The list of occupations, available on the VA web site, includes jobs in construction, machine operation, transportation, pre-school education, health care and many other fields.
The program will fund up to 45,000 participants between July 1 and Sept. 30, and an additional 54,000 participants from Oct. 1, through March 31, 2014. Labor officials said the department will offer employment assistance to every veteran who completes the program.
The retraining program is funded under the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. The law expanded education and training for veterans, strengthened the Transition Assistance Program for service members returning to civilian life, and provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed or disabled veterans.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has approved a bill to require federal employees to pay 5 percentage points more toward their retirement benefits over a five-year phase-in period, starting with a 1.5 point increase in 2013.
That was the main recommendation from the panel to meet a savings requirement imposed by the budget outline passed earlier in the House; while that plan may be combined with recommendations of other committees and brought to a House floor vote, it is not expected to go any farther because the Senate is not using a parallel "reconciliation" process.
However, the House panel's vote once again puts Republican civil service leaders on record as favoring higher contributions, and they could seek to attach it to other legislation, as they did earlier this year by adding a smaller increase, 1.5 points over three years, to a transportation bill. That bill nearly reached a full House vote before being pulled back.
Other Recommendations Included
Under the bill, the increase would apply to both the [Federal Employee Retirement System] FERS and [Civil Service Retirement System] CSRS retirement systems, with an additional 0.5 point increase in 2014, and 1 point increases in 2015, 2016 and 2017. After that the contributions would level off. Members of Congress and their staff – who already pay more toward retirement than executive branch employees but who received enhanced benefits – would have to pay still more, 8.5 percent also phased in over five years.
In addition, federal employees newly hired in 2013 or later with fewer than five years of prior service would pay the entire 5 percentage point increase from the outset; under an earlier passed law, they are set to pay 2.3 percent of salary more. Under the new bill, future employees also would become ineligible, except for those subject to mandatory retirement, for the FERS "special retirement supplement," a payment that roughly duplicates a Social Security benefit earned while under FERS until age 62, when eligibility to draw Social Security begins. The White House made a similar proposal earlier this year.
The House has backed legislation to require federal employees to pay 5 percent of salary more toward their [Civil Service Retirement System] CSRS or [Federal Employee Retirement System] FERS retirement benefits, although the bill is now stalled because the Senate does not plan to take it up and the White House has threatened to veto it if it did pass. The language was attached to a "reconciliation" bill designed to avoid automatic cuts that otherwise are scheduled to begin in 2013 under a law passed last year calling for deficit reduction as part of the agreement that raised the federal debt ceiling.
The bill also generally would end, for those hired in 2013 and later with fewer than five years of prior federal service, the "special retirement supplement" paid to FERS employees who retire before age 62; those hired into occupations with mandatory retirement requirements still would be eligible, however. While that specific bill is not due to advance any farther, the House action puts that chamber on record as backing those changes.
The proposals could become part of later legislation, including a potential package of tax and spending policies designed to bring down the deficit. Capitol Hill officials have been discussing passing such a package, although probably not until after the November elections.
The Telework Exchange says participation in its recent "telework week" shows the practice is catching on and that organizations are getting better at it and getting more out of it.
The promotional event had an 80 percent increase in participation over 2011, with 67,000 federal employees signing up (8,000 from GSA). Based on the number of pledges, the Telework Exchange says the event altogether cut over six million commuting miles, 3,453 tons of emissions, and over $5.5 million in commuting costs.
It estimates that each pledge could save about $4,000 in commuting costs by teleworking two days a week for a year. It also claims participating organizations improved productivity in telework compared to 2011, and it said the number of organizations encountering technical problems fell from one in three in 2011 to one in five in 2012.
The organization's sponsors include companies that sell equipment suitable for use in teleworking.
Because of a minor infraction, a shipmate of mine aboard the USS Reeves, bound for Japan, was busted one rank, fined and given extra duty for three weeks.
Looking forward to celebrating his 21st birthday on July 22, he consoled himself every night during his extra duty by reciting, "They can bust me, they can fine me — but they can't take away my birthday."
As July 22 approached, his excitement increased. When he went to bed on July 21, he happily repeated, "They can bust me, they can fine me – but they can't take away my birthday.
"The next morning, he found out that the ship had crossed the International Date Line — and it was July 23.
The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time. (Her previous 3 husbands had passed away.) The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation. "He's a funeral director," she answered.
"Interesting," the newsman thought.
He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years.
After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her early 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now in her 80's, a funeral director.
The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.
She smiled and explained, "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."
A woman in our diet club was lamenting that she had gained weight. She'd made her family's favorite cake over the weekend, she reported, and he'd eaten half of it at dinner.
The next day, she said, she kept staring at the other half, until finally she cut a thin slice for herself. One slice led to another, and soon the whole cake was gone. The woman went on to tell us how upset she was with her lack of willpower, and how she knew her husband would be disappointed.
Everyone commiserated; until someone asked what her husband said when he found out. She smiled. "He never found out. I made another cake and ate half!"
A young woman woke up one morning and told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine's day. What do you think it means?"
"You'll know tonight," he said.
That evening the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it, only to find a book entitled "The Meaning of Dreams."
Nearing the parish church during his daily walk, a young man saw that the hedge was on fire. He banged on the rectory door and told the woman who opened it she'd better call the fire department.
She ran to the phone to place the call. She identified herself, gave the location, and explained the situation.
"You mean to tell me," said the emergency dispatcher, "that there's a burning bush on the church lawn ... and you want us to put it out?!?"
If you are a Vietnam Vet, you will appreciate and understand Gen. Zinni's presentation. If not, you will never understand us, what we went through and how we lived our lives since. But watching this short video at http://player.vimeo.com/video/38356372?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0>might give you some insight – and appreciation – to who we really are or were. There's only 1/3 of us left now.