TREA update Newsletter (10/10/2018)

October 10, 2018
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 Inside this issue
TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update
TREA “The Enlisted Association” Washington Update
Congress is Half There
The House of Representatives is in recess until after the November elections. The Senate, however, is still in session and apparently will be for a couple more weeks.

In any event, passage of any more legislation during this Congress (which will end whenever they officially adjourn sometime in December) that pertains to military people is highly unlikely, with the possible exception of one thing: the Blue Water Navy presumption bill.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299) would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 veterans who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war, and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.

The House passed the bill back in June and we all thought it would go through the Senate reasonably quickly. But then at the end of July the Department of Veterans Affairs testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and told them the VA opposes the bill. Since then, the bill has been stuck and although there is still a chance the Senate could pass the bill, most people are very doubtful that will happen.

Both the House and Senate must come back to finish their work after the elections because about a third of the government is funded for fy 2019 only until December 7. Just what they will work on when they return besides funding legislation is unclear, and could be determined by the results of the elections.

TREA supports the bill and has lobbied in favor of it but we are troubled by the way the House chose to pay for it – by forcing other veterans to pay more for their benefits and using that money to pay for HR 299. We are opposed in principle to cutting some veterans’ benefits in order to pay for other veterans’ benefits.

If HR 299 does not pass this year we will have to start over next year and, hopefully, we can find a different way to pay for the measure.

New veterans bills continue to be introduced in Congress but they will all be dead at the end of the year. That’s because any bill that does not get passed during the current session of Congress automatically dies and must be reintroduced next year in the new Congress.

 

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New Dental Insurance Plans Available to See and Compare
We are fast approaching “open season” when you have to choose new dental insurance if you want coverage next year. The start date will be November 12.

As we have been alerting you for months, the current TRICARE Retiree Dental Plan (TRDP) will end on December 31 of this year. If you want dental insurance for next year you must enroll in one of the plans offered by the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). You can view the plans now and compare what they offer by going to this website:

https://tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/10_4_18_Compare_2019_FEDVIP_Plans

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President Signs COLA Bill into Law

Yesterday President Trump signed HR 4958, the bipartisan Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018 into law.

While Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation, Congress must pass legislation every year to increase the rates of veteran disability compensation. The Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018 will increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans as of December 1, 2018, and by the same percentage as Social Security beneficiaries.

The size of the COLA has not yet been determined but will be announced soon. We expect it to be somewhere around 2.6 percent.

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Afghanistan – 17 Years and Counting

On Oct. 7, 2001, detachments of Army Special Forces soldiers dropped into Afghanistan to launch the first counterattack against terrorist forces following 9-11.

Seventeen years later we are still at war there. The U.S. has suffered about 58,000 casualties killed and wounded.

The U.S. has 180,000 soldiers deployed in 140 countries and the number shows no sign of coming down.

The most recent American casualty in Afghanistan was an Army National Guardsman from North Carolina who was killed just a few days ago.

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