"Latest Update from National Headquarters"
October 23, 2020
The Defense Health Agency has extended the grace period from 90 days to 180 days for disenrollment from TRICARE Select. This was done in response to a request from the FRA and several other groups to increase the enrollment period for Group A retirees (Joined the service before Jan. 1, 2018) to set up a payment plan for the new TRICARE fee enacted 4 years ago that takes effect Jan. 1, 2021. FAILURE TO PAY WILL MEAN LOSS OF COVERAGE until the following open enrollment period. The fee does NOT apply to TRICARE-for-Life beneficiaries and Chapter 61 retirees.
TRICARE Select beneficiaries under age 65 that joined the military before Jan. 1, 2018 (Group A) will be required to pay a monthly fee beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The monthly fee for an individual is $12.50 and $25 for a family. This must be done via allotment, where feasible. To maintain health care coverage, TRICARE Select Group A retired beneficiaries must take action and pay their TRICARE Select enrollment fees. These and other fee increases were opposed by FRA and were authorized four years ago by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-S.2943-P.L.114-328). The FRA opposition resulted in a smaller fee and a four-year delay.
Beneficiaries who fail to set up their TRICARE Select enrollment fee payment by Jan. 1, 2021 will be disenrolled from TRICARE Select due to non-payment. Those beneficiaries will have 180 days (originally 90 days) from their termination date to request reinstatement. If a beneficiary does not act, they will only be able to get care from a military hospital or clinic if space is available (i.e. all civilian healthcare costs will be their full responsibility).
Fees are waived for Chapter 61 retirees and their family members and survivors of deceased active duty service members. For more information about the fees please go online.
VA's Collaboration with NARA Digitizes Vietnam-era Deck Logs for AO Claims
The FRA-supported Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act enacted in 2019 required the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to consider new and previously submitted Blue Water Navy claims. Now, thanks to collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the VA and NARA are helping to determine ship locations and to digitize more than 1,800 vessels' deck logs.
The data contained in these ships' deck logs are critical in determining qualifying ship locations in accordance with the law. For the first time, the VA will have each of these ships mapped with precision, providing a comprehensive view of their locations.
VA estimates that there are between 420,000 and 560,000 Vietnam-era veterans who may be considered Blue Water Navy Veterans. The law also extends benefits to survivors and dependents of those veterans with confirmed service and whose claims would have been granted as a result of the new law.
The collaboration between the VA and the NARA has already assisted in granting more than 22,524 claims since Jan. 1, 2020. The effort digitized more than 29 million images from U.S. Navy and Coast Guard deck logs. It has also provided data, such as ship name, date, and coordinates to feed an internal claims-related technical processing system that identifies the vessels that may have traveled within the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam. This approach ensures that VA claims adjudicators have the evidence needed to render a decision the first time a case is reviewed.
This effort has resulted in faster service for veterans and reduced the need for physical handling of archival records which preserves our nation's historical documents. The NARA is in the process of redacting the images to make them publicly accessible on the National Archive's website.
If veterans, survivors, or dependents have previously filed and were denied a claim, they can file a supplemental claim. The VA encourages veterans to work with an approved claims representative or VSO to determine if they qualify.
To learn more, please go online.
President Trump Signs Veterans Bills into Law
The President recently signed into law two bills impacting veterans:
S.785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which amends several VA authorities related to helping veterans transition from military to civilian life; suicide prevention; mental health care research and oversight; mental health care staffing; and health care for women veterans; and
S.2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which designates 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number of the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.
Installation of FRA National Officers
On Thursday, October 15th the Fleet Reserve Association installed National President Michael Fulton of Imperial Beach, California, and the National Board of Directors who will lead the Association for the coming year. This past June, the Association postponed its 93rd National Convention to 2021. Members of the FRA can view the recorded festivities by logging onto their personal profile on the FRA website.
The FRA National Convention Postponed
In lieu of the ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, the FRA's National Board of Directors voted this week during their meeting to postpone the 93rd (2020) National Convention for one year. The new dates are September 25, 2021 to October 2, 2021. The venue and location are the same, Portland, Oregon.
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