In This Issue:
1. VA to Delay Increase in Prescription Copayments
2. TRICARE for Gray Area Reserve Retirees
3. Congress on Recess
1. VA to Delay Increase in Prescription Copayments: VA officials this week announced they are delaying an increase in veterans' out-of-pocket payments for pharmaceuticals until June 30. The scheduled $1 increase-from $8 to $9 per 30-day supply of medicine for nonservice-connected conditions-will be reevaluated so that VA can consider how the increases are calculated. During this period, VA will also keep $960 as the maximum annual out-of-pocket payment for pharmaceuticals for nonservice-related conditions. The $960 cap will not apply to veterans in priority groups seven and eight. The yearly maximum out-of-pocket payment was scheduled to increase to $1,080. There are no copayments associated with the treatment of conditions related to military service. The freeze is considered temporary. Some increases may take affect this summer unless a new way of calculating co-payments is found and implemented.
2. TRICARE for Gray Area Reserve Retirees: A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 will soon offer "gray area" reservists the opportunity to purchase TRICARE health care coverage. Qualified members of the Selected Reserve are eligible to purchase premium-based coverage under TRICARE Reserve Select, but retired National Guard and Reserve personnel are ineligible for TRICARE until they reach age 60. The new provision will allow retired reservists who are not yet age 60 ("gray-area" retirees) to purchase TRICARE Standard or Extra coverage. The new program will differ from Reserve Select in its qualifications, premiums, copayment rates and catastrophic cap requirements. The provision requires premium rates to equal the full cost of the coverage, whereas Reserve Select members pay only 28% of the cost of the coverage. The new program is being tentatively called TRICARE Retired Reserve, and the Defense Department said qualified gray-area retirees should be able to purchase coverage by late summer or early fall. More information on the program will be made available on the TRICARE website at http://www.tricare.mil
3. Congress on Recess: Congress remains on recess until next week. Please take the time to contact your legislators and urge them to take up two critical bills when they return. Both bills have been worked out in conference, but await final passage:
* S. 1963, The Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, includes six VFW-supported bills that would provide caregiver support for family members taking care of severely injured veterans, child services for veterans seeking treatment at VA, and improvements for women veterans, to include mental health services and studies on access to care. The bill would also provide programs to reduce homelessness among veterans, allow catastrophically disabled veterans to use emergency care outside VA, and expand care in rural areas.
* S.728, The Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009, includes a host of other VFW-supported bills that would improve veteran insurance programs, update burial plot allowances, increase housing, automobile and adaptive grant programs, enhance disability compensation for disabled veterans having difficulties with prosthetics and those suffering from TBI, and clarify certain provisions under USERRA.
For a list of bills and our 2010 priority goals, visit the VFW website and click on the National Legislative Service link at http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=caphill.levelc&cid=3692&tok=1