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April 2018 News From MOAA National

Dateline: 3/20/2018

MOAA Presses Congress to Pass Veterans Health Care Reform
MOAA urged lawmakers to strike a bipartisan deal to replace VA Choice and consolidate existing community-care programs during a Wednesday joint House-Senate hearing on Capitol Hill. 

A year has passed without an agreement in Congress to replace the VA Choice program, which allows some veterans to seek care closer to home. Competing bills addressing reform have languished on the Hill - one in the House and one in the Senate - and veterans are ready to see resolution, said Cmdr. René Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA's senior director of Government Relations for veterans and wounded warrior care. 

“Veterans and their families sacrificed so much during their service,” Campos told lawmakers. “To ask them to continue giving after service by funding their earned benefits or cannibalizing benefits to pay for another … program is asking them to go above and beyond what we expect.” 

Rep. Tim Walz, Minnesota Democrat and retired Army sergeant major, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., stressed the importance of hearing from VSOs as lawmakers consider new VA legislation. Congress takes direction from VSOs “every step of the way,” Tester said. 

MOAA was one of nine military and veterans service organizations to provide remarks during the hearing. In addition to community-care reform, MOAA also advocated for caregiver support, attention on women's health issues, and continued toxic-exposure research. Here's how Campos defined some of MOAA's top legislative priorities. 

Reforming health care. Congress has never been closer to reconciling the differences in the community care bills: the Caring for our Veterans Act of 2017 in the Senate and the VA Care in the Community Act in the House. 

MOAA and most other VSOs support the Senate version of the bill, which includes provisions to expand VA support and services for full-time caregivers and builds on VA Secretary David Shulkin's Community Access for Rewarding Experiences (CARE) proposal. 

“We urge the committees to strike a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to enact community-care reform and ensure full funding for Veterans Health Administration resources,” Campos said.

Expanding caregiver support. MOAA would like to see caregiver benefits extended to veterans who served prior to 9/11. The need for caregiver support is great among all generations, Campos said. She shared the story about one MOAA member named Peter, an 81-year-old blind veteran who's 100 percent disabled. 

“Peter recognizes the toll caregiving is taking on his wife,” Campos said. “He says, 'She's been my caregiver for over 20 years, and the burden is wearing on her but VA told me they don't have support services to help her.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said VSOs like MOAA help Congress “make decisions critical to VA.” 

“On blue-water Navy and caregiver [benefits], we got the message loud and clear and we are working on it,” the committee chairman said. Blue-water Navy refers to the 90,000 servicemembers exposed to Agent Orange while operating off the coast of Vietnam.

Women's health needs. Roles for women in uniform continue to evolve, and Campos said the VA and Defense Department must prepare to serve their health needs. MOAA recently teamed with United Health Foundation to study some of the health challenges facing female veterans. They found that women who served in the military were more likely to suffer from mental illness, cardiovascular disease, and other problems compared to female civilians. 

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican physician representing Louisiana, said he agrees. “Women have the privilege as men do to serve in some of these roles that were once just for men,” he said. “Our VA should respond to that.”  

As part of this effort, Campos said MOAA recommends Congress pass the Deborah Sampson Act, which calls on the VA to carry out a three-year pilot program to assess peer-to-peer assistance for women leaving the military - especially for those who suffered sexual trauma or are at risk of becoming homeless. 

Researching toxic exposures. Campos said Pentagon and VA officials must continue working together to study servicemembers' exposure to toxic materials in order to determine whether it's responsible for illnesses. 

“It's unreasonable to require veterans to provide the scientific and medical evidence for their claim when that expertise resides within the government itself,” Campos said. 

MOAA would like to see investment in federal resource on servicemembers' exposure to hazardous toxins so health care benefits can be provided when appropriate.

6 Military Deals You Might Be Missing Out On

Custom Banners

Are you looking for the perfect way to welcome home your loved one? Build A Sign offers free, 100-percent-customizable banners for families celebrating the homecoming of their deployed servicemember. This is the perfect way to show your loved one how much you have missed them.

Amusement Parks

Many amusement parks across the country offer discounts for military families. Places like Busch GardensSea World, and Sesame Place provide military members one free admission a year. Learn more at wavesofhonor.com. Find additional attractions and vacation ideas for your family — all with military discounts — in “Kid-Friendly Vacations.”

Cellphone Discounts

Most major cellphone providers — including AT&T, Boost Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon — offer military discounts on wireless plans to current and former servicemembers. To find the best deal for your family, do some shopping and focus on the plan that is right for you.

Athletic Apparel and Shoes

Nike offers a 10-percent discount to servicemembers. Registration is quick and easy. All you need is a valid military ID card. To find how you can get your discount, visit nike.com.

 

Wedding Dresses

Brides Across America is a nonprofit that is committed to gifting weddings and wedding gowns to military and first-responder brides. Founded in 2008, the organization has gifted over 20,000 dresses. Their “Operation Wedding Gown Event” is held twice a year: in July (around Independence Day) and in November (around Veterans Day). Check out more deals for your big day in “Discounts on Wedding Packages.”

Event Tickets

The Veteran Tickets Foundation offers free tickets to currently serving military members of all branches of service and veterans. The foundation’s goal is to support troops by providing positive family and life experiences. Tickets are provided for events, concerts, performing arts, and educational and family activities across the nation. To receive your free tickets, sign up at vettix.org.

Visit the websites listed above to ensure eligibility. Plenty of other organizations and companies offer discounts for members of the military, so be sure to always inquire about deals at the time of purchase.

 

Monument Honors Female Veterans
A new monument at Veterans Memorial Park in Las Cruces, N.M., places a much-deserved spotlight on the nation's female veterans.

Architect Patricia Grumet Decker designed the monument, which was dedicated March 10 and features six life-size bronze statues representing Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Army National Guard female recruits in detailed uniforms from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and current eras. The statues were created from detailed maquettes sculpted by artist Matt Glenn.

The nonprofit United Military Women of the SouthWest (UMWSW) initiated the project and received funding from the state for its construction. The original estimated cost was $306,200, but the legislature ended up providing $406,200, notes former Marine Corps Capt. Carol Gaines, past president of the UMWSW.

Gaines pushed for the monument because she felt all women who have served deserve to be recognized, whether they served in uniform or helped the war effort by assuming jobs traditionally held by men. “Women took office jobs, they took welding jobs - they did whatever needed to be done,” Gaines says.

Christine Sautter, USAR (Ret), a member of MOAA and of the Women Veterans of New Mexico, says the monument is important because it gives a voice to the women who went unrecognized for their military service upon returning home.

“I know many nurses who served in Vietnam, came home, and quietly went about their lives,” Sautter says. “No one really recognized them. It was the same for women who served in World War I and World War II. This monument speaks to our dedication to our nation and to our service. It's important that women are now being heard, and that they receive recognition for a job well done.”

How to Take Control of Your Financial Life
As you would expect, the overwhelming majority of people who join the uniformed services do not retire from their respective service. That being the case, while the new blended retirement system is still in its infancy, it will come to have much greater importance in the future. (Download MOAA's Retirement Guide to learn how changes to military retirement will affect you and your family.)

Most employees in the corporate sector also rely on 401(k)s for their future retirement income. This means most people have to trust their investment skills to retire comfortably. Social Security benefits were not designed to provide a comfortable retirement, only supplement it.

To start down the road to investment success, you must assume responsibility and control over your future. Living for the present day, to the detriment of the future, is a significant setback under financial rules of engagement. Time is your greatest asset, so it’s in your best interest to start immediately.

In addition to adopting a future focus, you must recognize the widespread messaging we receive daily is a form of destructive indoctrination. As I see it, the financial service industry and the media do not properly educate consumers on how to invest and create wealth. Messages about house-flipping schemes, lotteries, precious metals speculation, stock options, cyber-currencies, and conservative savings programs will not lead to success. Too many of us are looking for a get-rich-quick plan. No such plan exists, even though daily messages keep telling us an easy way to achieve wealth is out there.

To succeed in investing requires a little knowledge and a lot of discipline. To paraphrase investor Warren Buffet, the risk is in what we don’t know. We are smart people, and we just have to apply some of our energy and time to our financial futures. You can do this!

Read about strategies, products, services, your benefits, and more on MOAA.org. Explore MOAA’s financial blog to build your knowledge base further as you invest wisely in 2018 and beyond.

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