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October 2018 News From MOAA National

Dateline: 10/4/2018

President Trump Signs Largest VA Budget in History

President Donald Trump on Friday signed into the law the largest spending bill in Department of Veterans Affairs history, which includes funding for expanded caregiver and mental health benefits, facility upgrades, and veteran community care programs.

“We're fighting to make sure you get the care that you so richly earned,” Trump said during a signing ceremony at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System in Las Vegas, “and today's legislation is one more promise that the Trump administration is keeping.”

The VA appropriations bill provides more than $86 billion for discretionary programs and more than $110 billion in mandatory benefit payments. It includes several key provisions to benefit veterans, including expansion of mental health services and direct resources for care in rural communities.

The bill also provides funds related to the MOAA-supported VA MISSION Act, which will expand comprehensive caregiver services and provide money to modernize medical facilities. It also continues funding for programs that allow veterans to see private-sector doctors in their community if they cannot secure an appointment through the VA in a reasonable amount of time.

The bill also puts more than $1 billion toward the creation and maintenance of an electronic health record system.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who attended the bill signing, lauded the president for his efforts to continue fighting for quality health care for veterans.

“We are on the cusp of the greatest transformation period in the history of the VA,” Wilkie said. “We're beginning to put in place the Choice Act. The signing today gets us on that road.”


Here’s How Service Relief Agencies Step Up to Provide Disaster Aid

Servicemembers, retirees, veterans, and military family members forced from their homes during Hurricane Florence may return to flooding, broken windows, and fallen trees.

Along with resources available to all of those in the storm's path, current and former military members may benefit from branch-specific aid programs, some of which are expanding to assist in the storm's aftermath. A quick breakdown, including eligibility rules, is below; those seeking assistance also can contact a Red Cross emergency communication specialist at 877-272-7337.

Army Emergency Relief

What: Since its founding, Army Emergency Relief has provided more than $2 billion in loans and grant for soldiers and retirees. On average, the organization pays about $1,700 for a servicemember requesting financial assistance.

Although there are guidelines for filing loans and grants, the organization tries to go beyond them to help people, said Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, USA (Ret), director of Army Emergency Relief.

“We always look at exceptions,” Mason said. “If it's the right thing to do, we're going to do it.”

Aid available: No-interest loans and grants.

Eligibility: Active duty, retirees, medically retired soldiers, surviving spouses and children, family members with military identification cards, and Reserve and National Guard soldiers and their families when the soldier is mobilized for 30 days or more. However, AER is waiving the 30-day requirement for Reserve and National Guard soldiers during Hurricane Florence, as well as other hurricanes that could follow.  

Online: www.aerhq.org, or on Facebook. Donate at www.aerhq.org/Donate.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

What: For more than 100 years, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has been assisting sailors, Marines and their families during times of natural disaster and personal crisis.

Capt. Shelley Marshall, USN (Ret), communications officer for the society, said she anticipates people will apply for loans for home repairs and covering deductibles for insurance policies.

Aid available: Interest-free loans and grants.

Eligibility: Active duty, retiree, family members with military identification cards, surviving spouses, reservists on extended active duty of 30 days or more.

Online: Visit the agency's disaster relief page, or connect via Facebook. Donate here.

Air Force Aid Society

What: The society has been around longer than the Air Force, having been formed in 1942. It provided more than $15 million in direct aid in 2017 for emergency financial need as well as educational and community programs.

Aid available: Interest-free loans and grants. The Standard Assistance program covers multiple financial needs, while the Falcon Loan offers up to $1,000 in no-interest cash for short-term financial help.

Eligibility: Standard Assistance is available to active-duty and retired members and their families; spouses and dependent-age children of airmen who died on active duty or in retired status; and some Guard and Reserve members. The Falcon Loan is available to active-duty members and some Guard and Reserve personnel who've been activated under Title 10 orders.

Contact: www.afas.org or via Facebook. Click here for where to go for assistance, or here to donate to hurricane relief efforts. 

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance

What: The agency, founded in 1924, has provided more than $187 million in aid, including more than $2.5 million to Coast Guard members in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Aid available: Disaster-related aid comes via interest-free loans, which may be converted into grants (in whole or in part).

Eligibility: Active-duty and retired members; reservists “while serving on extended active duty,” per the website; active Coast Guard Auxiliary members; civilian employees; attached Public Health Service members and military chaplains (regardless of branch); and immediate family members of the above. Surviving family members may be eligible under certain circumstances.

Contact: https://cgmahq.org/ or via Facebook. Click here for an Application for Disaster Assistance, here to find contact information for your local representative, or here to donate. 

 

MOAA’s COLA Prediction: How Much Your Retired Pay Will Go Up on Jan. 1

With the fiscal year coming to a close, we will soon know the final Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retired pay and social security benefits. Our prediction for the final COLA is 2.8 percent.

In other words, starting Jan. 1, 2019, you would see an increase of roughly $28 for every $1,000 of retired pay you receive. (Active duty pay is calculated differently)

The August 2018 CPI is 246.336, 2.8 percent above the FY 2018 COLA baseline.    

The CPI for September 2018 (the final month of the fiscal year) is scheduled to be released on Oct. 11, at which point we can confirm the final COLA.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth has slowed in the past couple of months, but has still shown the highest year-over-year growth in years. The largest contributing factors to this year's growth have been energy commodities, shelter (housing), and transportation services. Food prices, particularly away from homes, had a modest impact on CPI as well.

The weighting of each consumer category is calculated in accordance with a two-year-long survey that looked at family purchasing data through approximately 24,000 weekly diaries and 48,000 quarterly interviews.

Measured price changes on food products, clothing, housings costs, medical services, and other groupings determine the annual COLA. The calculation is made by comparing the average CPI from July through September of the current year to the average for the same months of the year prior.

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