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August 2020 News from MOAA National

Dateline: 8/5/2020

Senate Passes NDAA Amendment to Cover Additional Agent Orange Presumptives

By: Cory Titus

The Senate passed an amendment to its version of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday that would add three medical conditions to the list of Agent Orange presumptives (https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/), a MOAA-supported move that would expand benefits to tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans.

The amendment, introduced by Sen. Tester (D-Mont.) would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the list. It passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 94-6. 

The 32 military and veterans organizations in support of this amendment sent a letter last week to Senate and House leadership voicing the need to care for these veterans. These organizations were supported by MOAA’s grassroots efforts, which included thousands of messages sent in support. 

Attention now turns back to the House, where an identical amendment was proposed in a bipartisan fashion by Reps. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), along with 15 other cosponsors. That measure did not make it out of the House Rules Committee, as it did not meet certain technical criteria for a floor vote. However, with the provision included in the Senate’s version, the House Rules Committee requirements are no longer applicable, and there is another opportunity to include this provision in the final bill. With the House version of the NDAA recently passed and the Senate’s final vote imminent, the next step is for the chambers to work out differences in the NDAA conference.

File Your Taxes ... Even If You Can't Pay

By: Vera Wilson

July 15 was Tax Day 2020. As we all know, it was extended from the usual April 15 deadline because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, a not-so-small number of us let the deadline pass without taking any action at all. I get it — you know you owe money that you can’t pay, so rather than file and face the ugly truth, you evade it by not filing at all. But here’s the problem: If you don’t file, there’s a late-filing penalty. It’s usually a monstrous 5% of the taxes owed for each month (or part of a month) that your return is late, up to five months. If your return is over 60 days late, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $435 of 100% of the tax owed. The maximum penalty is 25% of the unpaid tax. Compare that to the less costly late payment penalty, which is only .5% of the taxes owed for each month (or part of a month) that return is late. The rate increases to 1% after the IRS issues a final notice of intent to levy or seize property. The maximum penalty is 25% of the unpaid tax.

So let’s recap. Say you owe $2,000 and you file and pay four months out. You’ll owe $435 for filing late, but you’ll only owe $40 for paying late (plus interest). The definite takeaway is to file as soon as possible, even if you can’t pay. Don’t let incomplete information keep you from filing — you can always file an amended return. If you wait too long, the IRS will file a substitute return for you and send you a tax bill, which is usually higher than if you had prepared your taxes yourself.

Penalty relief is available. Check out the IRS website for reasons penalties can be waived (https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/penalty-relief). Interest on the amount due will be charged until you pay (rates vary over time), and it’s rarely waived. Servicemembers may qualify for an extension to file and pay based on their military status. You must notify the IRS that your ability to pay has been materially affected by your military service. Don’t forget to take into account the penalties associated with not filing or paying your state-level taxes. Sure you’re due a refund? No late filing penalties apply, so take your time, but not too much. You have three years from the due date to file.   

Five Facts About REACH, the VA’s New Anti-Suicide Effort

By: Tony Lombardo

The White House and the VA launched a new national anti-suicide campaign this month with an emphasis on supporting veterans.

The REACH campaign is part of PREVENTS, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicides, a three-year effort President Donald Trump created by executive order in March 2019. MOAA supports PREVENTS, and we called it a “much-needed call to action” in testimony delivered in Congress earlier this year. Here’s what you need to know about the new campaign: 

1. What is REACH? It’s both an awareness campaign and a call to action – and not just for veterans. VA states the mission is “to educate all Americans that suicide is preventable and to encourage them to REACH to those in need to provide hope. It also encourages people who are hurting to REACH to find help.”

2. Who is leading the charge? The president’s executive order created the PREVENTS Task Force, which includes leadership from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. Its lead ambassador is Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence and mother of a Marine Corps officer.

“We owe it to [veterans] and all Americans to play a critical role in preventing suicide,” Pence said in a PREVENTS webinar July 8.  “We’re facing an epidemic of suicide right now.” 

3. What do the numbers say? Despite years of suicide prevention efforts across DoD, the data reveal a sustained challenge that needs more research and new solutions.

·        On average, 132 Americans die by suicide each day, accounting for 47,173 suicide deaths in 2017.

·        The number of veteran suicides exceeded 6,000 each year from 2008-2017.

·        Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all ages and the second leading cause of death among those ages 10-34 in the United States.


4. Has COVID-19 affected efforts? If anything, the campaign is well-timed. A PREVENTS Roadmap summary released in June notes, “The long-term psychological stress resulting from the pandemic and the massive disruption to our mental health delivery system threatened the mental health of those already vulnerable and increased the likelihood that many more Americans would suffer — resulting in a possible increase in deaths by suicide.”

5. How can you get involved? Visit the REACH website, wearewithinreach.net (https://www.wearewithinreach.net/). There you can sign up for campaign updates. You’re encouraged to use the hashtag #REACHnow to “tell your network, it’s time to REACH to prevent suicide.”

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