VETERAN BEST JOB LOCATIONS: When troops decide to separate from the military into civilian life, it will be first time they have to seriously consider where they’d like to live and work. With these considerations in mind as well as a dozen other criteria USAA and Military.com recently compiled a list of the ‘10 Best Places for Military Retirement’ which can be reviewed in the attachment to this bulletin titled, ‘Veteran Best Job Locations by City.’ The list has been updated to include more current unemployment rates for each city, based on June 2012 unemployment rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of 372 cities at www.bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm. [Source: www.jobs.aol.com/articles/category/homepage-for-heroes David Schepp | 10 Sep 2012]
VA DISABILITY COMPENSATION UPDATE: Disabled veterans are facing more bureaucratic log jams: a year-plus lag in simply calculating how much each vet is losing in wages specifically due to their long-term wounds. According to a report issued Sept. 10 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an initiative by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to revise its disability-ratings schedule has become alarmingly bogged down. The GAO put Congress on alert that lawmakers may need to step in to jump start the effort. In 2009, VA recognized a critical need to overhaul how it rates the disabilities of former service members, including an entirely fresh analysis into the amount of earnings that non-working, disabled veterans are losing in today’s economy. That ratings schedule hasn’t been fully rewritten since 1945.
According to the GAO, the positive is: “The current revision effort takes a more comprehensive and empirical approach than VA’s past efforts,” the GOA reported. “VA has hired full-time staff to revise the rating schedule’s medical information and plans to conduct studies to evaluate veterans’ average loss of earnings in today’s economy.”
The not so positive: “This change, in part, has resulted in VA falling behind schedule. As of July 2012, VA is over 12 months behind in revising criteria for the first categories of impairments.” After digging deeper into the red-tape tangle, GAO experts found that VA hasn’t figured out how to churn out more timely research “on the impact of impairments on earnings,” and that the agency doesn’t have a solid plan (specific benchmarks or updated deadlines) as to how to finish the project. And given the massive work overload already afflicting VA, the agency urgently needs a written strategy to plot out the potential effects any disability-schedule changes will have on operations, “including impacts on an already strained claims workload,” the report said.
Last year, VA spent roughly $40 billion on disability compensation for 3.4 million veterans, MilitaryTimes reported. In the meantime, however, the GAO suggested that Congress may want “to consider various options to modernize VA’s disability benefits program … and, if necessary, propose relevant legislation for congressional consideration.” For example, the report said, a new bill might impel the creation of “explicit quality of life payments” to veterans who have service-connected disabilities. [Source: U.S. News | Bill Briggs | 11 Sep 2012]
VA MENTAL HEALTH CARE UPDATE: A labor union representing Veterans Affairs Department mental health professionals has expressed doubt that VA can deliver on an Aug. 31 executive order from President Barack Hussein Obama aimed at expanding access to care for veterans, military members and their families. The executive order directed federal agencies to expand suicide prevention programs, as well as mental health care. Under the directive, VA must hire 800 additional support counselors who are veterans. It also must use its pay-setting authorities, loan repayment and other incentives to meet its goal of recruiting, hiring and placing 1,600 mental health care professionals by June 30, 2013.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in a recent statement expressed concern over VA’s ability to enhance its mental health offerings “in view of the department’s continued harassment of employees who speak up for patients’ needs.” In particular, the union is concerned by VA managers’ alleged retaliatory actions against a post-traumatic stress disorder specialist who testified before Congress about mental health care mismanagement at the department and under staffing. Officials allegedly downgraded her performance evaluation on the eve of her testimony, changing her job duties and forcing veterans to travel farther for care.
The union wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki seeking reversal of the retaliatory actions against the PTSD specialist.
“The VA must make meaningful changes in eradicating agency mismanagement, whistleblower retaliation and take strides in supporting its workforce providing world-class care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee said in a statement. “The president’s executive order looks to increase the number of mental health care professionals at the VA, but this cannot be done if the agency continues down this path of employee intimidation and misappropriation of vital resources.” VA said it does not support retaliation against whistleblowers. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is strongly committed to ensuring that VA employees are empowered to advocate for veterans without fear of retaliation,” the department said in a statement. “VA respects the AFGE and the congressional hearing process and cooperates fully when VA employees are asked to testify.”
The number of veterans receiving mental health services has increased by 35 percent since 2007, according to VA, and the number of mental health staff has increased by 41 percent. [Source: GovExec.com | Amanda Palleschi | 10 Sep 2012]
NDAA 2013 UPDATE: Senate leaders now say they won’t bring the FY2013 Defense Authorization bill up for action until after the Nov. 6 election. This adds one more massive task to the “lame duck” session of Congress squeezed between the November election and inauguration in January which include:
• Agreeing on an alternate debt reduction plan to avoid sequestration and the “fiscal cliff” scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1
• Avoiding a scheduled 27 percent cut in Medicare/TRICARE payments to doctors that would devastate access to care
• Passing a defense authorization bill to sustain important pay needs and avoid massive TRICARE Pharmacy copay increases
MOAA is very concerned that Congress is cramming far too much work into a short and chaotic time. Expecting legislators to come up with reasonable solutions and necessary compromises in a couple of weeks at the end of the year after a particularly partisan election is an extraordinarily high-risk proposition. [Source: MOAA Leg Up 7 Sep 2012]
FLAGS: The American Legion Post 70 has on hand American flags, all of the military service flags, POW/MIA flags, and S.C. state flags. Contact a member of Post 70 to purchase flags; the cost is $5.
AMERICAN LEGION POST 70: Meeting at 1800 on the third Tuesday of the month. For more information, please contact Thomas Crisp at 940-2793.
AMERICAN LEGION POST 24 of Newberry, meeting is on the second Tuesday of the month at 1830.
The AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY – UNIT 24 meets the same day at 3 p.m. at Post 24.