The start of school means changing traffic patterns along with increased traffic volume and congestion. With that in mind, I’d like to remind everyone to slow down and pay attention to school buses picking up or dropping off children.
In this update, I’d like to announce a number of local events of interest to veterans during the first half of September, encourage participation in a survey on the future of Arlington National Cemetery, provide information on a change to a TRICARE Pharmacy refill policy, provide an update on recently approved veteran legislation, and provide a links to significant military anniversaries for 16-31 August and 1-15 September for those interested in military history.
VA Flu Shots
On August 15th, Walgreens began giving annual flu shots to all VA-enrolled veterans. While this immunization program is limited to just VA patients, Walgreens can provide flu shots to most veterans and their families through their medical coverage programs, such as TRICARE, Medicare, and most other insurance.
PBS documentary on trauma
The local PBS Idea Station presented a special screening of a new documentary on polytrauma. This is a one-hour documentary follows veterans and active-duty service members as they recover from multiple injuries affecting them physically, mentally and spiritually. Rehabilitation specialists of the Polytrauma Rehab Center in the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center were shown using a holistic approach for patients and their families.
The documentary premieres on WCVE PBS at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 14 and on WCVW PBS at 9 p.m. on Friday, September 15. If you miss it you can watch it on demand by clicking here.
Virginia’s Patriot Day Ceremony
A Patriot Day recognition ceremony to remember those who were injured or died during the terrorist attacks across the United States on September 11, 2001 will be held in the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater at the Virginia War Memorial on Sunday 10 September from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. An “Old Glory” retirement and bell chiming will be included. Guest Speaker TBA. This event is free and will be co-hosted with the Navy Recruiting District Richmond.
Fort Lee POW/MIA Luncheon
There will be a Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and POW/MIA National Recognition Luncheon on Thursday, 14 September at 11:30 a.m. at the Lee Club, 9009 Battle Dr., Fort Lee. Tickets are $15.00 and reservations and RSVP can be made here.
New WWI Display at Fort Lee QM Museum
In a continuation of Fort Lee’s Centennial Celebration, the installation museums are sponsoring a World War I Living History event 16 September from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the area near the museums. This free event – open to the community – will bring participants back to the activation and training of the 80th Division at Camp Lee during WWI.
The event will consist of living history displays outside the museums and lectures and displays inside. The 80th Division living historians will demonstrate and run volunteers through the training WWI recruits went through under the supervision of the French and British military advisers. Other living historians will represent the veterinary school that took place at Camp Lee, the remount station, Salvation Army stand and WWI staff car. These living history impressions will bring to life the activities that took place on Camp Lee during WWI. More information can be obtained here.
Arlington National Cemetery leadership must decide soon on a path forward for the cemetery to remain active for new burials beyond the next 25 years. Plans for eligibility changes and physical expansion are still up in the air, but you have a chance to inform the final decisions.
While the cemetery’s Advisory Committee continues to work with military and veterans groups to gain perspective on the military community’s opinion, this survey will carry a lot of weight.
If you have any interest in the future of Arlington National Cemetery, please do your part to contribute to the conversation and take the survey.
Pharmacy Automatic Refill Changes
Beginning Sept. 1, 2017, Express Scripts will need annual consent from patients who want to receive automatic refills of maintenance medications enrolled in the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program. When the last refill of a medication enrolled in the Automatic Refill program ships, Express Scripts will reach out to the beneficiary by telephone and/or email (depending on indicated preference) for consent. Express Scripts will not re-enroll medications unless they hear from a beneficiary via the automated phone call, online at Express-Scripts.com/TRICARE, or an Express Scripts Patient Care Advocate at 1-877-363-1303.
President Signs Veterans Legislation
Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017
- Increases monthly Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) payments by about 40 percent effective October 1, 2018 (note: effective August 1, 2018, DEA decreases from 45 to 36 months to be consistent with other VA educational programs);
- Eliminates the 15-year limit for using the G.I. Bill, allowing for the use of the educational benefits for life, for those who were discharged after January 1, 2013;
- Grants full G.I. Bill benefits to Purple Heart Recipients, regardless of total time in service effective August 1, 2018;
- Provides G.I. Bill eligibility for reservists undergoing medical care for active duty injuries effective August 1, 2018;
- Restores used G.I. bill benefits to enrolled students whose school permanently closes after January 1, 2015, effective November 14, 2017; and
- Allows veterans who are National Guard members and Reservists who are receiving Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) benefits, to “pause” their eligibility so their time under the VR&E program is not negatively affected while called up for active duty orders. This provision takes effect immediately.
President signs Veterans Affair Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017
The law provides funding for a shortfall to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice Program — a community care program designed to provide access to health care for veterans facing long wait times or travel far distances for their health care appointments. The program, which was scheduled to end in August 2017, has been extended for an additional six months. The new law also improves hiring authorities for VA and authorizes the department to enter into 28 new leases for medical clinics and research.
President signs Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017
The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 creates three appeals “lanes.” Veterans would choose the one that best suits his or her needs. The three lanes will be:
- Local Higher Level Review Lane in which an adjudicator reviews the same evidence considered by the original claims processor.
- New Evidence Lane in which the veteran could submit new evidence for review and have a hearing.
- Board Lane in which jurisdiction for the appeal would transfer immediately to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
As of last spring, more than 470,000 appeals of claims decisions were pending. The average wait time for these appeals to be fully adjudicated is five years. If nothing changes, by 2027 veterans will wait an average of 10 years to get a decision. This bill is expected to shorten the average wait time for final appeal decisions from five years to 125 days.
President signs the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act
This law now clears the way for the GWOT Memorial Foundation to secure federal approval for acreage on the National Mall, and coordinate a national design competition. It also exempts the memorial from a 1986 law that requires Congress to wait 10 years after the official end of a military conflict before considering a war memorial in the nation’s capital.
Military History Anniversaries
In closing, you can contact me at my district office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 804-526-5135, by US mail – PO Box 1205, Colonial Heights, VA 23834 – or by stopping by my Colonial Heights office at 250B East Ellerslie Avenue. I appreciate your views on legislation that will help me do a better job for the people I represent.
Please visit my Facebook page and my Twitter page. These pages, along with my website, have information/links to the 2017 General Assembly Session to include my 44 pieces of legislation, visitors’ photos, my legislative survey, videos of floor remarks, and related topics.
Please forward this Update to your fellow veteran friends and neighbors.