Dear Friend,

It is almost time for school so I hope that everyone is taking the opportunity to get out and enjoy Virginia before school and work again dominates our time. We are preparing now for the next General Assembly session so if you have legislative issues of concern, please contact my office.

In this update there is an announcement of Military Appreciation Day at the Chesterfield County Fair, a link to the Virginia Department of Veteran Services latest newsletter, and a caution concerning timing on obtaining the Veteran Identifier on your driver’s license. There are also several articles on veteran benefit changes and new capabilities, the announcement of the newly confirmed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and several articles of interest to disabled veterans.

Chesterfield County Fair

The Chesterfield County Fair, “Catch the Fun” will be held at the fairgrounds (10300 Courthouse Rd.) from August 24- September 1st. On 26 August the Fair will hold a Military Appreciation Day. Active duty and retired military personnel will be admitted free with ID card. A Military Appreciation Parade will be held from 5:30 – 6:00 p.m. For more information on the Fair click here.

Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) eNews

The Summer 2018 edition of the VDVS eNews has recently been published. It contains several articles of interested to veterans to include one on the passing of Adrian Cronauer (“Good Morning, Vietnam”), another on Delegate McGuire’s bill which resulted in the Veteran identifier now available on the Virginia driver’s license, and another on my visit to the Virginia War Memorial to get an update on the current expansion project. You can read this newsletter by clicking here.

Veteran Identifier on Virginia Driver’s license

As previously reported, as of 1 July a veteran identifier may be added free without additional charge (other than normal driver’s license renewal/replacement fees) upon presentation of a DD214 at the time of renewal/replacement of your Virginia driver’s license. However, veterans are cautioned that replacement or renewal should be delayed until after 1 October 2018 (if possible) so that the new license will also be REAL ID compliant. Virginia driver’s licenses issued prior to 1 October 2018 will not be accepted for entry into any Federal facility (requiring presentation of ID) or proof of identity for boarding any domestic flight on or after 1 October 2020.

Senate Confirms Wilkie as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The Senate has confirmed Robert Wilkie to be become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with a vote of 86-9. Wilkie will now be responsible for directing the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is charged with providing veterans and their families the care and benefits they have earned. For Secretary Wilkie’s biography, click here.

DOD Changes Rules for Transferring GI Bill Benefits

DOD recently announced it will limit transferability of GI Bill benefits to service members with less than 16 years of service. This change is meant to re-define the benefit as a reenlistment tool as it was originally designed to be when the Post-9/11 GI Bill was signed into law. The new policy regarding transfers will go into effect in one year, so impacted service members still have time to decide whether to transfer their benefits to their dependents. The amount of eligibility that is transferred to each dependent can be changed until the benefit is fully expended, so it is recommended that service members who are unsure of how they would like to utilize their GI Bill benefits to transfer one month of eligibility to their dependents now to ensure they fully utilize their benefit. Read more about the recent changes.

TRICARE Fee Increases Dropped

The final version of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), no longer includes a plan that would have resulted in unfair fee increases for many retirees and their families enrolled in TRICARE. The NDAA also formally directs the Secretary of the Army to take action on gradual filling up of burial plots at Arlington. Specifically, the provision in the final bill requires the Secretary to make a decision on the criteria for burial so as to preserve Arlington as an active burial ground well into the future by Sept. 30, 2019. the legislation also grants the cemetery some small parcels of adjacent land along with funding for developing the land.

Congress sent the NDAA for 2019 to the President for signature on 3 August. The President is expected to sign the bill. Among other provisions it includes a 2.6% pay raise for troops and maintains Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at current levels.

VA Launches VEText Appointment System

The VA has launched VEText, a text messaging system that reminds veterans of upcoming health care appointments and allows them to confirm or cancel via phone. There are currently 138 VA facilities using the automated system. Veterans who have previously used the VA health care system with a cell phone number listed in their electronic health records are automatically enrolled in VEText. Learn more about VEText.

Physical Disability Board of Review

If you are a veteran who was medically separated from service between September 11, 2001, and December. 31, 2009, with a rating of 30 percent or less and feel the rating is inaccurate, you now have the ability to file an appeal through the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR). The result of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008, the PDBR provides veterans a way to appeal their initial Department of Defense disability ratings, and often results in a medical discharge being upgraded to a medical retirement. Learn more about the application process.

Disability Severance Pay Over Withholding

Certain veterans who received disability severance payments after January 17, 1991 may have paid taxes on their lump sum payments that they did not owe. As a result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016 these veterans may file an amended return if they still have tax information for the year in question or may file to receive a standard refund determined by the IRS. Those affected should receive a letter from DoD with instructions and only have a year from the date of the letter to file for the refund. More information can be found here.

Military History Anniversaries

For those interested in Military History, items of interest for 16-31 August can be found here.

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I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. You can email me at kirk@kirkcox.com or call me at (804) 526-5135. You can also join the conversation on our social media pages by liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter.

Sincerely,

Kirk Cox