FRA NewsBytes – 9-20-13

House Passes Continuing Resolution

With only 10 days left before the beginning of the new fiscal year, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) today (H.J. Res 59) to keep the government operating after October 1, 2013. The CR will keep the government operating at FY 2013 levels until December 15, 2013, but does not account for another round of Defense sequestration cuts ($52 billion) in FY 2014 if Congress does not authorize alternative spending cuts.  

The House measure also includes a provision to defundthe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), often referred to as “Obamacare.” The Senate is expected to remove this provision and make other changes before the bill is returned to the House, unless there is a filibuster. 

Partisan squabbling continues on Capitol Hill over Obamacare, sequestration and other issues, and neither the House nor Senate has acted to spare DoD from further FY 2014 sequestration cuts. Due to the 2011 Budget Control Act, half of those cuts must come from the DoD, even though Defense makes up only 17 percent of the federal budget. 

Members are urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their elected officials to remove DoD from sequestration.



Warrior-Family Symposium

FRA’s Health Care Advisor Bob Washington attended the seventh Warrior-Family symposium co-sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America and the National Defense Industries Association. The symposium is a forum focused on opportunities for government and non-government organizations to collectively improve the physical, psychological and overall well-being of our wounded warriors.   This year’s symposium emphasized treatment for mental health concerns and the challenges facing wounded warriors and their families.

Improvements in mental health care and treatment were discussed, including the use of peer support for individuals seeking treatment. Participants on several panels expressed the need for more coordinated efforts between public and private sectors, and between DoD and the VA.  Also discussed were the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) efforts to inform and educate the public on mental health issues.


Prescription Home Delivery Saves Money

The TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program has proven to be a cost-efficient way for beneficiaries to get their prescription medications.  TRICARE Management Activity officials reported this week the results of a year-long study conducted by the DoD inspector general.

The study compared what the government spent on prescription drugs through the Home Delivery mail-order program and what the cost would have been at retail pharmacies. The Home Delivery program saved the government 16.7 percent – nearly $67 million – in the third quarter of FY 2012.   Additionally, Express Scripts, the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, reported that Home Delivery offers a 99.99-percent prescription fill accuracy rate, high beneficiary satisfaction and improved patient outcomes.

“Although not surprised, we are certainly pleased at the results of the report,” said U.S. Public Health Service Rear Adm. Thomas J. McGinnis, chief of TRICARE pharmaceutical operations. “Home Delivery saves beneficiaries and the Department of Defense millions of dollars every year, and gives beneficiaries a safe and secure way to receive their prescription medications.”

In June 2013, the 1.64 million prescriptions filled through Home Delivery represented a 17 percent increase in volume compared to the previous year, while retail prescription volume fell 10 percent, officials said.

When TRICARE beneficiaries use the Home Delivery pharmacy to fill maintenance medication prescriptions, they receive a 90-day supply through the mail and have no copayment for generic formulary medications and a $13 copay for brand-name formulary medications. At retail network pharmacies, beneficiaries pay $5 for a 30-day supply of generic formulary medications and $17 for brand name formulary medications.

FRA strongly supports the mail-order program and other cost-saving initiatives as alternatives to drastic increases in TRICRE fees and pharmacy co-pays. TRICARE beneficiaries can learn more and enroll for Home Delivery online or by phone at 877-363-1296. 


House Panel Reviews Fully Developed Claims

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs recently held a hearing to review the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) program. The program focuses on veterans and veteran service officers (VSOs) submiting claims that do not require development of non-governmental evidence in an effort to provide a timelier claims decision for disabled veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says that FDCs take on average 123 days to fully adjudicate.

The VA announced in August that veterans filing original FDCs for service-connected disability compensation may be entitled to up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits. The retroactive benefit will be considered for FDCs filed between August 6, 2013, and August 5, 2015, and is associated with an FRA-supported comprehensive legislative package (H.R. 1627 – P.L. 112-154) signed into law last year. Only veterans submitting their first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one year of retroactive disability benefits under the newly implemented law.


National POW/MIA Remembrance Day

Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day to remember the service and sacrifice of prisoners of war (POWs), those missing in action (MIA) and their families. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.  To post a tribute or remembrance, visit our Facebook page.