October 27 2017

In this issue:
Oppose TRICARE Regulation that Increases Fees
VSO's Meet to Strategize on Agent Orange Blue Water Navy
HVAC Reviews VA Choice Program Improvements
Congress Tables CFPB Forced Arbitration Rule
Shipmate Presented Spirit of Hope Award

Oppose TRICARE Regulation That Increases Fees
The Department of Defense (DoD) continually tries to shift health care costs to beneficiaries. DoD is now attempting to implement a regulation with higher cost shares and a new fee structure for retirees younger than 65. These fee increases were inserted into a draft regulation without any discussion or input from beneficiary groups. Last year's Defense Authorization (NDAA) provided a grandfather clause that excludes retirees who retired before January 1, 2018 from scheduled fee increases. This grandfather clause was intended to shield current retirees from any fee increases. With the implementation of enacted changes through the DoD's draft regulation, it will charge current retirees more in co-pays. This recently released proposed regulation actually allows lower co-pays for new retirees. Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center to ask their legislators to oppose this proposed regulation intended to only implement changes required by last year's NDAA.

VSO's Meet to Strategize on Agent Orange Blue Water Navy 
FRA staff Tom Snee, Chris Slawinski and Brian Condon along with other Veteran Service Organizations (VSO's) recently met at the American Legion, Washington, DC office to discuss efforts to enact the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act." Staff members from the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) also attended. The legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate (H.R.299 & S.422 respectively). HVAC Chairman Phil Roe (Tenn.) in earlier meetings with FRA staff expressed an interest in moving the House bill out of committee and onto the House floor for consideration by the full House. These proposals would clarify that service members serving off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict have a presumption for filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for ailments associated with exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide. FRA believes Congress should recognize that the so-called "blue water" veterans were exposed to Agent Orange and authorize presumptive status for VA disability claims associated with this exposure.

Members are strongly urged to use the FRA Action Center located on the website to ask their legislators to support the "Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act" (H.R. 299 & S. 422). 

HVAC Reviews Improvements to VA Choice Program
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) began the process of reviewing, debating and approving a draft proposal to make it easier for veterans who seek medical care outside the VA health system (Veterans Health Administration-VHA). The HVAC hearing provided a forum to discuss and review nine bills, including legislation related to VA's community care programs. The legislation included bills affecting how veterans are able to access life-saving transplant and mental health care, and ways the VA is able to use telemedicine to treat veterans in rural areas.

HVAC Chairman Phil Roe (Tenn.) thanked FRA and other stakeholders for providing feedback on the draft legislation. A statement was provided by FRA for the record, on many of the issues discussed at the hearing. 

Congress Votes to Tables CFPB Financial Institutions Forced Arbitration Rule
The Senate recently voted to table the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) final rule on arbitration agreements and class-action lawsuits. The Vice President had to vote in the Senate and broke the tie (50-50).  Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John Kennedy (La.) broke from their party to vote against the repeal. The House had voted in July to table the regulation. The motion to table the rule was supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association and was opposed by consumer groups, FRA and other veteran/military associations. In July, FRA signed onto The Military Coalition (TMC) letter of support for CFPB's final rule. This proposed rule addresses the harm of forced arbitration by preserving the ability of service members and other consumers to band together to seek relief through the civil justice system when financial institutions break the law. 

Forced arbitration is a system where service members' claims against a corporation are funneled into a rigged, secretive system in which all the rules, including the choice of the arbitrator, are picked by the corporation. Forced arbitration clauses also include a provision banning the rights of consumers to ban together to hold a corporation accountable.

Our service members protect our nation against both foreign and domestic threats. The sacrifices they and their families make in order to serve are compelling reasons alone to ensure they are not only shielded from predatory financial practices and unscrupulous lenders, but are also able to use our civil justice system if and when violations arise.  

FRA will continue to ensure that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is enforced by regulatory agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of Military Affairs. The Association will work to make mandatory arbitration agreements in financial contracts unenforceable, and will continue our efforts to protect active duty personnel from predatory lenders.

FRA Shipmate Awarded for Community Service
Shipmate Jim Marshall of Wyoming Branch 59 received the Department of Defense, "The Spirit of Hope" Award given at the Pentagon by GEN Paul J. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on behalf of the Secretary of Defense. This award recognizes outstanding service to the United States of America. It is awarded to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, entertainers, and other distinguished Americans and organizations whose patriotism and service reflect that of Mr. Bob Hope. Bob Hope was designated as the first honorary veteran by the United States Armed Forces for his decades of entertaining the troops, both in peacetime and in combat zones. 

Shipmate Marshall's many accomplishments "of service" within his community gained him praise for his dedication to service members. FRA is extremely proud at such honorable accomplishment and NED Thomas J. Snee attended the presentation to express our support. Congratulations Shipmate Marshall! 


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