NewsBytes August 4, 2023
In this issue:
PACT Act Deadline Is August 9!
NDAA Moves Forward
Review Implementation of Veteran’s Toxic Exposure Law
VA Must Take Comprehensive Look at Veteran Suicide
Who Do I Contact About TRICARE Billing Questions?
Happy 233 Birthday for U.S. Coast Guard
An Important PACT Act Deadline Is Coming: Aug. 9!
Last year, President Biden signed the Comprehensive Veterans Toxic exposure (PACT) Act into law. This law helps connect veterans exposed to toxins with the benefits they have earned through their service. There is no deadline to apply for PACT Act benefits, but there is a deadline for an additional benefit the act provides.
If you file your PACT Act claim or submit your intent to file by Aug. 9, 2023, you may receive benefits retroactive back to Aug. 10, 2022 – the date President Biden signed the bill into law. Veterans are of course able to submit their claims at any time, but to have benefits retroactive back to the date of signing, you must submit it by August 9.
NDAA Moves Forward
The House and Senate both finished work on its version of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-S.2226, H.R.2670). The Senate passed its version (86-11) before going home for August recess. A Senate floor amendment with the provisions of the Major Richard Star Act that provides concurrent receipt reform, was filed but it was not called for a vote.
The last time the House and Senate approved its version of the NDAA before the (August) summer recess was 2015. So, in terms of the legislative calendar Congress is back on schedule to send the president the final NDAA before the Oct. 1, 2023, deadline for the start of the new fiscal year. However, the president has issued a veto threat on the House NDAA because it has provisions that restricts service member access to abortions, blocks transgender transition surgery, and limits diversity training.
Neither bill provides for any new TRICARE fee increases. Key provisions of the Senate NDAA include:
• Providing a 5.2 percent annual pay increase for active-duty members:
• Mandating a review of active duty pay rates with submission of corrective legislation;
• Requiring the Comptroller General to review recent TRICARE pharmacy network reductions;
• Authorizing the Comptroller General to examine medical personnel staffing needs at Military Treatment facilities (MTF);
• Curbing “unfair” debt collection practices for active duty, such as threatening prosecution under the military justice system or to revoke a service member’s security clearance.
• Directing military discharge review boards to use “liberal consideration” when reviewing discharge applicants with PTSD and related conditions;
• Expanding eligibility for reimbursement of relicensing of military spouse due to transfer;
• Requesting a comprehensive review of Navy efforts to reduce suicide; and
• Reducing Navy end strength by 4300 and Marine Corps end strength by 4700.
Earlier the House considered floor amendments and passed the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R.2670) with a mostly partisan roll call (219-210). The partisan rollcall on final passage is a result of adopted amendments that restricts service member access to abortions, blocks transgender transition surgery, and limits diversity training. More than 1,400 amendments were filed. The final bill that passed includes the following:
• Repealing the constraint that retirees wait 180 days after discharge from service before becoming a civilian Defense employee;
• Increasing active duty pay by 5.2 percent;
• Requiring promotions be based on merit;
• Deleting the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) from the calculation of service member eligibility for Basic Needs Allowance;
• Providing a path back to service for more than 8,000 active duty discharged for refusing to take the COVID vaccine;
• Eliminating the five percent cut in BAH cost for service members;
• Expanding the in-home childcare pilot program for military families stationed in remote areas where suitable childcare is difficult to find;
• Waiving fees on TRICARE Dental Program for the Reserve Component; and
• Reducing Navy end strengths by 7,000 and Marine Corps end strength by 4700.
Now that both chambers of Congress have approved their versions of the NDAA, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve the differences between the two bills. This bill will be voted on by both chambers and if approved, sent to the president to be signed into law.
SVAC Reviews Implementation of Veteran’s Toxic Exposure Law
With the approaching one-year anniversary of the enactment the veteran’s comprehensive toxic exposure law (PACT Act), the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) recently held an oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ability to effectively manage an increased demand for veterans’ programs and services while rapidly bolstering its capacity to deliver quality care. SVAC members and witnesses from VA discussed issues related to VA's processing of PACT Act claims, automated decision technology, and communications to veterans about their benefits.
The PACT Act expanded VA health care opportunities and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances in the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and post-9/11 era. The Act improves resources to support claims processing. It will provide generations of veterans, their families, and their survivors with the care and benefits they have earned. Since being signed into law last August, VA has received more than 744,000 PACT Act-related claims and more than 103,000 veterans with PACT Act-related eligibility have also enrolled in VA health care since Oct. 1, 2022.
Legislation Requires VA to Take a More Comprehensive Look at Veteran Suicide
Legislation has been introduced in the House (H.R.4157) and in the Senate (S.928) to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take a more comprehensive look at the factors that best prevent veteran suicide.
The “Not Just a Number Act” (S.92, H.R.4157) sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), John Boozman (Ark.) and Reps. Gerald Connelly (Va.) and Nancy Mace (S.C.) respectively, would require the VA to examine veterans’ benefits usage in their annual suicide prevention report, in order to evaluate the relationship between VA benefits and suicide outcomes. This legislation would also have the VA analyze which VA benefits have the greatest impact on preventing suicide and require the agency to issue recommendations for expansion of those benefits to help combat veteran suicides.
Currently, VA only analyzes how many veterans who die by suicide had recent interactions with VA through medical or mental health appointments. Acknowledging suicide prevention goes beyond just mental health practices, the legislation would have the VA also look at veterans’ use of disability compensation, education and employment benefits, home loans and foreclosure assistance, and housing assistance programs.
Members can weigh in on this issue online.
Who do I contact When I Have a TRICARE Billing Question?
It depends on what the bill is for (medical, dental, or pharmacy services). After you visit a doctor, dentist, or pharmacy, you get an Explanation of Benefits (EOB). You get:
• A medical EOB for a medical visit.
• A Dental Explanation of Benefits (DEOB) for a dental visit.
• A prescription drug EOB for a pharmacy visit.
EOBs aren’t bills. It's an itemized statement that shows how TRICARE paid on your claim and what you owe your provider (if anything). If you get a bill from a provider, check your EOBs and DEOBs to see if you owe the provider. If you still have questions after you review your EOB or you don’t have an EOB for the bill you got, call your TRICARE contractor.
East Region Contractor (Humana Military)
West Region Contractor (Health Net Federal Services, LLC)
TRICARE Dental Program (United Concordia)
OCONUS Toll Free: 844-653-4060
OCONUS Toll: 717-888-7400
TRICARE Overseas (including U.S. Territories) International SOS (Overseas Contractor)
Country-Specific Toll-Free Numbers
Happy 233 Birthday for U.S. Coast Guard
August 4 is the 233rd birthday of the United States Coast Guard. Congress created the agency on August 4, 1790, when it authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of federal revenue. Responsibilities added over the years included humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress.
The service received its present name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form a single maritime service dedicated to the safety of life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.
The Coast Guard is a multi-mission, maritime, military service and the smallest of the five-Armed Services. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment and U.S. economic interests in the nation's waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.
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