NewsBytes March 27, 2020

In this issue:
Economic Stimulus Passes Senate
How to Get Tested for Coronavirus
VA Suspends Five Colleges from Receiving Payments

The Senate Passed Economic Stimulus 
In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic the Senate passed (96-0) a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus to counter-act the depressing economic impact of the virus. The bill (H.R.748) includes about $500 billion that can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments. It also has more than $350 billion to aid small businesses. 

For individuals, the package would provide direct payments to Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child for individuals with less than $75,000 of annual income or married couples with income less than $150,000. The benefit will be scaled down until it reaches a $99,000 income threshold for an individual or $198,000 for a couple. The bill would add $600 per person per week onto the base maximum unemployment benefit for four months. It also provides additional funding for many government agencies including Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  

As NewsBytes goes to press the House is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Trump to be sign into law. 

How TRICARE and VA Beneficiaries Can Get Tested for Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Defense Health Agency claims it has enough coronavirus test kits. The DHA and the Department of Veterans Affairs beneficiaries must meet certain criteria to be tested. The VA and DHA have instituted similar rules around who qualifies for testing:
  • The patient has COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • The patient has traveled to one of the affected areas, like China or Italy.
  • The patient has been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

The VA also requires that the patient lives in an area where there has been community spread of COVID-19.

The DHA has indicated that there will be no-cost if the test was prescribed by a network or non-provider, but the usual copay or cost-share for the doctor visit will apply.

The VA is offering free testing to enrolled veterans, and this extends to Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) beneficiaries. Both the DHA and the VA are asking patients NOT to go directly to a medical center without first calling.

The DHA wants beneficiaries to call into the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line and chat with a registered nurse to assess their symptoms. The VA is urging veterans to receive care virtually by downloading its VA Telehealth App

VA Suspends Five Colleges from Receiving Post 911 GI Bill Payments
The Department of Veterans Affairs suspended future GI Bill use at five colleges due to deceptive marketing and recruitment practices. The five colleges are: University of Phoenix, Colorado Technical University, American InterContinental University, Bellevue University, and Temple University. The decision by the VA will apply only to new enrollments, both in residence and online. The suspension will not affect those students currently enrolled in classes during the current semester if there are no breaks in enrollment for current GI Bill beneficiaries.

Additionally, while the VA’s action will not impact current students who maintain continuous enrollment, the state approving agencies responsible for approving courses at these schools may also take independent actions based on the VA’s decision. If such action occurs, a decision by the relevant state approving agency to withdraw program approval would remove VA’s authority to issue benefit payments to currently enrolled students as well as new students.  However, the VA will take appropriate actions to keep beneficiaries informed of any developments that would impact them. The VA is encouraging students attending or considering attending schools, to contact the department’s Education Call Center at 888-442-4551 between 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday or go online to submit any questions.

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