Veterans to Receive 1.5 Percent Cost-of-Living Increase

New Rates for Compensation and Pension Benefits in 2014

WASHINGTON (Dec. 4, 2013) – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”

For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar.  Until this year, that was required by law.  Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.

For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent.  The full rates are available on the Internet atwww.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.

Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits.  The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.

In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.

For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

For more information about VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000

FRAUD ALERT

FRAUD ALERT: Veterans should be aware of a marketing scam targeting callers trying to reach the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Call Center or GI Bill Call Center. A marketing company has established two fraudulent numbers that differ from the two official VA call center numbers by one digit. If the fraudulent number is dialed by mistake, the answering party will offer a gift card and try to obtain personal and financial information, including credit card information, from the caller. The answering party may even transfer the caller to the VA after the caller’s information is obtained.

The VA will never ask you for a credit card number or banking information over the phone.

In all cases, before giving personal sensitive information over the phone make sure you know who you are talking to.

The numbers to be avoided are: 800-872-1000 (the VA National Call Center number is 800-827-1000) 888-442-4511 (the VA GI Bill Call Center number is 888-442-4551)

VA has notified law enforcement authorities to address this situation, and will provide additional information and guidance as necessary.

DOL Transition Assistance Program

The DOL Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is now open to everyone and is available (still free of charge) on line athttp://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/tap

It includes the following self-paced training programs:

1. Employment workshop including resume writing, interview tips and job search
2. Resilient transitions
3. MOC crosswalk to civilian occupations
4. Personal financial planning for transition
5. VA Benefits I and II
6. Career Paths
a. Technical training
b. Higher education
c. Entrepreneur

Please pass this information on to your networks.

Thanks,
Ann

Ann Greenlee
Director Hawaii and Guam
Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS)
US Department of Labor  | http://www.dol.gov/vets

When are we going to FIGHT to get our Tricare “PRIME” back here on Maui???!!!

Aloha;

In Hawaii, retired service members are not being treated equally wrt our Health Insurance.  As we all know Tricare comes in two plans.  Tricare “Standard” and Tricare “PRIME”.

The Standard plan has no premium but high cost for doctor visits and hospitalization (20% – which could equal thousands of dollars per year).  A relatively healthy retired service member may prefer the Standard plan.

The Prime plan does have a premium (very low about $75/mo), but covers nearly ALL Hospital costs and only a $12 Co-Pay for doctor visits.  Service members in poorer health needing Hospital procedures and doctors visits may prefer the Prime plan.

Prior to 10/1/2013 retired service members could choose the plan that best fit their needs.  NO MORE.  As of 10/1/2013 ONLY retired service members on Oahu are allowed the Prime plan.

This is WRONG and MUST be corrected. We ALL earned equal healthcare treatment by virtue of 20 years of Honorable Active Military or Naval Service. We are NOT now receiving that equal treatment

If retired service members on any other island need multiple medical visits and hospital care but can NOT AFFORD these new costs, the governments answer is TOUGH LUCK, TO BAD, OH WELL.  I’ve been forced to cancel a procedure that my doctor and two consulting physicians say I need.  I had to take this action because I can NOT AFFORD the new cost associated with Tricare Standard.  I could easily afford it under the PRIME plan I’ve paid into since 1996.

I contacted my Member of Congress (Tulsi Gabbard) and received no action from her.  She reported back to me only that this was directed by DOD and that I should contact Tricare and request a waiver.  I contacted Tricare and was informed there “IS” no waiver I can request if I live on Maui.

So here we are.  Hawaii’s retired service members, brother and sisters in arms, who earned equal retirement benefits but NOT receiving them.

Mahalo,
Mark Gallup
CPO/USN (Ret.)

Under this proposal, beneficiaries who live more than 40 miles, but not more than 100 miles, from a Military Treatment Facility or a base closure site may apply for a waiver which would allow them to remain on TRICARE Prime.
Aloha Representative Gabbard:

Mahalo for your timely reply.

The “correction” you suggest does not help us on Maui.  I’ve contacted Tricare and have been told the option you suggested “Does Not Apply to Maui”.  We cannot even apply for the waiver if we live on Maui.  So here we are on Maui, STILL not receiving EQUAL Retirement Benefits as our fellow Veterans on Oahu.  THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!!  And it MUST be corrected.  We ALL served 20+ years of Honorable Active Military or Naval Service.  We ALL “EARNED” the same Retirement Benefits.  But we are not all RECEIVING the same Retirement Benefits.

As I mentioned in my initial email, I can NOT afford the Hospital costs associated with Tricare “Standard”.  I been forced to tell my doctor to cancel a procedure that she and two consulting physicians agree I need, because I can NOT afford it now.  I could if I still had the “PRIME” plan I’ve paid into since 1996.

Please take some action on this.  Offer up legislation to treat all Hawaii’s retired service members EQUAL again.  PLEASE.  Pick up Senator Inouye’s sword and FIGHT for Hawaii’s Veterans in his spirit.  You know it’s the “Right thing to do”.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?

Mahalo,
Chief Mark Gallup
United States Navy (Ret.)