NERA News

NERA’s mission is to promote and maintain national security by ensuring a strong and well-trained Naval, Coast Guard and Marine Corps Reserve. NERA is a founding member of The Military Coalition (TMC). By partnering with 31 military, veterans and uniformed services organizations, NERA is able to promote sea service reservists benefits by aligning with the grassroots support of more than 5.5 million TMC members and their families.

                                          


Legislative Updates-Jan 2020

by Vice President Michael P. Hughes, OSC, USNR (ret)

The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed into law by the President on December 20, 2019. Following is an overview of some of the important changes and initiatives of interest:

Pay Raise- Active Duty and Guard and Reserve members received a 3.1 % pay raise on January 1, 2020. Retirees and survivors received a 1.6% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Consolidation of the Commissary and Exchange Programs- A report is due to Congress by June 1, 2020 on plans to consolidate these programs. 

Record of Service for Reserves- Requires establishment and implementation of a record of service for Reserves by September 30, 2020. It requires a summary of a member's service, including dates of active service.

Survivor Benefit Plan-Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC)-
Begin a 3-year phase out on January 1, 2021 of the SBP-DIC offset, also known as the Widows Tax. It reduces the offset by one-third each year, with full implementation by January 1. 2023.

TRICARE- TRICARE RESERVE SELECT (TRS)- Federal employees who also serve in a reserve component will be allowed to purchase TRS, removing the current restriction. Note: This doesn't go into effect until January 1, 2030. Although there were no new TRICARE increases in this bill, there are some previously scheduled increases to be aware of that took effect January 1, 2020 :

Enrollment fees for retirees who entered the service prior to January 1, 2018- Prime for a Single went from $297 to $300 and from $594 to $600 for a Family. There was no increase for Select for this group.

Enrollment fees for retirees who entered service after January 1, 2018- Prime- Increases from $360 Single and $720 Family to $366 and $732 respectively. Select-Increases from $462 Single and $924 Family to $471 and $942 respectively.

Retail Pharmacy Fees-Increased to $13 for a 30 day supply of generics, $33 for a brand. name and $60 for a non-formulary prescription. Up from $11, $28 and $53 respectively.

Mail Order Pharmacy Fees- Increased to $10 for a 90 day supply of generics, $29 for brand name and $60 for non-formulary. Up from $7, $24 and $60 respectively.
Note: There is no fee for 30 day generics and brand name drugs from a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). Non-formulary prescriptions are typically not available at a MTF. Active duty families are still exempt from TRICARE enrollment fees.

NERA continues to follow and advocate on many more legislative and policy issues concerning compensation, benefits and well being of our members.  If you have specific questions please email me at vp@nera.org or send postal mail to my attention at NERA national headquarters.

Veteran Service Records Access

Click the link below to request Military Service Records.

Disabled Veterans can Fly Space Available Flights for Free

When congress signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act last year,100% service connected disabled Veterans became eligible for Space Available Travel. Better known as ‘Space-A’ or military hops, Air Mobility Command (AMC) maintains an extensive network of flights throughout the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Supplementing this network, several Air National Guard and Naval Aviation Units have flights available.

 

To be eligible for Space-A flights, Veterans must have a permanent and total service-connected disability rating. These Vets must also obtain a DD Form 2765, “Department of Defense/Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (TAN).

The Space-A Program fills surplus capacity and seating on DOD aircraft. A popular perk among retirees, now eligible Veterans can take advantage of the program and fly for free. So, whether the Veteran is looking for a getaway to Hawaii or a trip to catch-up with their Veteran brothers and sisters on the other side of the country, the Space-A travel program can fly you there.

For more information visit: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/60642/eligibility-disabled-veterans-space-available-flights/ 

Veteran Affairs Updates-June 2020

by Vice President Michael P. Hughes, OSC, USNR (ret)

NERA is closely monitoring issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects our Sea Service Reservists. Please do not hesitate to contact us at members@nera.org.

Here is the update on what's happening with Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit determinations and support from the current VA Secretary and the Office of the President on Agent Orange exposure benefits. Despite higher than inflation increases in VA's budget over the last several years, there continues to be opposition, delay, and blocking of enacted and court ordered needed benefits for our veterans on the part of this administration based on their supposed determination of funding and system upgrade increases needed to implement them. Here are some of the issues:

This act can have a significant effect on many of our members who served aboard vessels off the coast of Vietnam during the conflict there and are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange exposure. This is an issue that we have been advocating and fighting for for decades. Even after a Federal court ordered mandate that VA recognize those serving aboard vessels within the 12 mile limit off the coast of Vietnam during the war and subsequent passage of legislation into law, VA stalled for over a year in implementing coverage for these veterans. Implementation was supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2020 and we are closely following this to see if it occurs in a timely manner. It has been estimated that this will involve approximately 70,000 veterans. These delays cause financial hardship and increased health issues due to delays in care for many of the veterans affected. 

VA has utilized the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) as an independent reviewer on appropriate illnesses for inclusion on the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure for decades. NASEM has recently recommended inclusion of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like symptoms and hypertension be included as linked to Agent Orange exposure. The VA Secretary has held up any implementation on this by stating that he wants to wait for a VA research evaluation. This is an unexplained departure from an independent unbiased outside review to bringing it into possible biased and controlled internal evaluation. 

While we understand there are costs and system changes involved with any change, they are small in comparison to the hardships and health consequences of delays. These benefits were earned by the service of these veterans to our country and they are not really new programs, just an extension of existing programs. I urge all of our members and supporters to contact their representatives in Congress

My sincere hopes for all to remain safe and healthy, especially during this COVID-19 crisis. Please let us know if we can be of assistance. My email is vp@nera.org and my cell is 1-443-812-9591 or you can send  mail to my attention at NERA national headquarters.

 
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Use Giving Assistant to save money and support Naval Enlisted Reserve Association