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Washington Update for week of 3/27/2018

TREA: The Enlisted Association's Washington Update

 

 

TREA: The Enlisted Association's Washington Update

 

 

March 29th is National Vietnam War Veterans Day

 

 

For more, check out: http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/

 

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Commissaries to Honor Living Vietnam Veterans

 

 

The Defense Commissary Agency is hosting commemorative ceremonies March 29 at more than 70 stateside stores to recognize veterans who served on active duty during the Vietnam War era. The events are also being hosted at select exchanges.

All Vietnam-era veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975 are invited to attend and receive a lapel pin as part of the ceremonies.

The event is free and open to the public. Patrons are asked to check their local commissary and exchange to confirm event location and time of ceremony.

"The commissaries' participation in these ceremonies is pivotal to successfully reaching these Vietnam veterans, and DeCA is honored to partner with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration in this effort," said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DeCA's interim director and CEO. "We join a grateful nation in thanking our Vietnam-era veterans for their service and sacrifice."

This is the fourth year for the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration event which annually honors the service of living Vietnam War veterans on March 29, Vietnam Veterans Day.

Vietnam Veterans Day was first established by presidential proclamation in 2012 leading to the start of annual observance events in 2014. The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 further established the events as a national observance to recognize Vietnam War-era veterans for their service.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Brazelton, a four-time Silver Star recipient and former Vietnam War prisoner of war, reflected on the Vietnam Veteran lapel pin during the July 8, 2015, congressional ceremony.

"I have had a number of medals pinned on me in my day and this is certainly the highest ranking and the most honors I have received for any pinning ceremony," Brazelton said. "Even though it might just be a lapel pin to a lot of people, this is like a medal to the Vietnam veterans."

Approximately 9 million U.S. military members served on active duty during the Vietnam War era. Out of the 2.7 million U.S. service members who served in Vietnam, more than 58,000 were killed and more than 304,000 wounded.

 

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The Survival Benefit Plan - (SBP) and Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Offset- The Situation Now

 

 

By Deirdre Parke Holleman
Executive Director of the Legislative Affairs Office (LAO)
 
Recently I have been repeatedly asked about the present SBP/DIC Offset and how it works.  As we continue to push to get the SBP/DIC offset abolished and we often get small improvements rather than a total abolition; the program gets more difficult to understand. But here goes.

There are 2 types of SBP/DIC beneficiaries. First are widows and widowers of service members who served a full career in the military and paid into SBP as a retirement. The second groups' sponsors died while on active duty and qualify for SBP by statute.

First, we will discuss the retiree. If he or she dies of a full or partial service connected disability or had been 100% service connected disabled for 10 or more years, regardless of what caused his death, the survivor would indeed be entitled to DIC.

There is a dollar per dollar offset of SBP payments for DIC payments. Many people have asked me if it would really be worthwhile to file for DIC if their servicemember spouse dies and they are already receiving or going to receive SBP.  The answer now is almost always yes.

This is because we have been working for years to end the SBP/DIC offset; just as we have worked to end the military retired pay/ VA disability pay offset. We have not yet had the same degree of success but we have made some progress.

The DIC payment became a flat payment regardless of rank in 1993. It is
presently a tax free monthly payment of $1,283.11. Every year it receives a COLA adjustment. If the SBP is 55% of the retired pay the offset will probably completely offset the SBP. Only the very highest ranks in the officers or enlisted ranks would receive more. However, there is the advantage of it being tax free while SBP is taxable.

Then if the DIC completely wipes out the SBP payment a beneficiary would be qualified to have all the monthly SBP payments returned to him or her. That could be a large lump sum. (It would be taxable.)

Additionally, to partially correct the offset, Congress passed a SSIA (Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance) payment bill.  It started in 2008 at only $50 a month and through additional increases and modifications has reached $310 a month. Last year the SSIA was made permanent and a COLA was added.

Next is the servicemember who died in the line of duty - In this case, the survivor is entitled to the present SSIA payment of $310 a month + COLA which is nontaxable. (No return of premiums since they did not make any).
In addition - if there are minor children in the family, they too will qualify for DIC.  Presently a surviving spouse with children under the age of 18 will also receive $317.87 a month per child + a 2 year transition for the parent of $250 a month  The benefit for the child runs out when he/she turns 23. 

If a child is permanently disabled they may continue to be eligible into adulthood. Call our DC office at (703)-684-1981 to go over these detailed requirements.

We are still working to end the SBP/DIC offset completely.  In the House H.R. 846  has 237 co-sponsors while the Senate's S. 339 has 38 co-sponsors. So you can see there is wide bipartisan support. But it is very unlikely that we will get the bills passed this year. If not, we will start again next year. We are not giving up on this issue.

Finally, there are also 2 special programs A&A (Aid and Attendance) which presently pays an additional $317.87 a month and Homebound which pays an additional $148.91 a month which a parent might be eligible for if he/she is suffering from certain disabilities.

To sum this up; even if you are eligible for SBP if your servicemember's death was in the line of duty OR service connected you may qualify for DIC. It's definitely worth filing for.  I would be very happy to discuss this matter with you and answer any questions you might have on the phone or by email.

 

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Shock Headline: ZERO Percent of Schools Follow DOD Tuition Assistance Rules

 

 

Every single college that the Department of Defense Department of Defense (DOD) Voluntary Education program reviewed last year as part of a new Tuition Assistance (TA) review process was found to be in violation of DOD rules.

A Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between DOD and schools that participate in TA prevents marketing materials from including pictures of service members in uniform and requires that tuition information be easy to find.

The vast majority of schools bundled of tuition and fee costs on schools' websites instead of a clearer tuition-only breakdown. There were also some discrepancies between online price listings and what schools submitted to DOD through their billing process.

The review process looks at the areas of marketing and recruiting, financial matters, accreditation and post-graduate opportunities of 250 schools. Schools were measured based on website evaluations, self- and scenario-based assessments, and surveys of students and education service officers.
60 percent were public, 30 percent were private and 10 percent were for-profit, even though for-profit school receive roughly half of all TA dollars from DOD.

Other institutions required prospective students to provide personal contact information before releasing their costs, in violation of DoD rules. If the infractions are not addressed or institutions refuse to comply, they would be barred from enrolling students who use DoD tuition benefits to pay for school.

DOD uses PriceWaterhouse Coopers consulting company for its new compliance program.

Each year, PwC will evaluate 250 schools that enroll active-duty service members, with a goal of reaching every institution within three to five years.
The Chief of DOD's Voluntary Education program has been very transparent with the VSO/MSO community in the past, and we look forward to working with her to make sure that military students are receiving a quality education to further their careers.

 

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