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Washing Update for week of April 16th, 2018


April 18, 2018


 Inside this issue


TREA: The Enlisted Association's Washington Update



TREA: The Enlisted Association's Washington Update



TREA: The Enlisted Association Supports Bill to Help Service Members and their Families with Taxes



Apr 16, 2018 
From Press Release

Bill will create exclusive communication lines at IRS for service members and their families to answer questions about taxes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ahead of Tax Day, U.S. Representatives Tim Walz (MN-01) and Ron Kind (WI-03) introduced the Military Taxpayer Assistance Act (H.R. 5479), which establishes a year-round dedicated toll-free IRS telephone line to answer questions military taxpayers and their families have about their taxes.

"Helping our warriors and their families navigate their uniquely complex tax issues is the least we can do for those who sacrifice so much for our country," said Rep. Tim Walz. "This commonsense bill will help provide our service members and their loved ones the peace of mind they deserve when working to meet their tax obligations."

"The brave men and women that serve in our armed forces often face unnecessary challenges when completing their taxes," said Rep. Ron Kind. "We need to set our military members and their families up for success, and provide every possible resource to them ahead of tax day."

The Retired Enlisted Association also voiced support for the bill:

"Filing taxes is complicated. It becomes even harder once you come down on orders," said Michael Saunders, Deputy Legislative Director for The Retired Enlisted Association. "There are over 30 different types of orders that members of the National Guard and Reserves can receive; each one can have different types of tax implications. Having a dedicated phone number to call where somebody can quickly answer your questions would go a long way towards simplifying a process that some people hate more than going to the dentist. It is long overdue that the IRS become more user-friendly for our men and women of the seven Uniformed Services. 'I don't know' is not an acceptable answer, and neither is antiquated information on the IRS website."

There are about 1.3 million active duty service members and over 800,000 Reserves and National Guard personnel in the United States. Currently, the IRS does not have employees assigned exclusively to assist service members or dedicated telephone lines for military taxpayers to call with questions. Because of the unique tax issues and challenging situations they face, members of the military and their families often need specialized assistance in meeting their tax obligations.

The bill will also create a special unit within the IRS, staffed by veterans, to develop and conduct outreach, create education materials, and provide assistance to current service members, including National Guard and Reservists.

Click here to learn more about the Military Taxpayer Assistance Act.





DoD Once Again Seeks to Make Retirees Pay More



Back in 1811, our young nation made a "Promise" to care for its older and disabled veterans. This would be repayment for their sacrifices in defending liberty.

In 1811, the US Navy urged Congress to pass legislation to create a Home in Philadel­phia "for destitute Navy sailors and Marines".  An interim Naval Hospital opened in the former country mansion of the renowned Pemberton family in Philadelphia. This Hospital offered state-of-the-art care to our former seamen.

The permanent Naval Asylum opened in 1834.  "Inmates" at the Naval Home were expected to work to earn their keep. Many had light duty jobs in machine shops. With permission many would ship off on leave for months at a time.

For 142 years this facility served America's former sailors. In 1976 the Naval Home relocated to Gulfport, MS on about 40 acres of prime waterfront land sitting on the Mississippi Sound. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the AFRH-G building, and the Residents were transferred to the Washington community. Plans for a new building were soon approved with the support of the US Congress. By October 2010 a modern new complex opened to hundreds of residents.

By 1851 momentum had grown to fund a Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C.. General Winfield Scott was a hero in the Mexican-American War. He was paid reparations in lieu of ransacking Mexico City. So, Scott promptly paid off his troops and gave the rest to Congress-petitioning it to open a home for old and infirm soldiers.

The Old Soldiers' Home began with just one "inmate". Before long, more soldiers moved in, and they outgrew that cottage. So a larger "Scott" dormitory was built.

Inmates were expected to work to earn their keep. The Soldiers' Home had a 300-acre dairy farm, so inmates could cultivate food and remain self-sufficient. In the 20th Century, the Home evolved with the times as the focus shifted away from work toward leisure. As the military evolved, the Soldiers' Home would go on to admit airmen-and women. And, the cow pastures became a nine-hole golf course and resident gardens.

Both asylums were self-sufficient in the 1800s. All inmates were expected to work and contribute to the daily operation of farms that supplied all their needs. Uniforms were issued, reveille was called at 0500, and inmates marched to supper. Through the 1900s and after World War II, the two Homes evolved with the times with an emphasis on leisure and recreation. In 1991 both Homes joined forces and became the AFRH.

That would be a nice story to tell, except that like almost all other things related to military personnel now days, and specifically military retirees, it has been decided that military retirees don't pay enough of their retirement costs.

Active duty military enlisted members and warrant officers contributed $6.8 million to the AFRH in 2015 through paycheck deductions of 50 cents per month.  However, that does not cover the cost of operating the homes.

So now many residents at the AFRH ? particularly those with higher incomes? will begin paying higher monthly fees in October as officials look to cover more of their operating costs, shore up AFRH finances and decrease the need for taxpayer dollar bailouts.

According to an email TREA has received from a resident in the Gulf Port home, "For independent residents, on October 1, 2018 it has been announced the fee will increase 50% to 100% !!!  From 40 to 60 % of gross income with a maximum of $3,054 from a maximum of $1,458 (over 100% increase))."

And those increases will not be phased in, they will jump immediately.

Now we want to be clear.  Living at one of the AFRH homes was not promised to every military retiree.  However, the possibility of living there was available to every retiree.

But just like so many other things involving military retirees these days, polititicians and military leaders trip all over themselves to praise veterans and military personnel, exept when it comes to supporting them financially because, well - they're just too expensive.  "They don't pay enough for what they get, whether it's prescription drugs or other medical services, or for using the commissaries, and now, for living in one of the AFRH homes" seems to be the prevailing attitude. 

This is outrageous and TREA is continually fighting to stop these benefit cuts.  We will be looking into what is happening at AFRH and see if there is any way of changing this new policy.






Two Categories of Veterans Not Eligible for New Veterans' ID Card



Two categories of honorably discharged veterans cannot apply for a new, free ID card from the Department of Veterans Affairs because their service branches aren't listed on the application.

Those who served in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) or as commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are considered veterans by law and are entitled to all veteran benefits, including health care through the VA and burial at national cemeteries.

 But the new veteran ID card ordered by Congress in 2015 does not include the USPHS or NOAA on a list of service selections. The electronic card application cannot be submitted unless a service is selected.

While there are five Armed Services, TREA: The Enlisted Association has consistently advocated for the inclusion of all seven of the Uniformed Services (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Public Health Service and NOAA) to receive all of their earned benefits due to their honorable service to this country.

The card is meant to function as proof of service at private businesses and to save veterans the trouble of carrying around DD-214 forms to show they served. About 74,500 veterans had applied for the card as of late last month.





Maryland Man Convicted of Bribing VA Official



On Monday a Maryland man pleaded guilty to bribing an official at the Department of Veterans' Affairs to steer more than $2.2 million from the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) program to a fraudulent information technology school with services for disabled veterans, according to the Washington Post.

Albert S. Poawui, 41, of Laurel, owned Atius Technology Institute, a non-accredited information technology school, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

In 2015, Poawui and a vocational counselor at VA agreed Poawui would pay a 7 percent cash kickback for VA payments to Atius, ostensibly for vocational training for disabled veterans, the statement said.

Between 2015 and 2017, VA paid Atius more than $2.2 million, according to the statement, for inflated invoices that showed veterans attending classes for 32 hours per week when the program offered only six hours weekly.
One VA counselor received more than $155,000 for participating in the kickback scheme, prosecutors said, and another was involved as well. Another employee of Atius also helped Poawui conceal the scheme after VA initiated an audit, according to prosecutors.

In a statement, Curtis Cashour, a VA spokesman, said the agency "does not tolerate this sort of behavior, and any employee found to have engaged in any such activities will be held swiftly accountable."

"The VA employee at the center of these allegations has been fired for reasons unrelated to this investigation," the statement said. "The second employee referenced no longer works for VA. VA has cooperated fully throughout this investigation."

The kickback was made to a program counselor with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program at VA, prosecutors said. As described in the case against Poawui, the program aids disabled veterans with education and employment-related services, and program counselors advise veterans about which schools to attend and facilitate payments for tuition and necessary supplies.

According to the Post, the federal investigation is ongoing.

TREA: The Enlisted Association will keep you updated on any new information.





Legislation to Revamp DFAS Introduced in the House



Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (R-Texas), has introduced legislation to reform the Department of Defense.  One of the proposals aims to speed decision making and enhance agility by reforming 28 quasi-independent agencies within DOD.  Included among those is DFAS - the Defense Finance and Accounting Services.

According to information released by the House Armed Services Committee, DFAS would be "streamlined" but not eliminated like he is proposing to do to serveral other agencies. 

If passed, his legislation would direct that not later than March 1, 2020, the Chief Management Officer and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) would submit to the congressional defense committees a plan to streamline, reduce duplication, and make more effective the operations of the Defense Finance and Accounting Services.

  Then, not later than January 1, 2021, the Chief Management Officer and the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) would implement those plans.

What all of this would mean for military retirees and others is not clear and we will have to wait to see if the legislation is passed, and if it is, then what the DoD officials come out with.  We will be watching closely and report on developments as necessary since so many military personnel, including retirees and their dependents, are affected by the activities of DFAS.




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