Two months after his first wave of changes, Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Force of the Future initiative aims to make military service more family friendly. Maternity and paternity leave, childcare services, and reproductive medical services are among changing benefits.
• Active duty female members of all services will now have 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Last year, the Navy began authorizing 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, while the Army and Air Force offered only 6 weeks. Carter’s new policy, aimed at providing consistency among the services, will split the difference – increasing 6 weeks for the Air Force and Army, while cutting six weeks from the Navy and Marine Corps programs.
• Increased paternity leave to 14 days of non-continuous leave from the previous 10. Currently, three weeks of adoptive leave is granted to one parent of a dual military couple. DOD is seeking congressional approval to provide two weeks of leave for the other parent.
• Childcare Development Center (CDC) operation hours will be extended to overlap typical work shifts and accommodate military work schedules. Cdcs will be required to provide a minimum of 14 hours of continuous coverage.
• DOD will also expand reproductive services to active duty service members. Egg and sperm cryopreservation will be available through a pilot program within Tricare. These are important steps for many wounded warriors, male and female.
The stress of military service on families is cited as one of the biggest reasons service members leave the military. Secretary Carter’s latest announcement aims to help retain the best and the brightest by instituting uniform, family-friendly policies. (Source: MOAA Leg Up | January 29, 2016)
Discharge upgrade settlement
Almost two years ago, advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense seeking records for how often veterans with “other than honorable” or “bad” discharges applied for discharge upgrades due to their PTSD diagnoses.
Now the DOD will be turning over that information. Last week, the U.S. District Court in Connecticut approved a settlement which requires the Department of Defense to disclose on a quarterly basis the number of applications each military branch receives when a veteran is seeking a discharge upgrade and the outcome of each. This is important because veterans without honorable discharges don’t get service connected benefits like health care and disability compensation.
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress.
The VVA said that thousands of Vietnam veterans were wrongfully discharged because they suffered from PTSD, at a time when the disorder was not medically accepted.
Michael Wishnie is the Director of Yale’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic. In a statement, he said the settlement will allow the public to know whether the DOD is fulfilling its obligations under what’s known as the Hagel memo.
In 2014, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a directive that required military record correction boards to give “liberal consideration” to veterans with PTSD who were seeking discharge upgrades. The settlement will also require the DOD to reach out to veterans who may now be eligible for service connected benefits. (Source: WNPR News | Lucy Nalpathanchil | January 20, 2016)
Tiered Rx system for 2017
Under new rules proposed earlier this month by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), most veterans can expect to see $1 to $4 in savings per prescription for outpatient medications, starting next year.
The new regulations will change the VA’s drug payment schedule for veterans with non-service connected conditions in priority groups 2 through 8, to a three-tiered system, similar to the TRICARE pharmacy program.
Under the current system, these veterans pay a flat fee of $8 to $9 per medication for a 30-day supply, with copayments capped at $960 per year.
Starting in 2017, the VA will implement a three-tier copayment system, capping the annual maximum for copayments at $700:
Tier 1: Preferred Generic Drugs, $5 co-pay for 30-day supply
Tier 2: Non-Preferred Generics and over-the-counter, $8 copay for 30-day supply
Tier 3: Brand Name, $11 for 30-day supply
Because many medications are generics, most veterans should see the new system reduce their out-of-pocket costs. Those with service-connected conditions in priority group one – veterans with disability ratings of 50 percent or more or unemployable – will still be exempt from paying copays under the new rule.
VA wants to encourage veterans to use one pharmacy instead of shopping around at multiple pharmacies to fill medications.
By using one pharmacy at lower drug costs, VA anticipates veterans will be more likely to take the medications they’re prescribed. VA, in turn, will be able to collect better patient data and better manage patient health. (Source: MOAA Leg Up | January 29, 2016)
Thomas Crisp is a retired military officer from Whitmire. His veterans updates can be found weekly in The Newberry Observer.