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"Everything that we do and every decision we make has to be focused on the veterans we serve," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said.

"Changing the way we determine eligibility to make the process easier for veterans is part of our promise to our veterans."

Military Times, March 18, 2015

Secretary McDonald is speaking specifically of changes being made to the rules and regs of the VA that will allow any veteran to be eligible for VA health care despite their net worth. As of yesterday, the VA will only consider household income and expenses from the prior year.

But at the same time the VA is removing net worth as a factor in determining eligibility for health care, they are attempting to change rules that will make it more difficult for veterans and their eligible widows to qualify for pensions:

In a surprise move, the Veteran’s Administration is proposing new rules on just who can get monthly pension or widow’s benefits. It’s an attempt to prevent people from gaming the system by giving away assets and then applying for aid. But veterans and their families are crying foul. They say it will cause real harm by making an already cumbersome process more so and will mean more delays in granting benefits. That would put needy veterans at risk of losing one of the most critical benefits out there—one that can help veteran’s stay at home and not go to a nursing home.

Forbes, March 10, 2015

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Are you a Vietnam Veteran? Do you know a Vietnam Veteran? Do you care at all about veteran issues?

Then we need you to help spread the word quickly.

The VA is out to change a small program that currently benefits many, many Vietnam era veterans and their widows:

The VA pension—or widow’s pension–benefit provides money to needy veterans and surviving spouses who require daily assistance for necessary activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. Basically, there is no hard and fast net worth number to be eligible, at least for now. If you get down to $80,000 in assets—not including your house or car—and you have high deductible medical expenses that net out your income, you may qualify. A single veteran’s maximum monthly benefit is $1,788, and a surviving spouse’s is $1,149 (it’s tax-free).

Forbes, March 10 2015

Eventually, this program should also help veterans from both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But if the VA has anything to do with it, the process of applying will be onerous. According to Eileen Walsh, a lawyer who specializes in elder law, "the VA is rigging the system to disqualify those in need, or force them to bleed through whatever incomes or savings they have to retain the benefit."
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Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 01:27 PM PST

Dear Keep Your Promise Followers

by angelajean

Dear Keep Your Promise Followers,

Yes, I'm writing an open letter to the followers of Keep Your Promise, a politically mixed, loose alliance of folks who work to shine a light on cuts to military benefits. And I'm specifically writing this to those who believe so strongly in conservative values that they can't be bothered to engage with the likes of me.

For example, here is follower Bob F.:

The crap has gotten to real in the US for me to tolerate any BS from the left. As far as I'm concerned, you support Obama or vote Democrat, you are as much an enemy to my liberty and my children's future as any terrorist. If that pisses anyone who reads this off....Good.
Or Dayton H.:
We have to choose sides because one side is RIGHT and the other side is WRONG! And it is clear what is right and what is wrong, it's all about morality, and liberals are the most vile, immoral minded people I know, and can justify the most vile and loathsome acts, policies, behaviors etc. one can imagine.
I have a message for folks like Bob and Dayton.
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Four retired senior officers have written an opinion piece claiming that military retirement benefits are too generous. Of course, they weren't writing about their own benefit package, but about the earned benefit of thousands of Senior Enlisted and Field Grade officers that can leave service after 20 years with a pension in hand. That very pension is meant to help our Armed Services retain quality folks but those same people gamble while doing so. At any point in their career, they could fail to promote and kiss 100% of that pension goodbye. Or the military could chose to hand them a pink slip after more than a decade of service but before the magic number 20.

And why aren't these retired generals and admirals talking about their own pension plans?

Because their pensions were beefed up during the Bush/Cheney years. Beefed up so much, in fact, that today's retiring generals and admirals earn more in pension per year than they earned while serving active duty.

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Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 07:49 AM PST

It's Our Fault, Chuck Hagel!

by angelajean

#KeepYourPromise
Those of us working on keeping benefits intact for military families are wondering if our recent meme may have forced Chuck Hagel to resign. After all, it addresses some of the major issues that the New York Times suggests were problematic- like ISIS and Ebola.

What doesn't get talked about in the NY Times article is Chuck Hagel's role in cutting benefits to military families. The Senate Armed Services committee left for Thanksgiving Break without finishing up the defense budget for 2015 because, rumor has it, they can't decide what do about certain cuts to earned benefits for the military community, cuts backed by the Secretary of Defense.

The cuts currently on the table with the fixes proposed by certain Senators:

  • Cuts to the Cost of Living Raise. It should be 1.8% for this year and the President and the Department of Defense want to cut that by .8%. That would not only hurt military families for the upcoming year but for those working towards retirement, it would affect their future retirement as well since that earned benefit is determined by active duty salary.

    The Fix - Sen. Marco Rubio's amendment (#3906) to sustain the 1.8 percent active duty pay raise established in law.

  • Cuts to the Basic Allowance for Housing of 5%. For your average enlisted family, housing is 30% of their salary and even a small cut makes a huge dent in the family check. For more on this issue, read a piece from last year when this cut was first proposed. -

    The Fix - Sen. Mark Begich's amendment (#3714) to block cuts to the Basic Allowance for Housing.

  • Raise the Pharmacy co-pay to TRICARE. TRICARE is the health insurance for all military families. Although many families receive "free" health insurance (it is another earned benefit for service to the country), there are fees that can and do apply to all families. Those who do not receive their medications through a military facility pay a co-pay to get them from civilian pharmacies. This raise in co-pay is yet another way to place a higher burden on military families rather than on the Department of Defense.

    The Fix - Sen. Kay Hagan's amendment (#3789) to block proposed TRICARE pharmacy copay increases.

We hope that any new incoming Secretary of Defense stands with military families and reminds the Department of Defense that there are several places to cut the budget without making military families pay more out of their pockets for the defense of our nation. Maybe Congress could actually turn to American Corporations and ask them to help pay for two wars. After all, that might work better than asking the American People to go shopping.

If you would like to contact your Senators about the proposed amendments, the Military Officer Association of America offers this easy to use editable message - http://capwiz.com/...

If you would like to join the conversation at KeepYourPromise, we welcome all political views on our Facebook page. It can make for some interesting political exchanges in the comments!

Discuss

Last week, the Associated Press released an article with an inflammatory title - Report says 60,000 veterans get triple benefits and then proceeded to lead with the triple dipping frame of reference.

You might get the idea that the Associated Press wants us to think that at least 4% of veterans are moochers.

The average payment was about $59,000, but about 2,300 veterans, or 4 percent of the total, received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, the Government Accountability Office said.

The highest payment was to a veteran who received $208,757 in combined payments in 2013.

Legal moochers, but moochers nonetheless, at least to folks like Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who requested the study in the first place.

Statistics thrown out in this way are dangerous because they give you just enough information to form an opinion but not enough for an informed opinion. This is journalism at its worst because it allows for the manipulation of the reading public.

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These are words that came from President Obama today while speaking about the differences between our military and civilians returning from countries experiencing outbreaks of Ebola:

"We don't want to do things that are not based on science or best practices... "
Except for our military.  At least, that's what I understood President Obama to have said today on the lawn of the White House:

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Looking towards the lodge at Chirije.
The Lodge just at the base of the green mountains.
Tucked away on the Ecuadorian Coast, just south of Bahía de Caráquez, is a small spot of land with a lodge and cabins, trails into the surrounding forest, and miles and miles of empty beach. The place is simply called Chirije, named after the ancient culture that used to live in this gorgeous location. In fact, an existing excavation is today a museum with multiple examples of treasures found on site.

That was part of the reason we wanted to visit, so that we could explore the archeaological ruins. If you'd like to see pictures of the stone and pottery discoveries, please visit my blog at NotYourAverageAmerican.com. Currently, you can read about Chirije, The Lodge and later next week there will be two other pieces published, Chirije, The Trails and Chirije, The Beach.

Examples of some of the finds at the Chirije archeaological site. More at NotYourAverageAmerican.com
Examples of some of the finds at the Chirije archeaological site.
I know you came today for the birds! I took the following photos over 4 days in which we had weather ranging from bright and sunny to overcast and gray to outright rain. The pictures are not all great but even the poor ones show birds that I might not ever get to see again so I thought they were worth including. I hope you enjoy them!
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Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 06:56 AM PDT

Bankruptcy for Military Housing?

by angelajean

Yesterday, I introduced the community to cuts being made to the military Basic Allowance for Housing - a cut that will harm enlisted families far more than the officers who are recommending the changes.
BAH for junior enlisted troops can amount to 30 percent to 50 percent of total monthly pay, compared to officers whose housing allowance may make up about 15 percent to 30 percent of their pay.

http://www.navytimes.com/...

But the problem could be considerably worse for those living on military bases. Companies that have been contracted to manage base housing may have problems meeting their debt payments. You know what that means - potential bankruptcy.

Do we have a mini-housing crisis brewing on federal property?

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photo: Wikipedia Commons ; text added by angelajean
When many progressives hear that sequestration is forcing cuts to the defense budget, we cheer. After all, who doesn't want to see the Department of Defense better manage their money and do away with wasteful spending? It's a worthy goal of a department that has yet to finish a true audit of all it spends.

But one thing is becoming increasingly clear. In President Obama's proposed 2015 budget, expenditures at the Department of Defense actually increase while overall compensation to service members will decrease, even while the "Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative" attempts to relieve some of the harmful effects of sequestration.

In this piece, I want to address only a single cut to military families, the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), though four harmful cuts have been proposed. For those of you unfamiliar with military jargon, I promise to explain this in a readable and approachable way! And the truth is, we need civilian eyes on this... without your help, it will be very hard for such a small community to convince Congress on our own. If you truly support our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines (and their families), irregardless of your stance on the wars, then we need your voice more than ever.

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Today's front page of the Marine Corps Times
Last week during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corp Michael Barrett responded to Senators who were asking what the impact of lower pay raises, increased health care fees, lower housing allowances, and increased prices at the commissary would do to our men and women in uniform. He said:
I truly believe it will raise discipline. You’ll have better spending habits. You won’t be so wasteful.”
Honestly, I would have expected words like this to come from Stephen Colbert, not from the top NCO of the Marines. In fact, all the other service chiefs gave testimony to the exact opposite. It seems as if the Sergeant Major decided to go out on a limb all his own.

In fact, Barrett is playing with political fire but I'm not sure even he knew how dangerous this game can be.

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Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 07:16 AM PDT

Our Overpaid Troops - Part II

by angelajean

Welcome to Part II of Our Overpaid Troops. Part I was published on Monday and addressed an issue recently raised in a diary well recommended by many Kossacks, that those who join the military do so in order to kill. As the wife of an Air Force Officer, I have strong disagreements with those that believe our military is solely a killing machine and that those who join are perpetuating a culture of war. You can read my thoughts on that topic here.

Two other diaries have recently made the Community Spotlight and claim that our military service members are overpaid. The writer purports to be an Active Duty Lieutenant Colonel who personally believes he makes too much money. My gut reaction wasn't very nice - that he is underworked, not overpaid. There are officers who manage to do very little and still find ways to get promoted. They rarely make it to Field Grade rank but as with any career field, we find exceptions.

My immediate reaction is somewhat unfair. I truly don't know the man nor do I know the officer. I have no idea if he supports a family or if his spouse, if he has one, has managed to maintain some semblance of a career as they have moved around. I don't even know if he's moved that often, if he's spent time away from family, if he's deployed to war. I don't know if he's in the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines. There is so much that I don't know that arguing with him is almost fruitless. If he thinks he makes too much, he obviously does. But I have a problem when he takes his personal experience and applies it to families like my own.

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