FRA NewsBytes May 29 2015

Newsbytes 5/29/2015

Newsbytes 5/29/2015

In this issue:
VA Secretary Promises to Eliminate Veteran Homelessness
Coast Guard Coin Bill
TRICARE: Easy Access to Mental Health
President Nominates New CNO

VA Secretary Promises to Eliminate Veteran Homelessness
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald addressed approximately 600 community organizers at the annual National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference, urging them to keep making progress toward the VA’s self-imposed deadline of ending veteran homelessness this year. Secretary McDonald said his department’s goal of cutting the number of homeless veterans to zero by next January is less important than making sure that number doesn’t rise again in years to come. “The important thing is not just to get to zero, but to stay at zero,” he said. “How do we build a system that is so capable that, when a homeless veteran moves from Chicago to Los Angeles in the winter, we have the ability to touch them immediately?”

According to the VA, from 2010 to 2013, the number of homeless veterans fell by more than one-third, to about 50,000 veterans, between 2010 and 2013. VA officials expect that number to shrink even further when the 2014 estimates are released later this summer. VA funding for homeless assistance and prevention programs has increased dramatically, from $2.4 billion in FY 2008 to nearly $7 billion for FY 2016, providing funds that advocates for the homeless say were nearly nonexistent a decade ago. Despite the downward trend, the VA effort to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 is expected to fall short.

In related news, FRA National Executive Director (NED) Tom Snee will testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next week on the topic of veteran homelessness and on specific pending legislation. A copy of the NED’s statement will be available on the FRA website next week.
Coast Guard Coin Bill
Representative Joe Courtney (Conn.) and Senator Christopher Murphy (Conn.) have introduced the “United States Coast Guard Commemorative Coin Act” (HR 1683/S. 985 respectively), which would honor the men and women of the Coast Guard and support the National Coast Guard Museum. Despite its significant role in our national defense, the U.S. Coast Guard is the only uniformed service without a national museum to showcase its 224-year history.

In 2004, a bill was enacted authorizing the National Coast Guard Museum to be located in New London, Connecticut. The museum is scheduled to open in 2017. This bill would honor all those who have served in the Coast Guard by the minting of a special commemorative coin. Proceeds from sales would be used to support the development and operation of the museum via the National Coast Guard Museum Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the facility and to expanding awareness of the important history, service and missions of the Coast Guard.

Members are urged to use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their legislators to support these proposals.
TRICARE: Easy Access to Mental Health
The DHA wants to ensure that  beneficiaries know how easy it is to access to TRICARE’s mental health services. Counseling, psychotherapy and family therapy are covered benefits under TRICARE. The first eight appointments with a TRICARE-authorized provider do not require a Primary Care Manager (PCM) referral; just your military identification card. Prime beneficiaries must see in-network providers, not just TRICARE-authorized providers, or point of service (POS) charges will apply. TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra beneficiaries may see any TRICARE-authorized provider, but will minimize out-of-pocket costs by visiting network providers (under TRICARE Extra). Active duty service members require prior authorization for civilian non-emergency care. For more information about TRICARE mental health services, go to: www.tricare.mil/mentalhealthBeing-Targeted-by-Call-Centers-and-Others.
President Nominates New CNO
President Barack Obama selected Admiral John Richardson, the head of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, as the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recommended the 55-year-old Richardson, and President Obama agreed to nominate him to become the Navy’s top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The CNO position requires Senate confirmation, and there was no immediate word on when Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings for Richardson will begin.