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Jan 22

FRA Newsbytes – January 22, 2016

FRA Newsbytes 01/22/16

FRA Newsbytes 01/22/16

In this issue:
Senators Urge VA Secretary to Help Agent Orange Blue Water Veterans
SVAC Hearing on VHA Modernization
Your Taxes and the Affordable Care Act
CBO Report: Bigger Deficits

Senators Urge VA Secretary to Help Agent Orange Blue Water Veterans
Fourteen U.S. Senators dispatched a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald asking him to use his statutory authority to provide the presumption of service-connected for veterans with Agent Orange-related diseases who served in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict, who have heretofore been unjustly denied. The correspondence proposes that barring the presumption to anyone who did not serve with “boots on the ground” is too restrictive. The letter references Gray v. McDonald, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decision regarding the VA’s exclusion of Da Nang Harbor from the definition of “inland waterways” as arbitrary and capricious. The letter states that court decision was made seven months ago, and yet no new regulation is forthcoming. Further, the letter claims that the existing policy effectively places the burden of proof on Blue Water veterans despite the fact that many of them suffer from the same cancers and illnesses as their fellow service members. Members are urged to submit their own letter to the VA Secretary by using the FRA Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center).

SVAC Hearing on VHA Modernization
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) recently met to discuss priorities in the effort to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA Secretary Bob McDonald appeared before the committee and laid out the department’s transformation strategy for the coming year with emphasis on veteran- and employee-centric priorities. McDonald focused the majority of his testimony on the department’s “MyVA” modernization initiatives. His primary emphases included developing measures to improve veterans’ experiences and access to care, making the Choice program work for veterans, developing a simplified appeals process, and improvements for VA employees related to culture changes with transformation in information, communication and technology programs.

During the two hour hearing, committee members discussed with VA leadership specific priorities and ways in which Congress can partner with VA to work through legislative hurdles to meet the specific goals for 2016.

Your Taxes and the Affordable Care Act
It is tax season, and now the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) requirements must be met. During January 2016, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and the Pay & Personnel Center (PPC) began providing IRS Forms 1095 (C and/or B depending on your status as a military member, military retiree, or annuitant). Like other tax and pay statements, the new forms will be available in your myPay account. For those who did not opt in for electronic delivery and those who fall under the Coast Guard PPC, these forms will be in the mail. The information will be necessary when you prepare to file your 2015 federal income tax return.

  • TRICARE and other federally provided healthcare plans meet the minimum essential coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Military members: In September, the Defense Manpower Data Center DMDC sent a notification letter to members if their SSN or a family members’ SSN needed to be updated in DEERS. It is important to follow the instructions in the letter to ensure information is correctly reported to the IRS.
  • You will receive an IRS Form 1095-B or 1095-C for all healthcare plans in which you are enrolled.
  • The IRS 1095 series forms include information already provided to the Internal Revenue Service. These forms contain information you need to complete your individual federal income tax return.

If you have any questions or haven’t received your 1095 form, please contact your respective points of contact:
Defense Finance and Accounting Service; Toll Free: 1-888-332-7411.
U. S. Coast Guard Pay & Personnel Center; Toll Free: 1-800-772-8724.

CBO Report: Bigger Deficits
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the principle source of independent analysis of spending, taxation, and budgeting for legislators, recently released a spending baseline report indicating that if current laws generally remain unchanged, the federal deficits for FY 2016- FY2026 are expected to increase. CBO estimates that the FY 2016 deficit will be $544 billion, which is $105 billion more than the FY 2015 deficit. The annual deficit has been falling since topping at a staggering $1.4 trillion during the financial crisis in 2009, and was down to $439 billion in fiscal 2015.

A larger deficit makes it more difficult to expand concurrent receipt, repeal the SBP/DIC offset, provide a larger-than-requested active duty pay increase, oppose a TRICARE fee increase and other improvements for which FRA advocates.