Communications 3 from the fantail 4

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Arlington National Cemetery

Your opening paragraph stated that “the U.S. Government purchased a property ... that would later become Arlington...” This is in error. In 1864 the federal government used land seized in 1862 that belonged to the ancestors of George Washington. They commenced burial of Union soldiers there upon orders given from the president to the secretary of war to find somewhere as they were running out of room in existing cemeteries for their war dead. The federal government did not “purchase” the land until the 1880’s from the son of Robert E. Lee.

Ray Boughner TMCS (SW/AW) USN (Ret.)
FRAtoday: Thank you for the clarification Shipmate Boughner. I think we have all seen in recent news, how American history seems to have many layers, turns and twists, specifically regarding our Civil War era.
Not as Interesting As It Was

I just received my August 2017 FRAtoday, and quite frankly I am disappointed, it just does not seem as informative as it usually does. In other words, it is dull reading, but it is hard for me to point out the reason. Something that is easy to point out is, when you leave the Rates out of a story or column, it is hard to recognize someone you had duty with long ago, i.e. Life Members on page 26. I don't know, maybe it is me, but the magazine does not seem as interesting as it has in the past.
Harvey C. Swinford SKC USN (Ret.)
FRAtoday: Thank you for your frank and honest feedback Shipmate Swinford. Please send me ideas, suggestions or topics to cover. I would welcome the input.

10 Things to Know Before Reintegrating

Your article in August’s issue was well constructed but missed a key piece of information. The Navy Reserve Force, or other reserve service branches, should also be considered by service members leaving active duty before reaching retirement age. Sailors could benefit from affiliation with the Reserves in so many ways: monthly drill pay, retaining rate and paygrade, certifications, possible cross-rating to a new career field, life insurance, retirement pay and medical benefits at retirement. Reasons for leaving active duty service are varied and it may be difficult to wrap yourself around the idea of continued service in the Reserves, but don’t be afraid to find out what you could be missing!

Stay Navy!

Carol Kline YNC (AW) Navy Reserve (Ret.)

Jacksonville, FL Branch 290
Online Exchange Shopping

Article on Page 11 gives information regarding “Online Military Exchange Shopping.” I tried registering on their site without success. Even though I’m retired Navy with 23 years of service, the pop-up reply from the site indicated I was NOT a veteran. Hope others have better luck, but wish someone would check it out.
Thanks, and still serving in LPS,

John Partin, PRPNC
FRAtoday: Thank you Shipmate and PRPNC Partin. You are not the only person who has had difficulty with the website. It is a new system and they are working to fix the issues. Please keep trying.
Submit Shipmate Forum letters to FRAtoday, 125 N. West St. Alexandria, VA 22314. Submissions may be sent to Please include “Shipmate Forum” in the subject line. FRA reserves the right to select and edit letters for publication. Letters published in Shipmate Forum reflect the opinions and views of individual FRA members. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of FRA as a whole. FRA is not responsible for the accuracy of letter content.

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Defense Needs to Be Excluded from Sequestration
As this issue of FRAtoday goes to press, Congress has not yet addressed problems created by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (Sequestration). Congress needs to exclude Defense spending from the BCA. Excluding Defense from sequestration is no simple feat, especially given the partisan divide in Congress. This problem requires a bi-partisan approach. Congress should remember our military is currently supporting a 15-year war against terrorism. They should exclude Defense from mindless, arbitrary sequestration cuts. The Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy all testified before House Armed Services Committee, subcommittees earlier this year. They each explained the impact budget cuts and budget uncertainties have had on modernization and being forced to choose between readiness and future modernization efforts. Sequestration creates shortfalls in maintenance and other key areas. It also constrains the ability to meet current and future threats, which result in increased risk for service members and our nation. It is important to note these automatic cuts, require 50 percent of the budget cuts come from the Defense budget, even though Defense only makes up 16 percent of the total U.S. budget.
President Trump’s FY2018 budget request exceeds the arbitrary sequestration spending caps. The two previous fiscal years Congress loosened spending restrictions, but there is no such agreement for FY2018. Both the House and Senate versions of the FY2018 Defense authorization bills (NDAA) also violate the spending caps of the BCA, which sets strict caps on both defense and non-defense spending. In the past, Congress managed to make short-term compromises, lifting the caps for a couple of years at a time. No such agreement applies to FY2018 NDAA. Shipmates are strongly urged to use the Action Center online at: and ask your legislators to exclude Defense from sequestration.
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GI Bill Reform Enacted
The House and Senate passed major reform of the Post 9/11 GI Bill program (H.R.3218) and it was later signed into law by President Trump. The major provisions in this newly enacted law include:
• Eliminating the 15-year time limit for using education benefits,

• Abolishing exemption for GI Bill credit for Reserve Component members who are called to active duty under specified circumstances,

• Providing beneficiaries who attend schools that close or lose accreditation to receive back their entitlement for the semester they were enrolled and

• Awarding benefits to Purple Heart recipients who did not have the 36 months of active duty requirement.

FRA supported the enactment of the Post 9/11 GI bill in 2008 and welcomes the improvements contained in this bill. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a tremendous benefit for service members who qualify for the program and has significantly improved the morale of those currently serving.
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Temporary Funding for VA Choice Program Becomes Law
The Senate passed legislation (S.114) that would temporarily fix the funding shortfall of the VA Choice program that was later signed into law by President Trump. The $2.1 billion provided will allow the program to continue for six months as Congress works on other reforms for the program. The funding would also authorize 28 major medical facility leases and enhance the recruitment, retention and training of the VA workforce.
In FRA’s recent survey (January/February 2017) nearly 81 percent of veterans see quality of VA health care benefits as “very important” (the highest rating). The VA and specifically the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) have been embroiled in controversy for the past three years. Since the “Phoenix Waiting List” scandal was uncovered by Congress, a robust debate has ensued on how to reform the VHA to ensure it can provide timely, comprehensive and veteran-centric health care to veterans in need. At a recent House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) hearing, VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin claimed the VA community care appointments have increased by 61 percent overall since Choice was created. Secretary Shulkin also indicated that last year, 30 percent of all VA appointments were held in the community, rather than in VA medical facilities.
The Association believes that while the “Choice” program has merit and it will require significant oversight to ensure it is effective. Now that the funding short fall has been fixed, Congress should work to provide a transformational change of VA health care by creating an integrated network of VA and community health care providers, with the VA serving as the coordinator and primary care provider. The networks could make decisions about access to community care based on clinical determinations and veterans preferences, rather than subjective time and distance, which is the current practice in the Choice program.
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Public Survey on the Future of Arlington Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is conducting a public survey to measure the public attitude toward restricting eligibility for burial at the cemetery and/or expanding the grounds of the cemetery. ANC has approximately twenty-five years at the current burial rate before it runs out of space and will no longer be an active cemetery that honors our Nation’s veterans. In order to significantly extend ANC’s capacity, changes to either eligibility criteria and/or expansion of the geographic footprint are required.
ANC is managed by the Department of the Army and does not fall under any of the rules and regulations of veteran’s cemeteries that are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. ANC is a living monument to those who have served. It should remain an active place for reflection and a testament to future generations about how we remember and honor those who served.
Please consider taking this 5-10 minute survey at:
Scroll down to: “National Dialogue Survey.”
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Changes to TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery Program
Express Script Inc. (ESI) announced that effective September 1, 2017, it will need annual consent from patients who want to receive automatic refills of maintenance medications through the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery program. When the last refill of a medication enrolled in the Automatic Refill program ships, ESI will reach out to the beneficiary by telephone and/or email (depending on indicated preference) for consent.

For more information on this program please contact Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303 or visit their website:

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TRICARE Expanding Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment
TRICARE recently announced it is expanding mental health and substance use disorders. They will be adding intensive outpatient coverage and expanding options for opioid treatment. In addition to other improvements, this expansion improves access to care and increases opportunities for mental health and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment. The expanded services will make it easier for beneficiaries to access the right level of care for their health and wellness needs.
TRICARE reduced limitations for receiving mental health and SUD services. There are no limits for the number of times beneficiaries can get SUD treatment, smoking cessation counseling and outpatient treatments per week. In addition, TRICARE removed the requirement for authorization after the eighth outpatient mental health or SUD visit. Since October 2016, non-active duty dependent beneficiaries, retirees, family members and survivors began paying lower copayments and cost-shares for mental health and SUD care. One example is the cost per each mental health and SUD outpatient office-based visit. It was reduced from $25 to $12. For more information on the updated services and expanding treatment options for mental health and SUD, go to:

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Changes are Coming to TRICARE
The following changes will be made to TRICARE benefits, beginning January 1, 2018. They include, but are not limited to, reducing TRICARE regions from three down to two. The creation of a new program called TRICARE Select and the enrollment in the TRICARE program.
Region Consolidation: Currently there are three TRICARE regions in the U.S. They are TRICARE North, South and West. The TRICARE North and South regions will combine and form TRICARE East. TRICARE West will remain mostly unchanged. Two new contractors, Humana Military and Health Net Federal Services, will administer these regions. The Defense Health Agency (DHA) believes the change will allow better coordination between the military hospitals, clinics and civilian health care providers overall.
TRICARE Select: This new program will replace TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra, both stateside and overseas. Stateside, TRICARE Select will be a self-managed, preferred provider network option. Beneficiaries will not be required to have a primary care manager (PCM) so you may visit any TRICARE-authorized provider. An authorized provider is any individual, institution, organization or supplier licensed by a state, accredited by national organization or meets the standards of the medical community and is certified to provide TRICARE benefits. There are two types of authorized providers of services covered by TRICARE without a referral, Network and Non-Network.
TRICARE Overseas Select will be a preferred provider organization-style plan that provides access to both network and non-network authorized TRICARE providers for medically necessary coverage. To be medically necessary means it is appropriate, reasonable and adequate for the condition. TRICARE Select adopts a number of improvements, including additional preventive care services previously only offered to TRICARE Prime beneficiaries.
TRICARE Prime: This is a managed care program option that has an assigned PCM that provides most of your care. When you need specialty care, your PCM will refer you to a specialist. Active duty service members and their family members do not pay anything when referred by their PCM to a network provider. All others pay annual enrollment fees and network copayments.
Enrollment: All current TRICARE beneficiaries will automatically be enrolled into plans on January 1, 2018, as long as they are eligible. TRICARE Prime enrollees will remain in TRICARE Prime. TRICARE Standard and Extra beneficiaries will be enrolled into TRICARE Select. During 2018, you can choose to enroll into or change your TRICARE plan. Enrollment will move to a calendar year open enrollment period beginning in the fall of 2018. Active enrollment will be required in order to receive coverage for the following year. The open enrollment period will begin on Monday of the second full week in November and run through Monday of the second full week in December of each calendar year.
Go to: and sign up for e-mail alerts. In the coming months, more information will be available.

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