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Compiled by LTC Jim Wallace, USA (ret)
Vice President and Legislative Chairman

November 28, 2014

1. SHELTER FOR VETERANS A GESTURE OF THANKS: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive how the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." Whoever said this was telling the pure truth. Many quotes about many subjects are wrongly attributed to George Washington. It would have been nice if Washington had stated the above but he did not, just like he did not chop down the cherry tree.

But the first President of the United States doesn't have to be the one to utter the words if they ring true to spirit. Military veterans in the United States have never received their just due. Washington had to beg to supply his soldiers during the war. When it was over, little thought was given to helping those who served. It is only recently that the nation has really paid attention to the people who fight for our freedom being short changed. That's why we were pleased to see the grand opening of Valor Grove at the Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It is a 50-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans. The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult, particularly in time of war. Valor Grove will make a big difference for a long time. Now if we could convince our country's current leaders to quit short changing our military, we could be on the right road of showing our sincere appreciation for their service.

2. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL RESIGNS: Within the past six years of President Obama serving as our President, we have had the position of Secretary of Defense change three times. The confusion of these many changes in this position brings disruption in the operation of the Pentagon. The free world depends on our leadership and guidance. Making three changes in this position is not the road to success. Presently President Obama is looking for the fourth Secretary of Defense in six (6) years. He appears to be looking for a more forceful, articulate military leader to navigate the tough but limited wars that are likely to consume much of his final two years of reign of our country. Perhaps he should not be involved with the selection as his track record has been extremely poor in selection of his cabinet members. If you read Dr. Robert Gates book and know of his vast experiences as Secretary of Defense you realize there is mass confusion in the leadership in Washington, D.C. Even Michele Flournoy turned down the position. Oh! thank goodness.

3. 2015 MEDICARE RATES: Medicare officials announced that monthly premiums for Medicare Part B (outpatient care) will remain the same for beneficiaries in 2015. The basic Medicare Part B premium is $104.90 per month. Beneficiaries with 2013 adjusted gross income (plus tax-exempt interest income) over $85,000 or $170,000 if married and filing jointly- will continue to pay higher tested premiums. The means tested rates also will remain flat in 2015. Means tested rates range from $146.90 to $335.70 per person per month. This marks the second year in a row Medicare rates have not increased.

Another announcement noted the Medicare Part A deductible which people pay when admitted to a hospital will increase $44.00 in 2015 to $1,260.00. That deductible covers up to 60 days of Medicare covered inpatient hospital care. Beneficiaries will pay $315.00 per day for days 61 through 90 in 2015 (up from $304.00 in 2014) and $630.00 per day for hospital stays beyond 90 days (up from $608.00 in 2014). The daily coinsurance rate for days 21 through 100 in a skilled nursing facility will rise from $152.00 to $157.50.

4. VA CARE FOR CAMP LEJEUNE ALUMNI: Thousands of veterans with ailments linked to water contamination at Camp Lejeune, N. C. have gained access to VA healthcare thanks to the 2012 Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. Unfortunately most eligible veterans and their families are unaware of their access to care. In addition, many of the details of the law have bitterly disappointed those who believe they've been harmed by exposure to poisons.

5. IMPORTANT SENATE BILLS THAT NEED PASSING: The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) calls on the Senate to consider three key amendments that would protect pay, housing, and health care benefits for our military.

* Senator Marco Rubio's amendment (#3906) to sustain the 1.8 percent active duty raise established in law.

* Senator Mark Begich's amendment (#3714) to block cuts to the Basic Allowance for Housing.

* Senator Kay Hagan's amendment (#3789) to block proposed TRICARE pharmacy copayment increases.

The House rejected all of the reductions in the Defense Authorization Bill, but the Senate Armed Services Committee accepted them. Be sure to tell your Senators to vote for the above amendments. Please join the fight to prevent the Pentagon from balancing the defense budget on the backs of those who serve and have served our country.

6. REMEBER WHEN THE PENTAGON WANTED TO RETIRE THE A-10 WARTHOG: In the last two years the Pentagon has pushed Congress to retire the A-10's. Now they have deployed a squadron to the middle east to help fight the Islamic State. They will provide the needed close air support for ground troops, and though the use of ground troops in combat has been ruled out by the White House, military officials say there is a possibility of some U.S. advisors going into battle alongside Iraq forces. The big push by the Pentagon was to retire the A-10's and transfer their mission to the F-35 newly developed fighters that have had numerous operational costs and still lack the dependability of the old dependable Wart Hogs.

7. FEWER VETERANS ON CAPITOL HILL: The decline of the total number of veterans who served on the Hill will continue when the newly minted 114th Congress takes office on January 2015. In the House, the percentage of members who served in the uniformed services slipped to 18.6 percent, the lowest level since before World War II. Only 81 veterans (80 voting representatives and 1 non- voting delegate) will return to Washington in January. A total of 87 (20 percent) representatives had served in uniform at the start of the 113th Congress. However, the number of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq Freedom veterans serving in Congress continues to to grow with 22 heading to the Hill in 2015.

8. USA4 MILITARY FAMILIES: Since many issues surrounding quality of life and family well being can only be addressed by states, the Department of Defense started the USA4 Military Families initiative, works through the DoD-State Liaison Office (DSLO), to engage state policymakers, not-for-profit associations, concerned business interests, and other state leaders about the needs of military members and their families. By developing state/military partnerships, the DoD seeks to work with states to remove unnecessary barriers and significantly improve the quality of life for military families.

The DSLO has 8 Liaisons across the country working with the many state leaders who are concerned for the welfare of the Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve Service members and their families living within their borders. Alabama is fortunate to have Eric Sherman as the Liaison Officer as our point of contact. He is the Southeast Regional State Liaison Officer for the states of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Our Council and it's Chapters should be working with Eric to improve the needs of our Alabama military and their families.

Eric can be contacted by telephone (571) 309-7589 or by email eric.s.sherman2.civ@mail.mil.

9. Hand Salute goes to two members of the Huntsville Chapter:

LTC Arno Hoerle, USA(ret), Chapter Army Service Representative, was inducted into the Madison County Hall of Heroes for acts of heroism performed during aerial operations in Vietnam.

CAPT. Richard West, USN(ret), Chapter Treasurer, was named the Huntsville County Veteran of the Year for the many hours he dedicated to his MOAA Chapter and Community activities throughout the year 2014.


QUOTE OF THE MONTH: "I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon Earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the Heavens and say there is no GOD. "

President Abraham Lincoln

I want to wish each and every one of you and your families a very MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

LTC Jim Wallace, USA(Ret)
Vice President and Legislative Chairman,
Alabama Council of Chapters of MOAA

Material compiled for this report is subject to copyright 2011 and 2012, Military Officers Association (MOAA), Military.com, RAO, DAV, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, VFW, and The Office of Senator Sessions, all rights are reserved. Except for MOAA affiliated organizations, it may not be used without written permission.