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“Based on response to FRA’s recent online survey, those currently serving are gravely concerned that amending retirement benefits will negatively impact recruiting, retention and overall military readiness,” Mr. Gilmartin said.

FRA also called on the lawmakers to honor commitments made to those who served in the past as well as safeguard the interests of those serving today and in the future.

“Military service is unlike any other career or occupation and providing benefits commensurate with the associated level of service and sacrifices is part of the cost of defending this nation,” Mr. Gilmartin said.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with the First Army at Camp Shelby, Miss., to launch a streamlined version of its online application for VA health benefits (VA Form 1010EZ) for service members returning from deployment. VA will introduce it at demobilization sites nationwide by early spring 2012.

“This online application demonstrates VA’s commitment to work with the Department of Defense to make it easier for service members to get the care they earned by their service,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “The new, online system noticeably reduces the paperwork and reduces a 10-day process to three days.”

The application is used to enroll in the VA health care system, which has more than 1,000 sites of care across the country.

Enrollment for VA health care is done as part of a service member’s demobilization. The online form allows the application to be completed during a regularly scheduled briefing for all service members on VA benefits.

Quick enrollment is important for returning troops because recently discharged combat veterans are eligible for five years of cost-free care and medications for conditions potentially related to combat service.

The new application was piloted as part of the demobilization process at Camp Shelby. Based on the results, VA plans to collaborate with DoD to offer this online application at all 61 demobilization sites nationally.

For more information, service members may contact VA at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) or visit VA’s health eligibility website at www.va.gov/healthbenefits.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.