- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

You should ensure to also advise writers like Genevieve that Medicare cannot be billed for VA health care; and neither can most Medicare supplements, such as TRICARE for Life.

Exception: The only situation where Medicare can be billed is quite rare. That would be when VA refers the patient to a private non-VA provider. Only then can Medicare be billed for residuals not covered by the VA.

Command Sgt. Major, USAF, Retired

Dear Rich:

Thanks for sharing this additional information for our vets and their families.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge joins the Veterans of Foreign in applauding yesterday’s introduction of S. 470 to lower the Pentagon’s new Distinguished Warfare Medal to below the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the military order of precedence. The Senate bill is a companion to H.R. 833 that was introduced in late February to correct what immediately became an extremely unpopular decision by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

“It is very important to properly recognize all who faithfully serve and excel, but this new medal — no matter how well intended — quickly deteriorated into a morale issue,” said John E. Hamilton, a combat-wounded Marine Corps rifleman in Vietnam who leads the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries.

In announcing the new medal on Feb. 13, the Pentagon said the Distinguished Warfare Medal was created to recognize the extraordinary impact that modern battlefield technology has enabled service members to have on the battlefield, regardless of distance.

Mr. Hamilton said he agrees that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact, and so does Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) when they introduced S. 470.

“Our only disagreement is the medal’s placement,” said Mr. Hamilton, who discussed this issue with President Obama in the Oval Office last week and included it as testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees last Tuesday.

“We are grateful for the president’s interest and the bipartisan congressional support, because now is the time to lower the new medal’s precedence — now before the first one is awarded,” he said. “We know that overruling a predecessor’s decision puts Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel into an uncomfortable position, but it is the absolute right thing to do for the troops. Medals that can only be earned in combat must mean more than new medals awarded in the rear.”

• Congratulations to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), one of three nonprofit organizations to receive a Dole Foundation Innovation Grant for executing significant clearly recognized unmet military family caregiver needs. The grant will provide immediate relief to caregivers by creating an online manual titled “Tips for Lifelong Caregiving.”

“We are honored to receive this grant to produce a manual comprising what we have learned from our work to improve the physical and psychological well-being of wounded, ill and injured warriors, families and caregivers over the last decade,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr. said. “The manual includes useful information collected from six years conducting symposia and roundtable discussions at which MOAA and our partners listened to caregivers.”

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