Our Congress and president are still a little late in putting together and passing a budget for the operation of our country. (If you want to call four years a little late.) We are basically operating on a first-come, first-served mode for the limited amount of money that is available from the General Fund.
In order to give the appearance of fiscal responsibility and a real desire to keep spending under control, cuts in support of various programs are announced in a very somber tone. Of course, the programs that are targeted with cuts are those that either cannot or won’t be cut. Defense and veterans programs are usually on the first line of these cuts, followed by Social Security and health-oriented services. Point being, be aware of the possibilities of certain legislation, but do not panic. Putting these programs on the front line, while quietly passing others of less importance is the smoke and mirrors of politics.
It is simply using leverage to get more items funded. Sometimes a way is found to remain status quo on the big ticket items, or maybe even find a way to make a small increase. Then again, sometimes it is “tails, you lose.”
That being said, there are some items that you might want to get more information on that are either being changed as a money saving move, or maybe given more restrictions of use.
• TRICARE Prime: The bad news is that Oct. 1, 2013, will see the end of eligibility for some retirees, their family members, and for military survivors. Prime coverage will require a residence within 40 miles of a military treatment facility or from a base closure site. It is estimated that 171,400 beneficiaries will lose Prime coverage and will be transferred to TRECARE Standard for their health coverage. Since the new coverage will be under a military fee-for-service plan, there could be a higher cost for those using the program.
• VA Home Loan: The VA has announced new limits on loans made in certain counties. A limit of $417,000 has been the rule of thumb in the past, but this has been raised for 2013 to in excess of $1 million in some cases. If you are considering using a VA loan to either purchase a new home, or refinance your present home, you will need to first have a Certificate of Eligibility. When that is in hand, start looking for a financial institution that will work with you on your loan.
• Veterans benefits: If you do not know what you are entitled to, go directly to the Internet and visit this site - http://www.military.com/veterans-report/benefit-calculator-2013-benefits-in-one-place-011413?ESRC=vr.nl.
Before you know what might be lost, you will need to know what you have. This site will give you a listing of the benefits you are entitled to, based on your military records.
• Eagle Day: If the Treasury Department graces your mailbox with a check each month, and you are not yet aware of the change coming on March 1, 2013, listen up. On this date, all payments must be made to you in one of several options of electronic transfer. No printed checks will be mailed. Your choices are a direct deposit to an account held by a bank, credit union, or to a Debit Master Card account. For this to happen, you will have to call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800-333-1795, or sign up online.
The list goes on, but I am out of space now. One of the easier places to get information regarding changes in benefits or services is the Military.com site. If you still need hands on help, remember it can be found at the Trinka Davis VA Clinic. Fred Daniels in on hand and ready to help. Clinic Front Desk: 404-321-6111, Ext. 2656, 2657
“Rock of the Marne!”
Robinson, a Vietnam veteran and member of American Legion Post 143 in Carrollton, writes a weekly column on veterans issues for the Times-Georgian.