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Tom Philpott

After service in the Coast Guard, and 17 years as a reporter and editor, Tom launched "Military Update," his syndicated weekly news column that features timely news and analysis on issues affecting active duty members, reservists, retirees and their families, in 1994.


Emmett, Brooke, Emma Lynn and Cpl. Preston Fouch play with toys in Emmett's sensory room May 8, 2014. Emmett was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in July 2013. TRICARE is currently evaluating treatment therapy options for children with autism.  <br>MaryAnn Hill/U.S. Marine Corps

Tricare seeking right mix of therapies for kids with autism

Nearly 15,000 military children with autism receive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services, usually 20 or more hours of therapy per week, to learn desired behaviors and douse undesirable behaviors under a demonstration program offered through Tricare, the military’s health insurance benefit.


Military Update

Student vets win too as court unchains Obama loan protection

U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss dismissed legal arguments from an association of for-profit colleges, which succeeded for more than a year to block Obama administration rules to bring financial relief to defrauded student borrowers and to strengthen federal protections against deceptive school practices.


MILITARY UPDATE

Wilkie jilts Walz on Mar-a-Lago probe, cites pending lawsuit

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has refused to provide Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, with copies of emails and other internal communications between Department of Veterans Affairs officials and three members of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club who allegedly influenced VA policies and executive hiring and firing decisions for at least a year.


MILITARY UPDATE COLUMN

Isakson vows 'Blue Water' relief; Trump inflates Choice reform

Veterans have reason to be uncertain over what Congress and the Trump administration plan both for “Blue Water Navy” Vietnam War veterans who have Agent Orange-related ailments, and for veterans seeking smoother access to more convenient and timely health care from private-sector physicians and hospitals.


MILITARY UPDATE

Tricare recoups $280M so far from compound drug scams

What bad actors in the pharmacy industry did over the last decade or so was produce compound drugs of unproven effectiveness; conspire with unscrupulous health care providers to write prescriptions for them, and create marketing networks to target health insurance plans with relaxed rules on compound drugs.


Military Update

‘Blue Water Navy’ supporters target VA secretary’s hardline

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, met with Robert Wilkie to try to coax the new VA secretary out of his department’s newly stiffened opposition to a House-passed bill that would extend VA health care and compensation to tens of thousands of former sailors and Marines with Agent Orange-associated ailments. “We haven’t convinced him yet,” Brown said.


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  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Congress, Pentagon step toward allowing far more shoppers on base

    Defense Department officials have told Congress they conditionally support opening on-base shopping to disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients and caregivers of severely injured veterans — changes to current law that would add at least a few hundred thousand weekly shoppers to commissaries and exchanges nationwide.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Vet realtor pulls alarm on plan to fund ‘blue water’ Navy bill

    The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s plan to pay for a bill to extend Agent Orange disability benefits to 90,000 “blue water” Navy veterans of the Vietnam War will not continue to shield all disabled veterans from a funding fee.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Lump-sum ‘take rates’ projected for new blended retirement

    In a recent report, government actuaries assume that 5.2 percent of retiring officers and 22.8 percent of retiring enlisted will be enticed enough by cash to accept deep cuts in retired pay. Here's what that could mean.


  • Military update

    Did Senate panel go too far on officer management reforms?

    Personnel chiefs jointly testified in January on the need to make targeted reforms to the 1980 Defense Officer Personnel Management Act to provide greater flexibility to recruit and retain the officers they need. Reforms unveiled Wednesday might be viewed by service leaders as having gone beyond what’s needed to modernize officer management.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    DECA chief hears you: Commissary shelves will be better stocked

    The biggest problem with commissaries, and perhaps a major reason why sales are falling, “is product availability,” wrote Vicky Olhson, wife of a retired Air Force officer who shops on Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. “There seems to be a total lack of concern on the part of the commissary management to keep shelves stocked.”


  • Military Update

    DOD looking to advance plan to merge commissary and exchange systems

    Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan has directed that a task force be formed by July 1 to develop a business case for consolidating the military’s three separate exchange services, and the Defense Commissary Agency, into a single resale enterprise to oversee and streamline all on-base store operations.


  • Military Update

    Symptom of a rough electronic records system rollout: Slow Rx fills on base

    Tricare users filling prescriptions at test sites for MHS Genesis are likely the patient group most frustrated by the new electronic health record system.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Ailing 'blue water' veterans of Vietnam are closer to gaining VA benefits

    The former naval warriors of the Vietnam War called “Blue Water Navy Veterans” have been pressuring Congress for decades to have their illnesses recognized as being caused, as likely as not, by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed on forests and jungle areas during that long war.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Report says military's Survivor Benefit Plan 'compares well,' irking widows still hit by offset

    The 175-page “An Assessment of the Military Survivor Benefit Plan” was ordered by Congress and concludes that SBP is “well-structured to provide survivor benefits” and the benefits “compare well with those of public and private plans.”


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Many medically discharged veterans are missing out on rating upgrade

    Congress ordered that the Physical Disability Board of Review be established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of servicemembers medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Exchanges resist plan to merge with faltering commissaries

    Defense Department officials want Congress to include in its fiscal 2019 defense policy bill new authorities to execute its plan to merge the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) with the three military exchange services under a single system of on-base stores to be called the Defense Resale Enterprise.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Vet lawyers got desired ‘undiagnosed pain’ case to win on appeal

    An April 3 ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie, if it stands, could benefit thousands of veterans who have had Department of Veterans Affairs compensation claims for pain denied for lack of a medical diagnosis.


  • Military Update

    Despite start-up challenges, MHS Genesis gains in user support

    Navy Lt. Lauren Alderson, a family medicine physician at Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor, Wash., much prefers the Defense Department’s new electronic health record system MHS Genesis, even in its testing stage, over the legacy AHLTA system it has replaced, so far, at four military medical facilities in Washington state.


  • Military Update

    Scandal-wounded Shulkin cites fight over privatization as factor in ouster

    In a New York Times commentary Thursday, David Shulkin said VA became “entangled in a brutal power struggle, with some political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Expand Agent Orange-related health care? Shulkin says he would if he could

    VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors like cost, medical science and politics still stand in the way.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    New DOD task force eyed for merging exchange services, commissaries

    The three military exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) would be merged into a single resale enterprise under a proposal backed by John H. Gibson II, the Defense Department’s new chief management officer, who has been tasked to make DOD business operations more efficient.


  • Military Update

    VA health data transfer to new electronic records system to be easier than DOD’s

    Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he was assured by VA Secretary David Shulkin that VA medical data won’t face the same transfer challenges as military patient data stored on AHLTA.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Retention rules tighten on members not medically fit to deploy

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is concerned enough about strengthening the lethality of U.S. forces that he broke with tradition last month to impose a first-ever “universal retention policy” across the four service branches.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    VA, Roe tie caregiver benefit expansion to tightened eligibility

    In drafting legislation that would expand comprehensive caregiver benefits to severely injured veterans of all past wars, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, directed staff this month to start with the proposal announced by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin at a Feb. 6 committee hearing.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Monitoring commissary patrons’ savings in an era of reforms

    Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.


  • Military Update

    Falling commissary sales are raising risks to shopping benefit

    Sales at on-base grocery stores have fallen 6 percent in the past year, 21.3 percent since 2012, leaving commissaries open to criticism that they’re losing relevancy as a military perk, or becoming too costly for taxpayers to support.


  • Military Update

    DOD official: ‘Myths’ distort military’s image with pool of future recruits

    Unsettling myths about the military are rising among recruit-age youth and “influencers” — parents, teachers, clergy and coaches — in part because increasingly they have no personal or family ties to the armed forces, said Lernes “Bear” Hebert, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.


  • Military Update

    Pharmacy fee hikes Feb. 1 will drive more prescription business onto base

    Tricare beneficiaries will see increases in co-payments for prescription drugs filled by mail order or at neighborhood retail outlets starting Feb. 1. The prospect of higher out-of-pocket costs at these venues is expected to drive more beneficiaries to use on-base pharmacies where prescription drugs will continue to be dispensed free of charge.


  • Military Update

    Hill, agencies target home loan ‘churning’ aimed at veterans

    A dozen senators believe it is time for Congress to act. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., this month introduced their Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending bill alongside 10 co-sponsors, an even split of Republicans and Democrats.


  • Military Update

    VA to begin paying up to 800,000 non-VA emergency claims

    The Department of Veterans Affairs published a revised rule Tuesday that allows payment of hundreds of thousands of pending claims for private-sector emergency care that veterans’ other health insurance covered in part but not in full.


  • Military Update

    ‘Chained CPI’ shaves tax breaks. Will your retired pay be next?

    This first-ever use of Chained Consumer Price Index is viewed by guardians of Social Security, federal retirement plans, veterans’ compensation and survivor benefits as a worrisome development. If the same method for measuring inflation is adopted widely, they contend, it would cut the lifetime value of most federal benefit plans.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Opting in sooner for new military retirement plan can add value to TSP

    This week 900,000 active-duty servicemembers and 700,000 drilling Reserve and Guard members become eligible to opt out of a rigid yet more valuable High-3 military retirement plan into the new portable Blended Retirement System with government matching of thrift savings contributions and early vesting.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Stung by 'raw politics,' Roe assesses VA Choice, caregiver plans

    Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he was surprised and disappointed when all nine Democrats at the the VA Care in the Community Act's mark-up hearing opposed the legislation they helped to shape and for which they were original co-sponsors.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Military stateside housing allowances to rise only 0.7 percent

    Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) paid to 956,000 servicemembers living off base in the United States will climb modestly Jan. 1, an average of only 0.7 percent or $10 a month, as an allowance-dampening formula enters its fourth year.


  • GAO: VA health leaders failed to protect patients from inept doctors

    At a House hearing Wednesday, VA officials acknowledged years of lax oversight by VA medical center directors, regional supervisors and top leaders. But Dr. Gerard R. Cox told lawmakers the VA accepts the GAO’s findings and recommendations and vowed that reforms are underway.and Stripes


  • Military Update

    In halting transgender ban, judges find Trump overstepped

    Both court rulings shared stinging rebukes of the way President Trump tried to impose the ban, and sharp critiques of arguments by Department of Justice attorneys defending Trump’s actions. Two more court decisions over blocking the ban are pending in other circuit courts.

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