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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.


<br>DOD

Task force backs a merger of the military's stores

Under a proposal suggested by a Department of Defense-sponsored task force, the military’s three separate exchange services should be consolidated under a single resale enterprise, estimated to save between $700 million to $1.3 billion over the first five years.


MILITARY UPDATE

VA misleads vets on non-VA emergency care, lawsuit contends

Veterans who flooded the Department of Veterans Affairs with reimbursement claims for private-sector emergency care, in the wake of their appeals court victory in the Staab case, have been getting misinformation from VA that likely discourages them from appealing wrongly denied claims.


Military Update

Final opt-in rates for blended retirement yield more surprises

Opt-in rate comparisons across service branches show the singular effectiveness of the Marine Corps’ approach to deepening member interest in the BRS, given that it relies more on youth and vigor, and therefore fewer careerists.


MILITARY UPDATE

More than 17,000 uniformed medical jobs eyed for elimination

Spread across a combined medical force of 130,000, both active-duty and reserve, the planned cuts would lower uniformed medical strength by roughly 13 percent, a drop steep enough to alarm some health care leaders as well as advocates for military health care beneficiaries.


Military Update

‘Blended’ military retirement plan not as popular as projected

After passage of the new Blended Retirement System in 2016, officials used computer models to help make predictions critical to planning future military retirement cost obligations. Turns out those projections were far too high.


MILITARY UPDATE

New armed services committee chair puts White House on notice

“Constant misinformation from the president is a real problem in a democratic society, and we in Congress have got to do our best to hold him accountable,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who will assume chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee in January.


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  • 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.


  • Military Update

    DAV report: Health care gaps narrowing but remain for female veterans

    The VA has made many reforms in response to long neglected medical needs of a rising population of female veterans, according to a new report. But more improvements are needed, as women are carving out larger, more prominent places in the military and veteran spaces.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Retirees to gain access to wider menu of dental plans

    Sometime in October military retirees can begin to review online the various features and monthly premiums of dental plan options for replacing their Tricare Retiree Dental Program (TRDP), which is set to expire after Dec. 31.


  • Military Update

    VA cites slow-rolled Agent Orange report to oppose spina bifida bill

    In March 2016, Veterans Affairs received the latest in a series of scientific literature reviews from the National Academy of Medicine on Agent Orange-associated ailments. VA officials promised to review the results and that then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would act on the Academy report’s findings by July 2016.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Mulvaney is urged not to weaken military consumer protections

    Almost 30 military associations and veterans groups on Thursday sent a joint letter to Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging that he not weaken CFPB enforcement of the 2006 Military Lending Act to leave military consumers more vulnerable to predatory or deceitful lenders.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Former secretary Principi finds Mar-a-Lago trio's alleged influence on VA 'astounding'

    Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi says he “found it astounding” that three wealthy friends of President Donald Trump, members of his Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Fla., were able to affect executive hiring at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and might have influenced VA policy.


  • Military Update

    Veteran groups divide over tighter transfer rules for GI Bill

    Two of the nation’s largest veteran service organizations hold opposing views on the Defense Department’s plan to tighten rules next year on the transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to servicemembers’ spouses and children.


  • Military Update

    VA rips ‘blue water’ Agent Orange bill, urges Senate to sink it

    The Blue Water Navy bill passed the House unanimously in late June and seemed certain to fly through the Senate. On Wednesday, however, Paul R. Lawrence, the undersecretary for benefits, delivered a blistering attack on the bill.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Retiree Tricare hikes rejected; disabled vets to shop on base

    A House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences in separate versions of the defense authorization bill has rejected Senate-passed provisions that would have sharply increased Tricare fees, deductibles and co-pays for a million retirees under age 65.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Number of disabled vets to get tax refunds jolts law’s backers

    The Defense Department and Internal Revenue Service announced this week that almost 10 times that number of disabled veterans — just over 130,000 — are due tax refunds under the 2016 law, which Congress passed to correct a long-tolerated flaw in tax withholding practices for disability severance pay.


  • MILITARY UPDATE

    Conferees urged to reject Senate-passed Tricare fee increases

    The Senate wants the higher Tricare cost-shares to apply, as the Department of Defense intended, to all current and future retirees. If the Senate language becomes law, DOD officials would reset fees starting in 2020.


  • 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.

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