WASHINGTON (Dec. 4, 2013) – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”
For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year, that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.
For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available at www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.
The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.
Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits. The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.
In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.
For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.
For more information about VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000.
#2014COLA #VAbenefits #veteransbenefits
We thought of you today, as we were cooking and cleaning, preparing to sit down for a hot, home-cooked meal with family and friends. We thought of so many empty chairs at so many tables across the country, so many post-turkey naps with your name on them.
We wondered what you’d think of the crazy holiday shopping frenzy – would you join the long lines to get deals or would you be a vocal protester of all those stores that are open on holidays? Then we realized you would probably laugh – because you’re where you are, without the day off, safeguarding our right to even have the debate.
When you’re thinking of us, wondering what we’re doing, know that we do the same. Know that we’re forever proud of you, praying for you, counting the days until you’re home.
We wouldn’t have nearly as much to be thankful for without you.
Photo credit: iloveusa.com via https://www.facebook.com/SgtDunson
In my experience at Grantham University, there were a few questions that would resurface each year. The most common one is this: “Why should I get a college degree?”
I get it. College is expensive, finding a good job right now is challenging – even if you already have a degree. And the idea of investing a couple of years of your life and (unless you’re receiving employer or military education benefits) your money without some kind of guaranteed payoff at the end can be unsettling.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, education – a college education – is important. But why is education more valuable than certain luxuries?
We’ve answered this question several ways before, but I wanted to frame it in a little different way today, just to help keep things in perspective. Here’s a list of things that lots of people spend money and time on that have far less impact on your future security than a college education.
1. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES
The average cost of a new luxury mid-size SUV is between $45,000 for a Lexus RX and $95,000 for a Range Rover. (US News & World Report 2013 Rankings).
According to the College Board, a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289.
Until the day arrives that a car can get you a job or pay for your groceries, hang on to your reliable, reasonably-priced vehicle (or take the bus).
Yes, coffee costs significantly less than an SUV, but still – how much does a cup of joe really contribute to your life? Can it get you an interview? Or a promotion? I think not.
A 2011 Consumerist report says the Average American spends about $1,100 each year on coffee. That’s a lot of money that could be put to better use. Like, say, on tuition, or textbook rental or a high-functioning laptop.
3. PET COSTUMES
The National Retail Federation estimates that 22 million people will dress up their pets for Halloween and spend an estimated $330 million on pet costumes alone. Pet. Costumes. $330 million. I’ll wait while that little factoid sinks in.
That works out to be an average of $150 per pet owner. You could rent three textbooks online for the price of Fido’s custom Darth Maul costume and accessories.
4. TEETH WHITENING
The average cost of dental-assisted whitening treatment is about $650 – and the 10 million people who bought over the counter whitening products spent about $140 each year for their shiny smile.
A shiny smile is a good asset to have, and according to the American Cosmetic Dentistry Association nearly 2/3rds of Americans believe an unattractive smile can hurt your social standing. But you know what can hurt your job standing? Not having an education.
5. TICKETS TO SPORTING EVENTS
College sports alone can cost at least $50 per ticket per game for students. In fact, according to a survey by ticket distributor TiQ, the average single ticket price to a college football game at one of the top 25 ranked football schools is $161.08. Multiply that by the number of games in a season and if you’re a sports fan, you’re shelling out a lot of cash that could be used toward your future employability.
It’s your future, and your financial investment. Before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, think about what you’d rather have. Will you spend your money on discretionary “nice-to-have” items, or on where the real value is- your education and skills?
#GranthamUniversity #militaryauthority #college #bynr
There are plenty of reasons to get your degree, but higher costs and a staggering lack of time have driven many students to seek alternatives. One of those alternatives, an unfortunately-acronym-ed category of online instruction called MOOCs, has received a lot of attention lately, and for good reason.
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses – and though many claim they are revolutionary, they raise some challenging questions for students who are actively seeking a way to advance themselves in today’s often dicey job marketplace.
The premise behind MOOCs is straightforward: Who wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars to sit on your backside listening to a lecture when you could take coursework from some of the biggest names in academia online for free? In this case, the old adage is proving true: You get what you pay for.
The MOOC model was a proposition that was intended to turn traditional education on its end. Classes are usually comprised of video lectures, assignments and discussions (interactive) – very much along the lines of what you’d get in a more conventional college, only free. And, in most cases, without the benefit of earning an actual, bona-fide degree for your effort.
Students – all of us, really - need to have something meaningful to work toward – whether it’s a sought-after degree in a competitive field, leveraging military training toward a second career, or gaining professional certification. Personal growth and lifelong learning arguments aside, students need to be able to earn something that employers recognize and assign worth to.
While the MOOCs continue to sort out their business model, there are, in fact, numerous accredited, high-quality, affordable degree programs that are recognized and valued by employers. Grantham University is one of them.
Have you considered taking or have you taken a MOOC class? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments.
Read the rest of the MOOC story here.
#GranthamUniversity #mooc #highered
Because we all know that if there’s one thing special operators absolutely religiously adhere to, its regulations on the wear and use of utility uniforms.
According to one report in the conservative Daily Caller, an email went out through Navy petty officer support channels directing Navy personnel to cease and desist wearing the Naval Jack or Gadsden Flag patches on their uniforms – something apparently traditionally done by Navy SEALs.
Both flags feature a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t tread on me.” It was not immediately clear which flag the Navy operators wear, though the Naval Jack is more closely identified with naval tradition. In fact, a Navy-wide directive instructs all U.S. Navy ships to fly the Naval Jack for the duration of the War on Terror.
But someone in the Chuck Hagel Department of Defense or Obama’s White House is now having second thoughts about the flag.
The Naval Jack dates back to 1775, though the earliest versions did not include the snake or the description: Just 13 alternating red and white stripes. The snake and inscription appear to have been added sometime before 1880.
A March 2010 order, NAVADMIN 116/10 specifically authorizes the wear of the Naval Jack “Don’t Tread on Me” flag or patch for Naval personnel assigned to or serving with Army units at the discretion of the local Army commander.
It is not clear why Navy officials made this change, and whether the change was specific to certain commands within the Navy or will be implemented Navy-wide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing a change in the way it handles appeals, according to a recent entry in the Federal Register. According to the VA’s proposal, “there are two major components of these proposed changes. The first is to require all claims to be filed on standard forms prescribed by the Secretary, regardless of the type of claim or posture in which the claim arises. The second is to provide that VA would accept an expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with an adjudicative determination by the agency of original jurisdiction (AOJ) as a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) only if it is submitted on a standardized form provided by VA for the purpose of appealing the decision, in cases where such a form is provided. The purpose of these amendments is to improve the quality and timeliness of the processing of veterans' claims for benefits.”
The public has 60 days to comment on the change before it becomes official. VA executives can then enact the new policies as written, make changes based on the public’s input as well as their own judgment, or scrap the plan altogether. You can read the full proposal and comment on it by clicking on the link above.
Will you comment on the proposed changes? Let us know what you say to the VA in the comments below.
Most of us think of multi-tasking as having a super-human like ability to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. We all do it, right? We complete that research paper while checking the sports scores, we text our friends about upcoming plans while we make dinner, and we update our social networking status while we’re waiting for an email back from our boss at work. Multitasking, and all the challenges that come with it, is a way of life for many of us.
But as it turns out, our brains truly work best when they work on one thing at a time.
In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the author of the Stanford study, Ulrich Mayr, uses the example of watching television while doing homework from a textbook. While you’re following the television story, your brain won’t track with the homework. While you’re doing your homework, your brain won’t comprehend what’s going on with the story on TV.
So what happens when Captain Tangent strikes and your mind starts to wander? How do you answer your brain when it asks, "How can I concentrate better in school?"
Read three ways to take charge of distractions here.
Multitasking May Not Mean Higher Productivity. (2009). Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio. Found online at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112334449
Read more from Christine A. Shelly.
#onlinelearning #onlinedistractions #militarystudents
"Weapons Of Mass Distraction" graphic by birgerking http://www.wylio.com/credits/flickr/6875893248 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
When you’re part of an organization with a long history like the United States Armed Forces, you are part of a proud tradition. You have stories to tell.
Sometimes, these stories are hard to explain. Not the kind of hard to explain that you might see on grocery-store-checkout-lane magazine covers, but the kind of hard to explain that leaves the listener with a funky expression on their face.
Case in point: F.E Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming started out in the 1800s as an Army post on at the edge of the frontier named Fort David A. Russell. Originally charged with guarding the new railway, the post evolved and played key roles in events throughout our nation’s history – from the Great Sioux Indian Wars and the Spanish American War to the Philippines. By 1930, the era of the Calvary had ended. President Hoover changed the name of the fort to Francis E. Warren and F.E. Warren Air Force Base was ‘officially’ born.
But it was born on top of an ancient native burial ground… just kidding. Sort of.
Stories of violent atrocities committed by cavalrymen against native women, men and children linger still today, and you might say they’re still around in part because the spirits won’t let Warren AFB forget.
According to one resource, over the past 50 years, more than 150 reported events have been documented at Warren, many of them sharing spooky similarities.
For example, in one historic home known to soldiers simply as “the ghost house”, people report hearing rhythmic clunking of heavy boot steps and clicking toenails of dog’s feet pacing in the attic. Some people have reported seeing the apparition of a cavalryman and his faithful companion walking the floor together. Residents of the home have even had to adjust their décor to accommodate the dog’s preferences: when a certain picture is removed from the wall, the sound of a dog barking and whining persists until the picture is replaced.
If you drive by one house on base, you may see a little girl with long, curly hair staring out of the guest room window. She’s been reported many times on base, particularly when the house is supposed to be vacant, but the former owners reported her presence too. Because they don’t have a little girl with long, curly hair. And the same one’s been showing up for years.
There’s a sordid tale of marital betrayal that ended with one party accidentally hanging himself on a clothesline after jumping out of a second story window to escape his lover’s husband. Alas, to this day, residents of that home will leave a room and return it minutes later to find furniture turned wrongways, drawers opened, tables overturned - actions, they believe, of a young man who is still searching for his pants.
Warren is an impressive, massive installation, home to the 90th Missile Wing, 153rd Command and Control Squadron (Wyoming Air National Guard), 30th Airlift Squadron, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 80, the Wyoming Wing HQ of the Civil Air Patrol and the Area Defense Counsel. These are not the kind of people who are prone to making up stories. But probably, more importantly, they’re not the kind of people who scare easily. With this in mind, revisit the question posed in the headline: Are these hauntings the real deal? Or just campfire stories?
Air Force Times
You've made the decision to apply to college. Congratulations!
But now what? Like many students, you probably have a lot of questions. Questions like:
- How many application forms do I really have to fill out?
- What kind of information am I expected to provide to schools?
- And if you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, or a military spouse, you’re probably wondering what other surprises are lurking in the application process for you.
This post will bring a little dose of reality to what can become a very surreal process for many people.
First of all, the average complete college application is usually made up of about seven components. I say “about” seven because not every college requires every component. We’ll talk about each of these seven categories, because they’re the ones that most schools require.
- Transcripts (High School, any transfer credit, military experience/training)
- Test scores (SAT/ACT/unique tests)
- Portfolio/Auditions – for performing arts majors
About 500 colleges use an online application form called the Common Application. This is exceptionally helpful if you’re applying to half a dozen different schools and they all use the Common Application – you enter your information once, select the schools you want, and you’ve completed one step for all six of your schools at once. Time saved.
Before you fill out your application form(s) you’ll want to review them to determine what (if any) information you’ll need to collect from your parents. You’ll also want to find out what your high school or service branch will send directly to your potential colleges – if they won’t send transcripts or records on your behalf, you’ll want to make arrangements to send them yourself.
Also good to know: the admission application is not the same thing as the financial aid application (or application for military education benefits). Those are two very distinct application processes.
Lastly, even when you use the Common Application, you will need to send each school their individual app fee, which can be anywhere from $35 – 100 each. Military students, military spouses and veterans may qualify for fee waivers or reimbursement through their education benefits, so if you fall into either of those categories be sure to double-check. Sometimes a school may not come out and say they’ll waive veterans’ applications fees – you have to contact the admissions office directly and ask.
Continue to the other 6 components...
Read more from Christine and if you're a student, tell us how your college application process went in the comments.
College Application Reality Check
What is the #collegeapplicationprocess like for members of #USArmedForces?
First, the easy part: If you are enrolled in TRICARE, you do not need to do anything different under the Affordable Care Act. Your TRICARE benefits are fully qualified under the terms of the ACA and you don’t need to take any action as long as you are in TRICARE.
For honorably discharged veterans, however, the situation is quite a bit more complicated. Unless you meet certain unusual conditions* the Affordable Care Act requires you to obtain a qualified health insurance policy by March 31, 2014. If you fail to do so, you will be subject to a fine of $95 per adult individual and $49 per family member, up to a max of $285 per family, or 1 percent of family income – whichever is greater.
After Jan 1, 2015, those penalties go up sharply: To $325 per adult and $162 per child, up to a family maximum penalty of $975, or 2 percent of annual income, whichever is less.
The penalty increases again on January 1, 2016. The penalty for that year is $695 per adult and $347 per child, up to $2,085 per family, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater.
I’m a Veteran. Does VA Insurance Count?
Yes, VA insurance counts. But you actually have to enroll in the VA health program to have it qualify. It is not sufficient just to be a veteran. You must take positive steps to make sure you’re enrolled with the VA. Not everybody qualifies. For example, if you’re a Guard or Reserve member, and you’ve never been mobilized, and your only active duty time was for training, you don’t qualify for VA coverage.
Generally, you will qualify if you either served 24 consecutive months on active duty, or for the full period for which you were called for active duty if you were mobilized, and you enlisted after September 7th, 1980.
However, if you didn’t make 24 consecutive months, or had to leave duty early because of a wound or service-related injury, you can still qualify. You aren’t going to get disqualified just because you got hurt.
How to apply for VA coverage.
You aren’t automatically covered just because you are an honorably-discharged veteran, even if you meet the criteria. To enroll, visit the VA Benefits Explorer page on the Web. From that page, you can do a trial run to see if you qualify for VA coverage, and specifically what benefits and price structure you qualify for. (There are no premiums for VA coverage, but you will have to pay some copays and there are limits).
What about family members?
In most cases, the veteran’s family members will not qualify to enroll in the VA health care system. Spouses and children will generally need to obtain qualifying coverage, either through an employer plan or through an individual plan. The individual plan can be purchased either via the online exchanges or through a licensed health insurance agent.
VA Priority Groups
If you qualify, the VA will assign you to one of eight priority groups, based on your location, income and the nature of your service. If you qualify for more than one group, the VA will put you in the higher of the available groups. The groups are listed below:
Priority Group 1
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 50% or more.
- Veterans assigned a total disability rating for compensation based on unemployability.
Priority Group 2
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 30% or 40%.
Priority Group 3
- Veterans who are former POWs.
- Veterans awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
- Veterans awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Veterans whose discharge was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
- Veterans with VA Service-connected disabilities rated 10% or 20%.
- Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation.”
Priority Group 4
- Veterans receiving increased compensation or pension based on their need for regular Aid and Attendance or by reason of being permanently Housebound.
- Veterans determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled.
Priority Group 5
- Non-service-connected Veterans and noncompensable Service-connected Veterans rated 0%, whose annual income and/or net worth are not greater than the VA financial thresholds.
- Veterans receiving VA Pension benefits.
- Veterans eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Priority Group 6
- Compensable 0% Service-connected Veterans.
- Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Project 112/SHAD participants.
- Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.
- Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, through November 11, 1998.
- Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, as follows:
- Veterans discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, for five years post discharge
Priority Group 7
- Veterans with incomes below the geographic means test (GMT) income thresholds and who agree to pay the applicable copayment.
Priority Group 8
- Veterans with gross household incomes above the VA national income threshold and the geographically-adjusted income threshold for their resident location and who agrees to pay copays.
Veterans eligibility for enrollment:
Noncompensable 0% service-connected and:
- Subpriority a: Enrolled as of January 16, 2003, and who have remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status.
- Subpriority b: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10% or less
Veterans eligible for enrollment:
- Subpriority c: Enrolled as January 16, 2003, and who remained enrolled since that date and/ or placed in this subpriority due to changed eligibility status
- Subpriority d: Enrolled on or after June 15, 2009 whose income exceeds the current VA National Income Thresholds or VA National Geographic Income Thresholds by 10% or less
Veterans not eligible for enrollment:
Veterans not meeting the criteria above:
- Subpriority e: Noncompensable 0% service-connected
- Subpriority g: Non-service-connected
*Exceptions apply if you are:
- A member of a religious group that is opposed to accepting benefits from an insurance policy
- You are an illegal alien
- You are incarcerated
- You are a member of an Indian tribe
- Your family is below the income threshold for filing an income tax return ($10,000 per individual and $20,000 for family members starting in 2013)
- You have to pay more than 8 percent of your income for health insurance, net of any tax credit or employer contribution.
You may also be exempt if:
- You were enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at any time during the year
- You’re enrolled in TRICARE
- You’re in an employer-sponsored plan
- You have insurance of your own that is “Bronze” level or better,
- You have a grandfathered health plan that was in existence prior to the ACA.
Under the ACA, income is defined as total income in excess of the filing threshold. The penalty is pro-rated by the number of months without coverage. There is no penalty for gaps of 3 months or less. The penalty cannot be greater than the national average cost of a Bronze-level plan offered on the exchanges. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation).