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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

TRICARE Reshuffle

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The Defense Department recently announced plans to streamline the agency that manages its military health benefit program, creating a new Defense Health Agency.

According to Nextgov’s Bob Brewin, the new agency will assume responsibility for common clinical and business processes across the Military Health System, such as medical education for physicians, nurses, medics, pharmacists, medical logistics and health information technology. The department is currently assembling a team to design the consolidation.

The plan, included in the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill, still falls short of a 2006 Defense Business Board recommendation for TRICARE realignment, Brewin writes. The independent panel called for the creation of a unified combatant command -- a unit not specific to Army, Navy or Air Force -- that is led by a four-star general or admiral.

Still, the new Defense Health Agency represents an elevated status for military health care within the department. It will be run by a three-star general or admiral -- two grades higher in military rank than the current TRICARE director, Army Brig. Gen. Bryan Gamble.

According to Federal News Radio, DoD sees the plan as “the appropriate next step in establishing structure and improving the governance of the Military Health System while reigning in health care costs.”

The Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget request asks Congress to approve new TRICARE co-pays, additional increases to TRICARE Prime enrollment fees, initiation of standard and extra enrollment fees, and adjustments to deductibles and catastrophic coverage caps.

Last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey sympathized with service members’ worries about the fee hikes, telling them, “We’ve heard your concerns.”

Military, Vets Included in FHA Plans

The White House is boosting support for military service members and veterans hit by the housing crisis with a Federal Housing Administration

President Obama announced this week additional protections for military members and veterans “wrongfully foreclosed upon or denied a lower interest rates on their mortgages.”

The White House said federal and state authorities will work together to:

  • Conduct a review of every servicemember foreclosures since 2006 and provide any who were wrongly foreclosed upon with compensation equal to a minimum of lost equity, plus interest and $116,785.
  • Refund to servicemembers money lost because they were wrongfully denied the opportunity to reduce their mortgage payments through lower interest rates;
  • Pay $10 million dollars into the Veterans Affairs fund that guarantees loans on favorable terms for veterans.
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