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Veterans Benefits Information

TRICARE to expand access to mental health care and substance use disorder treatment

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TRICARE is pleased to be implementing significant improvements to its mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) benefits to provide beneficiaries greater access to the full range of available mental health and SUD treatments.  

Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Clark, Director of Healthcare Operations at Defense Health Agency (DHA) said, “We are intently focused on ensuring the behavioral health of our service members and their families remains a top priority.  These sweeping changes reflect that commitment.”

TRICARE provides a generous and comprehensive mental health benefit to active duty service members, retirees, and their families, including psychiatric outpatient, inpatient, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment services.  

“But we are working to make the benefit even better,” said Dr. John Davison, Chief of the Condition-Based Specialty Care Section of DHA’s Clinical Support Division. “Major changes are underway that will improve access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment for TRICARE beneficiaries, revise beneficiary cost-shares to align with cost-shares for medical and surgical care, and reduce administrative barriers to care by streamlining the requirements for institutional providers to become TRICARE authorized providers.”

Dr. Patricia Moseley, senior policy analyst for military child and family behavioral health at DHA in Falls Church, Virginia, said being able to ensure TRICARE mental health benefits are offered on par with medical and surgical benefits was an important driving force for the changes.

“Being able to meet the principles of mental health parity in our benefit is very significant,” said Moseley.

Beginning Oct. 3, 2016, non-active duty dependent beneficiaries, retirees, their family members and survivors will generally pay lower co-payments and cost-shares for mental health care, such as $12 for outpatient mental health and SUD visits rather than the current rate of $25 per mental health visit.  Co-pays and cost-shares for inpatient mental health services will also be the same as for inpatient medical/surgical care. A full list of all mental health co-pay and cost-share changes will be posted on Oct. 3 on the TRICARE website.

Although the new copayment rules are effective Oct. 3, there is a chance that some providers may not be aware of these changes. Should beneficiaries be charged incorrect cost-shares or co-pays, TRICARE will correct claims retroactive to Oct. 3, 2016.

TRICARE already eliminated several restrictions relating to the lengths of stay allowed for inpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric Residential Treatment Center care for children and adolescents.  Additional day limits for services such as partial hospitalization, residential substance use disorder care, smoking cessation counseling, and other mental health treatment will also be removed effective Oct. 3, 2016. The removal of these limits altogether will further de-stigmatize mental health treatment and hopefully provide a greater incentive for beneficiaries to seek the care they need.   

“Now, the length of a course of treatment will be based solely on medical and psychological necessity,” said Davison.

For example, a person struggling with alcoholism has a limit of three outpatient treatments in his lifetime under TRICARE’s current benefits. However, substance use can be a lifelong struggle. The changes will allow people to seek help as many times as they need it. 

TRICARE will expand its coverage of treatment options for substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder, which can range from addiction to heroin to prescription drugs.  This change will provide more treatment options, such as outpatient counseling and intensive outpatient programs. Office visits with a qualified TRICARE authorized physician may include coverage of medication-assisted treatment (e.g., buprenorphine, or “suboxone”) for opioid addiction if the physician is certified to prescribe these medications.

Once additional changes are put into effect early next year, the process for facilities to become TRICARE-authorized will become easier and faster as TRICARE seeks to make its regulations consistent with industry standards. “These revisions will make mental health care and SUD treatment more community based,” said Moseley.

Gender dysphoria – a condition in which a person experiences distress over the fact that their gender identity conflicts with their sex assigned at birth – may be treated non-surgically by TRICARE-authorized providers effective Oct. 3.  Non-surgical treatment includes psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and hormone treatment. Surgical care continues to be prohibited for all non-active duty beneficiaries.

“We are working as quickly as possible to implement these sweeping changes to the program over the next several months,” said Moseley. 

The reduction in cost-shares and co-pays will be effective Oct. 3, along with authorization of office-based substance use disorder treatment and non-surgical treatment of gender dysphoria.  Changes that require new or more detailed revision of TRICARE policy manuals, such as TRICARE authorization criteria for institutional mental health providers, will be rolled out early 2017. Updates will be posted as changes are implemented. For more information, please visit the TRICARE website.  

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October 2016 TALARC President's Message

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The start-up of a radio club or radio station within a Legion post was the subject for discussion during a recent TALARC net operation. Fortunately, there were a couple of members on the net who belong to existing post clubs/stations whose stories provided a good exchange of information. Some on the net asked for additional information. Here it is. Eighty years ago The American Legion’s National Security Commission encouraged Legion posts to form amateur radio groups in support of "civil defense." Posts around the country became involved in ham radio and the American Legion Amateur Radio "Network" was established. Today, there are posts enjoying a resurgence of interest in amateur radio, some of which resulted from the 2010 National Convention Resolution No. 134, The American Legion Role in homeland security. It urges Legionnaires, posts, and departments to assist in homeland security efforts in communities, for example, by developing emergency kits and plans; by remaining informed and assisting families, schools, workplaces and communities in developing emergency plans and checklists; or working with other community-based organizations like the Legion post itself. National Headquarters is aware of 15 to 18 Legion posts that, with the concurrence of the post's leaders, have formed a post club or established a radio station on post premises. If your post doesn't have a club or station, please read on. What your post can do to get involved. An American Legion post has great potential for involvement, ranging from just surveying your post membership to determining if any are licensed amateur radio operators, to setting up a post station and even starting a post radio group if there are a number of hams who are already members. Working with post members who are not ham operators to establish a post disaster preparedness and response team, the post can significantly enhance its commitment to the community as a significant resource for town, city and county emergency management officials. Some post members might want to obtain their ham license simply to participate in the activities. Also, ramping up your post’s participation in disaster preparedness and engaging amateur radio as an emergency communications resource can gain recognition from the media, local government, the community and, potentially, gain new members for The American Legion. Where to get advice, materials, and more information. The American Legion Amateur Radio Club website at is the place to start. There you'll find information about The American Legion Amateur Radio Club and its station [K9TAL] along with general information about amateur radio – what it's about, how to become licensed, and why ham radio is a great "fit" within the Legion. Click on "Club Resources" for help in forming a club, and review the brochure Amateur Radio and The American Legion, as well as Articles of Organization, Base Station Equipment Lists and more. What if the post supports the idea, but is unable to fund it? While forming a radio club from existing post members might be relatively easy, the prospect of funding the start-up of a radio station can be far more challenging. When you get to this point, consider that there likely are other radio clubs or emergency management agencies, not to mention other ham operators, who are regularly looking to upgrade their equipment. Some agencies may be willing, as a public service on their part, to "donate" equipment to an American Legion post rather than selling it for cents on the dollar. Check in your area for individuals or groups who might be willing to assist in this way. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are folks who are ready and willing to assist The American Legion in furthering community service through amateur radio. The bottom line. Ham radio is an interesting and enjoyable hobby as well as an invaluable resource “when all else fails.” When severe weather, natural disasters or other catastrophes strike and power lines and cellphone towers are knocked out, ham radio has always stood up to serve communities across the nation. There is also a more relaxed, more visible and more regular use for amateur radio that can be done through augmenting communications and safety efforts during parades, marathons, outings and other public or Legion events in your area. The list of the 15 to 18 clubs we built was gathered from the call sign database by searching, "American Legion." We believe there may be more groups of Legionnaires with bona fide clubs or ham radio stations operating under the auspices of The American Legion. If your post has a radio club or a station, email Bill, NZ9S, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Tell him the name of the club, the club call sign if you have one, and a little about the makeup of your club and how its purposes are carried out. You can also tell your story, with pictures, at . Finally, to those existing American Legion clubs and stations goes K9TAL's right-hand salute of respect and admiration for the work they've done and are now doing in their communities and across their state to serve the Legion through amateur radio.

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Can exercise relieve chronic pain?

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If you struggle with chronic pain, you might feel that exercise is futile: It hurts when you don't exercise and it hurts when you do. However, a properly structured exercise routine might help reduce some kinds of pain and keep other kinds from worsening.

It’s important to know the difference between chronic pain and injury-related pain. Acute pain – the body’s normal response to physical injury – usually can’t be relieved through exercise. In fact, exercise can worsen your acute pain, so it’s not recommended. But if injury has been ruled out and your pain lasts for more than 3 months, you might be able to partially manage or even reduce your chronic pain through exercise.

Still, exercise can help reduce pain in several ways. It mostly increases endorphins – the body's natural painkillers – which help block pain, enabling you to relax. Exercise also helps boost serotonin – a brain chemical partly responsible for mood and the perception of pain – reducing stress and improving mood. Pain increases stress, which then reduces serotonin. Since exercise increases serotonin, it also might bring relief from pain-induced depression.

If you’re thinking of adding exercise to your pain management plan, consider the following types: aerobicstrength, and flexibility. But make sure your exercise program is specifically tailored to your needs. Some exercises might be easier or more difficult to complete depending upon the type and location of your pain.

Visit HPRC’s Physical Fitness section for information about training, exercise, and injury prevention. And consult your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise routine and if you experience pain during or after exercise. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Boy Scouts of America JOTA and amateur radio

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Here's what BSA is telling their Scouts: "Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation and in your own community. This jamboree requires no travel, other than to a nearby amateur radio operator's ham shack. Many times you can find the hams will come to you by setting up a station at your Scout camporee, at the park down the block, or perhaps at a ham shack already set up at your council’s camp." Here's how you can participate as an amateur radio operator: contact your local Scout council and see what may already be planned in your area and how you can help. You can find your council at If nothing is currently planned, or if current plans aren’t reaching your area, you can work with the council or a local unit (pack, troop, crew) to set up a JOTA station or arrange for visits to your ham shack. You can also participate just by making QSOs with the many JOTA stations that will be on the air. A good resource to find a local Scout unit is the Be-A-Scout website at

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DoD highlights importance of National Preparedness Month

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WASHINGTON — As part of September's National Preparedness Month, a top Defense Department official today stressed the importance of individuals and installations being ready for disasters, saying it strengthens collective security.

"I emphasize that national preparedness and military readiness are synonymous," said Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support to civil authorities.

In an interview, Salesses pointed out how members of the Defense Department are dispersed throughout the country and the world. They face a variety of regional threats, including wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme temperatures and flooding, he remarked.

Individuals, installations and communities should be aware of national security threats as well, he said. Those dangers include the possibility of terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and cyberattacks.

Preparedness not only protects DoD members, but also enhances the department's ability to meet future threats and challenges, he said.

If individuals and communities are ready for a disaster, Salesses said, then civilians and service members who are supported by those families and communities can deploy and do their jobs.

'Neighbors Helping Neighbors'

This National Preparedness Month observance emphasizes readiness for vulnerable populations, including youth, older adults, people with disabilities and those with other access or functional needs, Salesses said. He highlighted the importance of helping the at-risk populations, while also being prepared yourself.

"As we think about this, it's really neighbors helping neighbors," he said.

Being ready includes knowing local and state resources and response plans, creating a communication plan, coordinating emergency plans with family and neighbors, looking out for those who would need assistance, and having a stock of water, canned goods, medicine and other supplies, he said.

The better prepared the population is, Salesses added, the more capable the Defense Department and its partners are.

Preparedness: A Year-Long Effort

Even though September is designated as National Preparedness Month, Salesses stressed the push for preparedness is a yearlong endeavor. You never know when disaster will strike, he explained, and even if you know a storm is coming, you still can't predict its total impact with certainty. He cited Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the East Coast in 2012, as a case in point.

Salesses commended the efforts of local and state responders during Hurricane Sandy and in other times of crisis. In addition, he applauded the significant role of the Defense Department, including the Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal partners, specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, during times of disaster.

"We in the Department of Defense think about military readiness all the time and our national security responsibilities," he said.

Salesses, who pointed out that each April is the spring PrepareAthon, said people who would like further information can visit the government's site, or go to In addition, he recommended the FEMA smartphone app, which provides weather alerts and safety tips.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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Did you know?

The issuance or replacement of military service medals, awards and decorations must be requested in writing.

Requests should be submitted in writing to the appropriate military service branch division of the NPRC. Standard form (SF 180), available through the VA, is recommended to submit your request. Generally, there is no charge for medal or award replacements. For more information, or for the mailing address of the military branch office to submit your request to, call 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or visit the NPRC website at