Petty Officer promotion standards get overhaul

By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
The Navy is making several changes to its advancement system for petty officers, including a formula that would add greater weight to performance evaluations and less to advancement tests.

The changes are part of a long-term, phased approach that could change the promotion quotas for the Navy’s many job ratings, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran wrote in a post on the Navy Times’ Facebook page.

“The majority of you seem to like greater weight added to performance — make the evals count more, make it less about who can pass the test or who hangs around long enough,” Moran said. “In general, I agree with you.”

Currently, for sailors vying for E-4 and E-5 pay grades, the next-level exam equals 37 percent, and evaluations equal 42 percent of the total promotion score. For sailors aiming for E-6, the test equals 33 percent and the evaluations equal 47.5 percent of their promotion score.

The new formula, which could be introduced as early as the autumn test cycle, would minimize the importance of testing and increase the weight of evaluations even more, though exact figures have not yet been determined, according to Navy Times.

Sailors’ personnel records online

U.S. Navy selection board season runs January through October. Taking the time to prepare in advance can relieve a lot of stress when a Sailor’s record goes before a board. Sailors can review their Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) online by selecting the “OMPF – My Record” link under the BUPERS Online (BOL) Application Menu Log available online. It is still possible to update your OMPF prior to the board commencing if you discover something is missing. The Navy Personnel Command can scan images into OMPFs. Also, Sailors who have any missing, new, or additional information, like recently obtained qualifications, degrees and awards to be considered that are not in their OMPF may submit them to the board via a letter to the board. For more information, visit the Naval Personnel Command’s Boards tab and webpage at http://goo.gl/TQafzi

VA accused of changing rules to reach goals

By Bryant Jordan, Military.com
Longtime allies of the Department of Veterans Affairs directed some tough-love at the agency recently, accusing its leadership of playing games with Congress and creating policies to make the claims backlog look healthier than it is.

Panelists drawn from several veterans service organizations criticized the VA for defining claims in order to make the backlog appear small and shrinking, and for proposing to process some claims faster than others as it pushes its electronic system.

“What you see here is a cold-blooded assessment by VA officials that if they cannot achieve their goals under the current standards, they will change the rules to achieve their goals,” said Gerald Manar, deputy director of National Veterans Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

Diana Rubens, VA deputy under secretary for field operations, later opened her testimony by noting that the VA has reduced its claims backlog by 35 percent.

However, Manar had already testified that the VA excludes veterans dependents and claims appeals from its backlog claims.

“Today there are over 1.7 million compensation, pension and education claims and appeals. Instead of fully fixing the problem, VA leaders have redefined them,” he said. “Since VA couldn’t reduce the entire 1.7 million by 2015, they decided to define the workload as only disability claims requiring rating action.”

The 700,000 disability claims currently pending represent just 41 percent of outstanding claims, he said.

Focusing on disability claims that require a rating decision resulted in the VA not processing 60 percent of its overall claims. As a result the inventory of claims filed by dependents of veterans has grown from about 40,000 to more than 630,000 in the past three years, he said.

The inventory of appeals has grown over the past year from 252,000 to more than 268,000.

TRICARE update on automatic payments

An electronic fund transfer (EFT) is an easy, low-maintenance option for managing TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) payments.

While TRS beneficiaries are required to setup an EFT to pay their premiums, it is not foolproof and missed payments can result in a loss of health care coverage.
One major reason for missed payments is an expired credit card. Check the expiration date on the credit card used for TRS EFTs, and update the regional contractor with any new or pending account information. Failure to pay any overdue premium amounts will result in suspension of coverage.
Learn more about TRS premiums and EFT options at www.tricare.mil/Welcome/Enroll/TRS/Premiums.

DoD has no plans to close commissaries

According to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there are no plans to close military commissaries. The chairman first addressed this issue during his Facebook town hall meeting last month (a transcript of the recent town hall meeting with General Dempsey is available on DoD Live). Although the DoD officials are not planning to close commissaries, they did ask the Defense Commissary Agency for a range of options, including how the system would operate with reduced or no taxpayer subsidies.

Military exchanges work on this system and that the same potential exists with commissaries.

Navy seeking Sailors’ art

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) art curators are eager to add talented Sailors’ illustrations, paintings and, yes, comics to the Navy’s art collection.

They will consider any type of art done by a Sailor including an illustration on a piece of notebook paper. If someone you know is regularly doodling, sketching or painting, let them know they could be a part of history. Tell them to submit their artwork to the Navy’s art collection by sending an email with their contact information and a photo of their work to gale.muro@navy.mil. Who knows? Maybe you will see their work in a gallery near you. For more information about the Navy Art Collection, visit http://goo.gl/37fXMz

VA launches new online college comparison tool

By George Altman, AF Times
The Veterans Affairs Department has unveiled a new way for student veterans to quickly get important information about schools they’re considering attending.

The online GI Bill Comparison Tool, found at url shortcut http://goo.gl/XSI58S, can be searched by school and details whether a school participates in the Yellow Ribbon program and has agreed to the White House’s Principles of Excellence for military education, as well as how many GI Bill beneficiaries the school enrolls. The site includes academic success and cost data for institutions, such as graduation rates, loan default rates and average borrowing costs, although the data is not limited to student veterans.

However, it provides some specific information for vets on how much of a housing allowance they can expect to get from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, based on their length of service and military status, as well as the location of the school.

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