Joint Chiefs divide over commissary cuts

All seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified recently on the need to slow growth in military compensation. But their united front for easing current budget burdens cracked over the notion of slashing savings for commissary shoppers. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos called the proposal to cut commissary appropriations by $1 billion, “a sore point for me.” But Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, defended lowering the appropriation for the Defense Commissary Agency in increments, starting with $200 million next year, and suggesting the initial impact at least would be modest.

New boss picked for Phoenix VA

An interim director will take over the embattled Phoenix VA Health Care System on Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced. Steve Young will oversee delivery of health care to an estimated 85,000 veterans and an operating budget of about $500 million.The move comes as the Phoenix VA tries to restore its reputation while it is under investigation for possible patient deaths. In recent weeks, critics of the VA system have alleged that administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment.

Guard never analyzed NASCAR spending effectiveness

The U.S. Navy Center for Service Support has announced it will be encouraging all of its instructors to qualify as Master Training Specialist (MTS). Earning MTS in an appropriate billet is similar to earning an applicable warfare designation in an operational billet. MTS certification includes nomination, completion of job qualification requirements, testing and board evaluation. CSS and its learning sites provide Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the Fleet’s warfighting mission. For more information on the Center for Service Support, visit its webpage at www.navy.mil/local/css/.

Navy Master Trainer opportunity

The U.S. Navy Center for Service Support has announced it will be encouraging all of its instructors to qualify as Master Training Specialist (MTS). Earning MTS in an appropriate billet is similar to earning an applicable warfare designation in an operational billet. MTS certification includes nomination, completion of job qualification requirements, testing and board evaluation. CSS and its learning sites provide Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the Fleet’s warfighting mission. For more information on the Center for Service Support, visit its webpage at www.navy.mil/local/css/.

Tricare for Life cuts discounts for 400k

Starting this spring, more than 400,000 military retirees and senior dependents in the Tricare for Life program will owe the full amount for certain prescription refills if they use a retail pharmacy rather than a military pharmacy or a mail service.
The change, part of a pilot program created by Congress, is meant to help control the cost of military health care and in its first year, is expected to cut $120 million from the $3.3 billion that the U.S. Department of Defense pays annually for Tricare For Life pharmacy needs.

The government insurance serves about 2 million military retirees and their dependents over 65, supplementing Medicare. Tricare for Life accounts for nearly half of the $7.1 billion that the Defense Department spends each year on its pharmacy program.
The pilot includes more than 400 medications — mostly brand-name — for chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. Prescriptions for pain relievers, antibiotics and other medicines for acute conditions aren’t affected.

With the program, members can fill eligible prescriptions three times at a retail outlet, usually a 30-day supply for a $17 copayment. Then, if they don’t switch, they’re responsible for the drug’s entire cost for subsequent refills, charges that quickly could climb into hundreds of dollars.

If they do switch, they’ll owe $13 for each 90-day supply through the Express Scripts mail service or nothing when they use a base pharmacy.

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