Action Corps Weekly – September 1, 2017 In This Issue: 1. Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on VA Facilities 2. Harvey’s Impact on Vet Centers 3. VA Activates Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan 4. Help VFW Help Others 5. V-J Day Commemoration 6. TRICARE Changes 7. Military Spouse Hiring Preference Expanded 8. Houston Hosts Women Veterans Summit 9. MIA Update Download a PDF version of this week’s Action Corps Weekly. 1. Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on VA Facilities: In an effort to meet the needs of veterans impacted by Hurricane Harvey and to accomplish its fourth mission to support national efforts for, respond to, and recover from war, terrorism, national emergencies, and natural disasters, virtually all Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Texas and Louisiana are open. For updates on operations of VA medical centers and associated clinics, please visit their websites. The Houston Regional Office reopened at 9 a.m. on Aug. 31 and resumed normal operations. The out-based Veterans Benefits operations in Corpus Christi, San Antonio and McAllen are open for regular business. Read daily updates here. 2. Harvey’s Impact on Vet Centers: Two Vet Centers in Texas remain closed: the Harris County/Houston Vet Center and the Vet Center in Beaumont. Mobile Vet Centers operations are as follows: A Mobile Vet Center is deployed to Corpus Christi at the Corpus Christi VA Specialty Clinic, 205 S. Enterprise Parkway, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A Mobile Vet Center is deployed to Dallas at City Hall Plaza, 1500 Marilla St., from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A Mobile Vet Center is scheduled to deploy to Houston today at the George R. Brown Convention Center. For 24-hour Vet Center assistance, call 1-877-WAR-VETS. 3. VA Activates Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan: VA activated its Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan in the impacted areas. Eligible veterans with a VA identification card, and needing an emergency supply of medications, will be able to go to any CVS or H-E-B pharmacy with a written prescription or active VA prescription bottle to receive a 14-day supply. Veterans in the impacted area needing assistance can also call the Heritage Health Solutions veterans help line at 1-866 265-0124 to speak to a representative. Read daily updates here. 4. Help VFW Help Others: “Our hearts and prayers are with all those impacted by this hurricane’s destruction,” said VFW National Commander Keith Harman. The VFW has a long history of supporting America’s communities in the wake of tragedy, and while the full extent of Hurricane Harvey’s level of destruction is still being assessed, the VFW knows from its past support of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina victims that the need for financial assistance will be great. Join with the VFW by making a $10 donation to the VFW’s relief efforts by texting the keyword “NEEDS” to 27722, or mail in a donation in any amount to: VFW Quartermaster General, 406 W 34th Street, Kansas City, MO 64111. All funds raised will be distributed to service members, veterans and their families. Those in need of immediate assistance should contact the VFW Department of Texas at 512-834-8535 or the VFW Department of Louisiana at 225-928-5025. Learn more about how to make a donation here. 5. V-J Day Commemoration: Visitors to Washington, D.C., are invited to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of Victory over Japan Day at the National World War II Memorial at 11 a.m., Sept. 2. The WWII Memorial has very few disability parking spaces, and street parking could be limited since it’s the tourist season. Taxis are plentiful and recommended. The two closest Metro stations, Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, are both about a half-mile away. Learn about this and other events. 6. TRICARE Changes: In accordance with provisions introduced in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), beginning on January 1, 2018, TRICARE “North” and “South” regions will combine into a single “East” region, while “West” will remain unchanged. The reasoning behind this consolidation is to streamline access and continuity of care, as well as to ensure consistency within the TRICARE network as a whole. As a part of the consolidation process, there will be a change in managed healthcare vendors as well. Beginning on January 1, Health Net Federal Services will oversee the TRICARE “West” region, and Humana Military will oversee the TRICARE “East” region. Prior to the beginning of next year, you may be contacted by the new vendor to confirm eligibility, or to answer any questions that you may have about the implementation. In order to ensure that you are prepared for the changeover, the VFW encourages you to review your information in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System (DEERS); more importantly your contact information, in the event that your new TRICARE vendor needs to contact you. While “TRICARE For Life” will largely be unaffected, TRICARE “Prime”, “Standard”, “Reserve Select”, “Young Adult”, and “Retired Reserve” will be impacted. For more information about the additional TRICARE changes occurring on January 1, and how they may affect you, please click here. 7. Military Spouse Hiring Preference Expanded: On August 8, 2017, the United States Office of Personnel Management implemented a VFW-supported provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which expanded the time military spouses are eligible for federal hiring preferences following a permanent change of station. This authority allows federal agencies to noncompetitively appoint eligible spouses to fill vacancies. Before this change hiring preference for military spouses was limited to a two-year period following a service member’s permanent change of station. Read the memo reguarding the recent change. Learn more about hiring preferences for military spouses and surviving spouses. 8. Houston Hosts Women Veterans Summit, Cut Short: As Hurricane Harvey closed in on Houston last week, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was preparing for their much-anticipated Women Veterans Summit, scheduled for Aug. 25-26. With VFW as a proud sponsor of the event, over 800 people were slated to arrive in Houston for the summit, alongside VA employees, to attend breakout sessions focused on everything from reproductive health to women veterans receiving better recognition within VA for their service, documentary screenings, entertainment, VIP speakers and more. Hurricane Harvey forced the summit to end early due to safety concerns, with the summit being cut short at lunch on Aug. 24. The VA Center for Women Veterans will be updating their website to include slides and information expected to be passed during the summit here. Read the slides. 9. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced burial updates of two American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II. No new identifications of remains occurred this week. Returning home for burial with full military honors are: — Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Sidney A. Cook, 32, of Ohio, will be buried Sept. 6 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Cook was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Cook’s unit was one of those tasked with securing the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll. Encountering fierce resistance by the Japanese, almost 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and another 1,000 were wounded in the battle. Cook was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943. Read more about Cook. — Navy Reserve Ensign William M. Thompson, 21, of Summit, N.J, whose identification was previously announced, will be buried Sept. 8 in Petersburg, Va. Thompson was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Thompson was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Thompson. Do you know someone who wants to help us fight for veterans? Sign up new veterans’ advocates today. As always, we want to hear your advocacy stories. Email the VFW to share your stories or photos with us. Missed last week’s issue? Read it here.