Keep your DEERS information up to date

Posted on July 10, 2018

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Do you or your family member expect to experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE), including planning to move this summer? If so, you’ll need to update your information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). To remain eligible for TRICARE coverage, you must keep your information current in DEERS. DEERS is a computerized database of active duty and retired service members, their family members and others who are eligible for TRICARE. Proper and current DEERS registration is key to getting timely, effective TRICARE benefits. It’s essential to update and verify your information in DEERS anytime you have a QLE. This is especially true during the summer moving season. After you arrive at a new duty station or location, update your information in DEERS. Your Social Security number (SSN) and the SSN of each of your covered family members must be included in DEERS for your TRICARE coverage to be accurate. You have several options for updating and verifying DEERS information. You can make changes in person, by phone, online or by mail. Add or Remove Family Members In person: Visit a local ID card office. Find an office near you at Update Contact Information Phone: Call 1-800-538-9552 (TTY/TDD: 1-866-363-2883) or fax updates to 1-831-655-8317 Online: Log into milConnect at Mail: Mail updates to: Defense Manpower Data Center Support Office Attention: COA 400 Gigling Road, Seaside, CA 93955-6771 Only sponsors can add a family member in DEERS. But family members age 18 and older may update their own contact information. Find more information about DEERS on the TRICARE website. Read Original article at

Commissary savings remain at mandated levels

Posted on July 09, 2018

FORT LEE, Va. – Commissary savings remain at more than 23 percent, according to price comparisons of fiscal 2016 and 2017 sales. “When you do the math, the value of the commissary benefit continues to add up for our patrons when compared to commercial retailers outside the gate,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, the interim director and CEO of the Defense Commissary Agency. Congress requires that DeCA maintain savings at levels that are reasonably consistent with the fiscal 2016 baseline savings level, even as commissaries look to improve the patron shopping experience by integrating commercial business practices such as variable pricing and private label brands. The current savings methodology helps DeCA and Congress better monitor and protect patron savings, Bianchi said. “Since 2016, we’ve used this calculation to take a deeper dive into what those numbers represent,” Bianchi said. “Now we have a clearer picture of the benefit’s value, reflecting savings as they apply to the products our patrons buy most and the regional cost of living where they shop.” From the latest commissary market basket comparisons, DeCA’s annual global savings for fiscal 2017 is 23.32 percent, down slightly from the 23.65 percent reported for 2016. The overall percentage is a sales-weighted average of U.S. and overseas savings. The savings decline was attributed to a combination of lower savings in certain U.S. regions and a drop in overseas savings linked to a lower average cost of living Allowance (COLA) in fiscal 2017; COLA fluctuations have a direct impact on DeCA’s level of overseas savings. Historically, DeCA measured savings globally, by comparing national prices at commissaries against average market prices for the whole country. However, the cost of living varies by region. To account for these geographic differences, Congress now requires DeCA to report on savings regionally, comparing prices with two-to-three commercial grocers, including super centers, in the local area of each commissary in the United States. Commissaries also expanded the range of items in its savings comparisons. In addition to measuring 38,000 items at a national level, DeCA is comparing local prices on about 1,000 products, which are representative of a shopper’s typical market basket. “Sustaining the overall level of patron savings for our valued customers is a top priority and monitored very closely by the DeCA team,” said Chris Burns, the agency’s executive director for Business Transformation. “I am very pleased that DeCA continues to offer significant savings on items that our patrons purchase – savings that can help them stretch their budget. “Although market fluctuations will cause prices of grocery products to increase and decrease,” Burns added, “our patrons can rely on the fact that the value of their commissary benefit will not change.” For information on savings by region, see the savings tables. -DeCA- About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country. Read original article at

Years in the making: How the risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced

Posted on July 09, 2018

From forgetting names to repeating questions, or having trouble remembering a recent event, growing older presents some challenges for an aging mind. But these symptoms can be an indication of something much more serious: Alzheimer’s disease. Army Maj. Abraham Sabersky, a staff neurosurgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of death for Americans. “The health of our service members and veterans is the paramount mission of the Military Health System,” said Sabersky. “Given Alzheimer's prevalence in the general population, I believe that it is important that we highlight the lifestyle modifications that can prevent this debilitating illness.” Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects the brain’s ability to retain new information. The result is often noticed as “memory problems.” The National Institute of Aging, or NIA, defines the disease in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Symptoms develop slowly but get worse over time. As early symptoms begin to appear, people can seem healthy but may have trouble with processing, remembering, or showing good judgment. According to the NIA, some emerging signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, getting lost in familiar settings, difficulty with money and bills, and taking longer to complete everyday tasks. The disease can become severe enough to limit a person’s ability to carry on a conversation or respond to the surrounding environment, said Sabersky. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an estimated 5.5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017. Risk factors include aging, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and family history. The CDC said symptoms usually begin after age 60, but Alzheimer’s disease likely starts a decade or more before problems become apparent to others. “There appears to be a link between repeated head injuries and certain forms of dementia, which can overlap with the symptoms of Alzheimer's,” said Sabersky, referring to a 2014 study published by the American Academy of Neurology. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 750,000 veterans have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, he added “Veterans who experienced brain trauma in the course of their service can be at higher risk for developing the disease,” said Sabersky. “The diagnosis PTSD has also been associated with an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.” While no cure has been found, various types of medication are available to help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. Sabersky said extensive interest in the subject has led to new research findings being released consistently over time. Army Maj. Joetta Khan, registered dietitian at Walter Reed, said risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are similar to heart disease. “There is a growing body of evidence that diet, exercise, and other interactions within one’s environment could alter brain health and mental function,” said Khan. Exercise seems to play a relevant role in brain health. Many observational studies have shown a decreased risk of dementia in people who exercise, she added. Healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, and being active, have shown the greatest benefit for preventing and slowing the progression of Alzheimer's, said Sabersky. “Keeping physically active and eating a balanced diet should be a priority with aging,” said Khan, adding that although bodies begin to slow down, they are influenced by behaviors. “Understanding the connection between a healthy lifestyle and brain health is essential to increasing not only our quantity (years) of life, but also the quality of those years.” Read Origial Article at


Are you ready for the next crisis? Commissaries offer savings on emergency supplies

Posted on July 05, 2018

 By Kevin L. Robinson, DeCA public affairs specialist May 24, 2018 Service members and their families in Puerto Rico don’t need a primer on using their commissary benefit to purchase emergency supplies. After being hit by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in the space of two weeks last September, they can write the book on disaster preparation. “From Sept. 1-5 [2017], it was a frenzy with many of our customers trying to purchase items for [hurricane] preparation,” said Bill Roger, store director of the Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, Commissary, recalling how his store aisles exploded with long lines of patrons stocking up on water, canned goods, batteries and other key emergency items. In the aftermath of 2017’s historic hurricane season, the Defense Commissary Agency reminds its patrons to their commissary to load up on the supplies they need to be ready for the next crisis, said Tracie Russ, agency sales director. “Last year, major hurricanes like Harvey, Irma and Maria caused widespread damage by flooding roads, cutting power and shutting down stores,” Russ said. “As bad and unpredictable as disasters are, it’s good to know our industry partners have always helped us offer tremendous savings on many of the items our patrons need to be prepared for any emergency.” From April through Oct. 31, DeCA’s severe weather promotional package includes discounts on the following items: beef jerky and other assorted meat snacks, soup and chili mixes, canned goods, powdered milk, cereals, batteries, airtight bags, weather-ready flashlights, tape (all-weather, heavy-duty shipping and duct), first aid kits, lighters, matches, lanterns, candles, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. Specific items may vary from store to store. The North Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to Nov. 30 and covers the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Tornado season is April to July. The Colorado State University forecast for 2018 predicts there will be 14 named storms, seven of which will be hurricanes with three of the hurricanes potentially being category 3 or higher. Accuweather’s forecast is similar, predicting 12 to 15 tropical storms, six to eight hurricanes with three to five being major hurricanes. Be it hurricane, tornado or a manmade event, emergency preparedness officials suggest having a disaster supply kit that includes the following items: Water – at least one gallon daily, per person (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home) Nonperishable foods – canned meats, fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, cereal, crackers, cookies, energy bars, granola, peanut butter, and foods for infants and the elderly (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home) Paper goods – writing paper, paper plates, paper towels and toilet paper Cooking items – pots, pans, baking sheets, cooking utensils, charcoal, a grill and a manual can opener First-aid kit – including bandages, medicines and prescription medications Cleaning materials – bleach, sanitizing spray, and hand and laundry soap Specialty foods – diet and low-calorie foods and drinks Toiletries – personal hygiene items and moisture wipes Pet care items – food, water, muzzle, leash, carrier, medications, medical records, and identification and immunization tags Lighting accessories – flashlights, batteries, candles and matches Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible) Duct tape, scissors Multipurpose tool Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies) Cell phone with chargers Family and emergency contact information Extra cash Emergency blanket Maps of the area Blankets or sleeping bags For more information about disaster preparedness, go to the Disaster Preparedness page for lists of resources. For photos related to this release, see our Flickr page .  Read original article at

TRICARE Test post

Posted on July 03, 2018

this is a test post

Summer Safety: 5 Tips for Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

Posted on June 26, 2018

Summer is upon us and with so many sun-filled fun activities to look forward to, don’t let safety take a backseat. During times of extreme weather, your skin can be at risk of suffering the most damage. Skin protection, especially during the summer, is crucial to ensuring overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in just 15 minutes. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers in the U.S. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is overexposure to UV light, either from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds and sunlamps. Be aware that indoor and outdoor tanning can be extremely harmful and should be done in a cautious and mindful manner. You have many options for protecting your skin while outdoors in the sun. Follow these tips this summer to help protect yourself and your family: Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher - Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF15 on all parts of exposed skin before you go outside. This is a good practice even on slightly cloudy or cool days. And remember, sunscreen wears off. You may need to reapply sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or sweat excessively. Wear clothing to cover your skin - When possible, wear a T-shirt or beach cover-up, in addition to sunscreen. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and skirts provide protection from UV rays. Use shade - Reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter when the sun’s rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But don’t rely on the shade alone. You still need to remember to use protective measures, like sunscreen and protective clothing, when you’re outside. Wear a hat to provide upper body shade - Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck. Wear sunglasses - Protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes by wearing sunglasses. Sunglasses that wrap around work best because they block UV rays. Anyone can develop skin cancer. However, a person’s skin pigment indicates how likely they are to sustain injury from UV rays. If you notice changes in your skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in the appearance of a mole, talk to your doctor. TRICARE covers skin cancer exams for people who are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer. This includes individuals with a family or personal history of skin cancer, increased occupational or recreational exposure to sunlight, or clinical evidence of precursor lesions. Stay tuned for more summer safety tips from TRICARE. To learn more about sun safety, visit the CDC or American Cancer Society websites. Read original article at

VA issues new policy to protect Veteran homeowners from predatory lending

Posted on June 26, 2018

VA has issued a new policy implementing the May 2018 Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, to protect Veteran homeowners from predatory lending practices when obtaining a VA-guaranteed refinance loan. The act helps protect Veterans and service members from the dangers associated with repeatedly refinancing their home loans, requiring, among other things, the seasoning of the original loan and a recoupment period for fees, closing costs and expenses related to the refinance. “We want to ensure Veterans have the informed ability to take advantage of economic opportunities and make sound decisions that enable them to prosper when using their benefits,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke. “This is yet another tool that will help Veterans meet their personal goals.” The act also provides for a specified interest rate decrease and for protections of loan-to-value ratios. A refinancing loan must meet the requirements specified in the act or VA will not guarantee the loan. VA recently implemented a policy where lenders provide Veteran borrowers a comparison of their existing VA-backed home loan to the proposed one when refinancing to ensure borrowers are set up for success. This is also referred to as a recoupment or break-even analysis, which helps Veteran borrowers clearly understand the costs of refinancing, the monthly payment savings, and the overall impact on their finances. VA-backed home loans generally do not require a down payment, have low closing costs, and are the lowest rates among all loan products in the marketplace. Notably, VA-backed home loans also continue to outperform other products in the market. In fiscal year 2017, VA guaranteed more than 740,000 loans for a total of $189 billion, an all-time record for the VA Home Loan Program. Over the past three years, VA has guaranteed more than 2 million VA home loans for over $500 billion. The VA Home Loan Program’s mission is to maximize Veterans’ and service members’ opportunity to obtain, retain, and adapt homes by providing a viable and fiscally responsible benefit program in recognition of their service to the nation. In addition, VA also helps severely disabled Veterans adapt their homes to live more independently by providing up to $81,080 for home modifications. For more information, including eligibility criteria, visit Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans. Read original article at

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Army Echoes informs Retired Soldiers, surviving spouses, and their Families on changes to their benefits and entitlements, developments within the Army, and how they can continue to support the Army.