Covid-19 Government and Partner Response Update
TAPS Supports Bill to Expand Veterans Survivor Benefits
TAPS is honored to join with Representative TJ Cox (D-CA-21) along with Representatives Gil Cisneros (D-CA-39), Ted Yoho (R-FL-3), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ-2) and Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5) to support their bipartisan legislation, the Caring for Survivors Act of 2020.
This important legislation would improve Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for survivors who lost their loved ones to a service-related injury or illness by:
- Reducing the age allowed for a surviving spouse to remarry and maintain their benefits from 57 to 55, consistent with other Federal survivor programs.
- Increasing the DIC base rate to 55% of the rate of compensation paid to a totally disabled veteran.
- Easing the 10-year rule for eligibility and replace it with a graduated scale of benefits that begins after five years and increases by percentage until reaching full amount at the 10-year mark.
TAPS has long advocated for increasing and improving DIC, and we remain committed to ending the remarriage penalty for all surviving spouses. (May 20, 2020)
National Memorial Day Observance
The 152nd National Memorial Day Observance to honor America’s fallen military service members at Arlington National Cemetery will be live-streamed beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, May 25, 2020.
The U.S. Army Military District of Washington will conduct a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony at 9 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony hosted by Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Mark T. Esper, will be modified from the standard ceremony to practice physical distancing to ensure the safety of all participants. Attendance of the National Memorial Day Observance is limited to official ceremony participants. The public is encouraged to live-stream the ceremony. (May 22, 2020)
Memorial Day Commemorations at NCA Cemeteries
The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will be observing Memorial Day 2020 in a manner that honors those who sacrificed for our Nation while protecting the health and safety of visitors and team members during COVID-19.
All 142 VA national cemeteries will be open for visitation throughout the Memorial Day weekend. Families and friends are welcome to place flowers or individual flags at Veterans' gravesites. Cemetery visitors are asked to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health and safety guidelines, and local travel restrictions. Families are being asked to spread out their visits over the weekend leading up to Memorial Day on May 25, 2020.
NCA will not host public events for Memorial Day, including the mass placement and retrieval of gravesite flags by any groups. Cemetery staff will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to officially commemorate Memorial Day and will share pictures of the event on Facebook and other social media. Please view and share the NCA Memorial Day Message. (May 20, 2020)
Boy Scouts of America & NCA Join Together to Ensure Every Fallen Hero is Remembered on Memorial Day
Scouts across the country will build on the tradition of honoring our nation's fallen heroes this Memorial Day by posting public tributes to our veterans in partnership with the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
This effort will take place through the Veterans Legacy Memorial – a digital memorial that houses a profile for each of the 3.7 million veterans interred in one of more than 140 national cemeteries.
Members of the public are encouraged to participate in this collective tribute for our fallen heroes by leaving a message for at least one veteran by Memorial Day on the Veterans Legacy Memorial webpage and by joining Scouts and the country in the National Moment of Remembrance. (May 20, 2020)
VA Launches New Roll of Honor Web Page
The site provides an opportunity to remember those Veterans interred during the COVID-19 crisis and reflects interments in our cemeteries starting on April 13, 2020. While the VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA) will work with families to schedule committal services once the crisis passes, they want to honor and remember these Veterans now.
Each day, the NCA will add the names, branch of service and location of burial for each Veteran interred in a national cemetery on the previous day. Those interred during this crisis will also be memorialized with individual profile pages in the Veterans Legacy Memorial, after the cemetery updates the Veteran's interment record. (May 20, 2020)
If you have questions regarding your government benefits, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Department of Defense Current Coronavirus Case Totals
Cumulative Totals as of May 22, 2020 - 5 a.m. Eastern
These figures are refined as the Joint Staff Crisis Management Team receives updated/corrected reporting on case numbers.
Totals courtesy of the DoD Covid-19 Media Fact Sheet
Department of Defense COVID-19 Reponse Infographic. Select image above to view full graphic. Infographic courtesy of the Coronavirus: DoD Response.
What the Federal Government is Doing
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Under the direction of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, FEMA, HHS and our federal partners are working with state, local, tribal and territorial governments to execute a Whole-of-America response to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the public.
- USA.GOV: Learn what the U.S. federal government is doing in response to the coronavirus crisis. This site provides a host of information and links to important COVID-19 support from federal agencies.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): CDC is studying the virus worldwide and helping communities respond locally. This is a rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide updated information and guidance as it becomes available.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA is working with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Department of Health and Human Services and state, local, tribal and territorial governments to execute a Whole-of-America response.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available.
- U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA): Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security, and health of the American people. Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy.
- Federal Housing Finance Agency: Special mortgage help is available for homeowners affected by COVID-19. Learn more about mortgage loan assistance.
- U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid: Federal Student Aid provides relief to student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 national emergency. Access current information for students, borrowers and parents.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA has posted a Consumer Update on “Tips on Good Nutrition and Using the Updated Nutrition Facts Label During the Coronavirus Pandemic”
- U.S. Office of Personnel and Management (OPM): OPM works closely with a number of federal agencies to provide updated information to agencies and employees. The Federal Government is also looking to fill various positions to help respond to and fight COVID-19.
What the Department of Defense is Doing
- U.S. Department of Defense (DoD): Department of Defense is closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19. DoD is coordinating with interagency partners to ensure accurate and timely information is available and encourage all appropriate measures are taken to limit the virus' spread.
- Military OneSource: The Department of Defense is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of State to provide support in dealing with the coronavirus disease outbreak.
- National Guard Bureau (NGB): The National Guard response to the coronavirus focuses primarily on supporting a surge for enhanced medical capacity and logistics support. Every state is battling COVID-19, and we need to be aware of the immense impact we have on our communities.
- Military Health System (MHS): To ensure we provide the most up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Military Health System created this all-inclusive information center, which is updated regularly.
- TRICARE: TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees, their families and survivors. Stay informed about the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
- Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA): The Defense Commissary Agency is committed to the health and safety of our customers and staff. We are closely monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19 and proactively following CDC guidelines. We adhere to the highest standards of DOD health protection in our stores.
What the Department of Veteran Affairs is Doing
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
- VA Public Health: VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans, their families, health care providers, and staff in the face of this emerging health risk.
- VA Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions: VA has created a Coronavirus frequently asked questions (FAQs) page to help answer routine or non-urgent questions.
- VA Benefits and Resources Guide: VA has created a guide to help you learn how to use your VA health care benefits during this emerging health crisis and will provide links and resources you can reference to protect yourself and others.
- National Cemetery Administration (NCA): The VA’s National Cemeteries continue to serve our Veterans and their families during the COVID-19 health crisis, although some procedures have had to change in order to protect the health and safety of cemetery team members, volunteers, and families.
What the Legislative Branch is Doing
- Senators Urge Defense Secretary to Place Guard on Federal Orders: Chairman Jerry Moran and Ranking Member Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee sent Secretary Esper a letter urging him to bring all members of the Guard on to Federal Orders to ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to while putting their lives in harm's way to defend our country during the COVID-19 outbreak. TAPS is leading efforts with Congress to ensure any member of the Guard who is activated during this time will be eligible for the benefits they deserve, especially if they die from their service.
- Congress Passes CARES Act: Congress passed and the President signed a $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27. The bill is the third large-scale congressional effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides relief to American families and workers. TAPS read through the 880-page bill and has provided key take-a-ways that affect our TAPS community the most.
- Congress Protects VA Education Loans: Congress passed legislation to ensure students continue to receive VA education benefits, even though the universities have gone online. Students should see no impact on their benefits for spring, summer and fall 2020 terms. TAPS and veterans education organizations worked with Congress to ensure survivors, veterans and families using the GI Bill will not be penalized during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Congress leading efforts to lower prescription drug costs for TRICARE beneficiaries: Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) and Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) are leading a bipartisan Congressional effort to lower prescription drug costs for TRICARE beneficiaries by eliminating copays on mail order prescription drugs incurred during the COVID-19 crisis. TAPS is working with Representatives Kim and Luria to garner support for this legislation, which will positively impact many survivors.
- House and Senate Introduce Legislation to Provide Financial Protection for Military Families Amid COVID-19: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), and Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to provide additional legal protections for servicemembers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
- Senators Work to Increase Telehealth Options for Military Families During COVID-19: Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a bipartisan call for the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to cover the full scope of telehealth services under TRICARE amid the coronavirus crisis, particularly mental health care. On May 12, 2020, TRICARE announced that it now covers telehealth visits by telephone and has eliminated the patient co-pays and cost shares for telehealth options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
TAPS Partners and Additional Resources
- National Governors Association (NGB): Current information on the status of COVID-19 in the United States and abroad. What actions States and Territories have taken to address it.
- American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is closely monitoring the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and following the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Johns Hopkins: Johns Hopkins University and Medicine is using its expertise to address the new coronavirus pandemic, treat patients, protect visitors and staff and provide up-to-date information to the public. Johns Hopkins offers a COVID-19 self-checker and answers to frequently asked questions. Information about how maternity wards have changed during this challenging time. They also provide a data center with detailed numbers of diagnosed and recovered.
- Salvation Army: The Salvation Army is caring for the people who are most vulnerable to Coronavirus. They offer food pantries, homeless shelters, help for domestic abuse, and emergency financial assistance.
- United Services Automobile Association (USAA): USAA is supporting worldwide efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, while making sure military families have the tools and access needed to manage their financial life. They offer financial assistance and a list of COVID-19 resources.
- Association of Defense Communities (ADC): ADC, Blue Star Families, TAPS and fellow collaborative partners have joined forces to create the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative (CMSI), a united, national platform for sharing information, maintaining engagement, developing best practices and policy approaches to ensure our military receives the support it deserves. CMSI provides resources and expertise to support communities, states and military families through this crisis.
- Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) Hidden Heroes: A number of the military and veteran families we serve may be at an elevated risk for COVID-19. EDF Hidden Heroes is working overtime to bring community members information, resources, and assistance as our nation battles this pandemic.
- The Parent Encouragement Program (PEP): PEP is offering free weekly webinars on Parenting Support During the Coronavirus. These informative webinars are held every Thursday at 12 noon Eastern on relevant topics addressing the evolving crisis.