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Final Report to the Secretary of Defense: Military Health System Review

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Final Report to the Secretary of Defense: Military Health System Review – Final Report (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

On May 28, 2014, the Secretary of Defense ordered a comprehensive review of the Military Health System (MHS). The review was directed to assess whether: 1) access to medical care in the MHS meets defined access standards; 2) the quality of health care in the MHS meets or exceeds defined benchmarks; and 3) the MHS has created a culture of safety with effective processes for ensuring safe and reliable care of beneficiaries. This is the first time the MHS has taken an enterprise view of such scope in these areas.

Based on information analyzed during the review, the MHS provides good quality care that is safe and timely, and is comparable to that found in the civilian sector. However, the MHS demonstrates wide performance variability with some areas better than civilian counterparts and other areas below national benchmarks.

See also: Report appendices (PDF)

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CRS — Lame Duck Sessions of Congress, 1935-2012 (74th-112th Congresses) (September 19, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Lame Duck Sessions of Congress, 1935-2012 (74th-112th Congresses) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A “lame duck” session of Congress occurs whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected, but before the term of the current Congress ends. Under present conditions, any meeting of Congress after election day in November, but before the following January 3, is a lame duck session. Prior to 1933, when the 20th Amendment changed the dates of the congressional term, the last regular session of Congress was always a lame duck session. Today, however, the expression is used not only for a separate session of Congress that convenes after a sine die adjournment, but also for any portion of a regular session that falls after an election.

New From the GAO

October 2, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. 2020 Census: Census Bureau Can Improve Use of Leading Practices When Choosing Address and Mapping Sources. GAO-15-21, October 2.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-21
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666344.pdf

2. Compounded Drugs: TRICARE’s Payment Practices Should Be More Consistent with Regulations. GAO-15-64, October 2.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-64
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666338.pdf

CRS — The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: A Primer (September 22, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since 1971, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been a self-supporting government agency that covers its operating costs with revenues generated through the sales of postage and related products and services.

The USPS is experiencing significant financial challenges. After running modest profits from FY2003 through FY2006, the USPS lost $45.6 billion between FY2007 and FY2013. Since FY2011, the USPS has defaulted on $16.7 billion in payments to its Retiree Health Benefits Fund (RHBF). The agency reached its $15 billion borrowing limit in FY2012 and did not reduce its total debt in FY2013. In October 2012, the USPS bolstered its liquidity by withdrawing all of the cash from its competitive products fund. This fund has not been replenished since that time.

While the financial condition of the postal service slightly improved in FY2013, both revenues and expenses have increased through the first three quarters of FY2014. Compared with the same point in FY2013, expenses are $1.4 billion higher while revenues have increased by $1.0 billion.

The USPS’s recent financial difficulties are partially the product of reduced demand. The agency has experienced a 21.7% drop in mail volume during the past 10 years. Additionally, during the past decade the “mail mix” has shifted. A growing portion of the mail is advertising mail, which yields low profits. Concurrently, the annual volume of first-class letters, which are highly profitable, has been dropping steadily, at least in part due to mailers shifting to electronic communications. As a result, the Postal Service’s revenues in FY2013 were lower than they were in FY2004. Additionally, the Postal Service’s liquidity has decreased and its debt has increased because of the statutorily mandated payments that must be made to the RHBF each year.

This report discusses these issues in more detail, and it will be updated after the USPS releases its FY2014 year-end financial results in November 2014 and in the interim should there be any significant developments.

CRS — The Effect of Firm Bankruptcy on Retiree Benefits, with Applications to the Automotive and Coal Industries (September 22, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

The Effect of Firm Bankruptcy on Retiree Benefits, with Applications to the Automotive and Coal Industries (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Benefits for retired employees are of particular interest to policy makers because of the growing number of retirees and forecasts indicating that some future retirees may not have the necessary financial resources to maintain their standards of living. Part of this congressional concern is what happens when bankrupt employers are unable to provide promised pension and health benefits to their retired employees.

In chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, the employer receives protections against its financial commitments in the hope that it may once again become profitable. This protection could include not having to honor obligations concerning pensions and retiree health insurance. Its employees may therefore be at risk of not receiving some of their promised benefits. Unionized and nonunionized employees may be treated differently under the law because unionized workers have a legal contract governing their terms and conditions of employment.

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (September 24, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On September 23, 125 heads of state and governments, as well as business, religious, community, and civil society leaders, gathered in New York City for Climate Summit 2014. The Summit was hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and branded as an event “to galvanize and catalyze climate action.” While it may have accomplished little in its quest for deeper government commitments than already pledged, it provided a platform for private and nonprofit organizations to announce a wide variety of actions, including pledges of U.S. $200 billion to finance climate-related actions, mostly from investors and other private entities, and that may move markets and secure future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. The European Union pledged U.S. $18 billion of the total.

CRS — Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview and Trends (September 24, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview and Trends (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The extent to which residents of the United States who are not U.S. citizens should be eligible for federally funded public aid has been a contentious issue since the 1990s. This issue meets at the intersection of two major policy areas: immigration policy and welfare policy. The eligibility of noncitizens for public assistance programs is based on a complex set of rules that are determined largely by the type of noncitizen in question and the nature of services being offered. Over the past 18 years, Congress has enacted significant changes in U.S. immigration policy and welfare policy. Congress has exercised oversight of revisions made by the 1996 welfare reform law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, P.L. 104-193)—including the rules governing noncitizen eligibility for public assistance that it established—and legislation covering programs with major restrictions on noncitizens’ eligibility (e.g., food stamps/SNAP, Medicaid).

This report deals with the four major federal means-tested benefit programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, and Medicaid. Laws in place for the past 18 years restrict the eligibility of legal permanent residents (LPRs), refugees, asylees, and other noncitizens for most means-tested public aid. Noncitizens’ eligibility for major federal means-tested benefits largely depends on their immigration status; whether they arrived (or were on a program’s rolls) before August 22, 1996, the enactment date of P.L. 104- 193; and how long they have lived and worked in the United States.

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