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Largest Increase in 7 Years For VA Disability Compensation

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By Debbie Gregory.

The VA Disability Compensation Rates will increase 2.8 percent in 2019. This is the largest increase since 2012. These increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year’s numbers. If there is an increase, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is made. If there is no increase, there is no COLA. The COLA affects about one of every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees and retired military members. In 2018, the COLA was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase. There was no increase at all in 2016; the last time COLA increased by more than 2.8 percent was 2012, when compensation rates got a 3.6 percent hike.

The VA has strange computation rules that make working out the exact rates impossible. Therefore, the final amounts are not yet available but we can approximate the 2019 benefits based on the cost of living increase. These benefits are paid the first of each month for the prior month. Below is an unofficial approximation of the increases for various levels of VA Disability just for the Veteran and not including spouses or dependents:

10 percent – $140.05
20 percent – $276.84
30 percent – $428.83
40 percent – $617.73
50 percent – $879.36
60 percent – $1,113.86
70 percent – $1,403.71
80 percent – $1,631.69
90 percent – $1,833.62
100 percent – $3,057.13

We are grateful to every Veteran who served and sacrificed.

Halfaker & Associates Awarded $10M Support Services Contract

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Congratulations to Halfaker and Associates, LLC on the $10M VA Software Engineering Support Services Revenue Cycle Management contract award.

The technology solutions provider received the award under the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation (T4NG) contract vehicle. Halfaker will work with VA’s Office of Community Care (OCC) Revenue Operations (RO) to improve user experience and the quality of Veteran-facing systems by providing project management, requirements analysis, design, development, integration, and testing focused on the Accounts Receivable (AR), Integrated Billing (IB) modules of Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), Consolidate Billing Statement System (CBSS), and Veterans Billing Statement System (VBS). The SE RCM task is a two-year, $10M program that will support VA’s OCC Revenue Operations.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Halfaker was founded by Army veteran Dawn Halfaker, who also serves as the company’s CEO.

“As the OCC RO continues to assess, monitor and drive VHA compliance with healthcare regulatory requirements, the systems that enable these operations must continuously mature and evolve in a rapid and scalable manner,” said Ms. Halfaker. “We are ready to support VA’s OCC RO in every aspect of enhancing critical VistA modules so that they can continue to serve our Veterans.”

With a track record of strong VA customer relationships and outstanding performance across large, enterprise-level modernization programs, Halfaker delivers feature-driven agile development, leveraging automated build, test, and deployment processes to guarantee rapid, reliable, timely, and high-quality software releases. Halfaker leverages diverse teams to conduct operations and achieve all program objectives in adherence to VA’s Veteran-focused Integration Process (VIP) guidelines. Their cloud technology experts engineer customer-centric solutions by adapting the latest tools, standards and techniques to meet the client’s strategic goals, modernize mission-critical applications, reduce backend risks, and increase scalability for future optimization.


Securing Your Data

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By Debbie Gregory.

When it comes to security breaches and hacks, it’s not just the Fortune 500 companies that are targeted.

In fact, smaller companies have become more attractive to hackers because they tend to have weaker online security. They’re also doing more business than ever online via cloud services that don’t use strong encryption technology. To a hacker, that translates into reams of sensitive data behind a door with an easy lock to pick.

Some of the most sinister hacking outfits operating today are “state-sponsored” groups supported, or at least loosely supervised, by governments. That includes the Russians who allegedly hacked into the Democratic National Committee and the North Korean team credited with unleashing the “WannaCry” malware as a moneymaking scheme.

Here are some tips to help you keep your information safe:

Put in place the best tech barriers you can afford, including cloud-based security apps, cybersecurity software and anti-virus software. Make sure that you keep these barriers up-to-date

Patch your biggest vulnerability: you and your people. Hold a training on “how to open email”. Sounds basic, perhaps, but the vast majority of attacks make their way into the office by someone opening an email. The virus reaches out to the network, the servers, and other computers and infects everyone it touches. Teach employees to devise smarter passwords, possibly using a password generator. Additionally, they should know how to think critically about their online actions.

Consider a secured, private network or server. Controlling your own server and private network ensures who can access it and decreases the chances of outside interference.

Put your security measures to the test. Consider bringing in an ethical hackers or cybersecurity expert to find any issues with your security. Run daily virus and malware scans on your work machines.

Don’t ever assume hacking won’t happen to you and your company. Complacency is the easiest way to become vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

USMC to Cease and Desist!

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By Debbie Gregory. abandoned a recently-unveiled online ad campaign after receiving a dressing-down from the Marine Corps.

The advertising campaign mentioned the Marine Corps in selling jerseys to be worn over the Memorial Day weekend by Major League Baseball teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers.

One ad read, “Honor the U.S. Marine Corps brave men and women with this authentic New York Yankees Giancarlo Stanton Majestic MLB Men’s USMC Cool Base Jersey.”

The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard all have a trademark licensing office in order to control their logos and slogans. Revenues generated from licensing products support morale, welfare and recreation programs worldwide.

The Marine Corps does not currently have a licensing agreement in place with Lids or Major League Baseball.

Nick Francona, son of Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, is a former Marine who doesn’t mince words regarding profiting from those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

On the Friday before Memorial Day, Francona tweeted, “How about a Friday scavenger hunt? Who can find the 501c(3) filings showing specific details on MLB’s donations related to the proceeds from the sale of Memorial Day apparel the past few years? It’s a charity after all, right?”

In another tweet, Francona wrote “You have to hand it to @NewEraCap, @lids, and @MLB. It’s not often that you can combine callous exploitation and ignorance of the fundamental tenets of democracy in such an efficient manner.”

Besides these call-outs, Francona’s Twitter page is filled with tributes to the fallen. In his quest to make sure that they are not forgotten, Francona made personalized wristbands with the names of specific U.S. military veterans who died while serving overseas and distributed them to players and coaches with connections to the hometowns or schools where the deceased veteran was from.

By Debbie Gregory.

If Lockheed Martin is able to deliver on its laser weapon system in development, the U.S. Air Force may boast a fleet of fighter jets that can shoot lasers from a small, compact cannon.

As part of the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE program ) the $26.3 million contract with the Air Force Research Lab should result in a weapon system that is not only compact, but also light enough to be mounted on fighter jets.

Currently, most of these systems are limited to ground and sea use due to their weight and size. Such is the case for the ground vehicle–mounted system that Lockheed Martin just delivered to the U.S. Army that can burn through tanks and knock mortars out of the sky.

Lockheed Martin will be adapting the system it developed for the Army to address the challenge of self-protection against ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

The program’s work will be divided among three subsystems: the Shield Turret Research in Aero Effects (Strafe) includes the beam control system; the Laser Pod Research and Development (LPRD) will power and cool the laser on the fighter jet; and finally, the LANCE laser itself.

“The ability of a helicopter or bomber or fighter jet to shoot down or sufficiently damage or distract an incoming missile could allow them to operate in places they haven’t been able to operate recently,” said military analyst Peter Singer.

Raytheon became the first company to destroy a target with a laser fired from a helicopter at White Sands Missile Range when an Apache AH-64 shot a truck from more than a mile away. Raytheon is also building a laser-firing, drone-killing dune buggy. Boeing has its own anti-drone laser cannon.

Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin plans to test a high-energy laser weapon mounted on a fighter jet by 2021.