- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am approaching my retirement at age 60 as a retired reserve personnel. I was interested in TRICARE insurance. Now after 60, what would be my charge per month with spouse? I was told when I did reach age 60 my fee for this insurance would be that of a regular retired soldier. When I called TRICARE, they told me the expense was more than $1,000 per month. So this is different than what I have read before in reserve magazines. The woman I talked with was rather confused when I told her I would be a retiree after age 60. She said she wasn’t sure of the charge, but thought it was more than $1,000 per month.

So my question is: What will be my charge for TRICARE coverage?

Thanks,
Ret. Capt. Paul A. (U.S. Army)
Via the Internet

Dear Paul A.:

This is not an easy question. Your charge will be the same as a regular retired soldier. Your timing is bad though, since Congress will be considering the administration’s proposal to increase TRICARE fees significantly, beginning in FY-2013.

TRICARE Prime fees used to be $460/year for a family. They rose to $520/year last October 2011. If Congress approves the administration’s proposal, they will increase next year and for the next five years based on how much retired pay the individual receives. Here’s what it looks like:

TRICARE Prime annual enrollment fees for retired families (currently $520) would rise as high as $820 starting Oct. 1, 2012, and rise to as much as $2,048 within five years, with fees based on the amount of military retired pay.

TRICARE Standard beneficiaries would start paying a $140 annual family enrollment fee and a slightly increased deductible ($320) starting Oct 1, with the enrollment fee and deductible rising to $250 and $580, respectively within 5 years. These would be flat fees for all Standard beneficiaries.

Retirees and family members age 65 and older would start paying an annual TRICARE For Life (TFL) enrollment fee of up to $135 per person starting this Oct. 1. This fee also would be graduated based on retired pay amount, and would rise to as much as $475 per year within 5 years.

Pharmacy copays for retail and mail-order brand-name medications would more than double (from $12 to $26) starting Oct 1. Copays for non-formulary medications that currently cost $25 would also more than double, to $51, and availability would be mostly restricted to the mail-order venue, with only limited retail access. The brand-name and non-formulary copays would rise to $34 and $66, respectively, within 5 years.

Depending on the amount of your retired pay, you would pay the following annual amounts:

Retired pay amount:

• $0-22,589: FY-12: $520; FY-13: $600; FY-14: $680; FY-15: $760; FY-16: $850; FY-17: $893.

• $22,590-$45,178: $520, $720, $920, $1,185, $1,450, $1,523.

• $45,179 or more: $520, $820, $1,120, $1,535, $1,950, $2,048.

Military retirees and all veterans deserve more than thanks for your service from this administration.

Shaft notes

Congratulations to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, who has been selected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S to receive its 2012 VFW Congressional Award for his outstanding service to the nation’s military and to a strong and secure America.

“The chairman fights to strengthen our military and to invest in a force that can meet and beat any threat,” said VFW National Commander Richard L. DeNoyer. “He also led efforts to keep terrorist detainees off of U.S. soil, increased missile defense funding, restored the tradition of keeping nondefense social issues out of the defense bill, and is a leading voice to keep the military intact in this budget-cutting era. Our military and veterans’ communities of past and present have no better friend in Congress than Chairman McKeon.”

This award presentation is part of the VFW’s annual legislative conference that will see almost 300 VFW members visiting their elected officials to discuss issues important to the veterans, service members and their families. Top most issue this year is to protect the Department of Veterans Affairs budget from mandatory cuts if sequestration occurs, and to defeat the Defense Department’s negative quality-of-life proposals that would restrict military pay, substantially increase TRICARE costs on military dependents and retirees, and overhaul a military retirement system into something more suitable for civilian companies.

“There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and benefits,” said Mr. DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass.

“A secure America needs a strong military, which is one of many reasons why Chairman McKeon was selected for this year’s award,” he said. “Messing with military pay and benefits is a clear signal to the troops and their families that the budget is more important than people. That money-first mindset is going to seriously hurt recruiting and retention, and potentially end the all-volunteer force.”

These and other important issues were addressed in detail when the VFW national commander testified before a joint hearing of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees. Other high-interest topics range from military transition and employment assistance programs to education, the proper care and treatment of wounded warriors, women veterans, the 1.7 million VA claims workload, and combating veteran suicides and homelessness, among others.

Other events convention related events included hosting a Wounded Warrior Dinner at the National Press Club for about 75 wounded troops and their families from the Walter Reed National Medical Center at nearby Bethesda, Md.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.