- - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I served in the Virginia Air National Guard and had TRICARE Reserve Select. (TRICARE is the Department of Defense’s health care system.) In October of 2012, I had some blood tests done through my doctor’s office. To my knowledge, I was covered under TRICARE Reserve Select. I had also paid for my coverage up until January of 2013.

My End of Term Service for my first six years in the Guard was Oct. 26, 2012. I had blood work done that week and Nov. 1, 2012. I was later notified January 2013 that I was no longer eligible for coverage and they would not pay the approximately $1,000 lab bill I have received.

I’m a full-time student, trying to work part-time and cannot afford this bill, nor do I think I should have to pay. No one notified me of my coverage and when it would lapse, I’ve contacted TRICARE, DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) and the Air Force Personnel office, and everyone says they are unable to do anything about it.

Can you be of any help or direct me to anyone? Is there anything else I can do? This is so stressful and time-consuming, I don’t know what else to do? Thank you.

Lisa S.

Dear Lisa:

According to my sources at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), I’m afraid there is nothing to do under the TRICARE system. TRICARE Reserve Select is a health plan for members serving in the Selected Reserves or similar category of service.

Like an employer health plan in the civilian world, a person has to be an employee, so to speak, to be covered under the employer health plan. Once separated from the Guard, the TRICARE Reserve Select coverage ends as a result of severed service.

Shaft notes

• Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, Florida Republican and vice-chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the Perpetual POW/MIA Stamp Act, which would require the Postmaster General to issue a forever stamp featuring the National League of Families POW/MIA flag, in honor of the sacrifices of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who are prisoners, unaccounted for, or missing in action.

“Our men and women in uniform have made great sacrifices to protect the liberty and freedom of our great nation,” Mr. Bilirakis said. “It is my hope that this stamp will serve as a constant reminder of the plight of America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, and the fact that our job is not over until all service members are accounted for.”

This legislation comes after an outpouring of requests from constituents in and around Florida’s 12th Congressional District. Mr. Bilirakis and Rep. Charles William “Bill” Young, a Florida Republican, originally petitioned the USPS to do the stamp on its own. However, it declined their suggestion.

More than 83,000 service members remain missing since World War II, according to the Department of Defense. In 1982, the POW/MIA flag became the first flag other than the U.S. flag to fly over the White House in Washington, D.C.

Forever stamps were created by the USPS in 2007. They are non-denominational First Class postage. They can be used to mail First Class letters no matter the postage rate.

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