- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I’m seeking information on the “Retired vets pay hefty fees for ‘free’ health care” from The Washington Times dated Monday, July 11, 2005.

I am a former military wife, married 30 years, and reaching my 65th birthday in September. I was planning to go forward with the Tricare for Life (TFL) military health insurance plan offered me until I read the article.

I want to know why “Mrs. T.E.C.” wrote in her letter to you that readers like me need “to be informed that although government officials repeatedly promised free medical care for life if warriors stayed on for a full career (my former husband retired as a lieutenant colonel with 20 years of service), those retirees under age 65 are instead required to pay hefty co-pay fees and/or buy their own supplemental insurance plan and after age 65 are kicked out of the military medical system altogether.” Your response to “Mrs. T.E.C.” was “I stand corrected. Retirees do pay a hefty premium and co-pay for their ‘free’ health care.”

This article has caused me some stress as I do not know whom to believe — you and Mrs. T.E.C. or the Tricare for Life representatives. They are informing me I will be getting the military insurance “free.” Yet the article claims hefty co-pay fees and/or I will need to purchase my own supplemental insurance plan. Not only that, but I may be “kicked out” once I turn 65.

In order for me to make an informed decision on health insurance, would you please let me know where I can go to seek the information you and Mrs. T.E.C. have on Tricare for Life? All the information I have on Tricare for Life indicates it will be “free.”

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention in answering this e-mail.

Clara R.


Dear Clara:

In order to receive Tricare for Life after age 65, one must pay Part B Medicare premiums; however, read the following letter.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have just read the letter in the National Times from an Air Force master sergeant in Stafford who describes problems with Medicare and Tricare for Life.

By law, providers who accept Medicare are required to accept TFL. When they do, and Medicare is billed, Medicare automatically sends the info to TFL for further payment of the amount Medicare does not pay.

In most cases, the TFL payment is received by the providers before the Medicare payment is received. I have not talked with a single provider who has had a complaint with billing from TFL.

As a member of the Tricare Beneficiary Panel of the Department of Defense, I find the sergeant’s claim hard to swallow. I suggest he contact the Tricare Web site immediately and voice his complaint with names and dates.

Even better, I suggest he e-mail [email protected] with names and dates of his problem.

Emil K.

U.S. Army, retired

Shaft notes

• The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs recently thanked his colleagues for agreeing to add $1.5 billion to meet the 2005 budget shortfall for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The addition of $1.5 billion passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate brings the total for VA’s health care budget for 2005 to more than $28 billion. Under the adopted legislation, any of the $1.5 billion not used during the 2005 budget year, which ends Sept. 30, will be carried over into 2006.

• Congratulations to friend William F. Tuerk on his nomination by President Bush for an important position with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He has been chosen to be the next VA undersecretary for memorial affairs.

He serves as chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. A date has not been set for a hearing on his nomination.

If approved by the Senate as undersecretary for memorial affairs, Mr. Tuerk will oversee the operation of more than 120 national cemeteries, including the availability of headstones and grave markers, and will be responsible for the purchase of additional land for future cemeteries, and the issuance of Presidential Memorial Certificates to survivors of honorably discharged veterans.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax to 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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