- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I welcomed your recent report on the establishment of a Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans. One of the most challenging issues will continue to be to provide quality care and rehabilitative services to the new generation of veterans.

In that connection, one hopes the commission will revisit the administration’s decision to close and dispose of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center facilities, and will recommend that they be retained by the government and made part of the VA system for the care of veterans in the Washington area.



Frederick, Md.

Dear W:

Your inquiry prompted me to talk to my old friend Harry Walters, who leads the new commission.

Mr. Walters said the “transition” matter will be considered in great detail by the commission. It is weighing a 10-year plan for the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments’ medical care systems that “can meet the need of our returning veterans from the war on terror.” In addition, he said, the VA must consider the needs of all veterans.

The commission will study and recommend a strategic plan to deal with these issues over the next 10 years. This strategy will dictate a practical vision for the future that can be used by the government to appropriate the necessary funds. Creative thinking will be needed to find the solutions to these necessities.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am writing about your article, published July 24, regarding “Retired veteran entitled to Tricare at any time.” In your responses, you stated, “Once you or your wife turns 65, you should enroll in the Medicare Part B drug program.” This is in error. Medicare Part B provides supplemental coverage to Medicare Part A, the hospital insurance.

Under Medicare Part B, items such as physician services, lab, X-ray and other items or services are covered. Medicare Part B does cover some drugs under certain circumstances, such as when a patient gets a drug while seeing his or her physician (the drug is given incidental to a physician’s service). It is Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program that started Jan. 1, that provides outpatient prescription drug insurance.

Lia Prela,

Captain, United States Public Health Service

Medicare Drug Benefit Group

Center for Beneficiary Choices


Dear Captain:

Thanks for bringing this Tricare goof to my attention. For my penance, I will attempt to simplify this bureaucratic maze in my future columns.

Shaft notes

Special somersaults to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which opened its 7:30 p.m. show July 20 with a salute to U.S. service members and their families, by honoring a Marine who was wounded while serving two tours in Iraq. The performance featured the Navy League of the United States’ Naval Sea Cadets Color Guard. Representing the U.S. Navy in the Los Angeles area, the Ronald Reagan Division of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a Navy League youth division.

Ringling Bros. is an official corporate team member of America Supports You, a Defense Department initiative to highlight the efforts of individuals and groups to support active U.S. military.

In addition to the locally tailored and specially choreographed salute and welcome, this new America Supports You partnership included discounted tickets for all Los Angeles shows for members of the military and their immediate families, as well as ticket offers to members of the reserves and National Guard and to retired military members throughout the country.

Ringling Bros. has been a longtime backer of America’s military community, expressing support and gratitude through clown and performer appearances at military child care centers and libraries, ticket donations and video greeting programs for military families to send messages to deployed loved ones.

“It’s an honor and privilege to lift the spirits and create indelible memories for America’s armed forces and their families,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive officer of the circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment Inc. “As we travel through America, we ourselves are uplifted when we cross paths with good friends from the military.”

Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said, “We are grateful for the support that Ringing Bros. gives our military members and their families, especially their children. This initiative helps demonstrate to our military men and women strong home-front support, which is so important to them and their loved ones, particularly during the holidays.”

Please visit www.ringling.com to learn more about when and where the “Greatest Show on Earth” will appear next.

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

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