- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I read something recently about some in the federal government pushing for a substantial increase in Tricare Prime medical coverage premiums. Tricare Prime enrollees pay $460 per year (military retirees). I read that there is a push to increase the yearly premium to $2,000.

Can you contact someone to find out the status or truth of this matter? I’m sure the thousands of military retirees would love to hear the latest news on this issue.


Larry A., U.S. Army, retired

Sun City, Ariz.

Dear Larry:

Yes. In recent letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House armed services committees, Joseph Barnes, national executive secretary of the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), urged them to identify alternatives to imposing higher health care enrollment and pharmacy fees on military retirees.

FRA strongly opposes plans to increase health care costs for retired military beneficiaries younger than 65 as detailed in the administration’s fiscal 2007 budget request.

Under the proposed budget, Tricare Prime and Standard fees and deductibles will significantly increase between now and 2008, and will thereafter be adjusted annually to match the rate of health care inflation.

Mr. Barnes said this fee increase is an affront to those who have served the United States, and urges all veterans and retirees to contact their elected officials and let their voices be heard.

“Our nation is at war, and imposing these costs on retirees sends a powerful negative message not only to them, but to those currently serving about the value of their service,” he said.

FRA is urging its members and others to tell Congress to reject this proposal. The Action Center on www.fra.org contains an “Action Alert” on this issue that can be e-mailed to elected officials.

Shaft Notes

• The nation’s best and bravest, those severely wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will participate in a yearlong program of sport rehabilitation offered by Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA) and Wounded Warrior Project. Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project 2006 will kick off a series of activities, including more than 50 “learn to” clinics.

Competitions in skiing and other sports also will be held.

Thanks to the partnership with Wounded Warrior Project and others, DS/USA provides all sports programs free of charge for severely wounded service members and their families. This includes costs for transportation, special adaptive sports equipment, individualized instructions from trained instructors, lodging, meals and other costs.

“These brave service members, who have sacrificed greatly for this nation, deserve every opportunity to participate in sport programs as a way to rebuild their lives and help them achieve top-level performance,” said Kirk Bauer, executive director of DS/USA and a disabled Vietnam veteran.

“Participating in sport is one very effective way to show someone they can still lead an active and productive life,” he said.

Activities will be held for service members rehabilitating in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Service members also will have the opportunity to participate at DS/USA chapter sites throughout the U.S.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization aimed at assisting those men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have been severely injured during the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world. For more information, call 540/342-0032 or visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

DS/USA was founded in 1967 by disabled Vietnam veterans. It provides opportunities for people with disabilities to gain confidence and dignity through sports, recreation and educational programs. DS/USA is a national multi-sport, multi-disability organization serving more than 60,000 people annually. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, DS/USA offers programs through its nationwide network of more than 80 community-based chapters operating in 35 states. Visit www.dsusa.org/woundedwarrior.html or call 301/217-9840 for schedules and additional information.

• The Sarge joins the national Commander of the American Legion in blasting a United Nations report calling for the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as “incredibly inaccurate.”

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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