- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sgt. Shaft:

Greetings. I retired from the Navy in 1998 after serving 20 years. I retired with a 30 percent service-connected disability. I am employed with excellent medical and dental coverage through my employer. We choose not to use Tricare/[Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System] or VA benefits (other than a yearly physical at the VA). When I decide to retire permanently or decide to seek employment elsewhere, will my wife and I be entitled to start using Tricare/DEERS when my current medical insurance is no longer valid? How do I go about initiating coverage that my wife and I are entitled to when I no longer have civilian insurance coverage?

Respectfully,

John M.

Clifton, Va.

Dear John:

You and your wife are entitled to use Tricare anytime. No notification of DEERS is necessary except for address updates. Your wife’s ID card must be renewed every four years. You will need to file a DD-2642 for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses. Tricare is always the final payer behind other insurance you may have, but you can use Tricare at any time.

Once you or your wife turns 65, you should enroll in the Medicare Part B drug program and notify his ID/DEERS office. That way your medical claims will cross electronically from Medicare to Tricare For Life without you filing paper claims.

Shaft notes

The Sarge was sorry to hear of the imminent departure of Dr. Jonathan Perlin, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs who has led the department’s health care transformation since 2004. He will resign effective Aug. 11 to take a private-sector position.

Dr. Perlin, who has held several positions with VA since 1999, is accepting a position as chief medical officer and senior vice president for quality at HCA, a Nashville, Tenn.-based health care provider.

“I thank the president and the secretary for the tremendous opportunity I’ve had to serve America’s veterans,” Dr. Perlin said. “I am deeply humbled by our heroes’ sacrifices on behalf of our nation, and I am forever grateful to the thousands of men and women at VA who serve our privileged mission of caring for veterans.

“I am also proud that I will leave VA better than it was and with veterans receiving better care than ever before.”

He will be difficult to replace.

• Earlier this week, VA’s electronic health record system received the Innovations in American Government Award sponsored by Harvard University’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

• Congratulations to VA Deputy Secretary Gordon H. Mansfield, who was recently honored by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) as the “Disabled Vet of the Year.” They cited his quarter-century of advocacy for veterans and his dedication to improving the lives of those injured during military service.

“Gordon Mansfield has had a profound impact upon all veterans, but especially disabled veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson.

Mr. Mansfield was shot and suffered a spinal injury during the Tet Offensive of February 1968. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

During his recovery, he earned a law degree from the University of Miami and began legal practice in Ocala, Fla., where he helped found a DAV chapter in Marion County, Fla.

In 1981, he accepted the first of several positions with the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), culminating as the group’s executive director from 1993 to 2001. His time with PVA was interrupted by a four-year tour as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mr. Mansfield was instrumental in elevating VA to a Cabinet-level department, creating the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• I recently received an alert from VA officials about a phishing scam with a link that appears to have a genuine VA address.

The VA’s Philadelphia Network Support Staff is seeing increasing reports of users receiving e-mail asking them to check an account by clicking on a link.

This e-mail is a phishing scam, an attempt to gain personal information. The VA has urged everyone to delete this e-mail if they receive it. Do not open the e-mail.

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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