- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I read with interest the letter to you from Paul H., a retired Air Force master sergeant, about Medicare Part B and Tricare for Life. I am in that same category.

I retired from the Air Force and now I work for the federal government and have the federal medical coverage. However, I am 63 years old and plan to retire within the next three years. I would like to drop my federally provided medical insurance and use Tricare for Life and Medicare Part B.

Your article stated that with Medicare Part B and Tricare for Life you have to pay 20 percent of the cost for care. Is that the case if I have Medicare Part B and Tricare for Life?

Keep up the good work with the column.

Thanks,

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. James G.

Dear James:

The health care specialists tell me that each person needs to make his own decision based on his particular needs. They suggest you research the costs of the federal health plans available to you. There are too many plans out there to generalize. You need to look at the costs and benefits and then decide what is best for you and your family.

However, the advantage of Tricare for Life is that there is no enrollment fee or monthly premiums like the federal plans. You would need to pay your Medicare Part B fees, and then Medicare and Tricare for Life work together to coordinate the payments. Tricare for Life also will cover the Medicare deductibles.

Shaft notes

Anatomy and technology students at Lakewood Ranch High School in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., recently gathered in the school auditorium to learn about prosthetics.

Charles Cook, a federal health care inspector with the VA Office of the Inspector General, travels across the country giving presentations on a technology that has changed lives.

“A person loses an arm or leg, their life changes in an instant, right then, right there. Because of technology and research, people with prosthetics can now complete a 26-mile marathon,” Mr. Cook said.

Mr. Cook lugged in nearly $100,000 worth of high-technology prosthetics, ranging from a $7,000, 25-pound, 1960s-era leg to a $15,000, foam-covered, 7-pound, 1990s-era leg.

“Girls, can you imagine having to go to the prom with one leg?” Mr. Cook asked as students in the auditorium looked at one another in disbelief. With the help of a student volunteer, Mr. Cook demonstrated a $35,000 high-technology hand and arm by crushing a can. When a skeptical student questioned the strength of the device, Mr. Cook grasped the student’s hand with the high-technology prosthetic arm and started squeezing until the student said he had had enough.

• The Sarge is looking forward to joining about 500 active-duty, Guard, reserve and retired officers at a distinguished panel discussion, “Can We Sustain the All-Volunteer Force in an Extended Conflict?”

This event, sponsored by the Military Officers Association, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel, 300 Army Navy Drive, in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington.

For more information, contact the Military Officers Association at 703/549-2311.

• Nelnet Inc. recently donated $25,000 in funds to the ThanksUSA scholarship program, supporting spouses and dependent children of active-duty U.S. military personnel. The Nelnet award provided an additional 13 military families with educational funding.

ThanksUSA is nonpartisan, charitable organization created in 2005 to mobilize Americans of all ages to thank the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families by providing college, technical and vocational scholarships for their children and spouses. Through one of two interconnected programs, the ThanksUSA military family scholarship program is an invaluable way for Nelnet to “thank” our troops with the gift of education.

With dreams of becoming a dietitian, scholarship recipient Crystal Nelson struggled for years to pay for her education. She qualified for the award through her husband, who is currently stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. “My dad had to pay for my college the first three years, then he passed away two years ago, and my grandparents were helping me out for the last year. This is the first year I was able to pay for my education completely, with the help of this scholarship.”

Nelnet recently donated $25,000 in funds to the ThanksUSA scholarship program, supporting spouses and dependent children of active-duty U.S. military personnel.

Additional information is available at www.nelnet.net.

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

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