- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I retired from the Navy Reserves in 1993 with 21 years of active and reserves service. I am eligible to use Tricare in August when I reach 60 years of age. I still work for another company and will not retire from that job until 18 months later.

My current employer has a good medical-dental plan, but it still costs my wife and me more than $6,500 per year in my contributions and dental coverage. Starting in August, can I just decline my current employer coverage and use Tricare 100 percent? The difference in costs is enormous. Do I continue with my current plan and file a claim to Tricare for reimbursement of my costs or just sign up for Tricare? Thank you, Liam M

Dear Liam: My sources tell me that if you continue your other health insurance (OHI), Tricare will supplement it, but the OHI will always be the first payer. Tricare will not reimburse your OHI costs. If you drop your OHI, Tricare will become the primary payer after age 60. There is no enrollment for Tricare Standard as long as you and your wife have up-to-date ID cards. You just need to start using it. You also need to understand the difference between Tricare Prime and Standard. You will need to enroll in Tricare Prime if that’s what you choose.

Shaft notes

The Sarge salutes the House of Representatives for its recent approval by 417-0 of a bill honoring disabled veterans of the armed forces.

House Concurrent Resolution 336, a measure introduced by Rep. Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania Democrat, honors the sacrifices and contributions made by America’s disabled veterans. Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, who was appointed recently to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, made the following statement regarding the bill: “Throughout our nation’s history, the men and women of our armed services have gone bravely into battle, risking their lives and livelihoods, sacrificing their safety to defend our freedom. And when their duty is done, many return home to life as it was. Sadly, for veterans seriously injured in the line of duty, leaving the battlefield does not mark the end of conflict. These permanently disabled soldiers often carry home life-changing disabilities harsh reminders of the price of freedom.”

The measure is intended to:

— Recognize the great sacrifices made by disabled veterans and their families.

— Call on the people of the United States to honor disabled American veterans and the freedoms for which they sacrificed.

— Encourage local, state and national organizations and governmental institutions to participate in the effort to honor the sacrifices of Americas disabled veterans.

— Support the goals and ideals of Disabled American Veterans Week.

Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said, “Our disabled veterans continue to serve our country in so many ways, bearing their wounds as a reminder to all that freedom and liberty are not free. Americans owe these heroes a debt of gratitude and a heartfelt remembrance for their sacrifice and service.”

It has been just four years since military exchange services have been authorized to sell military exchange prepaid phone cards to any person or organization that wishes to purchase them for deployed troops. The American public, through the Help Our Troops Call Home program, has provided more than $6.5 million in telecommunications support.

As of May 31, the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) telecommunications initiative has generated more than $6.52 million for troops serving throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. All told, 156,769 individual orders for more than 270,000 phone cards have been placed for the unique needs of deployed troops and their families back home.

“The response over the last four years to this initiative has been both amazing and inspiring,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Eaton, the AAFES senior enlisted adviser. “To average more than $1.5 million in support per year is a testament to the American publics commitment to keeping spouses, children, mothers, fathers and siblings connected to loved ones far from home.”

Military exchange global prepaid phone cards purchased through the Help Our Troops Call Home program can be sent to individual service members or “any service member” through charitable partners including the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Soldier & Family Assistance Center and USO. These charities have distributed almost 27,000 of the proprietary phone cards since the programs inception in 2004.

By logging on to aafes.org or calling 800/527-2345, friends, family members and civic groups can take part in the Help Our Troops Call Home effort.

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

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