- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Q: What is happening with TRICARE?

(TRICARE is the health care program serving uniformed service members, retirees and their families worldwide.)

My wife went to her annual physical and was told “Methodist Hospital is no longer a preferred provider for TRICARE.” She asked, “Is this more fallout from UnitedHealthcare taking over TRICARE West?’ and was told “Yes.” This was at the hospital clinic where our general practitioner of over 25 years practices.

What good is TRICARE if nobody accepts it? UnitedHealthcare is the “slum-lord” of health care providers. Of the nearly dozen hospitals within a decent driving area, only two will accept UHC and thus TRICARE.

Is this how the Department of Defense saves even more money, while providing free health care to the freeloaders of the country?

What action is being taken on this?

Rich Lentz,
ETC(SS) (Retired)

A: Katherine O’Neill Tracy of the Military Officers Associated of America (www.moaa.org) responded: “April 1, 2013, was the start of health care delivery under the new contract in the TRICARE West Region under UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans. The TRICARE Regional Office-West (TRO-W) is working closely with UnitedHealthcare to address all beneficiary concerns including provider networks. You can reach them at 1-800-558-1746.”

Staff notes

• The Sarge sends kudos to the House of Representatives for passage of H.R. 671, the Ruth Moore Act, by a voice vote.

Introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree, Maine Democrat, the Ruth Moore Act aims to spur reform of the evidentiary standards for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) who file claims for mental health conditions with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The ultimate goal of the bill is to make it easier for veteran sexual-assault victims to receive service-connected benefits and treatment for mental-health conditions linked to MST.

“The Department of Defense must take the lead in addressing military sexual trauma throughout the ranks in the strongest possible terms. Additionally, veterans who have suffered this horrific crime must be completely confident the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide the care, assistance and support these victims deserve. VA’s approach to military sexual trauma claims requires immediate and thoughtful review, and that is precisely what the Ruth Moore Act aims to ensure. I’m proud to join Rep. Pingree, Ranking Member Michaud and a bipartisan majority of Congress in supporting this bill.” — Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican.

“VA did the right thing by our Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange by updating their regulations, and we expect VA to also do the right thing by veterans who have suffered from military sexual trauma. We have a duty to make these veterans’ lives a little better. They never should have had to deal with sexual assault in their service to our nation, and they should never have to struggle to get care and benefits after they leave.” — Ranking Member Mike Michaud, Maine Democrat.

“Whether the attack happened on a Navy base in Europe or at a National Guard training facility here in the U.S., whether they were soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, the story too often has the same ending: The victims were blamed, the crime was covered up, and the survivors themselves became the subject of further harassment and recrimination. And too often, what followed was years of mental health issues, lost jobs, substance abuse and homelessness. These stories don’t have to end this way. With the Ruth Moore Act, we can change the VA’s policy so veterans who survive a sexual assault can at least get the benefits they deserve.” — Ms. Pingree.

• Rep. Mike Michaud, ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, expressed disappointment in the Department of Defense (DoD) announcement that it will put out to bid for a new system to manage its health records. Mr. Michaud and his Republican and Democratic colleagues on the committee sent a letter recently to President Obama urging him to show leadership and end the bureaucratic back and forth on records, which has a direct impact on veterans’ claims with the VA and potentially their health.

“I’m disappointed in this decision prior to the Memorial Day weekend. It appears to back an interoperable approach over an integrated one. An integrated electronic health record is something that Congress mandated years ago and has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on. Delaying the delivery of a seamless information sharing system runs directly against congressional intent, and ultimately hurts our veterans,” he said.

Information the committee received from VA stated that annually 100,000 to 150,000 veterans are affected by delays in DoD providing records.

“The Defense Department shouldn’t downplay the impact their records system has on the ability of our veterans to get a timely decision on their claim. They are part of the problem, and they need to be part of the solution. It’s disappointing that the Defense Department appears to be abandoning veterans twice—first in backing away from an integrated health record and then by washing their hands of their responsibility to help veterans get the benefits they deserve in a timely manner.”

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 email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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