Can a remarried surviving spouse keep Tricare?

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

Please answer my question. If a surviving spouse remarries after age 65, will that spouse be able to retain Tricare for Life or will her coverage be dropped and have Medicare coverage only?

Thank you so much.

Joe
Via the internet

Dear Joe,

A surviving spouse, who remarries, at any age, loses all military benefits (ID card) and Tricare/TFL unless the remarriage is to another retired service member. If the remarriage ends in divorce or death of a spouse, Tricare/TFL are still lost for good but other military benefits will start again.

Only the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are age specific concerning remarriage. Remarriage prior to age 55 causes SBP to stop and prior to age 57 causes DIC to stop. Remarriage at age 57 or later allows both SBP and DIC to continue.

Shaft Notes

• For the fourth consecutive year, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy receives the highest customer satisfaction score among the nation’s public and private mail-order pharmacies, according to a respected, independent study.

The 2013 independent study was conducted by J.D. Power. Veterans were asked to rate VA on cost competitiveness, delivery, ordering process and customer service experience. Out of 1,000 possible points, VA scored 871. This was the highest score among participating mail-order pharmacies.

The score matched the same industry-high score received by the Department in 2012. VA also led the industry nationwide in 2010 and 2011. "The fact that we are rated higher than our private sector counterparts is due in part to our unique partnership with our patients and medical centers," said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "In addition to the convenience of mail-order service, Veterans also have a pharmacist available to meet with them face to face."

VA participates in this annual survey as a way to compare itself against industry leaders and to ensure VA health care meets the highest standards. On February 13, an employee who works in the VA Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy received the 2013 Securing Americans Value Efficiency (SAVE) Award from President Obama. Kenneth Siehr from Milwaukee, Wisconsin met with the President to discuss his proposal.

Siehr's winning idea allows Veterans to track the status of their mail-order prescriptions via the Veterans Health Administration's MyHealtheVet web portal.

With over 8 million Veterans enrolled, VA operates the largest integrated health care delivery system in the United States, with a mission to honor America's Veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being. VA provides a broad range of primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services. More information is available at www.va.gov/health/.

Veterans who wish to learn about the mail-order pharmacy and other health benefits can find information at www.va.gov/healthbenefits/.

• The Department of Veterans Affairs also announced the phased roll out of newly designed, more secure Veteran Health Identification Cards. The new cards are distinguished by additional security features and will have a different look and feel. Similar to a typical health insurance card, the VHIC displays the Veteran's Member ID, a new unique identifier, as well as a Plan ID, reflecting the Veteran's enrollment in VA health care.

"VA is committed to providing high quality health care while ensuring the personal security of Veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "These new identification cards are an important step forward in protecting our nation's heroes from identity theft and other personal crimes."

The VHIC is personalized to display the emblem of the Veteran's branch of service. It also provides features that make it easier to use, such as the addition of "VA" in Braille to help visually impaired Veterans, and the printing of VA phone numbers and emergency care instructions on the cards.

The card replaces the Veteran Identification Card (VIC), which was introduced in 2004. As part of a phased rollout, starting this month, the card will only be offered to newly enrolled and other Veterans who have not been issued a VIC. Then, in early April, VA will begin a three month effort to automatically issue the more secure VHIC to current VIC cardholders. VA recommends Veterans safeguard their VIC as they would a credit card, and cut up or shred the card once it is replaced. While not required to receive VA health care, all enrolled Veterans are encouraged to get a VHIC.

Enrolled Veterans can get more information about the VHIC by visiting their VA medical facility enrollment coordinator or the website www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic/, calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility.

Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA health care system can apply for enrollment at any time by visiting www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll/, Calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility.

• Congratulations to the Honorable Sloan D. Gibson on his appointment as Deputy Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, effective February 18, 2014.

Sloan Gibson is a distinguished businessman with a long history of service and leadership with a variety of nonprofit organizations that assist Servicemembers, military families, and Veterans. Most recently, he served with distinction as the President of the United Service Organizations (USO). He is also a West Point graduate and former infantry officer in the U.S. Army.

Deputy Secretary Gibson is a most welcome addition to the VA leadership team. I look forward to working closely with him as we continue to transform our Department to best serve Veterans, their families, and their Survivors in the years ahead.

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.