Is this vet's wife eligible for health insurance?

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I’ve been reading your column on military.com. I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction. I am a totally and Permanently Disabled Veteran from the Vietnam era, USMC. I have full medical from the VA and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, including the VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, CBOC, in Bellevue, WA, my primary care facility.

My spouse turns 62 in April, and at this time, she has no health insurance. After losing her job, and her insurance, some years ago, she has NO health care insurance at all.

I hear of Tricare, and CHAMPVA, and it’s hard for me to understand either. I need to get her some medical care insurance, and I don’t know where to go, or who I should call, or contact, to get some straight answers.

Can you help?

Kendall M.
Washington State

Dear Kendall,

If you are a medical retiree or retiree due to 20(+) years of service, your spouse is covered by Tricare. She just needs a retiree dependent ID card and registration in the DEERS computer system at the ID card office. See this Tricare site.

Being Totally and Permanently Disabled, she is eligible for the VA CHAMPVA health care. See the VA site for more info or ask the people at your VA hospital for details.

Finally, you can shop in the new Healthcare Marketplace for a health care plan and possibly be eligible for tax credits to help purchase the plan. The same VA site above has info on the Healthcare Marketplace.

Thank you for your service.

Shaft Notes

• Congratulations to my good friend Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice-Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, who was awarded the Congressional Silver Helmet Award by AMVETS. The Silver Helmet is one of the most prestigious awards offered by veterans’ service organizations.

“I am grateful and humbled, and, quite frankly, feel unworthy to join the ranks of some pretty incredible Americans, many of whom are my personal heroes. Indeed, it is particularly poignant for me to know that along with my father, Michael Bilirakis, a past recipient of the Silver Helmet, we are the first father-son team to be honored. This truly is a blessing,” Bilirakis said.

It is particularly meaningful to be nominated for, and presented with, the Silver Helmet by a long-time friend I have known since elementary school and Cub Scouts, Tampa Bay AMVET and National Veterans Service Officer, Michael Black.”

The Silver Helmet Award is given to individuals who demonstrate “excellence and outstanding accomplishment in the fields of Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional and civil service.” Bilirakis has served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee throughout his entire tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives.

• Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) recently commented on the Senate’s vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 1752). The congresswoman had introduced companion legislation in the House last year (H.R. 2016).

“Over the past year, Senator Gillibrand and I, along with a group of bipartisan members, have elevated the conversation about military sexual assault to the forefront. It is a topic that is widely misunderstood, and one that has been swept under the rug for too long. While I’m disappointed the Senate did not pass the Military Justice Improvement Act today, our fight for justice is far from over. Men and women in our uniformed ranks deserve a system of justice system that works for them, and leadership that truly has zero tolerance for sexual assault in the ranks.

“Having worn the uniform for more than ten years, I remain proud to serve our country alongside so many brave men and women, who voluntarily put their lives on the line for our nation. Their voices deserve to be heard, and we owe them a justice system that is fair and transparent. I will continue to push for bipartisan support to move our bill through Congress and to the President for his consideration.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s bill has garnered wide bipartisan support in the House, including Democratic and Republican leadership.

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) hosted its first virtual town hall Thursday evening on MOAA’s Facebook page at http://bit.ly/moaabudgetbattle. MOAA experts shared information and answered questions.

The proposed budget impacts pay and benefits in the following areas: base pay cap below private sector pay growth, increased out-of-pocket expense for housing, reduction in savings at the commissary and changes to health care fees for currently serving family members, retirees and their families. MOAA reported the total loss in purchasing power for an active duty E-5 family of four (Sergeant) would be $4,993 per year.

For an active duty O-3 (Army Captain) family, the total loss purchasing power would be $5,890.

“MOAA empathizes with defense leaders concerning budget cutbacks and understands they are in a difficult position,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said. “However we think there are huge savings to be found in acquisition reform and a unified medical command. We are also extremely concerned the negative impact of these potential cuts on the purchasing power of military families is just too high. There are some who justify these cuts by saying military compensation is already generous, but that’s not true. Military compensation is fair, and carefully constructed to sustain the stability of the All-Volunteer Force.”

MOAA also reiterated the impact of DoD-proposed FY 2015 TRICARE Fees on retirees.

“For a retiree under age 65 with a family of three, the new system removes the opportunity for retirees to choose between a Standard and Prime health care plan,” Ryan said. “It requires people to take the Standard option with Prime enrollment fees, which means they will have to pay both a participation fee as well as co-pays. Also disturbing is the removal of access standards, which means there will be no guarantee that people will get an appointment they need at all.”

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.