Benefit News



VA Makes Wait Times for Patients Transparent for Veterans: New Online Tool is First of its Kind

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2017 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking unprecedented steps to increase transparency. Today, VA launched a new Access and Quality Tool that provides Veterans with an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand way of accessing patient wait time and quality of care data. This tool not only provides Veterans with more information about VA services, it increases accountability and ensures VA is held to a higher standard.


Improvements to the TRICARE Dental Program

Falls Church, VA, April 5, 2017 - Beginning on May 1, 2017, United Concordia Companies, Inc. (United Concordia) will manage the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP). Beneficiaries don’t need to take any actions to continue their coverage.


DoD Opens Online Exchange Shopping to Veterans

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2017 — The Defense Department announced today that veterans will soon be able to shop online at military exchanges. The policy change will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military, DoD officials said in a news release. The shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2017. While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families, the release said. The change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support, officials said in the release. “We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund morale, welfare and recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added. The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, according to DoD officials, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments and improved efficiencies. “As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members,” Levine said. “Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor.”


Revised TRICARE Pharmacy Network Begins Dec. 1

Falls Church, VA, December 1, 2016 -


DEERS and Your Income Tax Reporting

Falls Church, VA, November 15, 2016 - When you do not have your family enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System(DEERS) A database of information on uniformed services members (sponsors), U.S.-sponsored foreign military, DoD and uniformed services civilians, other personnel as directed by the DoD, and their family members. You need to register in DEERS to get TRICARE. (DEERS), the Department of Defense (DoD) cannot accurately report your healthcare coverage to the Internal Revenue Service. Starting last year, the DoD reported health care coverage of its service members and their dependents to the IRS. This report allows the IRS to determine which families had minimum essential coverageBasic health care coverage that meets the Affordable Care Act requirement. If you don’t have coverage, you may have to pay a fee for each month you aren’t covered. (MEC) as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).


VA and Social Security Partner to Speed Up Disability Decisions

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2016 — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched a new Health IT initiative that enables VA to share medical records electronically with social security disabilty processors. This secure process will save time and money resulting in better service for Veterans and dependents who apply for social security disability benefits. The SSA requests nearly 15 million medical records from health care organizations yearly to make medical decisions on about three million disability claims. For decades, SSA obtained medical records through a manual process. This new national initiative puts in place an automated process to obtain Veterans’ medical records entirely electronically.


TRICARE Expands Coverage for Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure

Falls Church, VA, October 19, 2016 - Congestive Heart Failure is now a covered diagnosis under the TRICARE cardiac rehabilitation benefit.


TRICARE to Expand Preventive Service Coverage

Falls Church, VA, October 18, 2016 - TRICARE has always had excellent coverage of important preventive services and we are making it better. TRICARE is adding new services and screenings to ensure our preventive services are aligned with recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) guidelines.


Express Scripts Pharmacy Network Changing for TRICARE Beneficiaries

Falls Church, Va, September 30, 2016 - Express Scripts, Inc. (ESI) today announced upcoming changes to the retail pharmacy network it manages on behalf of TRICARE. On Dec. 1, 2016, Walgreens pharmacy locations will join the network. CVS pharmacies, including those in Target stores, will leave the network on the same day. The new network will have more than 58,000 locations nationwide, and ensures TRICARE beneficiaries have timely access to retail pharmacies in their community.


TRICARE to Expand Access to Mental Health Care and Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Falls Church, VA, September 29, 2016 - TRICARE is pleased to be implementing significant improvements to its mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) benefits to provide beneficiaries greater access to the full range of available mental health and SUD treatments.


Veterans Who Need Routine Audiology and Optometry Appointments Will Soon Be Able to Directly Schedule

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2016 – Veterans receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Medical Centers will now be able to schedule routine ear and eye appointments at local VA Audiology and Optometry clinics without a primary care referral – a move that eliminates multiple steps and gets Veterans into appointments quicker.


Medicare and TRICARE: How to Keep Your TRICARE Coverage

Falls Church, VA, August 29, 2016 - By taking a few simple steps, retirees can make sure they have their TRICARE benefits after they turn 65. Four months before your 65th birthday, you will receive a postcard from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), the office that supports the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System(DEERS) A database of information on uniformed services members (sponsors), U.S.-sponsored foreign military, DoD and uniformed services civilians, other personnel as directed by the DoD, and their family members. You need to register in DEERS to get TRICARE., with information about keeping TRICARE coverage after age 65.


DANTES Provides Faster Exam Reimbursement

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2016 — The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support has changed to an online electronic reimbursement request system that will expedite the exams reimbursement process for all service members, according to Stacey Kirkpatrick, a DANTES education programs specialist.


Tri-Agency Partnership Working to Tailor Cancer Care Based on Genes, Proteins

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2016 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to tailor cancer care for patients based on the genes and proteins associated with their tumors. The tri-agency program will create the nation’s first system in which cancer patients’ tumors are routinely screened for gene and protein information, with the goal of finding targeted therapies for each individual patient. The process will also continually generate new information to boost clinicians’ ability to treat the disease.


VA Provides Service Dog Benefits to Veterans with Mental Health Disorders

WASHINGTON, August 18, 2016 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it is piloting a protocol to implement veterinary health benefits for mobility service dogs approved for Veterans with a chronic impairment that substantially limits mobility associated with mental health disorders.


DoD Program Aids Military Members, Civilian Employees With Disabilities

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2016 — Yesterday marked the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil rights legislation that has removed barriers for millions of Americans and serves as a gold standard around the world


Secretary Takes Action to Ensure Project ARCH Veterans Continue to Receive Care Closer to Home

Augusta, Maine, July 21, 2016 - As the Project ARCH pilot program comes to an end next month, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald today announced that Veterans enrolled in the program will be able to continue receiving care closer to home. Taking advantage of options available under the Veterans Choice Program, such as the “unusual or excessive burden provision” and Provider Agreements, Veterans receiving care under Project ARCH will continue care without interruption when the pilot program ends August 7.


VA Schedules 2 Million Appointments Using Veterans Choice Program

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 - The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Choice Program (VCP) has reached a key milestone in improving access to health care for Veterans. More than two million appointments have been scheduled through the program.


Call Your Regional Contractor First when Getting Specialty Care

Falls Church, Va, June 29, 2016 - TRICARE beneficiaries with special needs or a serious illness or injury have several resources available for help. Your care is best coordinated through your regional contractor. TRICARE rules require that if the care you need is available at a military hospital or clinic near you, and there is space available, you will be referred there first. However, if the care you need is not available, you will be referred to a network provider near you.


Make Sure Your #MilKid Has Access to Care

Falls Church, Va, June 24, 2016 - f you have a new baby or have adopted a child, take the necessary steps to give your child access to health care when they need it.


DoD Ramps Up Training on Blended Retirement System

WASHINGTON, June 01, 2016 — The Defense Department’s new retirement system will affect some 2.2 million people who all need to get smart on what it will mean. Two subject-matter experts from the department’s personnel and readiness branch described the issues involved to DoD News: Army Sgt. Maj. Luther Thomas Jr., senior enlisted advisor to the Defense Department’s Manpower and Reserve Affairs Division, and Wayne Boswell, DoD’s director of financial readiness.


TRICARE Improves Mental Health Care and Treatment

Falls Church, VA, April 15, 2016 - People in distress may hesitate to reach out for help due to perceived stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment. This perception and the belief that care may be hard to get, may prevent some people who need care from getting it. TRICARE has worked hard to eliminate potential barriers to mental health care by removing day limits for certain mental health services.


New Urgent Care Pilot Program for Prime Beneficiaries

Falls Church, Va, April 12, 2016 - To increase access to care, the Department of Defense is launching an Urgent Care Pilot Program for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries. This program allows Prime enrollees two visits to a network or TRICARE authorized provider without a referral or prior authorization.


100th VA Grant-Funded Veterans Cemetery Dedicated

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2016 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the opening of the 100th VA grant funded Veterans cemetery. An $8.9 million grant from the VA funded the new Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Marana, Arizona. The cemetery is the 100th Veterans cemetery funded with a VA grant awarded to a State or Tribal organization. “This significant milestone underscores the importance of our partnerships with State and Tribal organizations to increase Veterans access to benefits, said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “This grant helps VA fulfill its goal of providing at least 95 percent of Veterans and spouses with access to an open national, state or tribal cemetery within 75 miles of their home,” McDonald said


TRICARE releasing new reimbursement rates for autism care

Falls Church, VA, March 29, 2016 - The TRICARE Health Plan announced new reimbursement rates effective April 1, 2016 for applied behavior analysis (ABA) services, which are provided under the Autism Care Demonstration (ACD). TRICARE’s ABA coverage and benefits are not changing. The new provider rates align ABA with all other TRICARE rates, ensuring the rates are reviewed and appropriately adjusted each year.


Combat Veterans Get Telephonic Health Care Application Option

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2016 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it has amended its enrollment regulations to allow Veterans to complete applications for enrollment in VA health care by telephone without the need for a signed paper application. The change is effective immediately for Combat Veterans and will be effective July 5, 2016, for all Veterans. This phased implementation accelerates VA’s effort to enroll all Combat Veterans with pending applications as part of its ongoing Veterans Enrollment Rework Project. The VA is working to complete the review and rework of all pending health enrollment records for living and deceased Veterans this summer. Veterans can view the amended regulation on the Federal Register website here.


VA Expands Hepatitis C Drug Treatment

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it is now able to fund care for all Veterans with hepatitis C for Fiscal Year 2016 regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. The move follows increased funding from Congress along with reduced drug prices.


Veterans With Incomplete Health Care Applications Receive Year to Enroll

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2016 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today it will extend the healthcare enrollment application period for one year to approximately 545,000 living Veterans that have pending incomplete enrollment applications. "Fixing the Veterans enrollment system is a top priority for VA. This is an important step forward to regain Veterans' trust and improve access to care as we continue the MyVA Transformation," said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson. "We've got a lot of work left to do, but this is a big step in the right direction to restore the data integrity of our enrollment system," Gibson said.


DoD Plans Benefit Revision With Blended Retirement

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2016 — Upon taking office almost a year ago, Defense Secretary Ash Carter promised reforms, saying “that a blended retirement system is a key step in modernizing the department’s ability to recruit, retain and maintain the talent we require of our future force.” An overhaul of the current military retirement system is slated to take effect January 1, 2018. The new system has three elements: a 401(k)-style component with Defense Department matching funds for entry-level and other service members, a mid-career continuity bonus, and a retirement annuity similar to the one now in place for service members that complete twenty or more years of eligible service.


Defense Department Extends Armed Services YMCA Contract

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2016 — The Defense Department recently announced a one-year extension to the Armed Services YMCA Military Outreach Initiative, DoD officials said today. The contract with the Armed Services YMCA was set to expire in March 2016 and will now continue until March 16, 2017. “We are thrilled our service members and military families will continue to have this important resource for another year,” said Rosemary Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.


DoD Official: New Form Provided for 2015 Federal Taxes

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2016 — Defense Department civilian and military personnel will begin receiving Internal Revenue Service Form 1095 to help them complete health coverage questions on their 2015 federal tax returns, DoD’s principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs recently told DoD News. While taxpayers self-attested their health coverage to the IRS in 2015 as part of the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Karen Guice said, this is the first year DoD is responsible for notifying the IRS of its military and civilian employees’ health care insurance participation through Form 1095.


Sesame Street Supports Military Families in Transition

WASHINGTON, January 29, 2016 — Elmo, Big Bird, and Abby Cadabby are teaming up with the Defense Department to support thousands of military families as they transition to civilian life, according to Transition to Veterans Program Office officials. On Jan. 27, the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, launched a website devoted to helping families cope with the changes associated with transitioning into civilian life, the officials said. The site, located at, includes several videos for children and adults, an activity book called “My Story, My Big Adventure Activity Book,” and other resources that military parents can use to help their families communicate through the transition process, the officials said.


Carter Announces 12 Weeks Paid Military Maternity Leave, Other Benefits

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2016 — The Defense Department is increasing military maternity leave and instituting other changes in an effort to support military families, improve retention and strengthen the force of the future, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today. Women across the joint force can now take 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, Carter told reporters at the Pentagon. The 12-week benefit is double the amount of time for paid maternity leave from when he became defense chief nearly a year ago, he noted.


Official Urges Families to Learn About Veteran Burial Honors

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2016 — Planning funerals for military veterans and retirees can be overwhelming for their families, and the Defense Department’s director of casualty and mortuary affairs wants family members to familiarize themselves in advance when possible to know what to expect with military funeral honors. Deborah S. Skillman said families should learn about military funeral honors eligibility ahead of time to know what choices are available. She also recommends that family members should ensure they have access to the veteran’s discharge papers, also called DD Form 214, to prove eligibility.


Army Emergency Relief Now Accepting Scholarship Applications

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Jan. 11, 2016) -- Army Emergency Relief, or AER, has announced the opening of its scholarship application period. Applications will be accepted until May 1. AER supports both the Spouse Scholarship Program, as well as the Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program for dependent children. Scholarship specifics and applications are available on AER's website. The Spouse Scholarship can be used for full- or part-time students while the Ursano Scholarship is only for full-time students.


TRICARE Pharmacy Copays Change February 1, 2016

Falls Church, Va, December 30, 2015 - Military pharmacies and TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery will remain the lowest cost pharmacy option for TRICARE beneficiaries when some TRICARE pharmacy copays change in 2016. On Feb 1, 2016, most copays for prescription drugs at Home Delivery and retail network pharmacies will increase slightly.


Enhanced Features Available on Overseas Secure Claims Portal

Falls Church, Va, December 17, 2015 - International SOS and WPS Military and Veterans Health, the TOP Claims Processor, have re-launched the secure claims portal for overseas beneficiaries. The enhanced, secure claims portal makes it easier and faster to access TOP claims and other information. Some of the enhancements include a home page with a new look that is also mobile friendly. The home page now features news, video tutorials, and a frequently asked questions section. There is also an “I Want To” link that provides quick links to the most used content and functions on the website.


VA Plans to Propose Expanded Disability Benefits Eligibility for Veterans Exposed to Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

WASHINGTON, December 17, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that it plans to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for Veterans exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. From 1953 to 1987, water sources at the base were contaminated with industrial solvents that are correlated with certain health conditions. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald decided to propose presumptions of service connection for certain conditions associated with these chemical solvents following discussions between environmental health experts at the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).


TRICARE Benefit Expands to Cover New Hip Surgery

Falls Church, Va, December 4, 2015 - The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act created a provisional coverage program that allows TRICARE to provide coverage for emerging treatments and technologies. The first treatment to be evaluated and approved under this new program is surgical treatment of a hip condition called Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI). FAI can occur when the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped. Because they do not fit together perfectly, the hip bones rub against each other and cause damage to the joint. Symptoms include pain in the hip or groin area which limits or hinders mobility.


VA Makes Changes to Veterans Choice Program

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a number of changes to make participation in the Veterans Choice Program easier and more convenient for Veterans who need to use it. The move, which streamlines eligibility requirements, follows feedback from Veterans along with organizations working on their behalf. “As we implement the Veterans Choice Program, we are learning from our stakeholders what works and what needs to be refined,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “It is our goal to do all that we can to remove barriers that separate Veterans from the care they deserve.” To date, more than 400,000 medical appointments have been scheduled since the Veterans Choice Program went into effect on November 5, 2014.


Time has come for TRICARE Beneficiaries to Move their Maintenance Drugs out of Retail

Falls Church, Va, December 1, 2015 - This December, TRICARE beneficiaries can take action to avoid paying more for some prescription drugs. If you fill a prescription for a select brand name maintenance drug at a retail pharmacy, you may need to move your prescription to either a military pharmacy or TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery. If not, you may have to pay full cost of your prescription. Beneficiaries can move their prescriptions by contacting the TRICARE pharmacy contactor, Express Scripts (ESI) at 1-877-363-1303 or by using ESI’s secure online portal.


The Army Retirement Services Program celebrates its 60th Anniversary

November 14, 2015 - The Army Retirement Services Program is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. 60 years ago, on November 14, 1955, the Army dedicated an office to prepare Soldiers and their Families for retirement, assist survivors of Soldiers who die on active duty, and serve Retired Soldiers, surviving Spouses, and their Families until death. Since then, the U .S. Army Retirement Services Office (RSO) has developed policy and managed Army programs across the globe that assist this special population of Soldiers. RSO currently supports 1.2 million Retired Soldiers and surviving spouses


What TRICARE Beneficiaries Need to Know About Open Enrollment and the Health Insurance Marketplace

Falls Church, Va, November 6, 2015 - It’s time for open enrollment; the time of year when people can enroll in or change their health insurance plan. The open enrollment period for is November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016 for 2016 coverage. How does this affect you? Most TRICARE beneficiaries don’t need to worry about open enrollment. However, for beneficiaries who are not eligible for TRICARE coverage, have lost or are losing coverage, or may qualify to purchase a TRICARE premium-based health plan (TYA, TRR, TRS or CHCBP) you can utilize this open enrollment period to see if there are other health coverage options that work best for you and your family.


TRICARE Young Adult premiums to increase Jan. 1, 2016

Falls Church, Va, October 28, 2015 - Premiums for the Military Health System’s benefit plan for adult children between 23 and 26 years old have been announced. The premiums for TRICARE Young Adult (TYA) program will increase on Jan. 1, 2016 to $306 per month for TYA Prime, and $228 per month for TYA Standard.


Exceptional Care for Exceptional Family Members

Falls Church, Va, October 7, 2015 - Family members with special needs require special considerations. When you move, you worry if there will be adequate care and if it is easy to access. There are resources and information available to help you get the best care for your family members. But you must follow the rules for getting care.


New Autism Care Demonstration Updates

Falls Church, Va, October 2, 2015 - In an effort to continually improve the benefit, the Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) was recently updated to reduce the potential financial burden of applied behavior analysis (ABA) services for non-active duty families. As of October 1, 2015, all ACD cost-shares will match TRICARE Prime and Standard cost-shares for all ABA services provided by authorized ABA supervisors, assistant behavior analysts, and behavior technicians. This change will allow cost-shares to contribute to the annual catastrophic cap for families and eliminates the 10 percent cost-share for assistant behavior analyst and behavior technician services, also known as “tiered” services, significantly reducing the potential financial burden of ABA services for our non-active duty families.


TRICARE Benefit Changes October 1

Falls Church, Va, October 1, 2015 - As of October 1, 2015, a new law requires all TRICARE beneficiaries, except active duty service members, to get select brand name maintenance drugs through either TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or from a military pharmacy. Beneficiaries who keep using a retail pharmacy for these drugs will have to pay the full cost.


USDA Veteran Initiatives Now Part of DoD’s Transition Assistance Program

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 — Agriculture and farm business opportunities became the newest career training choice for transitioning service members this week when the Agriculture Department announced it would ensure service members attending the Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, would receive information on veteran training and counseling programs in agriculture. DoD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office Director Susan Kelly told a class of transitioning troops in the Pentagon Sept. 14 that they are the first to learn about the USDA’s new program during their weeklong Transition GPS -- goals, plans, success -- curriculum.


Check Health Care Compliance Before Tax Season Kicks Off, Official Says

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2015 — The Defense Department wants its service members and civilian employees to know it’s not too early to make sure their 2015 health insurance paperwork is in order before filing their federal taxes, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said in a recent interview with DoD News. Dr. Karen Guice said the upcoming tax season, which begins Jan. 1, is the first time DoD, like other employers, must verify to the Internal Revenue Service that its employees had health care coverage throughout 2015. “The [Affordable Care Act] says everyone should have access to basic health insurance,” she said, noting that TRICARE and all plans offered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program meet the ACA’s standards for required minimum essential coverage.


Changes Coming to TRICARE Pharmacy Benefit

Falls Church, Va, September 1, 2015 - Starting October 1, 2015, a new law requires all TRICARE beneficiaries, except active duty service members, to get select brand name maintenance drugs through either TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or from a military pharmacy. Beneficiaries who keep using a retail pharmacy for these drugs will have to pay the full cost. Maintenance drugs are those you take regularly for a long time, such as drugs to control blood pressure or cholesterol. The law does not apply to drugs you take for a short time, like antibiotics, or generic drugs. Beneficiaries living overseas, or with other prescription drug coverage, are not affected.


TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Fraudulent Secret Shopper Offer

Fall Church, Va, August 27, 2015 - The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of return envelopes from mailings by a bogus organization. In the letter they identify themselves as TRICARE SURVEY INC., to TRICARE beneficiaries across the country and are attempting to solicit beneficiary to be “Secret Shoppers” for TRICARE. Please know that TRICARE does not employ “Secret Shoppers”.


TRICARE Pharmacy Rules Changing for Maintenance, Brand-name Drugs

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2015 — TRICARE beneficiaries who take certain brand-name medications on a regular basis will be required to fill prescriptions at a military treatment facility or through a mail-in program beginning Oct. 1, a Defense Health Agency official said yesterday. George Jones, DHA’s pharmacy operations division chief, said the new policy does not apply to active-duty troops, overseas beneficiaries, nursing-home residents and those with other health insurance that has a prescription-drug program. In certain circumstances, he added, some beneficiaries might be waived from the program on an individual basis.


Soldiers must complete school before promotion

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, August 17, 2015) -- Soldiers will no longer be promoted without first having successfully completed related professional military education, or PME, courses, according to recently-signed Army Directive. Soldiers will need to complete their schooling before they are allowed their new stripes. "By linking structured self-development and the NCO Education System [NCOES] to subsequent promotion, we better prepare NCOs [noncommissioned officers] for the complexities of today's operational environment while reinforcing the benefits of a deliberate, continuous, sequential and progressive professional development strategy," wrote Army Secretary John M. McHugh in Army Directive 2015-31, which was released Aug. 13.


VA Announces New Rules Regarding Service Animals in VA Facilities

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2015 - Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has revised its regulation regarding the presence of animals on VA property. The updated regulation will ensure VA practices remain consistent with applicable federal law. It will also assist individuals entering VA facilities in developing a clear and consistent understanding of the criteria governing facility access for service animals. “As I have traveled to VA facilities throughout the country, I have heard from many Veterans about what a vital role their service animals play in their lives,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald. “The revised regulation will ensure Veterans and employees have clear guidance regarding the presence of service animals in our facilities. VA remains committed to ensuring America’s Veterans have access to the health care benefits for which they are eligible.”


VA Launches New No-Cost Training Programs

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today launched two new no-cost training programs, Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs) and VA Learning Hubs, to help transitioning Servicemembers and Veterans from all eras learn skills, earn credentials, and advance in civilian careers following separation from service. ALPs and Learning Hubs are part of VA’s Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), promoting education and employment opportunities for Veterans through integrated networks of support in 50 cities. VA launched the VECI program in response to President Obama’s August 2014 challenge to help Veterans and families integrate with their communities and find meaningful jobs that can lead to economic success. Under VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s MyVA transformation, VECI is now in place in cities across the United States.


What You Should Know About Durable Medical Equipment

Falls Church, Va, August 4, 2015 - Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is any equipment for beneficiary use that helps them live a better quality of life. DME, covered by most health insurances, is also covered by TRICARE when ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider. To be considered DME, the equipment must be medically necessary and reusable. TRICARE covers the cost of medical supplies when related directly to a covered medical condition and when those supplies are obtained from a medical supply company, a pharmacy, or an authorized provider.


External Health Insurance Must Be Divulged, Official Says

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2015 – The Defense Department wants to remind its health care beneficiaries who carry commercial health insurance to provide their policy information to their TRICARE providers, a Defense Health Agency official said recently. Mark Ellis, a DHA senior health program analyst, said the issue is important to DoD because by law, commercial health care insurance companies pay first and TRICARE pays second on medical bills. When commercial health care insurers pay first, it saves DoD and insured patients money, because beneficiaries will have little to no copayments, he said. “Beneficiaries don’t pay their normal cost shares and deductibles, because the other health insurance combined with the TRICARE insurance typically covers most of their out-of-pocket expenses,” Ellis pointed out.


Final Rule Puts More Teeth Into Military Lending Act

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2015 – The Defense Department today closed loopholes to protect U.S. men and women in uniform from predatory lending practices, President Barack Obama said this morning at the 116th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The heightened level of financial and consumer-rights protection against unscrupulous practices, called the final rule of the Military Lending Act, covers all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit and credit cards, DoD officials explained.


Stateside Travel: On the Go with TRICARE

Falls Church, Va, July 20, 2015 - Whether you travel for business or pleasure, it’s important to know that TRICARE is portable and travels with you wherever you go. You should receive all routine care and get your prescriptions filled before traveling. If you have a medication that you take regularly, get enough to take with you and be sure to pack your medication in your carry-on luggage.


Prepare for Tax Season Now, Register Your Family in DEERS

Falls Church, Va, July 6, 2015 - When you register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), you provide information necessary for you and your family to receive the full spectrum of your military benefits. Not adding your family to DEERS can affect their access to health care, submitted claim forms and now, your income tax reporting.


VA-led Consortium Launches Brain Bank for Research on PTSD

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2015 - A consortium led by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has launched the first brain tissue biorepository (also known as a “brain bank”) – to support research on the causes, progression and treatment of PTSD affecting Veterans.


New ‘Peer’ Consultation Service Debuts at Military OneSource

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2015 – A “peer-to-peer” specialty consultation service that began June 15 offered by Military OneSource is the newest resource to support and connect service members and their families with professionals who understand the military life, a Defense Department personnel and readiness official said. In an interview with DoD News, Air Force Lt. Col. Tammy S. Hinskton, director of the non-medical counseling office in personnel and readiness, said peer consultants are or have been connected to the military and have a minimum of a master’s degree. The military’s unique life, in which deployments, relocations and transitions are a commonplace, makes it essential to find consultants with similar life experiences, she said.


VA Launches Community-Based Employment Service for Homeless Veterans

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2015 – The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced a new employment program aimed at helping job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness, and those on the brink of homelessness, gain stable and long-term employment. The new program, Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES), relies on Community Employment Coordinators (CECs) who know their communities and can work with local employers to identify suitable jobs based on a Veteran’s skills and abilities.


TRICARE’s Breast Pump Policy Updates Effective July 1

Falls Church, Va, June 8 , 2015 - TRICARE’s Breast Pump policy was recently updated to include coverage of breast pumps and supplies and breastfeeding counseling. These supplies and services will be retroactively covered as of December 19, 2014. To get full details about this important benefit change, as well as an opportunity to ask questions, TRICARE will host a Facebook Town Hall on June 22, 2015, 1:00 pm EDT. Ms. Bobbie Matthews, the Defense Health Agency's subject matter expert with the Medical Benefits and Reimbursement Office, will be online available to answer your questions directly.


New Peer-to-Peer Service Aims to Provide Counseling Support

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – Starting this summer, the Defense Department will offer an additional counseling service to help military service members, transitioning troops and family members deal with a host of issues before they become crises. Peer-to-peer support, which will be available through Military OneSource, will offer assistance from counselors who have at least a master’s degree in the social or psychology field as well as military experience to help with a host of issues, Rosemary Freitas Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said yesterday.


DoD Disability Initiative Reaches Milestone

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – A Defense Department program designed to help disabled service members, wounded warriors and federal employees access free assistive technology recently made its 150,000th accommodation. Founded in 1980, the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program provides free assistive technology and support services for federal employees with disabilities and service members with functional limitations. Granted by U.S. Congress, and established by the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, CAP became the first centrally funded reasonable accommodation program in the federal government and is the largest assistive technology program in the world.


VA Secretary Waives Resident-Rate Requirements of the Choice Act through December, 2015

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – In order to make it easier for Veterans and their families to receive their GI Bill benefits where they choose, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has used his authority to waive the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill® students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions. Under Section 702, VA must disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) benefits if a school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.


DoD Education Activity Focuses on College, Career Readiness

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2015 – The Department of Defense Education Activity will begin a new initiative in the fall to better prepare its students for college or careers, the organization’s director said May 8. DoDEA operates 181 accredited schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The system serves more than 78,000 children of active duty military and DoD civilian families.


TRICARE Revises Compound Drug Coverage

Falls Church, Va., May 1, 2015 - On May 1, 2015, Express Scripts, the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, begins screening the ingredients in all compound drug claims to ensure they are safe and effective, and covered by TRICARE. This screening process is like the one TRICARE uses for other prescription drugs, and will help meet the Military Health System’s goal of ensuring we are providing safe and effective care to service members and their families.


New TRICARE Pharmacy Contract Brings New Web Features for TRICARE Beneficiaries

Falls Church, Va., April 30, 2015 - The fourth generation TRICARE Pharmacy contract, or “TPharm4” kicks off on May 1, 2015. The contract is staying with the current contractor, Express Scripts, meaning that beneficiaries shouldn’t experience any disruption in their pharmacy benefits. However, Express Scripts is offering new web services to help beneficiaries manage their prescription drugs.


VA Expands Choice Program Eligibility, Effective Immediately

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2015 - In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program based on the distance between a Veteran’s place of residence and the nearest VA medical facility using driving distance rather than straight-line distance. This change has been published in the Federal Register and is effective immediately. “VA is pleased to announce the distance calculation change from straight-line to driving distance for the Veterans Choice Program,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “This update to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. We look forward to continued dialogue with Veterans and our partners to help us ensure continued improvements for Veterans’ to access care.”


New Tuition Assistance Tool Attuned to Troops’ Educational Needs

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – The Defense Department continues to invest in its service members and has introduced a new online informational tool tailored to their unique school programs and educational needs, the Defense Department’s chief of voluntary education said in a DoD news interview this week. Dawn Bilodeau discussed a new online tool called “Tuition Assistance DECIDE.” “Tuition Assistance DECIDE, or TA DECIDE, as we like to call it,” she said, “is a tool tailored to the unique needs of our service members.” It’s designed to support their decision-making in areas such as selecting schools or choosing programs to enroll in, she explained. It came online April 17.


TRICARE Beneficiaries Being Targeted by Call Centers and Others For Unsolicited Medical Prescriptions

Falls Church, Va, April 10, 2015 - The Defense Health Agency, Office of Program Integrity (DHA-PI) has received a significant number of concerns from our TRICARE beneficiaries regarding unsolicited attempts by “Call Centers” to encourage them to provide personal identifying information and health information so that they can allegedly provide prescribed cream medications to the TRICARE beneficiary. TRICARE and its contractors never call and ask for personal identifying information or health information. Beneficiaries should be wary of unsolicited attempts by any entity asking them for personal or health information, either by phone or in person.


Military Children: Two Steps to Keep Them Covered

Falls Church, Va, April 7, 2015 - New baby coming or just arrived? There’s so much to remember! In order to keep up with your baby’s growth and medical checkups, add ‘Enroll in DEERS’ on your to do list to keep your child covered by TRICARE. Step two is to decide in the first 60 days after birth if you want your child in TRICARE Prime or Standard.


TRICARE’s Beneficiary Web Enrollment Portal Just Got Easier to Use

Falls Church, Va., March 31, 2015 - Eligible TRICARE beneficiaries currently can use BWE to update their personal information and manage enrollments in TRICARE plans including USFHP, TYA, and TRICARE dental plans. Recently, the Beneficiary Web Enrollment (BWE) website underwent several exciting changes to make the site more user friendly. Among the new BWE enhancements are 24/7 availability, greater security, and expanded user features to make managing benefit information easier.


VA Makes Gains in Faster Disability Claims Processing

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 - The federal initiative to provide timely decisions on disability payments to Veterans has crossed a major milestone in its final sprint to eliminate the backlog of Veterans’ benefits claims. The major transformation effort to apply new technology and process solutions has paid off at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It reduced its inventory of backlogged claims from a high of 611,000 claims in March of 2013 to fewer than 200,000 this week, while at the same time improving decision quality.


Easy Access to TRICARE’s “First Eight” Mental Health Appointments

Falls Church, Va, March 26, 2015 - Do you know? Counseling, psychotherapy, and family therapy are covered benefits under TRICARE. It’s no secret—the first eight appointments with a TRICARE authorized provider do not require a Primary Care Manager (PCM) referral, just your military identification card. Don’t wait until your family has an emergency, take your time and find a provider that makes you comfortable. Your PCM or family doctor can give a recommendation. If you are unsure of the differences in provider types, their education, treatments, and ability to prescribe medication, use the “Find a Doctor” tool on the TRICARE website.


Requirement of Standardized Claim, Appeal Forms

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 - With the goal of making the application process easier and more efficient for our Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now requires Veterans seeking disability benefits to use standardized claim and appeal forms. These standardized forms guide Veterans to clearly state the symptoms or conditions for which they are seeking benefits and provide the information necessary for VA to start processing their claims and appeals.


VA Works to Expand Choice Program Eligibility

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2015 - In order to expand eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it will change the calculation used to determine the distance between a Veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight line distance to driving distance. The policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks. The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA).


Applications Accepted for 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently accepting applications from Veterans interested in competing in the 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games. Applications can be completed online at, and will be accepted through May 15. Veterans ages 55 and older who are enrolled for VA care are eligible to participate. The 2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games takes place in Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 8-12. Nearly 800 athletes are expected to compete in the national multi-event sports and recreational competition for senior Veterans. The event encourages participants to make physical activity a central part of their lives, and supports VA’s comprehensive recreation and rehabilitation therapy programs. Competitive events include air rifle, badminton, bowling, cycling, dominoes, field, golf, horseshoes, nine ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track.


VA Eliminates Net Worth as Health Care Eligibility Factor

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Effective 2015, VA eliminated the use of net worth as a determining factor for both health care programs and copayment responsibilities. This change makes VA health care benefits more accessible to lower-income Veterans and brings VA policies in line with Secretary Robert A. McDonald’s MyVA initiative which reorients VA around Veterans’ needs.


TRICARE Revises Compound Drug Coverage

Falls Church, Va, March 12, 2015 - Starting May 1, 2015, Express Scripts, the TRICARE pharmacy contractor, will screen all ingredients in compound drug claims to ensure they are safe and effective, and covered by TRICARE. This screening process is like the one TRICARE already uses for other prescription drugs, but it will now apply to the ingredients in compound drugs.


VA encourages Eligible Veterans to Apply for 2015 Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

Washington, March 6, 2015 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is accepting applications from Veterans interested in participating in the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. The 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic will be held Sept.13-18 at the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego, California. The annual event is expected to attract Veterans from all over the country who have sustained a variety of injuries ranging from traumatic brain injury and polytrauma, to spinal cord injury or loss of limb.


Air Evacs Are Covered When Medically Necessary and Only to the Nearest, Safest Place

Falls Church, Va., February 18, 2015 - Following retirement from active service, many retirees and retiree family members decide to travel or live overseas. If they do, it is important they understand that if they need air ambulance services (aeromedical evacuation or “air evac”), TRICARE only pays if the transport is medically necessary and to the closest, safest location for medical care.


Troops to Receive Millions Under Service Members Civil Relief Act

WASHINGTON, February 9, 2015 – The Justice Department announced today that under its settlements with five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, 952 service members and their co-borrowers are eligible to receive over $123 million for non-judicial foreclosures that violated the Service Members Civil Relief Act. The five mortgage servicers are JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A.; Wells Fargo Bank N.A. and Wells Fargo & Co.; Citi Residential Lending Inc., Citibank, NA and CitiMortgage Inc.; GMAC Mortgage, LLC, Ally Financial Inc. and Residential Capital LLC; and BAC Home Loans Servicing LP formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP (Bank of America). In the first round of payments under the SCRA portion of the 2012 settlement known as the National Mortgage Settlement, 666 service members and their co-borrowers will receive over $88 million from JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and GMAC Mortgage. The other 286 service members and their co-borrowers already have received over $35 million from Bank of America through an earlier settlement. The non-judicial foreclosures at issue took place between Jan. 1, 2006, and Apr. 4, 2012.


Online Prescription Tracker Gives Veterans 24/7 Online Access to Status

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2015 - Veterans can now track the status of most of their prescriptions online, thanks to an innovative idea by a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) employee. The new 24/7 service allows online tracking for most prescriptions mailed from the VA Mail Order Pharmacy.


Small Increase to TRICARE Pharmacy Copays Begins February 1, 2015

Falls Church, Va, February 2, 2015 - New copayments for prescription drugs covered by TRICARE will go into effect February 1, 2015. The Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires TRICARE to increase most pharmacy copays by $3. Drugs from military pharmacies and generic drugs from TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery still cost beneficiaries $0.


DoD Launches Child Care Website to Ease Moving Transitions

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2015 – As military families move frequently and face a host of concerns, finding child care can be one of the greatest challenges, Barbara Thompson, director of military community and policy’s office of family policy/children and youth/special needs, said. To streamline and standardize what can be a daunting search, the Defense Department unveiled, an online resource to help military, DoD civilian and contractor families find an array of military-operated and military-subsidized child care options for children between the ages of 4 weeks and 12 years, Thompson said.


Legal Expert Offers Tax Time Solutions for Maximum Benefits

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2015 – Winter brings not only cold weather, but for some, the dreaded confusion of tax season. However, service members, retirees and family members can get fast, free, professional help in filing their tax returns between now and June 2015, a Pentagon official said. Army Lt. Col. Samuel W. Kan, an attorney and Certified Financial Planner®, said the Defense Department’s volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program has partnered with Military OneSource to offer tax preparation services from trained preparers with access to attorneys, accountants, and certified financial planners.


TRICARE and the Affordable Care Act

Falls Church, VA- January 22, 2015 - With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, TRICARE beneficiaries may have questions about how it would affect them. The ACA and TRICARE are very different, governed by two different pieces of legislation so changes in one have no effect on the other.


TRICARE Patients Must Attest to Health Care Coverage

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2015 - As tax season begins, Defense Department officials want to remind TRICARE beneficiaries of changes in the tax laws, which require all Americans to have health care insurance. For the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2012, all U.S. citizens, including service members, their families, military retirees, DoD civilians and nonappropriated employees, must report health care coverage on their 2014 taxes, said Mark Ellis, a Defense Health Agency health care operations program analyst.


Applications Accepted for 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Washington, January 14, 2015 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is accepting applications for the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Registration began in early January and will close April 15. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems. Each year, hundreds of disabled Veterans travel from around the country to compete in the Games, which is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. With them, they bring the fighting spirit and tenacity that defines the Veterans of our Armed Forces.


Free Tax Preparation, Advice Available to Military Families

Washington, January 13, 2015 - With the new year comes the annual dread of tax-filing season and the confusion and stress that can go along with it, especially for military families whose tax returns can be further complicated by frequent relocations, involvement of rental properties and other aspects of military life.


Certificates of Creditable Coverage No Longer Needed for Beneficiaries Losing TRICARE Coverage

Falls Church, Va, January 12, 2015 - TRICARE will no longer send beneficiaries certificates of creditable coverage when they lose TRICARE eligibility. These certificates are no longer needed when beneficiaries transition off TRICARE. Beneficiaries will instead receive notice that their TRICARE coverage is ending.


E-Prescribing – Coming Soon to a Military Pharmacy Near You!

Falls Church, Va, January 8, 2015 - The Military Health System has deployed electronic prescribing in military pharmacies across its system of clinics and hospitals in the United States (and in Guam and Puerto Rico). This capability will allow civilian providers to send prescriptions electronically to military pharmacies, reducing the need for handwritten prescriptions.


DoD Releases 2015 Military Pay and Compensation Rates

WASHINGTON, December 22, 2014 – Today, the Department of Defense announced the 2015 military pay and compensation rates for service members, with most service members receiving a one percent increase in basic pay. The new rates for basic pay, basic allowance for housing, basic allowance for subsistence, and the cost of living allowance rates for the contiguous United States will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Basic pay for service members will increase one percent, except for general and flag officers who will not see an increase in 2015. For example, an E-4 with 3 years of service will see an increase in basic pay of $22.20 per month, while an O-3 with 6 years of service will receive a basic pay increase of $54.30 per month in 2015.


New Webpage Allows Vets With PTSD To Apply For Discharge Upgrade

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 16, 2014) -- Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who were discharged under "other than honorable" conditions can apply on a new webpage to have their discharge upgraded if it was due to PTSD. The Army launched a webpage for the veterans to get information and ultimately enable them to apply for the change in status, said Col. Matthew B. Coleman, the military assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of the Army at the Army Review Boards Agency.


Thinking About Urgent Care? The Nurse Advice Line Can Help

Falls Church, VA, December 15, 2014 - When an urgent health problem arises, it is hard to know whether you should try to tough it out or seek medical care. Luckily, TRICARE beneficiaries can call the Nurse Advice Line (NAL) to get advice on their health care questions. Not all health problems require a visit with a medical specialist but a Registered Nurse at the NAL can help you make the decision on whether you should seek care at an urgent care center.


VA to Pilot IBM Computer Technology to Assist Physicians in Caring for Patients

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2014 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun a two-year pilot to study innovative approaches to quickly search electronic medical records and medical literature for relevant published studies. During the pilot, VA will assess how the technology may accelerate evidence-based clinical decisions.