Keeping fees means cutting force

Tom Philpott

If Congress blocks Defense Department plans to raise TRICARE fees for military retirees and beneficiary co-pays on drug prescriptions filled off base, the services will have to make even deeper cuts in force strength than now planned, the military’s top health official told lawmakers last week. “Given the constraints of the Budget Control Act, if […]

Budget may raise TRICARE costs

Out-of-pocket health care costs for military retirees and for users of the TRICARE retail pharmacy network would jump next October if Congress approves President Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request delivered last week. Annual active duty pay raises also would be impacted but not until January 2015 when raise caps would begin and last three years. […]

Club notes — April 17

Curry County Association Curry County Association of Educational Retirees met April 4 at Furr’s. The meeting was opened with prayer and pledges to the American flag and the New Mexico flag. Dianne Davis introduced Rebecca Reid-Carlyle, who gave a program on reverse mortgages. The reverse mortgage plan was explained step by step and who is […]

Advisory panels: Military benefits unsustainable

By Tom Philpott: Military Update A consensus is building among current and former military leaders and defense industry executives that rising military personnel costs threaten the viability of the all-volunteer force. In July, two separate advisory groups reached the same general conclusions regarding what needs to be done to sustain the force. In the nearer […]

Panel told not to cut vet benefits

Advocates for military retirees and veterans urged a bipartisan commission studying ways to end runaway budget deficits not to lump military-earned benefits in with other entitlements eyed for cost controls. “There’s a fundamental difference between social insurance programs open to every American and military benefits earned by decades of service and sacrifice,” Steve Strobridge, director […]

Influencing TRICARE option barred

Civilian employers of military retirees once again can offer a TRICARE supplemental plan with their cafeteria-style health insurance options so that workers who elect to use their TRICARE Standard benefit can buy coverage conveniently and with pre-taxed dollars. The change took effect June 18 under a final rule published by the Department of Defense that […]

Home delivery of pharmacy benefits saves money

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist Military retirees and families will save themselves some cash — and save TRICARE a whole lot of money — by using their “home delivery” pharmacy benefit instead of filling prescriptions at TRICARE retail outlets. Pharmacy officials are doing whatever they can to drive that message home to 7.5 million users […]

TRICARE increase stuns retirees

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Defense health officials didn’t do the Obama administration any favor last week when they announced a “small” increase in the daily fee that military retirees under 65, their families and covered survivors must pay for inpatient care in civilian hospitals under TRICARE Standard starting Oct. 1. The jump, in fact, […]

Oil prices bury retiree allowance

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist It was higher oil prices last year that led to the largest annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to federal entitlements since 1982. Good thing, too. Lowered oil prices since then are almost certain to block any COLA this year for military retirees, federal civilian retirees, Social Security recipients, survivor benefit annuitants […]

Another gaffe in retro pay project

By Tom Philpott: Syndicated columnist As many as 39,000 disabled military retirees have been left out of the VA Retro Pay program by mistake, say officials at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) who are calculating the amount of money owed. This latest and perhaps most serious gaffe in the problem-plagued VA Retro Pay […]

Supreme Court sends suit against city of Portales to trial

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico The New Mexico Supreme Court has sent a breach of contract lawsuit against the city of Portales back to District Court for a jury trial. The lawsuit alleges that without approval, Portales City Manager Debi Lee canceled retiree health benefits stipulated by a personnel ordinance. City representatives said the […]

Retiree mortality rate needs study

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist Department of Defense actuaries have discovered significantly higher mortality rates among active duty retirees compared to reserve retirees, and the disparity stretches back decades. In any given year, looking at populations of non-disabled military retirees age 60 and older, the death rate for active duty enlisted retirees is 20 to […]

TRICARE cost increases proposed

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist A new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows why some military retirees and veterans could face higher out-of-pocket costs if the Obama administration and Congress take bold moves to reform the U.S. health system and to make federal health programs more efficient. Among 115 “options” presented, though not endorsed, […]

Improved health benefits on way

By Tom Philpott: CNJ Columnist Active duty and reserve component members can bank on a 3.9 percent pay raise next January as Congress continues to close a perceived military “pay gap” that a Pentagon pay study says no longer exists. The House Armed Services Committee on May 14 joined Senate colleagues in approving, for a […]

Retirees also deserve pay changes

By Tom Philpott Older military retirees like Marine Corps Master Sgt. Lanny Bauer, 68, of Stockton, Calif., do not begrudge current service members for a string of annual pay raises that have exceeded wage growth in the private sector. Every dollar they get is deserved and likely is needed to keep quality volunteers in wartime, […]

Military update: Panel OKs multiple military measures

By Tom Philpott: Syndicated columnist Military people next January would get a 3.5 percent pay raise, under a compensation package voted Wednesday by the House Armed Services’ subcommittee on military personnel. In shaping the personnel section of the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill, the subcommittee approved other initiatives to please health-care beneficiaries, surviving spouses and […]

Retro pay reaches 31,000, averages $1,500

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Two months into a year-long review of pay records and disability compensation histories for 140,000 military retirees have produced a total of $45 million in back pay to 31,000 disabled retirees, say officials in charge. The lump-sum payments average about $1,500. Ten retirees have received more than $25,000 each, a […]

Back payments doled out to retirees

By Tom Philpott: Military Update A small group of disabled military retirees this month will be the first of 133,000 to receive lump-sum back payments, which are tied to start-up challenges for two “concurrent receipt” programs enacted since 2003. That’s according to officials with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The trickle of back […]

Military back pay cost will be shared

By Tom Philpott: Military update The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have worked out a plan for sharing the cost and the task of delivering about $500 million in back pay to more than 100,000 military retirees with VA rated disabilities. The retroactive payments are owed to nearly half of all recipients of Combat-Related […]

Retirees hoping for back pay

By Tom Philpott: Military Update Retired Army Staff Sgt. Daniel F. Purinton, 71, has argued for almost two years that the Department of Veterans Affairs owes him an additional $8,044. Purinton said the underpayment occurred as Department of Defense and VA officials implemented a complex series of laws, starting in 2003, to end for many […]