was hatched in April of 1982 at the home of
the veterans' newspaper, Stars & Stripes,
in Washington, D.C. This moniker combines
the name of its creator, John Fales, Marine
MOS in Vietnam and "Scout Sgt.," with the
military expression when wronged, "Shafted."
Sgt. Shaft's wry sense of humor, empathy for
the underdog, and strong love of country and
fellow veterans closely mirror the nature
of its creator. The weekly advice column resided
in the Stars & Stripes from 1982 to 1985,
and laid dormant until its rebirth in the
Washington Times in 1991. The column,
Fales is proud to say, gives an outlet for
the concerns of active military, veterans,
and their families in a national newspaper.
In addition to writing the column, John Fales
is President of the Blinded American Veterans
Foundation. Fales was born in New York City
and served in the U.S. Marine Corps until
his retirement on disability. His decorations
include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal,
Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service
Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service
Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service
Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat
Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry. Sgt. Shaft has no twin.
I'm seeking information on the "Retired vets pay hefty fees for 'free' health care" from The Washington Times dated Monday, July 11, 2005.
I am a former military wife, married 30 years, and reaching my 65th birthday in September. I was planning to go forward with the Tricare for Life (TFL) military health insurance plan offered me until I read the article.
I want to know why "Mrs. T.E.C." wrote in her letter to you that readers like me need "to be informed that although government officials repeatedly promised free medical care for life if warriors stayed on for a full career (my former husband retired as a lieutenant colonel with 20 years of service), those retirees under age 65 are instead required to pay hefty co-pay fees and/or buy their own supplemental insurance plan and after age 65 are kicked out of the military medical system altogether." Your response to "Mrs. T.E.C." was "I stand corrected. Retirees do pay a hefty premium and co-pay for their 'free' health care."
This article has caused me some stress as I do not know whom to believe -- you and Mrs. T.E.C. or the Tricare for Life representatives. They are informing me I will be getting the military insurance "free." Yet the article claims hefty co-pay fees and/or I will need to purchase my own supplemental insurance plan. Not only that, but I may be "kicked out" once I turn 65.
In order for me to make an informed decision on health insurance, would you please let me know where I can go to seek the information you and Mrs. T.E.C. have on Tricare for Life? All the information I have on Tricare for Life indicates it will be "free."
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention in answering this e-mail.
In order to receive Tricare for Life after age 65, one must pay Part B Medicare premiums; however, read the following letter.
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I have just read the letter in the National Times from an Air Force master sergeant in Stafford who describes problems with Medicare and Tricare for Life.
By law, providers who accept Medicare are required to accept TFL. When they do, and Medicare is billed, Medicare automatically sends the info to TFL for further payment of the amount Medicare does not pay.
In most cases, the TFL payment is received by the providers before the Medicare payment is received. I have not talked with a single provider who has had a complaint with billing from TFL.
As a member of the Tricare Beneficiary Panel of the Department of Defense, I find the sergeant's claim hard to swallow. I suggest he contact the Tricare website immediately and voice his complaint with names and dates.
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs recently thanked his colleagues for agreeing to add $1.5 billion to meet the 2005 budget shortfall for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The addition of $1.5 billion passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate brings the total for VA's health care budget for 2005 to more than $28 billion. Under the adopted legislation, any of the $1.5 billion not used during the 2005 budget year, which ends Sept. 30, will be carried over into 2006.
Congratulations to friend William F. Tuerk on his nomination by President Bush for an important position with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He has been chosen to be the next VA undersecretary for memorial affairs.
He serves as chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. A date has not been set for a hearing on his nomination.
If approved by the Senate as undersecretary for memorial affairs, Mr. Tuerk will oversee the operation of more than 120 national cemeteries, including the availability of headstones and grave markers, and will be responsible for the purchase of additional land for future cemeteries, and the issuance of Presidential Memorial Certificates to survivors of honorably discharged veterans.
Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail