E Veteran Seeks Info on TRICARE For Life Eligibility | Military.com

Veteran Seeks Info on TRICARE For Life Eligibility

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am currently 56 and have to wait until 60 to draw my retired pay. I am drawing Social Security Disability and have Medicare. I am also married.

I have read that I may qualify for TRICARE For Life now. When I see a TRICARE representative, they tell me I do not. (TRICARE is the health care program serving uniformed service members, retirees and their families worldwide.)

Do I or do I not qualify for TRICARE For Life now based on my disability with Medicare?

Thank you,
Richard P.
USAR (retired)

Dear Richard P.:

No, you do not qualify for TRICARE For Life (TFL). To qualify for TFL you have to be TRICARE eligible. You become TRICARE eligible at age 60.

If you are still on Medicare at that time, you will be qualified and enrolled in TFL as long as you are enrolled in both Parts A and B Medicare. Your eligibility for Medicare alone does not make you TRICARE eligible.

Shaft notes

• Kudos to Valley Forge Military Academy for the announcement of a new scholarship program for the sons of disabled or deceased U.S. veterans.

Valley Forge Military Academy has partnered with NewDay USA Foundation to provide scholarships to the sons of 100 percent disabled or deceased U.S. veterans. The scholarships are need-based and will cover most of the cost of attending VFMA for new or returning students who qualify.

NewDay USA and Valley Forge Military Academy are committed to our nation’s wounded warriors and to those families of our fallen service men and women.

Many of our nation’s veterans’ families are living well below their honor and dignity, and a gift of tuition to these families from NewDay USA provides the opportunity for their sons to obtain a top-notch education at a prestigious, private military school.

These scholarships are available now, and will be applied to the applicants’ 2013-14 tuition. The admissions counselors are available to speak with prospective applicants and their families to help determine if they are eligible for this scholarship, and to assist them with the application process.

Contact the Office of Academy Admissions at 1-866-923-VFMA (8362) or academy_admissions@vfmac.edu.

For more information about the scholarship program, click on http://www.vfmac.edu/academy-financial-aid/academy-paying-for-the-academy-scholarships/.

• Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis joined Rep. Tom Rooney, Rep. Kurt Schrader and Rep. Ron Barber as an original co-sponsor of the Protecting Veterans Pensions Act.

The bill combats scams against retired veterans and strengthens the Veterans Affairs (VA) pension program.

“As Vice-Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Co-Chairman of the Military Veterans Caucus, I am working to ensure our veterans receive the benefits, care and opportunity they’ve earned,” said Mr. Bilirakis, a Florida Republican. “I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that will better protect our nation’s heroes from scams and those who try to take advantage of or mislead them.”

The bipartisan bill addresses a common scam called “pension poaching,” in which:

* Unethical financial advisors and firms prey on elderly and disabled veterans by promising to help them qualify for VA pension benefits if they divert their assets into trusts or annuities.

* The firms profit from those trusts or annuities, but they are often poor investments for seniors. As a result, victims lose access to their savings in exchange for a small pension. Meanwhile, the pension fund is drained for veterans in need.

* These firms further profit by charging veterans exorbitant fees and selling them additional, costly services.

Since VA only considers net worth at the time a veteran applies for benefits, the Department cannot determine if an applicant has diverted their assets in order to qualify. The Protecting Veterans Pensions Act would close this loophole; put a stop to pension poaching; and shore up the VA pension fund by creating a three-year “look-back” period to determine eligibility.

“As a veteran myself, I am outraged by the actions of those who would prey on America’s elderly and disabled veterans,” said Mr. Rooney, a Florida Republican. “These financial predators are scamming elderly veterans out of their life savings, while undermining the VA pension program for the veterans who rely on it. By creating a three-year look-back period, we can put an end to this fraud against our nation’s heroes while strengthening the VA pension program.”

“This bipartisan legislation would safeguard veterans and their families from predatory financial advisers, who are abusing taxpayer money and selling veterans unnecessary and costly financial products,” said Mr. Schrader, an Oregon Democrat. “These scams have no place in our society and by closing this shameful loophole we can show both veterans and taxpayers that we stand with them in protecting their best financial interests.”

“I am honored to represent a district in which more than 80,000 veterans live,” said Mr. Barber, an Arizona Democrat. “But I understand that with that honor comes the responsibility to ensure that veterans who stepped forward to serve our nation are not defrauded when they become civilians. I will not allow ‘pension poachers’ to take advantage of our veterans.”

The legislation reflects concerns from veterans and is line with recommendations from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which noted that more than 200 companies market financial services to veterans to help them qualify for VA pensions by repositioning their assets into trusts and annuities.

• An amendment authored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to help track school progress of students from military-connected families was adopted as part of a major Senate education overhaul. The amendment passed in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by a bipartisan vote of 13 to 9.

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.

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Sgt. Shaft 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.

In addition to writing the column, John Fales is President of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. 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.

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