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How Do I Get My Free Military Plastic Surgery?

Want to go under the knife on Tricare’s dime? You have to follow their rules. Photo: SnowBink/Wikimedia Commons
Want to go under the knife on Tricare’s dime? You have to follow their rules. Photo: SnowBink/Wikimedia Commons

Dear Q&B,

I heard every military wife gets one free plastic surgery while her husband is in the military. Someone else told me that it is only one free plastic surgery per family. But when I look on Google I can't find how to get it. Help?

-- Ready for Implants

Dear Implants,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the rumor that every military wife or dependent gets free plastic surgery just for being affiliated with the military is completely false.

While we're on the subject, I'm going to lay another rumor to rest. No, you most likely cannot get a free boob job from Tricare if you tell your doctor you have low self-esteem. And another -- you are unlikely to get one from your local military hospital because the doctors need someone on whom to practice their skills.

Tricare's rules for plastic surgery are very cut and dry. They will pay for it if it is deemed "medically necessary." That's it.

And Tricare makes that final determination. Even if you convince your physician to tell Tricare that your boob job is medically necessary, Tricare could still deny the claim because its reviewers do not agree with your doctor's assessment.

In very limited circumstances, some military doctors at some larger military hospitals will do breast implants because they need the medical practice. If that is the case, Tricare will dictate that you pay the hospital's expenses for the procedure, which can run thousands of dollars. But waiting for that procedure at a military facility assumes that there is no one else there who needs the work for medical reasons.

You may be thinking right now about that person your friend knows who really did get a free boob job or other plastic surgery for free from Tricare. While I can't speak to every single circumstance, I can tell you that Tricare's policy makes it very clear that it's unlikely.

Tricare also doesn't cover other types of non-medically necessary plastic surgeries, including tummy tucks or the removal of excess skin due to weight loss. The only time it will remove skin folds after weight loss is if it "significantly interferes with mobility or causes a physical functional impairment such as uncontrollable inflammation and/or infection resulting in pain or ulceration," according to Tricare's policy.

So when will Tricare cover plastic surgery?

The agency's policy does a pretty good job of laying out when it will cover plastic surgery. Here's what is covered:

** Correction of a birth defect (includes cleft lip).

** Restoration of a body form following an accidental injury.

** Revision of disfiguring and extensive scars resulting from neoplastic surgery (i.e., surgery that removes a tumor or cyst).

** Reconstructive breast surgery following a medically necessary mastectomy.

** Reconstructive breast surgery due to a congenital anomaly (birth defect).

** Penile implants and testicular prostheses for conditions resulting from organic origins or for organic impotency.

** Surgery to correct pectus excavatum (a birth defect that causes a sunken chest).

** Liposuction when medically necessary.

** Panniculectomy (tummy tuck) performed in conjunction with an abdominal or pelvic surgery when medical review determines that the procedure significantly contributes to the safe and effective correction or improvement of bodily function.

That's it.

Sorry to burst your military plastic surgery bubble. Your best bet getting cosmetic procedures is saving your money and finding a doctor off base.

Sincerely,
Team Q&B

-- Do you have a question about your benefits? Email the Military.com Questions and Benefits team at questionsandbenefits@military.com.

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