Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update Column Sound Off
I am retiring from the Air Force Reserve at the end of the month. I have contributed to the Reserve Thrift Savings Plan and am wondering what I should do with the funds in that account. I am also a federal civilian employee and have a civilian TSP account.
Can I transfer the reserve TSP funds to the civilian account?
Can I continue to contribute to the Reserve TSP?
JOHN SPENCER Master Sergeant, USAFR Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
The TSP website, which does have information on "Post-Separation Withdrawals," explains that if a contributor has both a civilian and a uniformed services Thrift Savings Plan account, and separates from either federal civilian employment or the uniformed service, he or she may withdraw "only the TSP account related to the type of employment from which you are separating."
Once separated, you have the option of combining two accounts into one, that is, to combine the account related to your separation into the other TSP account.
In your case, you can transfer your Air Force Reserve TSP account into your federal civilian account. If the account related to your separation has a Roth balance and your other account only has a traditional balance (or vice versa), you still can combine accounts.
If you were separating from both your federal civilian employment and a uniformed service, you can choose which account you want to keep and combine the two into one using Form TSP-65, "Request to Combine Uniformed Services and Civilian TSP Accounts."
More details are available online at: https://www.tsp.gov/planparticipation/withdrawals/accountOptions.shtml – Tom Philpott
DHA AND TRICARE PRIME
I read your article on the new Defense Health Agency and how it plans to expand on-base care. I'm a retired Marine. Until recently my wife and I have used the Naval Clinic at Quantico for our medical needs. Last March we were informed we could no longer use the clinic because we live more than 40 miles from base. We asked for a waiver, saying we didn't mind the distance. The clinic commander denied our request based on direction from higher headquarters.
A TRICARE representative told us this was due to the Affordable Care Act, and we would have to go where they said or we lose our benefits. Reading your article, it sounds like the DHA will reverse things.
Is this true?
TIMOTHY M. WIMER USMC-Ret. Via email
The DHA will push to recapture more military folks for care in base facilities. However, as I indicated in the column, the push will be to use more of existing capacity at larger base facilities and in areas with heavy military populations.
The DHA is not looking to relax the 40-mile rule. It tightened enforcement of the 40-mile rule for TRICARE Prime coverage because it is too costly to maintain managed care networks far from base. Closing these more remote Prime networks, and requiring TRICARE beneficiaries living there to use TRICARE Standard, officials contend, will save health care dollars for the Department of Defense.
All of this, by the way, has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." – Tom Philpott
Your recent (excellent) article on the implementation of DHA made no mention of TRICARE For Life. TFL is of serious concern to retirees because of its connection to Medicare. Most doctors in our area will accept TRICARE but will no longer accept Medicare patients, which makes second-payer TFL irrelevant.
Everything I've read indicates Medicare reimbursements over the next five or six years will continue to decline, making the problem more serious.
Is anyone looking out for retirees?
LEE ALDRIDGE USAF-Ret. Montgomery, Ala.
Members of Congress know they have a problem with the Medicare fee formula for physicians, which also governs TRICARE doctor fees. The issue isn't current fee levels but what will happen if Congress were to allow a flawed reimbursement formula to take full effect so that physician fees fall by almost 25 percent.
Congress has viewed a permanent fix to the formula as too costly. So it has resorted to annual short-term reprieves. But every year that a permanent fix is delayed causes the projected fee cut to grow, deepening the threat of diminished access to care for Medicare and TRICARE users.
Periodically, legislation to reform the Medicare fee formula is introduced, most recently by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.). Her Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act of 2013 (HR 574) would amend the Social Security Act (SSA) to revise requirements for Medicare payments for physician's services to eliminate the sustainable growth rate system for setting fee schedules.
Proponents generally believe the solution to the Medicare fee formula will be solved as part of a larger debt-reduction deal. – T.P.
Individuals who have served in the Reserve Forces long enough to earn a retirement should be considered veterans! This travesty has prevailed long enough.
I served 33 years and retired from the Air Force Reserve in September 1999. That I was never activated or deployed was an issue beyond my control. My colleagues in this situation and I deserve this recognition and, in my case, burial in a National Cemetery.
I would expect no other benefit!
PHILLIP E. PRICE Chief Master Sergeant, USAFR-Ret. Byron, Ga.