A funny thing happened after I gave birth. My credit score plummeted. It dropped more than hundred points. How?
The story begins while we were stationed at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery in 2008. I was very pregnant with my second child and my OBGYN discovered I had thyroid problem – actually I had Graves Disease. It’s an auto-immune disease that causes lots of strange stuff but for this story, the real culprit symptom was hyperthyroid. I was sent to an endocrinologist for further tests.
Sometimes getting a referral can go off without a hitch for military spouses. Other times the refusal process can seem to be as confusing as chemical engineering. In my case, I was being seen by a private OBGYN (nonmilitary but in the network) and was sent to a private specialist – an endocrinologist (nonmilitary but in network). After some monitoring, medicine and delivering, I only saw the endocrinologist a grand total of four times and was released to PCS to Washington DC.So off we go! With a six-week old, an 18-month old, a dog, two cars, a set of in-laws and my husband, we drive our way to Virginia where my husband begins a grueling job at the Pentagon. After getting settled and being completely sleep deprived, my husband deploys to Iraq. So, I closed out my chapter in Alabama and am completely focused on the next year ahead of me with two small children and me, a single parent battling an autoimmune disease.
Fast forward to 2012. We have since moved to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX. We are thinking about buying new car. To be prepared for the purchase at the end of the year, my husband does his due diligence and pulls our credit scores now to make sure there is nothing crazy on there. He has a ridiculous score in 800’s and I know I’m close, if not better than his (yes, I’m very competitive, even in credit scores). To my absolute shock, my score has plummeted more than 100 points to 650.
It turns out that my endocrinologist in Montgomery, AL submitted a $170 claim for delinquency in payment. The funny thing is, they just submitted in six months ago. Not, three years ago or two years ago - four years from the time I was first seen. Tricare denied the claim even though I had a referral. The dates were off by 12 days. The referral dates didn’t cover the first date I was seen. It was clerical mistake between my OBGYN and Tricare. However, now my credit score is in jeopardy because no one informed me, no one caught it and no one cared.
Confused and angered, I vowed that this was going to be resolved in my favor. I am a military spouse and I love my life. I am so thankful for the free medical care that Tricare has given me and my family. I feel very fortunate so I rarely complain about anything Tricare does. However, my credit score belongs to ME. Not the military, not my husband. It’s mine! It’s something I brought to the marriage and I was determined make it right. I was going to have to move a mountain to return my credit score where it belonged.
The endocrinologist office claimed, “We tried to find you, but you moved.” Yes, I moved. I move every two years! I ALWAYS have a forwarding set on our mail. It’s as routine as brushing my teeth. The problem was no one took the effort to send the bill in the mail. I have responsibility too. I realize I was sleep deprived, living out of boxes, preparing for deployments while I cared for an infant and a toddler. I couldn’t tell you what day it was let alone remembering if I ever received a statement from Tricare about payment.
I asked the endocrinologist billing company if I could just pay it because they too recognized that it was a clerical error. The company representative said I could, but my credit score would still be affected. Tricare offices told me over the phone that the claim was too old to fix. Sorry. No one seemed to know how to solve this problem.
I know the onus is on me to follow through, not Tricare or the doctors. But I say that with a huge passive aggressive smirk on my face. Sometimes, it’s insane what we have to go through as military spouses. Even the most anal retentive of us (me) can’t always keep it together during PCS season.
I moved a mountain. After four months, no less than 32 phone calls, six pages of notes, three visits to the Tricare office on base, a dozen cupcakes and cookie bouquet - my credit score has risen! The claim has been removed and my super hero status has been restored. Thanks to Ricky in the Tricare office on base (my new BFF), my life was made easy. She took it right out of my hands and made it right. She made it look so simple and she really cared about me and the problem. Ricky allowed me not to become a victim to bureaucracy as a military spouse
My military Spouse Lesson #854? Keep your medical records up-to-date, clean of clutter and secure. Don’t throw anything away unless you know it’s been closed out. This includes always matching statements with referrals and closing them out yourself. All of my Tricare paperwork is in a hot pink binder sitting next to me on my desk. It’s a daily reminder that I am a military spouse for fabulous credit score.
Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman is a freelance writer and consultant with a passion for military spouses and families. Being married to the Air Force for almost a decade has given her the inside perspective into the life and struggles of the military family. Huisman currently writes for Goodfellow Monitor at Goodfellow Air Force Base and local papers. She works full time raising her two preschoolers and managing her military life. You can contact Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.