Service Officer

Upcoming Tri-care changes (2018)

Tricare pharmacy co-pays for most drugs will go up in 2018 due to a measure expected to be approved by lawmakers. The measure, approved by the Senate early this year, is included in the final version of the annual Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), congressional staff said 8 NOV at a briefing with reporters.  Over  the  next  12  years,  the  measure  would  steadily  increase  co-pays  for  most  drugs  through  retail pharmacies, while adding new fees to those received by mail. Drugs received at military pharmacies will continue to be free.

Currently, non-active-duty Tricare users under 65 pay nothing for 90-day supplies of generic drugs received through the system’s home delivery service, Express Scripts, and $20 for a 90-day supply of an approved brand-name drug. Prescriptions filled at an in-network retail pharmacy carry a cost of $10 for a 30- day supply of a generic drug or $24 for a 30-day supply of a brand-name drug. Starting in 2018, all drugs will come with a fee. Generics received by mail will cost $10 for a 90-day supply, while the cost of a 90-day supply of a brand-name drug will increase to $28. Generic drugs received at in-network retail pharmacies will carry the same cost of $10 for a 30-day supply for now, but the cost of brand-name drugs will increase to $28.

All drug costs will see a steady increase between now and 2026, with fees for a 30-day supply of a generic at a retail pharmacy and a 90-day supply by mail reaching $14, and a 30-day supply of a non-generic at a retail pharmacy or a 90-day supply by mail hitting $45. Officials said early this year that drug cost increases would save the Defense Department $2.1 billion by 2022. Lawmakers chose to use that savings in part to fund a permanent fix to a measure known as the “widow’s tax.” That measure penalizes surviving spouses  who  qualify  for  both  the  Survivors  Benefit  Plan  (SBP)  and  Dependency  and  Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs by requiring one payment to be offset by the other.

The offset fix currently in place, known as the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA), was set to expire next year. Lawmakers opted to make both payments permanent, covering the cost of doing so through the Tricare pharmacy fee increase. Lawmakers also rejected through the legislation a plan to increase Tricare fees for current working-age military retirees or those who will retire from the current force. A measure passed last year approved higher fees for those who join after Jan. 1, 2018, but gave protection to current retirees and troops through a “grandfathering” clause. The Senate had proposed removing that protection and instead pushing all retirees into the new pay structure, a move that would save $3.6 billion in just the first five years. That change is not included in the final version, according to Hill staff.

Before the measures become law, they must first be voted on by the full House and Senate and signed by the president. [Source: Military.com | Amy Bushatz | November 8, 2017 ++]

Legal Help for Veterans

On 13 Nov, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), together with the American Bar Association, The Veterans Consortium and National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium, signed a Memorandum of Agreement aimed at improving Veterans’ access to free legal services.  Veterans often face stressful legal problems — such as eviction, foreclosure, child support, or drivers’ license revocations — that can affect their ability to gain or maintain employment and housing or focus on medical treatment. In VA’s annual Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups survey, legal assistance repeatedly tops the list of homeless Veterans’ unmet needs.

The Department is encouraging VA Medical Centers and other VA facilities to engage with their local communities to establish legal clinics and Medical Legal Partnerships to address Veterans’ legal needs that threaten their health and well-being, according to Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. Currently, VA hosts at least 165 free legal clinics in its VA Medical Centers, Community Based Outpatient Clinics and Vet Centers  across  the  country  by  partnering  with  external,  legal-service  providers,  such  as  local  bar associations, legal-aid organizations and law school clinics. More information on VA’s coordination of legal services  for  Veterans  at  VA  facilities  may  be  found  at  https://www.va.gov/OGC/LegalServices.asp.

Click here to see a list of those legal service clinics.

The VA Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist at the closest VA Medical Center may be another source of information about the clinics.

If a Veteran needs legal assistance, you may contact one of the listed legal service clinics, visit www.statesidelegal.org * or Pro Bono Resources for Veterans*.

You may also contact your local VJO Specialist who may know of community resources for legal assistance.

NOTE:  VA assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the legal service providers which appear on this list.  VA does not endorse or recommend any of these organizations.  List of Organizations Providing Pro Bono Legal Services for Veterans *