Life - Health

Bush Introduces Commission to Review Military Health Care

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March  2007 – Americans have a moral obligation to provide the best possible care and treatment to the men and women who serve their country, President Bush told members of the American Legion here today.

In order to ensure that troops get the best care, Bush introduced a new bipartisan presidential commission that will review servicemembers’ health care.

“This review will examine their treatment from the time they leave the battlefield through their return to civilian life as veterans, so we can ensure that we’re meeting the physical and mental health needs involved,” Bush said.

The commission, headed by former Sen. Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, currently president of the University of Miami, will conduct a comprehensive review of military medical care. Meanwhile, a separate task force will assess short-term needs, Bush announced.

“As this commission begins its work and considers its recommendations, I’ve also directed the secretary of veterans affairs to lead a task force composed of seven members of my cabinet to focus and respond to immediate needs,” he said.

The president’s announcement comes a day after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard wounded soldiers’ testimonies detailing mismanagement at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“Many people working at Walter Reed are … dedicated, honorable healers who care deeply about our soldiers,” he said, “Fine doctors, nurses and therapists work day and night to help the wounded.

“Yet some of our troops at Walter Reed have experienced bureaucratic delays and living conditions that are less than they deserve,” he said. “It’s unacceptable to me; it’s unacceptable to you; it’s unacceptable to our country; and it’s not going to continue.”

Bush said he asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to asses the situation at Walter Reed and report his findings. “He confirmed that there are problems, real problems,” Bush said. “He’s taken action to address those problems and hold people to account, including relieving the general in charge of the facility and accepting the resignation of the secretary of the Army.”

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned March 2 in light of the problems at the center, and Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the medical center’s former commander, was relieved of command March 1.

Bush said the bipartisan presidential commission is the “constructive way” to find out if problems similar to those at Walter Reed exist at other military and veterans hospitals.

Related Sites:
Transcript of President Bush's American Legion Speech
Fact Sheet: Taking Care of America's Returning Wounded Warriors

Related Articles:
Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Outpatient-Care Shortfalls
Bush Forms Commission to Review Troops’ Health Care
Walter Reed Chief Relieved of Command

Tricare Information Now Housed Under One Internet Roof

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov.  2006 – Tricare beneficiaries will get a pleasant surprise the next time they visit Tricare Online. The Web site has a new name, a new look and a new home. It’s now part of, the official Web site for all Tricare information.

“We reorganized the Web site with our beneficiaries in mind,” said Army Maj. Gen. Elder Granger, deputy director, Tricare Management Activity. “Now they can go to one site to look up benefit information, schedule an appointment or track claims. Everything’s in one place, making the site easier to use.” comprises five main content areas:

-- My Health (Tricare Online) -- personal health information and online appointment scheduling for Tricare Prime enrollees;

-- My Benefit -- Tricare benefit information;

-- MHS Staff -- resources for Military Health System staff members;

-- Tricare Providers -- information for Tricare network providers; and

-- Pressroom -- the latest news about Tricare and the military health system.

In the next phase of Web site improvements, beneficiaries will be able to enter their profile and receive benefit information tailored to them. Tricare expects this feature to be available in winter of 2007.

Related Sites:

Newest Vets Receive Priority for VA Medical Care

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov.  2005 The estimated 120,000 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan receiving medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs are getting top priority as they access some of the world's best-quality medical treatment, the secretary of Veterans Affairs said.

R. James Nicholson spoke to American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel in anticipation of National Veterans Awareness Week, which began Nov. 6 and continues through Nov. 12.

Although the wounded veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom represent just 2 percent of the VA's total patient load, "it's a very important 2 percent because these are young people who have come back from the combat zone," Nicholson said.

As a result, the VA is "giving them priority and making sure we are taking care of their physical and mental needs" so they can continue to enjoy productive lives, he said.

Seeing the nation's young people return home from combat reinforces the message that freedom comes at a high cost, Nicholson said. "Freedom is not free, and they are paying the ultimate price," Nicholson said. "And so, they will be taken care of and given whatever (health care and related assistance) they need ... for the rest of their lives."

It's gratifying to watch the recovery these wounded veterans make, particularly when hearing many of them say they want nothing more than to return to duty with their units, Nicholson said.

But for those unable to do that, Nicholson said, the VA's responsibility is to help them see beyond their wounds and recognize that they can continue to live productive lives. "That's part of our mission, to show them all the things they still can do and not have them focus on the things they can no longer do," he said.

While the nation gives special consideration of its veterans this week, the VA continues its longstanding commitment to the nation's veterans year-round, Nicholson said. For the past 75 years, the VA has provided health services and other benefits to veterans, living up to the promise made by President Abraham Lincoln during his second inaugural speech: "To care for him who has borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan."

Over its history, the VA has created the world's most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans, including what Nicholson described as "world-class health care." Some 237,000 VA professionals provide health care to more than 5 million veterans through 187 medical centers and 860 outpatient clinics.

A computerized medical record system -- one Nicholson said he hopes will serve as a model for the Defense Department and other organizations -- helps eliminate hospital mix-ups and ensures more thorough patient care, he said. In addition, VA remains a leader in medical research, from studies involving Parkinson's disease to a recent breakthrough in immunizations for shingles, he said.

Nicholson said Congress and the Bush administration have demonstrated through increased funding for VA health care that they remain committed to ensuring veterans receive the top-quality services they deserve. VA funding has increased more than 50 percent since 2001, he noted.

"Veterans of every era can rest easy knowing that access to what has been described as the finest integrated health care system in the country will remain undiminished -- especially for low-income veterans, those with service-connected disabilities (or) special needs or who have recently returned from combat," Nicholson said.

R. James Nicholson

Related Site:
Department of Veterans Affairs

DoD Begins Tricare Retail Pharmacy Program June 1

       The Department of Defense announced today that tthe new Tricare Retail Pharmacy (TRRx) contract takes effect for Tricare beneficiaries located in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.  The contract, awarded last year to Express Scripts Inc. of Maryland Heights, Mo., has approximately 53,000 civilian pharmacies in the nationwide network. 

      In the past, the Tricare regional managed care support contractors provided retail pharmacy services and most beneficiaries should not notice the change in services with the new contract.  To use the new retail pharmacy program, as with all other DoD health programs, beneficiaries must be eligible and enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System or DEERS. 

        “The new single contract integrates the previous regional contracts into one uniform retail pharmacy benefit across all Tricare regions,” said Army Col. William Davies, director, DoD pharmacy programs. 

       The TRRx program has many new enhancements.  Pharmacy claims processing is now centralized and beneficiaries no longer have to mail pharmacy claims to multiple sites for processing or call various telephone numbers to get assistance filling a prescription when using the retail network.  Patient safety has also been enhanced by use of the Pharmacy Data Transaction Service to process all pharmacy claims, including paper claims. 

        For a single co-payment of $3 for generic or $9 for a brand-name prescription, eligible TRRx beneficiaries may continue to receive a 30-day supply of their prescription medication from the new network of retail pharmacies.  To use this benefit, a written pharmacy prescription and a uniformed services identification card are required.  Tricare beneficiaries who used a retail pharmacy last year will receive, by mail, a pharmacy identification card, a TRRx benefit guide and a letter listing the twelve network pharmacies close to their home. 

        The TRRx benefit is now portable.  Beneficiaries traveling outside of their designated Tricare region who need to fill a prescription are no longer required to pay the full prescription price, or file a Tricare claim to get reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses when they use a Tricare retail network pharmacy.  Pharmacy co-payments are the same in every location where the TRRx is available.  

         To locate a network pharmacy, beneficiaries may use the Tricare pharmacy locator service available on the Express Scripts Web site at, or they may call (866) 363-8779 or, using the letters on the telephone keypad, spell (866) “DoD-TRRx.” 

        For eligible beneficiaries with other health insurance (OHI), Tricare pays after all other insurance plans have paid.  To use Tricare as the secondary payer or to obtain reimbursement for their out-of pocket pharmacy expenses, beneficiaries will need to submit a Tricare claim form (DD Form 2642) and a receipt for their prescription medication to Express Scripts for processing.  If the medication under the beneficiary’s OHI is not a covered benefit or if the beneficiary’s prescription coverage has ended for the year, Tricare will pay as the primary insurance payer.

        The TRRx benefit is not available for beneficiaries who reside or travel outside the U.S. or its territories.  These beneficiaries are encouraged to use a military treatment facility, if available, or the Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy program to fill their prescription medications.  Express Scripts can mail prescription medications to any U.S. postal address or to an APO/FPO address.  However, Express Scripts cannot send prescriptions to a private, foreign address.  Prescriptions mailed to beneficiaries in overseas locations must be prescribed by providers who are licensed to practice in the United States.

        A downloadable Tricare claim form is available on the Express Scripts Web site at or on the Tricare Web site at  Pharmacy claims filed with Express Scripts should be mailed to:  Express Scripts, P. O. Box 66518, St. Louis, Mo., 63166-6518.

       Beneficiaries residing in overseas locations, other than Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Island, do not have access to Tricare retail pharmacy networks.  Therefore, they must pay for their prescription medications upfront and submit a claim with Tricare overseas claims processor to be reimbursed.  For reimbursement rates or assistance processing a non-network overseas retail pharmacy claim, beneficiaries may contact the overseas Tricare Service Center at .


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