Tricare Help

The importance of DEERS registration

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Q.  My active-duty husband and I have been married less than two months, and I have not had a chance to enroll in DEERS. He will take leave at the end of this month so we can that all taken care of.  However, I’ve been very sick the last week and have missed a lot of work. I’m not getting any better and am not sure what is wrong. I am wondering, if I go to the ER, will Tricare reimburse me for the cost later, after I am enrolled, or will we be stuck with what could be a very high medical bill?

A. Tricare will not pay for any care received for family members who are not enrolled in DEERS, the Defense Department’s eligibility portal for Tricare. You cannot have obtained a military dependent ID card if you are not yet enrolled in DEERS, and you need to show that ID card when you seek medical care under Tricare.

As the military sponsor for your family, it is your husband’s responsibility to properly register you in DEERS and get you a Defense Department ID card. This is not a laborious or time-consuming process. He can square you away by visiting the ID Card/DEERS office on any military installation. You can get more information by calling the main DEERS support office in California at toll-free 800-538-9552.

Do I need an ID card for Tricare for Life?

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Do I need a Tricare for Life ID card if I am retired military?

There’s no such thing as a Tricare for Life ID card. Your regular military retiree ID card notes on the back that you are eligible for military retirement benefits, including health care. That’s all the ID you need to use Tricare.

Does ex-wife really need military IDs for young children to get care?

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My fiancé’s ex-wife is demanding we get military IDs for their kids, who have Tricare under him. She lost her benefits after the divorce, but insists that she cannot get medical care for the kids without military IDs. The kids are 4 and 6 years old. We were under the impression they would not need IDs until the age 10, and feel like she is using it as an excuse to get on base and reap the benefits (commissary, childcare, etc.). Does she need military ID for them in order to take them to appointments?

You are correct, dependent children normally do not receive ID cards before age 10. However, there are some situations in which ID cards may be issued earlier, including family situations like yours, where the biological parents are divorced and share custody, and one of the parents is not eligible for Tricare. The ultimate arbiter of whether children younger than 10 should be issued ID cards is the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), the Defense Department’s eligibility portal for Tricare. Your husband should contact DEERS for more information. He can do that by visiting the ID Card/DEERS office on any military installation or by calling the main DEERS support office toll-free at 1-800-538-9552.

After age 75, dependent ID card is permanent

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As a surviving spouse of a military retiree, I have a current ID card. Is it true that widows over 75 can have a card with an indefinite ending date – in other words, permanent?

Yes, that is true. Upon reaching age 75, dependents of military retirees, including surviving spouses, may receive a permanent military ID card that does not require renewal. The same is true for permanently disabled military retirees of any age.

Son graduated college, but still has dependent ID card – can he use it?

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My son just graduated college at the age of 22. Because he was given a new Dependent’s ID card when he turned 21 and furnished a letter of attendance from his university, the date of expiration on the card is his 23rd birthday, which is about nine months away. As he is not employed yet, he continues to be my dependent; he lives with me and I provide more than 50 percent of his living expenses, as well as his health care under my Tricare For Life. Must he be converted from Tricare Standard to Tricare Young Adult immediately, or by the time he turns 23 and presumably has a job? Can he continue to use the Dependents ID card for other purposes such as access to military facilities, MWR and Space A, until the card expires, even if he must go onto TYA immediately? And what if he does get a job, but it doesn’t have a health care plan?

Officially, Tricare coverage and military ID card privileges for dependent children beyond age 21 are contingent upon two things – that the dependent child is in full-time student status, and that the sponsor is providing more than half the child’s financial support. You may be fulfilling the latter requirement at the moment, but your son obviously is no longer a full-time student. As such, he is no longer legally entitled to an ID card or health coverage under your TFL.

The odds of the military bureaucracy catching onto that in the nine months until your son’s current ID card expires are impossible for me to say. But if it does, you could be liable for fraud. The proper route to take would be to inform the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System of your son’s change in status and enroll him in TYA now. You can do that by visiting the ID Card/DEERS office of any military installation or by calling the main DEERS support office toll-free at 1-800-538-9552.

Your son would lose TYA eligibility if he becomes employed before age 26. At that point, unfortunately, he would be on his own, even if his employer did not offer health insurance.

Responsible for brother’s new baby; how can I prove child is eligible for Tricare?

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I’m the sister of an active duty service member. My brother is married but has been separated from his wife for two years, living in separate states. They are currently going through the divorce, but it has not been finalized. Now my brother has a baby on the way with another lady. He is deploying and has given me full power of attorney while he is gone and has asked me to enroll the child in DEERS/Tricare once it is here. He knows the child is his, but what documentation will I need to prove that this child is eligible for benefits?

Your brother can get all the information he needs by visiting the ID Card/DEERS office on any military installation or by calling the main DEERS support office toll-free at 1-800-538-9552.

If he won’t be able to do that before he deploys, you will not be able to get onto a military installation without a military ID card, so you would have to call the main DEERS support office.

However, none of this can be done until the baby is born.

Also, you and your brother should be aware that one of the requirements for a child to be considered a legal dependent of a service member is that the service member must provide more than half of the child’s financial support. The DEERS office can talk to you about that as well.

After husband’s death, do I need to change my ID card?

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My husband passed away recently and I am trying to get my affairs in order. Do I need to get a new military ID? I just got a new one in September, but it has my husband’s name on it.

Assuming your husband was a military retiree, the answer is yes, you need to get an updated ID card that designates you as a surviving spouse. Your current uniformed services ID card technically expired on the date of your husband’s death, and it must be renewed within 30 days of the death to maintain unbroken eligibility for various military benefits, including Tricare health coverage.

You also must update your registration information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, the Defense Department’s portal for benefits eligibility.
You can find the nearest ID card/DEERS office through this website. You may also try to call the main DEERS support office toll-free at 1-800-538-9552 for further guidance and information.

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Does elderly widow need ID card to keep using Tricare?

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My father-in law recently passed away at age 94. His daughter has been told that for his 92-year-old invalid widow to keep Tricare coverage for herself she must go an Army base to have a new photo taken for a replacement ID card. Is this true?

Yes, a valid military identification card is required to use Tricare. If your mother-in-law does not have a current, valid military ID, you and your wife must arrange to help her get one in order for her to access her Tricare benefits. This can be done through the ID card issuing office of any military installation (it does not have to be an installation of the particular branch that your father-in-law served in). That office will tell you what documentation your mother-in-law would need to bring to verify her status as a retiree family member for military health care purposes.

In addition, to use Tricare your mother-in-law must be properly registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. DEERS must be informed of any change in family status of military beneficiaries; your mother-in-law has had such a change with the death of her military retiree sponsor. For more information, call the DEERS support office toll-free at 1-800-538-9552.

Any military retirees or their dependents over age 65 use the Tricare program called Tricare for Life, which requires enrollment in Medicare Part A (free inpatient hospitalization insurance) and Part B (outpatient insurance, requiring payment of premiums that currently run about $100 a month). Claims for medical services are submitted first to Medicare, and then Tricare pays whatever Medicare does not. On the vast majority of claims, this combination will cover 100 percent of the bill. Tricare for Life also has a fairly low-cost pharmacy program for prescription drugs.

Many older retirees handle all the family business for both themselves and their spouses. Then when the retiree passes away, he leaves his spouse not knowing what she needs to know to continue accessing her military benefits in his absence, particularly critical health care benefits. We hear of situations like this fairly often. Unfortunately, from the information you have provided, this may have been the case with your in-laws.

Doctor wants to see Tricare for Life card; where can I get one?

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Several times I’ve had doctor’s office give me a blank look when I tell them my health insurance is Tricare for Life. They say they’ve never heard of it, and they want to see a Proof of Insurance card. Where can I get such a card?

Under Tricare for Life, your primary insurance is Medicare. I know it seems awkward when you know you are a Tricare beneficiary, and your health insurance is called Tricare for Life. But look at it this way. Under TFL, Tricare acts as a free Medicare supplement.

Providers usually don’t care which Medicare supplement you have because they will look to you for payment of what Medicare does not pay. What you owe is your 20 percent Medicare copayment and maybe some Medicare deductible. Whether you have a supplement to pay it for you, or whether it comes out of your own pocket, you, the patient, are responsible.

So, when asked about your health insurance, just say you have Medicare. That’s the important word. If they ask about a Medicare supplement, then you can say you have Tricare.
TFL doesn’t have an identification or proof-of-insurance card because. Just show your Medicare card and your military ID card.

And, any time you go to a new provider of any health care service, whether it’s a doctor, or a hospital, or a physical therapist, or a medical supply and equipment vendor, or anything related to health care, always ask if the provider files Medicare claims, before you incur a debt.

If a provider does not, or cannot file Medicare claims, it is an indication that the provider is not an authorized Medicare provider. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the provider. It means, however, that neither Medicare nor Tricare will pay for any services you get from that provider.

What if estranged husband tries to stop us from getting ID cards?

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My estranged husband of 26 years is retired Army and has been extremely hostile since I left our abusive relationship. In the two and a half years we have been separated, he has disobeyed every court order issued for child support and disclosure of income and assets. Now my daughter and I need new military ID cards, which we need to prove our coverage under Tricare — our only health insurance. Although I have been told that a hostile spouse cannot terminate Tricare while we are married, he will undoubtedly refuse to process the paperwork necessary for the new ID cards. How can I get the new ID cards without his cooperation?

Once you divorce your husband, your and your daughter’s Tricare eligibility will be separate issues.

Your daughter is automatically eligible for Tricare because her father is a retired uniformed service member. To use Tricare, she must be registered in DEERS and be issued her ID card. Only the uniformed services or the Defense Department can do either of those things for her. Her father’s permission, approval, or assistance, however, are not required.

You may need official help to register her in DEERS and to get her ID card if her father will not cooperate. All you need to do is call the DEERS Support Office, toll-free, at 1-800-538-9552. DEERS deals with eligibility issues only.

Your letter implies that you will still be eligible for Tricare after your divorce because of the 26-year duration of your marriage. DEERS can help you with that, too. If you meet the requirements as a former spouse, you are legally eligible for Tricare, and DEERS will help you get registered and get a proper ID card.

Your former husband does not have the power or the authority to prevent you from using Tricare. He cannot control your access to care and has no rights to know whether you file Tricare claims or anything about your medical care. That is all confidential.

However, the court may grant your former husband the right to information about his daughter’s claims and medical care. That is something to discuss with your attorney if you have one.