- The Washington Times
Monday, July 9, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

To whom do we go for help when we’re being billed for lab services ordered by a Tricare in-network provider?

Tricare says they did not specifically authorize the lab work and that the Tricare in-network provider ordered the lab work, and now the lab is billing me for $1,300 that Tricare didn’t pay. When the lab contacted me to draw blood, I asked if they accepted Tricare payment and they said yes, and I also marked the lab paperwork I signed “I only agree to treatment that is covered under Tricare Prime, and am not liable for costs above that level.” Yet, I suspect the next step is for them to put it into collection and thereby harm my credit rating. What do I do, hire a lawyer? How does one get help under these circumstances?

Retired Master Sgt. B, Air Force

Ashburn, Va.

Dear Master Sgt.:

Keep your powder dry until you contact your beneficiary counseling and assistance coordinator. These are paid individuals who are there just to help service members and retirees with their Tricare issues. You can access a list of coordinators in Virginia through the Tricare Web site at www.tricare.mil/bcacdcao/view.aspx.

Shaft notes

c The Sarge is looking forward to joining fellow National Press Club members, their guests and others at the July 20 luncheon featuring Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant. Those interested in attending the noon lunch should call Pat Nelson at 202/662-7500.

Gen. Conway attended Southeast Missouri State University and was commissioned in 1970 as an infantry officer, serving initially with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as a rifle platoon commander and as the battalion’s 106 mm recoilless-rifle platoon commander.

Subsequently, he served as a company commander in the Infantry Training Regiment, as executive officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and as Sea School director. He later commanded two companies in the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division and later commanded two companies of officer students and taught tactics at the Basic School. His next tour of duty was as operations officer for the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, where he spent 13 months at sea and in contingency operations off Beirut.

He has held several overseas posts and also served as senior aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most recently, he was commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and commanded two combat tours in Iraq.

Gen. Conway is urging the White House to “rally the country to war,” arguing that it could help address the challenge of recruiting 92,000 additional troops to boost the size of the Marines and the Army. He recently made the remarks to a room full of Marine Corps veterans at a luncheon sponsored by the Marine Corps Association in Alexandria.

“We have, frankly, talked with the president some about maybe changing his message,” Gen. Conway said. “You know, after 9/11 he said, ‘The best thing you can do, America, is live your lives normal.’ … We think today that it may be time to rally the country to war.”

Rallying the country might help the Army and the Marine Corps meet the challenge of recruiting 92,000 troops over the next four or five years, he argued. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Pentagon wants to add 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines over several years.

c Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican and a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, last week held his first meeting as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee’s Veterans Affairs Task Force to discuss benefits available to our nation’s wounded service members and their families.

Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operations Command were on hand to brief members of Congress on programs offered by their respective branches.

During the meeting, Mr. Bilirakis stressed the need for veterans-benefit information to be made more readily available and for more of an effort to reach out to those who may not otherwise know the veterans benefits due to them.

“Each year, millions of veterans and wounded service members join the ranks of those in desperate need of medical benefits or employment assistance, yet many do not know of the vast range of services available to them and their families,” Mr. Bilirakis said. “We need to do a better job of giving our veterans access to the right kind of information to help them make informed decisions about the kinds of opportunities and benefits the federal government has made available to them and their families.”

c Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org

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