State of the VA:
Benefit Upgrades, New Website, and New Offices
True to his word, Secretary Robert
Wilkie has been busy calming the waters at Veterans Affairs, implementing
reforms to improve the veteran experience, and streamlining the delivery of
services he committed to improving when taking office on July 30, 2018.
Customer service is one of Wilkie's
top priorities. This month he rolled out a number of initiatives to honor
his commitment to making VA a friendlier and easier place for veterans to be
1. VA.gov Redesign. After gathering
feedback from over 5,000 veterans, servicemembers, their families, caregivers
and survivors, VA took a bold step forward in modernizing its homepage to help
veterans navigate the website to get at the content they need, quicker and
easier. With 10 million visits a month to the website, customers
frequently voice their complaints and frustration with the layout and
navigability, saying it focused too much on presenting information about VA as
an organization and not what customers need.
“Veterans, their families,
caregivers and our many customers have successful online transactions in their
day-to-day lives,” Wilkie said. “They should expect the same exceptional
digital experience coming to VA. Our customers will receive a more simple
and intuitive experience when accessing our online front door - the new
Click here and check it out! Tell MOAA know
what you think of the website redesign at legis@MOAA.org.
2. Benefits Initiatives. VA
also announced some benefit improvements to help servicemembers and veterans in
need-see how these improvements may help you or someone you know:
Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program- new
improvements allow servicemembers filing disability claims between 90 to 180
days before they separate from service to receive a decision on their claim
within 30 days of discharge.
Veterans Impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu and Hurricanes
Florence and Michael - VA declared the typhoon in the Northern
Mariana Islands and hurricanes in Florida, North Carolina and Georgia
significant disasters to warrant prioritizing and moving veteran benefits
appeals claims to the top of the list for resolution.
Free Federal Agency Legal Assistance - VA
joined with the Departments of Labor, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, and
others, committing to improving and increasing access to free legal services
for veterans facing eviction or home foreclosures, driver's license
revocations, child support or those with other critical needs that impact their
ability to work or seek health care.
3. VA Health System Realignment. Just
before the Thanksgiving holiday, VA announced its plan for reorganizing the
Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The plan is part of a bigger
initiative directed through an executive order signed last year by
President Donald Trump, requiring reorganization of the entire federal
The plan is to break up dozens of
program offices, consolidating them into four offices to provide “greater
accountability and clearer governance over these critical functional areas” -
an integration and consolidation effort Wilkie says will reduce bureaucracy and
help the agency focus on the veteran.
The four new offices are:
The Office of Population Health. This will focus on health care in
a particular region, looking at population segments and markets to eliminate
administrative burdens and redundancies, while aligning VA with other federal
agencies and private institutions to promote best practices and standards.
The Discovery, Education and Affiliates Networks (DEAN) Office.
This combines two former offices, the Office of Academic Affiliations and the
Office of Research and Development. The office is charged with advancing
cutting-edge medical care and innovations to address the complex health issues
of veterans. It also provides a platform for the next generation of
physicians to deliver the most innovative care, thus also improving medical
care for all Americans as VA history of medical innovations has shown.
Engineering and environment of care functions will merge into a
single office to address environmental and safety issues across the system to
ensure VA continues to deliver high quality health care.
Human resources functions delivered through four different offices
at VA headquarters will combine into a single office to improve efficiency,
transparency and provide more consistent service across VHA.
FEDVIP Enrollment Officially Extended for Three Months
Sign-ups for the Federal
Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) have officially extended
for three months, officials at the Office of Personnel Management have informed
Open Season ended Dec. 10,
however OPM has granted a "belated enrollment phase" for potential
beneficiaries who missed the first deadline. Sign-ups should be granted until
The Military Officers
Association of America influenced OPM to grant more time for beneficiaries.
"We kept the spotlight
on this by tracking enrollment and communicating whenever our members had
feedback or an issue," said Capt. Kathy Beasely, USN (Ret), MOAA's
director of health affairs.
Enrollees in the TRICARE
Retiree Dental Program are required to sign up for FEDVIP if they wish to
maintain dental insurance. FEDVIP provides 10 choices for dental coverage. As
of early Dec. 13, about 639,00 beneficiaries had signed up for dental coverage.
The target goal is at least 800,000 signups. Vision coverage is also offered,
through four carriers. FEDVIP vision plans help pay for routine vision
appointments and frames, lens and contacts. As of Dec. 13, about 300,000 people
had signed up for vision.
To enroll online visit
BENEFEDS.com or call, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern, at
OPM announced the belated
enrollment phase in a Dec. 13 meeting at the Defense Health Agency in
Arlington, Va., attended by military and veteran service organizations.
Officials said that 80 percent of signups have occurred online and that the
overall process has earned a 92 percent satisfaction rating from those
OPM will review its Open
Season policies and identify changes that might improve the process in 2019.
For those who have signed up: You
will not see premiums taken out of your account until February. FEDVIP bills
beneficiaries after each month of coverage.
Still Working at 65? Here’s What Happens to Your TRICARE Benefits
By law, TRICARE Prime
and Select must end at age 65. At age 65, TRICARE converts to a Medicare
supplement. To continue TRICARE coverage at age 65 and beyond, you must have
Medicare Parts A and B, so TRICARE can supplement the Medicare.
You do not permanently
lose TRICARE eligibility by not enrolling in Medicare at age 65. You just delay
Medicare/TRICARE coverage. Delaying Medicare enrollment at age 65 carries Part
B premium penalties unless you follow the proper procedures for delaying, as
If you still are
working, you have three options:
employer-sponsored health care plan without Medicare/TRICARE.
Use both your
Medicare/TRICARE and your employer's plan. You can be enrolled in Medicare Part
A alone at age 65 at no cost while using your employer's plan if you delay Part
You still must be
working and using your employer's health plan to delay Medicare enrollment at
age 65. After you stop working, you have eight months to enroll in Medicare
before late enrollment penalties kick in. Your eight-month clock starts at the
end of your health plan or the end of work, whichever is first. Enroll in
Medicare before the end of the health plan or work to ensure your Medicare is
in force before your current health plan ends.
Being covered by an employer's retiree health plan does not count for
penalty-free delayed Medicare enrollment. You must be working and covered by an
employer's health plan.
If you are U.S. Family
Health Plan (USFHP) members and you enrolled in the plan on or before Sept. 30,
2012, and have remained enrolled, you may receive your care through the USFHP
even after you turn 65. If you enrolled in USFHP on or after Oct. 1, 2012, the
law requires that you be transferred to Medicare/TRICARE when you turn 65.
However, if you move outside an USFHP area or dis-enroll from the USFHP after
age 65 and then enroll in Medicare Parts A and B, you will pay delayed
enrollment Part B premium penalties. To plan for worse-case, you might want to
enroll in Medicare Parts A and B at age 65 regardless of USFHP coverage.
Medicare Advantage plans
are Medicare Parts A and B. TRICARE works the same with Medicare Advantage
plans as it does with government-sponsored Parts A and B.