Military Connection: Airmen Get Medical Benefits: By Debbie Gregory

Untitled-2Thousands of separating airmen will receive medical benefits after a benefits snafu.

More than 4,000 members of the U.S. Air Force were approved for the Voluntary Separation Pay (VSP) incentive program for fiscal year 2014. According to USAF policy, airmen transitioning by way of the VSP program are not eligible for benefits under the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP), which include 180 days of Tricare medical coverage while they transition.

But administrative personnel at some installations did not correctly input the transition service members’ status. This error cause more than 1,000 of the separating airmen to be mistakenly granted healthcare benefits, only to have the Air Force revoke their coverage once the mistake was caught. Many of the airmen were issued Tricare cards, and some of them used the card to pay for medical treatment. Naturally, the correction of the error created a feeling of discontent and betrayal among these new Veterans, especially the ones who had incurred medical bills.

On October 31, 2014, USAF senior officials authorized the granting of medical benefits for Air Force personnel separating from active service by way of the 2014 VSP program. This benefit will be for all airmen separating under that program, not just the ones who were incorrectly promised medical benefits.

An official release from the Air Force, dated October 31, briefly described the reason for the provision:

“Based on inconsistent issuance and confusion with transitional medical benefits for Airmen separating under the VSP program, the Air Force requested clarification from the Office of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel. A review of the law (10 USC 1175a) determined that the Air Force is authorized to pay the transition assistance management program (TAMP) benefits to Airmen separated under VSP.”

The release also said that the airmen will receive instructions regarding implementation of the TAMP benefits in November. Other benefits offered through TAMP include exchange, commissary, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) privileges for airmen who commit to serve in the Inactive Ready Reserve.

Each branch of the military implemented an incentive program to decrease their force size, as instructed by the Department of Defense. While some guidance and budget has been provided by the DOD, each branch is able to administer their own program as they see fit.

According to the Air Force, 4,247 of their personnel separated from active duty through the VSP program.

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Military Connection: Airmen Get Medical Benefits: By Debbie Gregory