Here’s what to tell people if you think they might be eligible for Tricare:
The Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is the central point for information about Tricare eligibility — a computerized database of all Defense Department beneficiaries and the benefits to which each is entitled by federal law. Its toll-free number, nationwide, is 800-538-9552.
DEERS is the place to ask all questions concerning Tricare eligibility. It cannot provide legal advice or assistance, nor can it provide information about the Tricare program, its benefits or claims. But it will tell you where to get that information.
DEERS can tell you whether you meet the requirements established by federal law to be eligible for Tricare. If it believes you do, it will tell you whom to contact next.
Then, the only way to be sure is to apply for Tricare. Only the uniformed services have the final authority to determine whether a particular person is eligible for Tricare.
The 9.7 million Tricare beneficiaries make up about 3 percent of the U.S. population. Today, more than 50 million Americans are uninsured.
Take 3 percent of that 50 million, and it's a statistical probability that 1.5 million people out there are eligible for Tricare — and don't know it.
Could one of them be at your dinner table this holiday season? Spread the word to those who may be eligible for Tricare and don't know it, including those in some often overlooked categories:
• Unmarried children, under age 21, of active-duty, retired or deceased members. That also includes children born out of wedlock, even overseas.
• Children who become physically or mentally disabled and unable to work before turning 21. Regardless of their current age, they may still be eligible — now and for the rest of their lives.
• Anyone who retired before 1966, or their widows.
• National Guard or reserve retirees age 60 or older.
Along with those mentioned above, many shelter workers, nursing home workers, elder care volunteers, day care workers, recreation center directors, religious leaders and even social workers likely don't know about Tricare, or know that some of their clients may be eligible.
And don't forget to tell any police officers you know. They probably see more of the basic human condition than everyone else combined.
Note to readers
A Tricare-eligible beneficiary with multiple sclerosis and a Veterans Affairs Department disability rating for the condition recently wrote in to inquire about his options for long-term care insurance.
Another reader subsequently noted that the beneficiary may be, or may become, eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits under VA's pension program. More information is available at www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/vetpen.htm.
Write to Tricare Help, Times News Service, 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159; or firstname.lastname@example.org. In email, include the word "Tricare" in the subject line and do not attach files. Get Tricare advice any time at www.militarytimes.com/tricarehelp.