TRICARE service centers to close soon

During my transition from active duty to the civilian world I found myself in the position of deciding just how I would procure health insurance for my family and I.  As a uniform wearing Marine my healthcare was covered by the local aid station, clinic, or hospital, but once I hung it all up that option vanished when my ID card switched from “Active” to “Retired”.

I have never had to make such a decision before; after all, medical care was part of the benefits package for those in uniform.  Fortunately, at my local Naval Hospital there was a TRICARE service center.  In the TRICARE service center was a real live human being who was both cheerful and helpful, and after spending a half hour or so with her I was able to make the right decisions and sign up for TRICARE Prime so that both my family and I would be covered once my HMMWV chariot turned into a pumpkin.

Unfortunately, that service center and the 188 others that are spread across the continental United States will be closing next year.  They will be replaced by a call center.  Although TRICARE states that customers will receive better service by calling a 1-800 number I somehow doubt it.  There is nothing like sitting down with a real person to get your questions fully answered.

Sadly the cheerful and helpful lady who helped me out will likely be out of a job next year.  Although TRICARE administrators project a $250 million savings by cutting the centers, the cost in terms of jobs and true customer satisfaction are going to be high.

At least in my humble opinion.

It’s here! Orders to Nowhere is now a book!

It’s finally here!  The first edition of Orders to Nowhere is available in print.  It will be six to eight weeks before it shows up in bookstores, and a week or so before it hits Amazon.com.  If you want to avoid the wait, you can order it straight from the printer by clicking the cover:

Orders to Nowhere

Since you are a loyal reader and follower of the blog that got it all started, you can use the discount code ZVGYFQ28 and save 10% off the cover price.

Thank each and every one of you for reading and following my journey through transition!

A tragic but true story of a Marine in trouble

This morning a friend emailed me a link to a particularly disturbing story.  It is a very well written blog post  in the New York Times that provides an unusually unvarnished look into the dark pit that is PTSD.

There are plenty of articles and blog posts about PTSD bouncing around the internet, but this one is compelling in a way that so many others are not.  In this post the author candidly and openly describes how he attempted to end his own life because the lingering effects of his wartime experiences on his psyche.  He takes the reader with him as he writes the note that his wife will find with his cold and lifeless body and as he swallows an entire bottle of pills.

I won’t give the whole article away because it is too well written and too insightful for my humble efforts to recount it.  You can read it here.  I will say that it is an articulate indictment of how this Marine was treated by his supposed leaders when he reached out for help; if his treatment is indicative of how others are treated when they try to overcome PTSD while still in uniform then a lot of so called “leaders” need to look long and hard in the mirror.

They are not leaders.  They are anything but, and are a wretched example of what some implacable and soulless men and women in positions of responsibility can do to those that they have been entrusted to lead.

Sad.

What’s next for military pay and benefits?

My last post was about the impending — and expected — drawdown of the military.  The United States is following the path of many other western nations as they shed soldiers and sailors in an effort to curtail the expense of national treasure and return their armed forces to the size they deem more appropriate for a post-war world.

It does make sense.  After all, standing armies, navies, and air forces are extremely expensive and tough to justify in times of peace (or at least of times of non-war, which seems to be a more apropos description of the 21st century age in which we live).  It has all happened before, and it will surely happen again.

For those who remain in uniform, however, things may well be changing as well.  The Department of Defense is considering pretty much any idea or option that comes to the table in terms of reigning in the costs of personnel, consume about a quarter of the DOD budget.  Various studies and commissions have examined the issue of military and military retiree compensation, and with the austerity brought on by the economy and sequestration such benefits come under greater scrutiny.

One of the latest efforts is the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, a congressionally mandated effort to determine the “long term viability” of  military compensation (for more information, read today’s Stars and Stripes coverage of the commission here).  All things considered, looking under the hood of the military compensation machine is not in and of itself a bad thing.  It happens after every war, but this time the scalpels are sharp and the desire to perform some cost cutting surgery is possibly stronger than ever.

Efforts to change pension benefits, pay structures for serving personnel, medical coverage for retirees, and countless other benefits have been in the news lately and the new congressional panel is yet another bureaucratic mechanic crowded under the hood of the machine trying to dismantle what they can.

As I wrote earlier, a reasonable review is perfectly appropriate as the wars draw to a close.  The moral imperative of meeting the obligations of the nation to those who serve it, however, should be paramount in any discussion about tinkering with or cutting compensation.

I sincerely hope that the commission keeps that in mind.