TRICARE Access During An Evacuation or Natural Disaster

Posted on September 14, 2018

With wildfire and hurricane season underway, have a disaster preparedness plan for you and your family. Access to your TRICARE benefit, prescriptions, and medical resources may change during a disaster. Be informed and learn the best way to keep you and your family safe.

Prepare for an emergency

Follow these easy steps to make sure your family can access your TRICARE benefit during an emergency.

  • Keep key medical information accessible. This includes copies of medical records, your uniformed services ID card, and a list of current illnesses and prescription bottles for all family members. Schedule time to update your information a few times a year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency Ready campaign has tips to help you create an emergency plan. Your plan should take into account the area where you live. For example, do you live in an area prone to wildfires or hurricanes? And what are each family member’s specific needs, including medication? Update your plan every time you move.

Access care during an emergency

TRICARE will announce any emergency procedures in the disaster alert. This will include the counties affected and the date range for the procedures. If you live in the counties listed by TRICARE, you may be able to access emergency prescription refills at any TRICARE retail network pharmacy. Call ahead or bring in your empty prescription bottle. To find a network pharmacy, call Express Scripts, Inc. at 1-877-363-1303 or search online for a pharmacy near you.

If you’re displaced during a disaster, you may be unable to get care from your regular doctor. TRICARE may also authorize referral waivers during a state of emergency. If seeking non-network care during an emergency, keep your receipts. File any claims with TRICARE as soon as possible.

Know how your family’s access to care may change during a weather-related emergency. Receive text alerts about your health benefit and get real-time weather updates. Follow these tips to get the care you need, no matter what the forecast. 

Hurricane Florence Tricare refill prescriptions

Posted on September 13, 2018

As Hurricane Florence approaches,  important prescription-refill information is posted on the TRICARE website for affected states: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

How The Rules Work For You

Posted on September 12, 2018

Retirement doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone. Some people plan to retire and never work again. Some people plan for second careers in occupations that wouldn’t have adequately supported their families, but they do the work for pure enjoyment. Some people, whether by design or desire, choose to work part-time or seasonally to supplement their retirement income.

Retirees (or survivors) who choose to receive Social Security benefits before they reach full retirement age (FRA) and continue to work have an earnings limit. In 2017, the annual earnings limit was $16,920 for those under FRA the entire calendar year. In 2018, it is $17,040. If you earn over the limit, we deduct $1 from your Social Security monthly benefit payment for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. 

In the calendar year you reach FRA, which you can check out on our website, you have a higher earnings limit. Additionally, we will only count earnings for the months prior to FRA. In 2017, the limit was $44,880. In 2018, it is $45,360. In the year of FRA attainment, Social Security deducts $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above the limit.

There is a special rule that usually only applies in your first year of receiving retirement benefits. If you earn more than the annual earnings limit, you may still receive a full Social Security payment for each month you earn less than a monthly limit. In 2018, the monthly limit is $1,420 for those who are below FRA the entire calendar year. The 2018 monthly limit increases to $3,780 in the year of FRA attainment.

Once you reach FRA, you no longer have an earnings limit, and we may recalculate your benefit to credit you for any months we withheld your benefits due to excess earnings. This is because your monthly benefit amount is calculated based on a reduction for each month you receive it before your FRA. So, if you originally filed for benefits 12 months before your FRA, but earned over the limit and had two months of Social Security benefits withheld, we will adjust your ongoing monthly benefit amount to reflect that you received 10 months of benefits before your FRA, and not 12.

Most people understand that if they work while receiving benefits before FRA, their benefit may be reduced. What most people do not consider in their retirement planning is that we recalculate your Social Security monthly benefit at FRA to credit you for Social Security benefit payments withheld due to earnings over the limit. Explaining the earnings limit is another way that Social Security helps secure your today and tomorrow. Understanding both the earnings limit and the possible recalculation of your ongoing Social Security benefits will provide an additional perspective on retirement for you to consider. 

Patrons Can Save On Critical Supplies

Posted on September 12, 2018

Last year was a record-setting year for bad weather in North America with 10 hurricanes – six of which were category 3 or higher – wreaking havoc on the millions of people caught in their path.  With grocery stores overrun by panic-stricken customers caught in the storms’ melee, many people struggled to get much-needed supplies. National Preparedness Month in September is a reminder of how important it is to plan for emergencies – natural or manmade – before they occur. 

“A crisis can occur at any time, and National Preparedness Month reminds us to plan for an emergency before it happens,” said Tracie Russ, DeCA’s director of sales said. “We want to reinforce to the military community that their commissaries and exchanges are benefits that save them money as they prepare their survival kits.”

From April through Oct. 31, DeCA’s severe weather preparedness promotional package is offering various items for those survival kits at reduced prices. This package includes: beef jerky and other assorted meat snacks, soup and chili mixes, canned goods, powdered milk, cereals, batteries, airtight bags, weather-ready flashlights, tape (all-weather, heavy-duty shipping and duct), first-aid kits, lighters, matches, lanterns, candles, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. Specific promotional items may vary from store to store.

The theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month is “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.” The month is separated into four activities: Sept. 1-8 – make and practice your plan; Sept. 9-15 – learn life-saving skills; Sept. 16-22 – check your insurance coverage; and Sept. 23-29 – save for an emergency.

Generally, emergency preparedness officials suggest having a disaster supply kit that includes the following items:

  • Water – at least one gallon daily, per person (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
  • Nonperishable foods – canned meats, fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, cereal, crackers, cookies, energy bars, granola, peanut butter, and foods for infants and the elderly (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
  • Paper goods – writing paper, paper plates, paper towels and toilet paper
  • Cooking items – pots, pans, baking sheets, cooking utensils, charcoal, a grill and a manual can opener
  • First-aid kit – including bandages, medicines and prescription medications
  • Cleaning materials – bleach, sanitizing spray, and hand and laundry soap
  • Specialty foods – diet and low-calorie foods and drinks
  • Toiletries – personal hygiene items and moisture wipes
  • Pet care items – food, water, muzzle, leash, carrier, medications, medical records, and identification and immunization tags
  • Lighting accessories – flashlight, batteries, candles and matches
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA weather radio, if possible)
  • Duct tape, scissors
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates and insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Maps of the area
  • Blankets or sleeping bags

Commissary patrons can access a variety of disaster preparedness resources.

For more information about National Preparedness Month, go to where there are also links to more resources such as the Hurricane Seasonal Preparedness Digital ToolkitMilitary families can also find information on emergency procedures specific to their service.

Note: To watch a video on DeCA’s YouTube page about saving money on the purchase of emergency supplies at your commissary, go to 

Exchange Makes Durable Medical Equipment Easier to Find for Military Communities

Posted on September 05, 2018

Military shoppers can turn to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service for durable medical equipment—braces, fitness bands, crutches and other devices that sometimes aren’t covered by health insurance plans.

To meet growing demand, the Exchange is increasing its online assortment of durable medical equipment at More than 200 items are available online, including a wide selection of braces and safety and mobility aids. By the end of 2018, the Exchange plans to grow its online offerings by 25 percent, and items in the assortment should more than triple in 2019.

Online availability is vital for shoppers who do not live near brick-and-mortar stores that sell the medical equipment. The wide online assortment also benefits honorably discharged Veterans, who were welcomed home to lifelong tax-free shopping and military-exclusive pricing at last Veterans Day.

“The durable medical equipment shops are part of the Exchange’s commitment to keeping military communities healthy,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, the Exchange’s senior enlisted advisor. “Whether helping with rehab, fitness or mobility, these products are helping make our communities physically stronger.”

Besides increasing online offerings, the Department of Defense’s largest retailer is expanding durable medical equipment shops in its shopping centers. The Exchange operates shops at Forts Belvoir, Bliss, and Hood; Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and Nellis Air Force Base. That number is expected to nearly triple to 14 by mid-2019. Additionally, approximately 60 Exchange retail stores worldwide carry an assortment of durable medical equipment.

Nine durable medical equipment shops are scheduled to open at Forts Campbell, Stewart, Bragg and Carson; Joint Base Andrews; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; and Luke, Dover and Davis-Monthan Air Force Bases.

The shops, which also carry medical footwear, therapy aids, wheelchairs, canes and walkers, are relatively new to the Exchange, but have been popular with the military retailer’s shoppers of all ages.

Facebook-friendly version: Military shoppers can turn to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service for durable medical equipment—braces, fitness bands, crutches and other devices that sometimes aren’t covered by health insurance plans. Read more:

How To Choose or Change Your TRICARE Provider

Posted on September 05, 2018

Whether you’re looking to change your primary care manager (PCM) or find a specialty care provider, you have options with TRICARE. With directories at your fingertips, you can take command of your health and your TRICARE benefit.   

TRICARE Prime: Getting Your PCM

When you enroll in TRICARE Prime, you either choose or get assigned a PCM who will manage all of your routine, non-emergency, and urgent health care. You may choose a military or network provider as your PCM, depending on your location and availability. In most cases, when you live near a military hospital or clinic, you’ll be required to have a PCM at that facility. If you don’t list a PCM on your enrollment form, TRICARE will choose one for you. Active duty service members (ADSMs) will be assigned a PCM at their military hospital or clinic.

TRICARE Prime Remote ADSMs and family members will be assigned a TRICARE network provider to serve as their PCM when available. If no network providers are available, then you may choose a TRICARE-authorized non-network provider. You’ll see that provider for most of your care and must seek a referral for specialty care.

You can use the TRICARE East Region and TRICARE West Region online directories to find a provider. Call first to confirm the provider is accepting new patients. Remember that your PCM will refer you to a specialist for specialty care.

TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) Prime: Getting Your PCM

When you enroll in TOP Prime, you’re assigned a PCM and get most of your care from that PCM at a military hospital or clinic, or in the TRICARE civilian provider network. If you don’t have an assigned PCM, your TOP Regional Call Center will coordinate your care.

If you’re enrolled in TOP Prime Remote and don’t have an assigned PCM, then International SOS Government Services, Inc. will assist you with your health care needs. Referrals and prior authorizations are required for certain services.

TRICARE Prime: Changing Your PCM

If you already have a PCM, depending on the capacity of your military hospital, you may choose a new PCM. This may not apply to ADSMs because duty station and military unit affects PCM assignments. All other beneficiaries should check to make sure the PCM you choose is accepting new patients. If choosing a civilian PCM is an option for you, or you wish to change to another PCM at your military hospital, there are three ways to submit your change.

1. By Phone

2. Online

  • Go to the Beneficiary Web Enrollment website. (Not available overseas).
  • Click on the red “Log On” button at the top of the page.
  • Lastly, click on the “Change Primary Care Manager” button in the Actions Menu.

3. By Mail

  • Print, fill out, and mail a TRICARE Prime Enrollment, Disenrollment and PCM Change Form to your regional contractor with the new PCM’s name and address (mailing address is found on the form).
  • You only need to complete the part of the form related to the PCM change.
  • Find the forms on the TRICARE EastTRICARE West, and TRICARE Overseas websites. For USFHP, select the form for your USFHP provider.

The change is effective the date you submit the change, or a date you specify up to 90 days in the future.

TRICARE Select: Finding a Provider

TRICARE Select enrollees can seek care from any TRICARE-authorized providerAn authorized provider is any individual, institution/organization, or supplier that is licensed by a state, accredited by national organization, or meets other standards of the medical community, and is certified to provide benefits under TRICARE. There are two types of TRICARE-authorized providers: Network and Non-Network.. You may choose any TRICARE-authorized provider as a primary care provider. You'll make your own specialty appointments without a referral, but will have lower out-of-pocket costs with TRICARE network providers. Use the search directory to find providers who accept TRICARE.

TOP Select enrollees may also choose from any TRICARE-authorized network provider. Some care may require a referral, so you must coordinate care with your TRICARE overseas contractor. To find a provider near you, use the overseas Provider Search tool. To confirm the type of provider listed in the provider directory, contact your TOP Regional Call Center. Press option 6 to speak with a member of the TOP Select Customer Service Team. 

Use these TRICARE resources to make finding or changing providers simpler for you and your family. And check out the TRICARE website for more help on finding a provider or changing a primary care manager.


5 More Facts You Might Not Know About Social Security

Posted on August 31, 2018

What kind of questions do you and your friends ask about Social Security? When do my benefits arrive? What are Social Security work credits, and do they have anything to do with the way my benefits are figured? Will I be automatically enrolled in Medicare? Read on to find the answers to these questions.

1. Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due.

When you meet all the requirements for eligibility, the benefit check you receive is payment for the prior month’s benefits. For information on the payment of benefits, you can read our pamphlet, What You Need to Know When You Get Retirement or Survivors Benefits.

To know when checks will be paid, you can save the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments to your “Favorites” or print it.

2. We don’t pay benefits for the month of death.

Social Security uses the same throughout-the-month rule to determine eligibility for the benefit that is due for the month of death. You must live through the full month to be eligible for the payment. See the pamphlet above in the section titled If a beneficiary dies for more information about when a check is due.

3. Survivors benefits can replace a percentage of the worker’s earnings for family members.

The eligible family members of a retired or disabled beneficiary may receive a monthly payment of up to 50 percent of beneficiary’s amount. Survivors benefits usually range from about 75 percent to 100 percent of the deceased worker’s amount. Visit our Understanding the Benefits publication for an explanation of the amounts family members receive.

4. Work credits determine eligibility for benefits, but your lifetime earnings are used to calculate your monthly benefit amount.

Retired workers need 40 work credits to be eligible for benefits, but your work credits alone do not determine how much you will receive each month. When we figure your retirement benefit, we use the average of your highest 35 years of earnings. See Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured for more information

5. If you receive retirement benefits before you reach age 65, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.

Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay. It also pays for some home health care and hospice care. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventative services. When you’re already receiving retirement benefits, we automatically sign you up for Medicare Parts A and B when you turn age 65. You can then decline Part B if you choose, since it requires a monthly premium. If you are not receiving retirement benefits as you approach age 65, you should contact Social Security three months before age 65 to sign up for Medicare Part A and B. Even if you don’t want to retire at 65, you should sign up for Medicare only. For more details, check out our Medicare page.


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About Army Echoes

Army Echoes informs Retired Soldiers, surviving spouses, and their Families on changes to their benefits and entitlements, developments within the Army, and how they can continue to support the Army.