Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Hundreds of military retirees, veterans and their families flooded the Lewis and Clark Center to learn about changes coming to TRICARE, receive their flu shots and visit more than 40 different vendors, who provided them with resources and support, during the 55th annual Retiree and Veteran Appreciation Day Oct. 26.
“This may be the very best opportunity of the year to celebrate what it means to be a soldier for life and the equivalent for the other services, and I’m certainly humbled to be here among all of you,” said Garrison Commander Col. Harry Hung during the opening ceremony. “I hope you’ll have that same sense of awe as you look to your left and right in this auditorium knowing that you’re amongst brothers and sisters who have worn the cloth of our nation regardless of service from every generation since the Greatest Generation.”
The opening ceremony included presentations by the Leavenworth High School Junior ROTC Cavalry Angels and Raiders teams, the playing of each branch of services’ song, and remarks from Hung and Munson Army Health Center Commander Col. Scott Mower.
Hung said the Fort Leavenworth retiree and veteran community has close to 7,500 members.
“Among them are two Medal of Honor recipients with service in Vietnam. We also have eight World War II veterans and 20 Korean War veterans in our retiree community,” Hung said. “These sacrifices made by our soldiers, 70 to 80 years ago, help to create the world that we live in today, one with freedom and far less tyranny. As each year goes by, fewer and fewer of the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation remain.
“For the Baby Boomers through Generation X, you served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and countless other places around the world as our nation called upon our armed forces to defend freedom and secure national interests,” Hung said. “In the course of the last 50 years, we’ve reshaped our U.S. Army as well as our joint force to be the preeminent land force in the military and the world, today. We thank you for your sacrifices at home, abroad and while in harm’s way.”
Hung also updated attendees about changes that would benefit them.
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, all service connected disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former Prisoners of War and primary veteran caregivers will be eligible to shop at commissaries and exchanges, with the use of their veterans’ health identification card.
Additionally, the Department of Defense is modernizing ID cards to protect cardholder privacy and personal information by implementing a barcode that will eliminate the cardholder’s Social Security number from all DoD ID cards. The cards will go into effect later in the fall. ID cardholders who still have their Social Security number on the front of their card will have first priority replacement.
Hung also encouraged attendees to sign up for an online account with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
“It is the most efficient way to receive correspondence on your retired pay,” Hung said. “The e-mail process used by DFAS sends millions of messages monthly, notifying our military retirees on updated pay account statements and other information that is available on the agency’s online myPay management site.”
Hung also briefed attendees on construction improvements around post including the repaving of the Grant Avenue gate and the expansion of the Post Exchange happening in 2020, before concluding his remarks.
“Thank you for your service to our nation and for allowing us this opportunity to show our appreciation for your enduring contributions to our community,” Hung said. “Some of you will go straight to get flu shots and update your ID cards, and some of you are probably down there already trying to beat the line.
“My hope is that you’ll stick around before you leave, talk to someone you haven’t before, perhaps from another generation to share your story of service,” he said.
Mower briefed attendees about the MAHC and left them with one message. As of Oct. 1, MAHC and other medical treatment facilities are now a part of the Defense Health Agency, however, the change will not affect services.
Following the formal ceremony, attendees had the choice to go to the vendors, attend a talk about preparation for surviving spouses or attend a question-and-answer session about TRICARE changes. Kathy (Lucero) Styhl, Health Net Federal Services and TRICARE provider relations representative, led the TRICARE discussion.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, there will be an increase in pharmacy copayments.
At military pharmacies, a 90-day supply of generic and brand-name prescriptions is still $0.
TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery for generic formulary prescription copayments for a 90-day supply will increase from $7 to $10. Brand-name formulary prescription copayments will increase from $24 to $29. Non-formulary prescription copayments will increase from $53 to $60.
Retail networks generic formulary prescription copayments for a 30-day supply will increase from $11 to $13. Brand-name formulary prescription copayments will increase from $28 to $33. Non-formulary prescription copayments will increase from $53 to $60.
Open enrollment for TRICARE is the second week of November through the second week of December.
“(Open enrollment) allows the beneficiaries to change their plans, reenroll and move things around,” Lucero said. “Now you can only do it once a year during open season enrollment, so it’s really important.”
Attendees said they appreciated the fact that this year’s event gave them free reign.
Vietnam veteran retired Army Master Sgt. Larry Gorsh said he liked the variety of vendors available.
“It is very worthwhile,” Gorsh said. “The booths where they give out information on things and points of interest for veterans is most helpful.”
Retired Army Col. Peggy Sullivan and her husband Jonathan Hyde, who have attended the event for many years, said they liked that the opening ceremony was shorter.
“(Retiree Day) has changed in that they don’t give as many long talks in the auditorium, and they let people make decisions about what they need,” Sullivan said.
“Kathy does the TRICARE thing, and when we first started coming, we needed that information because we were new to it,” Hyde added. “We understand it now, so we didn’t need to sit through that again.”
Overall, Sullivan said the event is helpful with many kinds of issues.
“You’ve got to come at least once and see what’s available,” Sullivan said. “You can make your own decision after that, especially if there is any kind of changes in any of your benefits because they’ll help you.”