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Happy and healthy while transitioning

Healthcare opportunities for exiting servicemembers

American Lake Division is one of two main referral sites of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, which provides healthcare services to more than 80,000 veterans in the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System

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One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of exiting the military is figuring out how to keep yourself and your family safe, happy and healthy while you transition. Maintaining peace of mind about healthcare can make all the difference in how smoothly your transition process is carried out.

Separating servicemembers should know they have several immediate options for maintaining healthcare coverage as they transition, including continued TRICARE services. The Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP) is a handy, short-term solution that provides transitioning servicemembers with an additional 180 days of TRICARE healthcare coverage following military separation. TAMP coverage provides individuals with the minimal healthcare required under the Affordable Care Act. Servicemembers can find out if they qualify for TAMP by checking their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) profile.  

TRICARE also offers a Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP), which gives transitioning servicemembers 18-36 months of premium-based healthcare. CHCBP is a special TRICARE program intended to serve as a bridge between military health benefits received while serving and new, civilian-based health plans. The program offers the same benefits as TRICARE Standard to qualified individuals. To find out if you qualify, visit the CHCBP webpage on Tricare.mil.

Another healthcare option is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Health Care Benefits. Servicemembers who separate from the military under anything other than dishonorable conditions may qualify for VA healthcare benefits including crisis prevention, mental health, pharmacy, rehabilitation and specific illness and conditions services.

"Using (the VA healthcare system) has been a positive experience for me," said Lucas Hardy, an Army veteran who served six years as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief. "It's been a big help. Once you find it and navigate it -- a lot of the benefits are online, they're eBenefits -- you can do a lot with it."

To receive benefits, servicemembers first need to apply for enrollment, which can be done online, by mail or in-person. Once enrollment is complete, healthcare benefits may be offered free of charge or with a patient co-pay, depending on eligibility. "Health Benefits Explorer," an online survey and tool for checking VA healthcare eligibility, can be found at hbexplorer.vacloud.us.

Servicemembers exiting the military out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) won't need to travel far to access VA healthcare benefits, either. The VA Puget Sound Health Care System, which has an American Lake Division and Seattle Division, is the primary referral site of the VA's northwest region. It services more than 80,000 veterans in the Pacific Northwest and has community-based outpatient clinics in Bellevue, Bremerton, Federal Way, Mount Vernon, North Seattle, Port Angeles and the South Sound.

Individuals seeking strictly civilian-based healthcare coverage can also utilize the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, a state-based marketplace where individuals and families can search for health and dental insurance coverage that fits their specific needs. The Health Benefit Exchange is implemented by the state of Washington as a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The Health Benefit Exchange is an online marketplace for individuals to find, compare and enroll in healthcare plans. Qualified individuals may receive free, discounted or low-cost healthcare plans through Washington Apple Health Medicaid. To find more information about civilian-based healthcare in Washington, visit hca.wa.gov.

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1102 Quince St. SE, Olympia, 1.800.562.2308, dva.wa.gov

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