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FORT LEE, Va. -- Military retirees receiving TRICARE health insurance benefits need to pay attention to the following statement: your dental and vision coverage will expire at the end of this year unless arrangements for a new plan are completed during the Nov. 12 - Dec. 10 open enrollment season.

TRICARE has been publicizing this policy change for several months with help locally from Kenner Army Health Clinic, the Soldier for Life Retirement Services Office and other community support agencies. There are concerns that some may not be getting the message – for example, retirees lacking access to military information channels – and/or those needing assistance with enrollment not knowing where to get it.

“Community members can help the cause by getting the word out to retirees in their families, neighborhoods and workplaces,” said Lt. Col. Paul J. Kassebaum, Kenner Army Health Clinic commander. “A concern raised at Retiree Appreciation Day at the end of September is individuals who don’t have computers or live in areas where internet service is not available. Those veterans can be directed toward the agencies that offer free workstations with online access like public libraries and the Army Community Service facility at Fort Lee.”

Those losing their TRICARE Retiree Dental Plan are eligible for new coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. As a side note, family members of active duty personnel also have the option of enrolling for vision coverage. Active duty personnel are covered by TRICARE, and are not eligible for the alternate program.

To set up a FEDVIP dental and/or vision plan, one must go through the BENEFEDS enrollment portal at tricare.benefeds.com. Beneficiaries are encouraged to register for an account and enroll in a plan online. To speak to a representative over the phone, call 1-877-888-FEDS (3337).

Enrollees have 10 dental and four vision carriers to choose from, and single, couple and family plans that offer high and standard options. The BENEFEDS enrollment portal provides a comparison tool to help consumers identify the areas of coverage that are most important to them and the monthly cost – which will be automatically deducted from the individual’s government paycheck in the same manner as TRICARE payments.

Don’t rush through the research, advised KAHC officials. The selection of health coverage should take future needs into consideration, like braces for children or continuing needs for degenerative conditions. Pay close attention to co-pay requirements, and those who don’t want to lose their current provider should check to see if they are part of the considered insurance carrier’s network.

It’s equally important to be diligent in completing the research and enrollment prior to the Dec. 12 deadline. Those who do so will have coverage in place on Jan. 1 when the TRDP goes away. The cost of missing that target is not only a lapse of coverage, but also not having another opportunity to sign up for FEDVIP until next year’s open enrollment, with the exception of “qualifying life events” such as getting married, the birth of a child, death of the sponsor or spouse, and so on.

Other features of the BENEFEDS website include a frequently asked questions section that offers more specifics about eligibility, enrollment requirements, payment options and expectations, and other topics. Registered visitors also have access to a free 12-minute webinar video about the TRDP to FEDVIP conversion.

Military retirees continuing their service as government employees also are reminded that a Civilian Personnel Advisory Center-sponsored Health Benefits Fair is set for Nov. 14, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., at Liberty Chapel near the intersection of C and Mahone avenues. For details about that event, call 804-765-0634.