Airmen who voluntarily separated see health coverage canceled
WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 airmen who were given six months of transitional health insurance when they voluntarily separated are now seeing their coverage yanked.
The Air Force blamed clerical errors at a number of bases for allowing the airmen to mistakenly receive the health coverage in the first place, the Air Force Times reported Thursday.
Those separating under the Voluntary Separation Pay program are ineligible for Transition Assistance Management Program benefits, which are reserved for airmen who are involuntarily separated, the paper reported. The benefits include 180 days of transition Tricare coverage.
Nevertheless, about 25 percent of 4,247 who received VSP in 2014 were wrongly issued the medical benefits, Air Force officials said.
Service officials told the Times that the Air Force does not provide TAMP benefits to those involuntarily separating because they receive a payment and have more time to plan for transition.
A number of airmen said they were misled.
A captain who left the Air Force late last month said he had been promised 180 days of medical coverage, but learned when he separated that wouldn’t be the case.
“It’s a hit in the gut,” the Times quoted him as saying. “It’s terrible. They asked us to get out, and the last day you go and they say, ‘You don’t get this.’ ”
A major who separated Sept. 29 said he had gotten mixed messages about extended health care, and recently was told he would have coverage, the paper reported.
“I’ve been told conflicting things since April,” he said. “Nobody had any guidance until two or three weeks ago. The family center that does transition, they didn’t know, and didn’t get a list of what benefits would come. They defaulted to the line that if you volunteer, you don’t get six months medical. As we’re following up, in the last month or so [before separation], my wife called the DEERS field office, they looked at the code, and said, ‘Yeah, you’re entitled to the benefits.’ ”