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NEWS | June 24, 2013

Medical cost reimbursements add up, save big

By Charles Washington 628th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office

The Air Force and Department of Defense provides medical care to their service members, retirees and their beneficiaries. This care is provided through military treatment facilities and through civilian providers that are paid by Tricare or Tricare for Life. The cost of this care runs into the billions each year for the Defense Department. Most members are not aware, but Congress has enacted statutes that direct that in cases where another party is responsible for your accident/injury or there is other insurance that should be paying for your medical care, that the Air Force should pursue reimbursement for the costs of your care from the responsible party or insurance company.

The Air Force has designated the Air Force Legal Operations Agency Medical Cost Reimbursement Program as their representatives to pursue these claims. MCRP consists of a small staff of 58 paralegals and three attorneys spread across the United States in eight regions comprised of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. JB Langley-Eustis, Va., Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, JB San Antonio , Offutt AFB, Neb., Nellis AFB, Nev. and Travis AFB, Calif. These personnel pursue claims to reimburse the Air Force for the costs of this medical care. Last fiscal year, the regions collected a total of $20.2 million on these claims. The funds are deposited directly back to the MTFs and to Tricare to help support the ever increasing costs of medical care for our members. This was a 46 percent increase in collections for medical costs over the prior process before MCRP stood up in 2008.

Delvin Whitlock is the Regional Chief, of AFLOA/MCRP, Region 2 located at JB Langley-Eustis and their team motto is "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work." Whitlock and his expert team of six paralegals include Gary Zuch, Larry Passwaters, Jodi Graves, Michelle Walston, Robert Abbott and Patricia Ramirez.

The team is responsible for managing all cases that occur in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. An important contributing factor to the success of the program is that the team has received the cooperation of injured parties, sponsors, MTFs, Tricare, commanders, and first sergeants in helping MCRP to identify these cases and having questionnaires completed and returned to MCRP.

Last fiscal year, the team collected $2.3 million for the Air Force and this fiscal year they have already collected $1.9 million. All eight regions currently have collected $13.5 million this fiscal year.

Claims are pursued against the responsible parties in auto accidents, workers' compensation claims, medical malpractice, slip and falls, dog bites, etc. It is important to know that the MCRP staff's sole responsibility is to investigate, research and assert a claim against the responsible party and ensure the government is properly reimbursed for the costs of this care. Also, the MCRP must be notified if a service member is injured and is unable to perform his or her duties, and is placed on quarters/convalescent leave, because the Air Force is entitled to be reimbursed for the lost wages of the time lost. When the MCRP collects on a case involving lost wages, then the unit of the injured party will be reimbursed for the lost wages.

The MCRP staff needs the continuing assistance of service members and their dependents to help identify and cooperate with their office by providing essential information regarding the facts of their accidents and the personnel and insurance information regarding their accidents or incidents.

The MCRP staff does not pursue claims against our members, but does need their support and assistance to enable us to pursue these claims on behalf of the United States Air Force. The MCRP team is dedicated to seeing the proper reimbursement of these medical costs and doing their part to help preserve this valuable medical benefit for future generations.

The Joint Base Charleston's, 628 MDG/SGSR, Medical Cost Reimbursement Program point of contact is Staff Sg.t Asia Ham who can be contacted at commercial: 963-6886 or DSN 673-6886.