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Traveling the extra mile for TRICARE beneficiaries

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It's the bittersweet moment every military family is proud of, yet dreads at the same time. It's the teary words of good-bye versus the pride of serving one's country - deployment.

And in such a moment, servicemembers want to know their loved ones will be OK during their absence. They want to know if their child gets sick, or their spouse suffers a medical emergency, someone will be nearby to help.

That's why TriWest Healthcare Alliance beneficiary service education representatives travel around their 21-state west region to conduct educational briefings. These briefings are here for one main reason: to inform active duty servicemembers, retirees, and National Guard or Reserve members and their families about their TRICARE health benefits.

What are educational briefings?

Various types of briefings target different groups. For example, TriWest BSERs speak to servicemembers about pre-deployment, point of service, deductibles, authorizations and retiree benefits, just to name a few. The briefings include tips on helping beneficiaries save money by avoiding out-of-pocket costs.

Best of all, TriWest BSERs make sure to do "Whatever It Takes" to relax fears or concerns during a military family's most emotional time.

"I enjoy helping people," said TriWest BSER Margaret Franklin. "I get such an accomplished feeling when a beneficiary's eyes light up when they understand their benefits, or when a surviving spouse spontaneously hugs me in relief, or a very ill retiree cries because I took the time to sit and explain their claim."

Major milestones

Recently, TriWest passed a huge milestone, briefing one million beneficiaries since its current contract began in June 2004.

TriWest representatives traveled throughout TRICARE's 2.3 million square-mile west region, conducting tens of thousands of briefings, informing servicemembers of their TRICARE health benefits. Beneficiaries learned about everything from general benefits and claims to dental and pharmacy coverage. In addition, the National Guard and Reserve briefing videos on have been viewed 4,510 times since May 2007.

Even though these numbers may be a landmark for TriWest, they represent something much more vital: one million beneficiaries left those briefings having a better grasp on what they and their families are entitled to through TRICARE.

How can I request a briefing?

Those who would like to request a briefing may do so through their military treatment facility commanders, unit commanders or family readiness group leaders. Then, the commander or leader will officially request a briefing from TriWest. Commanders and leaders can usually do this by contacting a BSER through the TRICARE regional office west Web site. To access this site, first visit TriWest at and go to the National Guard and Reserve Resource Center. This will supply a link to the TRO-W's site. Commanders and leaders may also contact their TRICARE Service Center for more information.

In addition, streaming videos of TRICARE educational briefings for Guard and Reserve members are available under the Guard and Reserve Resource Center on

The bottom line

TriWest representatives dedicate themselves on a regular basis to helping service members and their families get what they need, so never hesitate to ask for help.

As BSER Michelle Weil explained, "The most rewarding part of my job is helping beneficiaries prepare for deployment, welcoming them home or helping people for transition to retirement. Just knowing that I can be there to support them in whatever capacity I am able to--even if it impacts only one person at the event, it was well worth it."