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Benefits of service: Education, healthcare

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Capt. Marlon Peeler, operations and patient administration flight chief with the 21st Medical Group, TRICARE, explains the TRICARE changes to an Airman at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Jan. 12, 2018. A full list of TRICARE changes can be found at Tricare.mil/changes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexis Christian)

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The Department of Defense announced changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, July 12, 2018. The changes, such as service exception and retainments, focus on the retention of service members in a time of increased growth in the armed forces. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

When deciding whether or not to join the military, many factors come into play, such as financial stability and educational opportunities.

Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, ensures Airmen are offered opportunities to pursue higher education, all while staying healthy physically, mentally and financially.

Healthcare

TRICARE offers multiple avenues Airmen can take advantage of to get healthcare coverage, and 1st Lt. Lorna Neeley, flight commander with the 21st Medical Group, explained the two main TRICARE options.

TRICARE Prime covers active duty members, and TRICARE Select gives members the option of healthcare providers in the healthcare “network”, healthcare outside of the military.

TRICARE Prime offers fewer out-of-pocket costs than TRICARE Select, but fewer benefits.  

“Under TRICARE, there is very little that is not covered,” she said. “It’s like any insurance on the outside. You start with a primary care manager, and that’s the most important piece.”

TRICARE Prime members pay nothing out of pocket, and active duty family members pay nothing unless they’re using the point-of-service option.

TRICARE Select is the best option of Airmen who have other health insurance, such as an employer-sponsored health plan, or who are seeing a provider who isn’t in the TRICARE network.

Neeley added the military treatment facility does as much as they can for the patient, and if sending them into the civilian healthcare is necessary, it’s covered, as long as their PCM has worked with TRICARE.

“TRICARE is one of the many benefits the military offers, and it’s a great umbrella to ensure your family has healthcare,” she said.

Financially, TRICARE is the more conservative, and Neeley said Airmen will not find anything cheaper outside of these military healthcare plans.  

“When you move, you have a lot of things to be worried about, and healthcare shouldn’t be one of them,” she said. “You should always feel like you have that coverage. That continued coverage for our members is one of your earned benefits; you receive continued coverage for serving our country.”

Education

Sheri Buono, education services specialist with the 21st Force Support Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, said Airmen come into the service with student loan repayment on their enlistment contract.

Buono explained there are two types of GI Bills, the Montgomery, a “short and sweet reimbursement bill” where members can pay into during basic military training, and Post-9/11 GI Bill, where one can accrue eligibility for the amount of time served.  

“It all depends on the individual and their particular scenario, and that’s hard to explain to folks,” she said. “One bill over the other may be more beneficial for one person and not the other.”

The Post-9/11 Bill offers basic allowance for housing, and has a book and supplies stipend.

Buono said choosing a bill is all about preference and one’s situation, but regardless, Airmen are encouraged to take advantage of tuition assistance.

“Tuition assistance is the biggest thing drawing people in,” she said “This is a short term solution to having some education paid for.”

Buono added active duty Airmen are receiving up to $250 per semester hour and $4,500 per fiscal year.

“That’s a big chunk of money they’re not having to pay out of pocket,” she said.

Additionally, Buono said Airmen can preserve more of their GI Bill benefits for when they get out if they’re not able to finish a degree.

Buono said an incentive for utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, is depending on eligibility, some Airmen are able to transfer their bill to their dependent.

“Some Airmen come and in and say, ‘I’m going to use TA to get what I need when I’m in, and then I want to be able to share some of my benefit with my dependents,” she added. “It’s all about timing. If you have been in at least six years and have at least four years of retainability, your dependents are eligible, although there are some restrictions and changes to the ability to Transfer Education Benefits.”

Counseling at the Peterson AFB education center is available to active duty and dependents, wherever they are in the process.

Buono’s favorite part about working in the education office is helping military members find their path and “seeing that lightbulb come on.”

“It makes the process seem possible if we break it down into small bits,” she said. “It clicks, and people say, ‘hey I can do this, I just need to take it one step at a time,’ and then it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.”

Buono stressed the importance of knowing what benefits there are, and taking advantage of those dollars.

“If one of the reasons you came into the military was because of the education benefits, know what they are so you can use every bit of them,” she added.

Editor’s note: this is part three in a three-part series on the benefits of service not exclusive to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

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