Friday, March 18, 2011

"My takes on Tricare Prime, Reserve Select, and TAMP"

When my husband first was deployed in 2004, we were given Tricare Prime while he was deployed. It was great because we were paying $160 per week for a big name health insurance company and we still had to pay a large amount out of pocket. We were truly dissatisfied with our current health insurance plan, but when he got deployed we were instantly given Tricare Prime. You need to enroll in Tricare Prime and it's only available to active duty members and their families. If you are a reservist and you get activated, you may enroll in Tricare Prime.

The website for Tricare Prime for more information is:

The first challenge is to get a military ID. You need a military ID to use Tricare Prime. You can get a military ID on a military base. I had to travel over 2 hours to get mine. Hopefully, you've got one that is closer. The Tricare Prime plan is FREE to its members while their family member is on active duty. No copays and no premium  pays...Thank Goodness! It is well-deserved because the soldier and their family members make huge sacrifices while they are deployed that free health care should be a given and thankfully, it is!

When he got back from deployment, our free health care ended. We had to go back to our horrible health care plan. When he got back we could barely afford it, so we did go without health insurance for a couple months.

After those couple of months, the Army Reserves opened up what is called Tricare Reserve select  (TRS). Finally affordable health insurance for reservists and their families! Before Tricare Reserve Select, reservist were only covered when they were drilling with their reserve units and family members were never covered. Tricare Reserve Select is a premium-based health care plan that is absolutely affordable. When we first started it, it costs only $181 per month. Right now it's about $200 a month. The copays are low and we've been extremely impressed with the doctors in the network and happy with the service we've received.

To find out more about Tricare Reserve Select go to:

When my husband was deployed for the second time, we were put back on Tricare Prime. We were back to FREE health care. It's wonderful except that we have to live without my husband while he's deployed. The only thing that I don't like about Tricare Prime is that we had to switch doctors.

We loved our current pediatrician with Tricare Reserve Select and didn't want to change. When we were put on Tricare Prime we had no choice but to change because our pediatrician wasn't covered under Tricare Prime. We had to fill out the Prime Enrollment or PCM change form (link below) to get assigned to our primary car manager (the primary doctor that we see). Each of my children and myself were assigned to primary care managers in the Tricare Prime network. All of us were given different doctors. Here is the link to the Prime Enrollment or Primary Care Manager Change Form:

My husband is a reservist that has been activated so we don't live on a military base. We actually live over 2 hours away from a military base. Since we live so far from one, the doctors in the Tricare Prime network are very limited in our area. We were left to choose between only a couple of doctors, none of which we have been satisfied with like we were under Tricare Reserve Select. Regardless of our satisfaction, we were getting FREE health care, so we had to just deal with it. Tricare Prime is mostly designed for active duty members and active duty members and their families normally live near or on a military base. So it's not ideal for Army Reservists that get activated like so many do in today's military.

One thing that has saved us through Tricare Prime is TAMP: Transitional Assistance Management Program. It is a program where after your active duty term is up, you can enroll in TAMP. It's 180 additional days on Tricare Prime to give you a chance to get back into regular life and transition back to your normal health insurance. You do need to enroll in this program. You may or may not qualify. You can call Tricare to find out if you qualify. Here are the numbers you will need. Make sure you have your military member's sponsor ID (their social security number) ready:

North Region: 1.877.874.2273
South Region: 1.800.444.5445
West Region: 1.888.874.9378

To find out more about TAMP, please go to:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Support Systems Are Crucial

When I look back at the 2 deployments I went through with my husband in the Army Reserves, I think of how it would have been easier if I was near my family or had lived on or near a military base. That is one of the disadvantages of being a reservist's wife. You aren't living on or near a military base. You lack the support system and community of other spouses that are experiences and coping with the same things are you.

One of the biggest problems I had was trying to establish a support system when my husband was deployed. I live about 5 hours away from all of my family members and most of my friends work full time. I'm not able to rely on anyone but myself.

During the first deployment, I only had to look after myself. I was going to school full-time and that kept me busy. There was still a need I needed to fulfill. The need of wanting to be around people that understood my situation. Luckily for me, my husband's reserve unit was only about an hour away. I had linked up with the family readiness group (family support group). I even became the treasurer of the group and handled their finances. It helped to keep me busy. We made care packages and had fundraisers a couple times a month. The men and women associated with the Family Readiness/Support group were wonderful individuals. Some were the spouses and others were the parents of a soldier that was deployed with my husband. It was so helpful and kept me from sinking into a depression.

The second deployment was different. I had 2 children to care for. I had to quit my job because daycare was going to run us $300 per week. I would probably only be bringing home less than that, so I decided that I would stay home. It's traumatic enough for a 5 month old and a 3 year old to understand let alone cope with one parent being gone for a year or more. The last thing they need is for the other parent to barely be around. So I decided to stay home and be a full time mom to my little ones.

I have never regretting that decision. I'm so happy I was there for them when they needed me the most. Yes, it was difficult.  I was literally living the life of a single mom and being their "everything". I learned to mow the grass, take care of the yard, and use various power tools. These are the things that my husband usually did around the house, but they became my job when he left.

Still, during that second deployment I still started out with no real support system. My friends worked full-time and my family still lived 5 hours away. My husband had been cross-leveled to a unit in Alabama and we live in Florida, so The Family Readiness Group was out of the question. I had no babysitters and no mommy friends that I could hang out with and confide in. So, I went searching on the internet for some places in which I could find support. I first typed in Military Support Group and surprisingly enough, my local military support group came up.

Here's the link for the Military Support Group of Alachua County (in North Central Florida)

They are an amazing group and they send out about 150 care packages a month to the soldiers that are deployed.

Next, I needed some adult interaction. I love my kids so much. There is nothing I wouldn't do for them, but I need some adult conversation every now and again. Since I didn't have a babysitter, I had to bring them with me. There was no way I could find someone to watch my kids while I went out with my friends. So again I searched on the internet and found another amazing group for my local area, Alachua County Mamas. At the time they had about 150 moms plus their kids.

Here's the link:

They had a play date almost everyday of the week. We participated in tons of them and the kids loved it. We really looked forward to every event. Plus, the cost to join was so inexpensive.

It would have been nice to be near my family during these deployments, but current circumstances prevented it. You get so little time when you find out you or your spouse is getting deployed that there is barely enough time to prepare. So you sometimes need to stay put, but one thing you don't have to settle with is being alone. There are a lot of people out there that are going through the same thing you are and can help. Search the internet for your local area and see what you can find!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Adjusting back to civilian life and civilian income can be challenging. We've done it before and we can do it again. There's only one problem this time. We have 2 kids who depend on us and we no longer use credit cards to cover us if we need them. Our income while my husband was deployed (this deployment - his second) was almost double of his civilian salary. We saved alot of it while he was away. The saved money went quick after he got home after his deployment.

He and I both purchased a car. He needed a new car and that was one of the reasons that we saved so much. We purchased a car for me because my car at the time broke down. The transmission blew and we were in a jam to where we had to purchase a new/used car for me. They wanted $6,000 just to fix it and we were able to buy a new/used car for about the same amount with only 28,000 miles on it instead of putting $6,000 into a car that is worth a third of that and has 163,000 miles on it.

We also needed new appliances and a fence. So we took care of that. After all of these items that we purchased including paying off our credit card debt while he was deployed, we were left with nothing.

Now, he's back at his civilian job and making half of what he made over the past year with his Army pay. I wish I could help take the burden off of a single income and work to earn extra income. I have no babysitter for my kids and daycare is outrageous. They want $150 a kid. I have 2 children, so it would cost me approximately $1200 per month for someone else to watch my kids. It's just not worth for my wallet or their well being. With this area's income levels, that is about half of what my income would be. Instead, I rather be a stay at home mom and take care of my own kids and try to find ways to save money.

So far I've been starting at some obvious places. I clipped coupons, printed coupons online, started selling more actively on eBay, and just simply going without. We haven't gone out to dinner at all and we barely go anywhere. We've been trying to come up with other ways to save money and ways to have fun without breaking the bank. They are harder said than done, especially when your income equals the amount of your bills. All I can say is that we are trying.