Health benefits disrupted for over 17,000 soldiers by HR platform launch

As the Army celebrated the launch of its new human resources platform, at least 17,110 Soldiers and 8,000 family members learned that their TRICARE health benefits were terminated “due to an unexpected error” caused, according to an announcement from the Army’s official pages and staff. social media TRICARE contacted by Army Times.

Benefits were restored to all but 25 soldiers as of Monday, said Lt. Col. Joseph Payton, spokesman for the Army’s personnel directorate. Reached by telephone, he apologized on behalf of the Army for any impact the disruption had on troops or their families and added that the service is aware of reports that some civilian pharmacies are still unable to collect insurance for those affected.

TRICARE’s official Twitter account also addressed the outage on Monday, explaining that the issue occurred because “approximately [25,000] Active Guard and Army Reserve (AGR) personnel records were incorrectly updated” in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which tracks benefit eligibility for members of the armed forces.

Defense Health Agency spokesman Peter Graves said “our focus is around-the-clock medical care.” He added that the agency is taking steps to help troops maintain their benefits.

“In the event of a medical emergency, affected individuals may request that their managed support service provider correct individual records,” Graves said in an emailed statement. “Meanwhile, ESI, the company that manages the TRICARE Retail Pharmacy Network, is communicating with network pharmacies to further reprocess pharmacy claims for affected beneficiaries and, if an affected member presents a valid prescription or prescription refill, pharmacies must fill in good faith.”

Unlike part-time reservists, Active Guard and Reserve soldiers serve full-time in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve, which makes them eligible for pay, benefits, and full entitlements on active duty. Many live a significant distance from military medical facilities, which means they receive medical care from civilian sources who receive reimbursement from TRICARE. These providers can deny service to soldiers whose TRICARE has been discontinued.

The “unexpected error” was linked to the launch of the Army’s Integrated Personnel and Pay System service – known as IPPS-A – in all three components, Payton acknowledged. After years of work and several delays, the platform was released to users across the Army on January 17th, following a soft launch to personnel specialists in December.

The officer who oversaw the final phases of the IPPS-A’s development and launch, Colonel Rebecca Eggers, told the Army Times in August 2022 that issues with data transfers related to soldier benefits were one of the few “risk areas” that led to the service to be delayed. the launch of the platform.

In August, Eggers said the Army was “closely” examining the platform’s links to the DMDC, now known by the acronym of its former alias the Defense Manpower Data Center, which provides service member benefit eligibility data to TRICARE when your status changes.

“We were not willing to accept the risk that these [data links] it might not work,” he added.

And even though there was still a brief outage, Payton noted the speed with which authorities were able to resolve the issue for the most affected beneficiaries.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in reporting on accountability, personnel issues, and military justice. He joined the Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master’s thesis on how the Cold War-era Department of Defense influenced World War II Hollywood films.

Health benefits disrupted for over 17,000 soldiers by HR platform launch

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