HEALTH CARE AND HOUSING
This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri December 11th 2019. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email email@example.com, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Health Care. One fifth of the Army (20%) is devoted to keeping soldiers healthy and caring for their families. The US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) supervises, through four Regional Health Commands, worldwide, 8 Army Medical Centers, 13 Army Community Hospitals (like the one at Fort Leonard Wood), 29 Army Health Clinics, 81 Primary Care Clinics, 8 Occupational Health Clinics, 99 Dental Clinics, 42 Veterinary Facilities, 33 Research and Development Laboratories, 5 Laboratory Support Activities, 10 Combat Support Hospitals, 16 Forward Support Surgical Teams, and six active Medical Brigades, plus other smaller units. A design/build $296 million contract was awarded this past August, for a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood.
All military health care is now managed through a giant government supervised insurance company called “Tricare”. All soldiers and their families are enrolled in Tricare. Health and dental care performed in military hospitals and clinics for the soldier and family is free. When care is conducted by civilians, Tricare kicks in, and there are different plans for remote locations, more freedom of physician selection, and overseas.
Captain (Doctor) Michelle Kuznia of the Fort Rucker, Alabama Brown Dental Clinic does dental screening at the post Child Development Center.
Every soldier, regardless of rank or job has an annual physical assessment, and an annual dental exam. Plus, there are complete physical exams for various jobs, such as flying, diving, HALO (high altitude low opening) parachuting, and schools. New families arriving at an Army fort are assigned a Primary Care Physician, usually in the Family Practice Clinic at the hospital on post. The primary care doctor, is like your civilian family doctor, who monitors the health of you and your family, and may refer you to a specialist, if necessary. Army hospitals also have a complete staff of specialists, including pediatricians. Tricare dental insurance for the family is $30 per month regardless of the size of the family. Military retirees, who are under the age of 65, pay $297 for only themselves, or $594 annually for the family, then a co-pay of $20 per doctor visit. Military retirees over age 65 are enrolled in “Tricare for Life”, for which there is no cost, at all. No annual fees and no co-pay, and it pays everything that Medicare doesn’t. As retirees age that becomes a huge benefit. The Army has some great medical facilities and people. We were both in our early 50’s, when my wife had major spinal surgery at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver in 1995 (it’s no longer there). A large benign tumor was pressing her spinal cord and had already broken her spinal column. The doctor (neurosurgeon) who performed the surgery was a Ranger, the only doctor Ranger I ever saw. After 12 hours of surgery, he flopped on a couch beside me, and in 5 minutes explained exactly what he and his orthopedic assistant had done. He went on to become Chief of Neurosurgery at Walter Reed, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and having just retired from the Army was called to help save Gabby Gifford’s life in January 2011, when she was shot in the head in Arizona. Colonel (Retired) (Doctor) James M. Ecklund.
Housing. All government on post family housing is now privatized. Up until a few years ago, family housing on military installations was government owned and operated. All employees involved in getting military families into and out of government quarters, plus the maintenance of those quarters were government employees. I was the Quality Control Manager, which is a co-hat with the superintendent, on one of the last large government housing renovation projects at Fort Leonard Wood. We gutted, added a room, and completely renovated 250 family quarters in 18 months, and were proud of our work. The government paid about $10,000,000 for the job, which at $40,000 a unit wasn’t bad, even 25 years ago. The company, I worked for, made a profit of about 1.5 million on that job. Then, the government basically gave all family housing on military installations to private real estate companies. The real estate company then rents housing to soldiers. Soldiers sign a rental contract with the real estate company, and activates an allotment, from his or her pay, to the company for the amount of their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The transformation on military installations was dramatic. On many installations, like Fort Leonard Wood, entire areas of government housing were razed and new houses built. Overall, family on post housing has greatly improved. There has been news, this past year of shoddy family housing. The majority of the complaints come from the Washington, DC area, where there are many very old buildings. Mold is the culprit in buildings that apparently weren’t properly updated.
The companies that now “own” on post family housing are very large nationwide, and world wide companies. Balfour-Beatty has the housing on Fort Leonard Wood, which is just one of the 55 Army, Navy, and Air Force family housing communities they manage. Corvias has Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, among it’s 15 installations, which includes Fort Meade, Maryland where much of the mold problem exists. Winn companies have Forts Knox and Campbell, Kentucky. Even with its mold problems, Corvias seems to run the most family friendly programs.
When a married soldier requests ID cards for his or her spouse and children, which is during processing into the Army, if married at that time, it is done on a DD Form 1172-2. That form, which lists the spouse and all children, is also used for a soldier who gets married while already on active duty. On post housing people and on post elementary and high schools also want that form. Doesn’t make any difference that the spouse and kids have a military ID card, those activities want the processed DD Form 1172, because it verifies the age and sex of spouse and all children on one form.
Army soldiers get on post family housing based on rank and family size. Family housing is available in two, three, and four bedroom apartments and houses. Most army posts have family housing areas established by rank. There are areas for only senior officers, some for senior officers and Sergeants Major (same age group), and areas for only junior officers and junior sergeants (same age group), areas for only senior sergeants, and areas for junior enlisted soldiers. When a soldier applies for family housing, he or she is placed on a list for a specified number of bedroom house, in a certain area. Sometimes there are waiting periods of days to weeks to get that particular house. Overall those wait times have been greatly reduced since housing was privatized. Corvias often advertises “move in specials”, which are often older quarters, but renovated, and often only two bed rooms. They often rent the move in specials at less than the BAH rate, which is a gain for the soldier and his or her family. These are great for young newly married privates and specialists, because they are immediately available.