In our community of Columbus, Phenix City, and Fort Benning, our active duty servicemembers, military retirees, and military families rely on TRICARE, the U.S. military’s healthcare program, to pay for healthcare. It is a big part of our lives. TRICARE is essentially government-run health insurance, and it covers nearly 10 million Americans stationed around the globe.
When people covered by TRICARE are injured in auto wrecks, the program can cover their medical bills. However, it’s important to understand that TRICARE can also demand reimbursement for the expenses it covered if the injured person receives compensation through a settlement or verdict from an injury claim or lawsuit. And when your treatment is provided by the government, Uncle Sam will want to be reimbursed for the value of that treatment as well.
The Federal Medical Recovery Act gives the government the power to recover its costs, but this is common when any insurance program covers expenses that are also covered by another party’s insurance company, as is common in personal injury claims and lawsuits when an auto insurance company pays for medical expenses that were initially covered by the victim’s health insurance.
So, Why Am I Being Contacted by the Judge Advocate General’s Office?
The Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Office is in charge of collecting reimbursement. They might contact someone covered by TRICARE or who was treated on post if they haven’t already received reimbursement for the expenses they covered. If you’re being contacted by the JAG office, then it’s possible TRICARE has not yet recouped its cost for your medical expenses.
The soldier, dependent, or military retiree who was treated has a duty to let the government know about a potential recovery via an injury lawsuit. Communicating with the JAG office is also often necessary to get documentation and records needed for a compensation claim.
In most cases, the injured person won’t need to go through the actual process of doing the math, handling the paperwork, and mailing a check to TRICARE. Your lawyer should do that. The amount TRICARE is owed is usually presented to our client and may be negotiable.
If JAG is contacting you about TRICARE’s reimbursement, you should contact your lawyer to determine why TRICARE hasn’t received payment and make sure your lawyer informed the JAG office of the lawsuit. Your attorney should know that it’s illegal for them to collect a fee from the part of your settlement that goes to TRICARE. They should only base their fee on your settlement amount after the TRICARE lien is paid. Hopefully, your attorney has done this properly and can easily resolve the issue.
It is unfortunately not unheard of for attorneys who aren’t familiar with TRICARE negotiations, local and out-of-town alike, to be unaware of this law. If you reach out to your lawyer to resolve the JAG office’s request, and you learn that your attorney isn’t familiar with this process, you can either instruct them to sort out the issue, or you can seek other legal representation. If you are a military family, it’s important to find a law firm familiar with the privileges servicemembers and their families are eligible for, and other ways your lawsuit may be affected.
How Much Money Is TRICARE Able to Demand?
TRICARE can demand full reimbursement for the expenses it covered, but it cannot recoup payment beyond that amount. Skilled attorneys who know these types of cases well know procedures to request and obtain reductions and even waivers. Every situation is case specific and requires time, but injury victims can often retain more of their compensation when the correct processes are followed and dealt with properly.
When TRICARE is involved, the settlement and reimbursement process is unique, but a lawyer who has experience with these cases can add real value. This can save you from headaches or unpleasant interactions with the JAG office. The bottom line is that a claim by the government cannot be ignored.
If You Need Legal Help, Contact Gary Bruce
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we’re based in Columbus, GA, and we’ve represented many servicemembers and military families stationed in Fort Benning. That means we have years of experience with these types of case. We know the law well, and we can help you after a crash or with other injury-related legal issues.