As the Army celebrates the launch of its new HR platform, at least 17,110 Soldiers and 8,000 family members have discovered their TRICARE health benefits have been terminated “due to an unexpected error,” according to official TRICARE social media pages and official announcements Contacted by Army Times .
Lt. Col. Joseph Payton, a spokesman for the Army Personnel Bureau, said that as of Monday, all but 25 soldiers had their enlisted benefits restored. Reached by phone, he apologized on behalf of the Army for any impact the outage had on troops or their families, adding that the department was aware of reports that some civilian pharmacies were still unable to issue insurance policies for those affected.
The official TRICARE account on Twitter also addressed Monday’s outage, explaining that it happened because “about [25,000] Army Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) personnel records were incorrectly updated in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which controls military members’ eligibility for benefits.
“Our focus is on uninterrupted health care,” said Peter Graves, a spokesman for the Defense Health Service, adding that the agency is taking steps to help the military maintain their benefits.
“In the event of a medical emergency, affected individuals can ask their managed care support contractor to correct personal records,” Graves said in an emailed statement. “Meanwhile, ESI, the company that manages TRICARE’s retail pharmacy network, is in communication with the network pharmacies to reprocess affected beneficiaries’ pharmacy claims at a later date, and pharmacies should fill in good faith if affected members present valid prescriptions or prescription refills.”
Unlike part-time reservists, Active Duty Guard and Reserve Soldiers serve full-time in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve, which qualifies them for full active duty pay, benefits and entitlements. Many live far from military medical facilities, which means they receive medical care from civilian sources who are reimbursed from TRICARE. These providers may deny service to Soldiers who are interrupted by TRICARE.
Payton acknowledged that the “accidental error” was related to the Army’s rollout of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System across all three of its components — the Army — known as IPPS-A. After years of work and numerous delays, the platform went live to Army-wide users on Jan. 17, following a December soft launch for personnel specialists.
Col. Rebecca Eggers, the officer overseeing the final stages of IPPS-A development and launch, told Army Times in August 2022 that data transmission issues related to soldier welfare were one of several “risk areas” that would delay the launch of the platform.
In August, Eggers said the Army was “closely” examining the platform’s connection to DMDC, now known by its acronym for the former Defense Manpower Data Center moniker, which provides TRICARE information when a service member’s status changes. Service member benefit eligibility data.
“We are unwilling to accept the risks [data links] It might not work,” she added.
While there was still a brief outage, Payton noted the speed with which officials were able to resolve the issue for most of the affected beneficiaries.
Davis Winkie is a veteran reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis, who studied history at Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote a master’s thesis on how the Defense Department during the Cold War influenced Hollywood World War II films.