Tricare officials encourage eye exams

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- Maintaining healthy eyes and vision is an important part of personal safety and quality of life. Getting an eye exam is a smart idea for anyone, whether or not he or she has vision problems.

Active duty family members can get a routine eye exam every year, and retirees and their family members enrolled in Tricare Prime can get one every two years. Routine eye exams for retirees and their family members using Tricare Standard and Extra are not covered. Also, retirees using Tricare For Life are not eligible for routine eye exams though ophthalmological services, which may include an eye exam and other specialized services, are covered in connection with the medical or surgical treatment of a covered illness or injury.

These eye exams are more than the standard letter charts and include a check into the health of the eye. Active duty family members using Tricare Prime or Standard, and retirees and their families enrolled in Tricare Prime, can make an appointment with any Tricare-authorized optometrist or ophthalmologist for an exam. Tricare Prime beneficiaries do not need a referral unless they see a provider outside of their region's Tricare network.

It's important to get children in the habit of eye health, too. With Tricare's well-child benefit, children in both Prime and Standard can receive eye and vision screenings at birth and 6 months of age, along with two eye exams between the ages of 3 and 6.

Active duty servicemembers enrolled in Tricare Prime must get their eye care from military treatment facilities and may receive eye glasses at MTFs at no cost. To maintain their fitness-for-duty, servicemembers enrolled in Tricare Prime Remote can get eye exams from a network provider without an authorization.

To order eyeglasses or contact lenses outside of an MTF, servicemembers using Tricare Prime Remote should contact the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity through its Web site, http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nostra.

Retirees may receive one pair of standard issue glasses each year from NOSTRA. Retirees can go to the NOSTRA Web site and select the "How To Order: Retirees" link for more information.

Family members, both active duty and retiree, using Tricare Prime or Standard, can cost share eye glasses and contact lenses only for the treatment of specific eye conditions.

There are many ways to preserve and protect one's vision along with getting eye examinations. Prevent eye injuries by wearing appropriate eye protection when handling tools and chemicals and while playing sports. Wear sunglasses, hats and visors to protect eyes against the sun's harmful ultra-violet rays.

Find out more about Tricare vision benefits at the Tricare beneficiary portal at http://tricare.mil/mybenefit. Learn about eye health and protection at the National Institutes of Health's National Eye Institute at http://www.nei.nih.gov.