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Priorities for Care in MTFs

Priorities for Care in MTFs

How are priorities for care in Military medical facilities assigned?

Active duty personnel, military retirees, and their respective dependents are not afforded equal access to care in military medical facilities.

Active duty personnel are entitled to health care in a military medical facility (10 U.S.C. 1074). According to 10 U.S.C. 1076, dependents of active duty personnel are "entitled, upon request, to medical and dental care" on a space-available basis at a military medical facility. Title 10 U.S.C. 1074 states that "a member or former member of the uniformed services who is entitled to retired or retainer pay ... may, upon request, be given medical and dental care in any facility of the uniformed service" on a space-available basis.

This language entitles active duty dependents to medical and dental care subject to space-available limitations. No such entitlement or 'right' is provided to retirees or their dependents.

The policy of providing active duty dependents priority over retirees in the receipt of medical and dental care in any facility of the uniformed services has existed in law since at least September 2, 1958 (P.L. 85-861). Since the establishment of TRICARE and pursuant to the Defense Authorization Act of FY1996 (P.L. 104-106), DOD has established the following basic priorities (with certain special provisions):

Priority of Care

Priority 1: Active-duty service members
Priority 2: Active-duty family members who are enrolled in TRICARE Prime
Priority 3: Retirees, their family members and survivors who are enrolled in TRICARE Prime
Priority 4: Active-duty family members who are not enrolled in TRICARE Prime
Priority 5: All other eligible persons

Priority is given to active duty dependents to help them obtain care easily, and thus make it possible for active duty members to perform their military service without worrying about health care for their dependents.

This is particularly important for active duty personnel who may be assigned overseas or aboard ship and separated from their dependents. As retirees are not subject to such imposed separations, they are considered to be in a better position to see that their dependents receive care, if care cannot be provided in a military facility. Thus, the role of health care delivery recognizes the unique needs of the military mission.

The role of health care in the military is qualitatively different, and, therefore, not necessarily comparable to the civilian sector.

The benefits available to service members or retirees, which require comparatively little or no contributions from the beneficiaries themselves, are considered by some to be a more generous benefit package than is available to civil servants or to most people in the private sector. Retirees may also be eligible to receive medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility.

Additional Information

National Patient Safety Goals