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Local veteran reacts to upcoming change to health plan

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EUREKA- A local army veteran is concerned with upcoming changes to his military health plan. 

TRICARE, a national military health plan, will no longer be offering their walk-in services starting April 1st.  They will still be able to provide services with their phone numbers and website, but one veteran who lives in Eureka says things have been made more difficult for America’s heroes.

Staff Sergeant Edward M. Kearse, U.S. Army Ret., was drafted into the Army in 1969, and served for 23 years, both as a Field Artillery Cannoneer and a Forward Observer.  In 1985, he slipped on a tank and hurt his back.  Now, he says more resources for veterans on the North Coast would be helpful.

"There used to be a little Coast Guard PX, that's gone, and the commissary in Alameda closed down, the PX in Alameda closed down," SSG. Kearse, U.S. Army Ret. said.

He has been using TRICARE as a Health Service Provider, but starting April 1st, he will no longer be able to use their walk-in service.

"A lot of people depend on TRICARE, contact with these people up here, and when they take that away, it's one less thing that we have here to help us get answers to our questions," said SSG. Kearse, U.S. Army Ret.

The TRICARE website, tricare.mil , states that the closing of walk-in sites throughout the country, including the one at the Coast Guard Air Station in McKinleyville, will save the provider an estimated $250 million over the next five years.  That is something that doesn’t make the announcement any easier to hear for Kearse, who says many veterans will have trouble using the website and phone numbers for help.

"You get the answer right on the spot.  You don't have to deal with somebody that's a total stranger in Charleston, South Carolina, or wherever they're at.  The closing of the station up here is ridiculous," SSG. Kearse, U.S. Army, Ret. said.
The TRICARE website also states there are more proposed changes to the system in the President’s 2015 Fiscal Year Budget to simplify and modernize the program.

We were not able to get in contact with TRICARE officials.  Coast Guard officials at the TRICARE Service Center in McKinleyville say that starting April 1st, there will be a new walk-in office that offers similar services to the current TRICARE Service Center.