Midnight tonight brings two deadlines important for the military community: the deadline for those eligible to opt in to the new Blended Retirement System and the deadline for switching between Tricare plans.
Defense officials said they are prepared to handle any last-minute surge in online enrollment for the Blended Retirement System. The DoD MyPay system, where Army, Navy and Air Force members enroll in BRS, as well as the separate Marine Corps system, MarineOnline, have been fully tested, including stress-tested, officials said.
As of Dec. 17, about 22 percent of the 1.6 million active-duty and reserve troops who are eligible to opt into the new retirement system had done so. The percentage is higher among eligible active-duty members: 29 percent, compared to 11 percent among Guard and reserve members.
The Army, Navy and Air Force don’t require their service members to take any steps if they’re going to stay with the legacy retirement system.
If they do nothing, service members will automatically remain enrolled in the traditional retirement system.
But in order to choose the BRS, they must actively take the steps to opt in and fill out paperwork stating that intent.
The Marine Corps is the only service that requires its members to register their decisions regardless of whether they opt in to the BRS or stay with the legacy system.
BRS promises a smaller pension check (20 percent less than the legacy system) for those who complete a 20-year career but offers DoD cash payments into a personal retirement account that service members can keep regardless of how long they stay in the military, as well as other benefits such as continuation pay at 12 years.
Traditionally, only about 20 percent of service members stay long enough for the traditional retirement.
The Dec. 31 deadline for opting in to BRS is set in law, and it’s not within DoD’s authority to extend that deadline.
Troops with fewer than 12 years of service as of the end of 2017 are eligible to make the choice in 2018 to either stay with the legacy system or switch to the new BRS.
All troops entering the military starting in 2018 are automatically enrolled into the new Blended Retirement System. Those with more than 12 years of service at the end of 2017 automatically stay with the legacy system.
If you want to switch your Tricare plan for 2019, you have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today to do so, at https://tricare.mil/bwe.
If you’re satisfied that your current plan — Tricare Prime or Tricare Select — meets your needs, you don’t have to do anything. That coverage continues.
Beginning on Jan. 1, you’ll only be able to change plans or enroll in a plan during the annual open season beginning in November, or following a qualifying life event, such as marriage, birth, adoption, divorce or retirement. This is a change from previous procedures.
But 2018 has also been a transition year, as Tricare beneficiaries have been able to switch back and forth between Tricare Prime and Tricare Select throughout the years, to determine what best meets their needs.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.