Hundreds of soldiers in the Army might need to re-enroll in Tricare after yet another technical blunder caused them to be removed from the service's health care system.
Some 600 active-duty officers and warrant officers were booted from Tricare, Lt. Col. Joseph Payton, a service spokesperson, told Military.com, adding the service noticed the problem Thursday. The disruption was likely caused by an error while work was being conducted on the Army's internal tools that track health care.
It's unclear when the issue will be resolved, but Payton said those impacted would likely need to re-enroll. Any out-of-pocket costs accrued during the care blackout could possibly be reimbursed. Those affected should have been notified by an email from the Army, according to Payton.
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It's the latest in a series of information technology blunders after the service launched its new $600 million human resources platform, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A. When the platform went live servicewide last month, 25,000 Tricare beneficiaries were accidentally removed from the health insurance system.
That lost access to care was the result of an update on the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, and its relationship to IPPS-A. DEERS is the database that tracks health insurance for troops and their families. It's unclear whether that same update is the cause of the new batch of 600 losing access to Tricare.
Soldiers have also had their discharges held up, preventing them from retiring, as a result of the introduction of the new system, according to reporting from Army Times.
Army planners anticipated a bumpy rollout of IPPS-A, but problems with health care and retirement were the nightmare scenario, according to two service officials with direct knowledge of the rollout.
IPPS-A went online servicewide Jan. 16 after multiple delays following its original intended launch in the summer of 2021, though the system has been in use in the Army National Guard since March 2020 as a means for the service to collect feedback on it.
"When we are made aware of problems, we are jumping on to try and fix it," Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told soldiers at a town hall meeting last week when asked about IPPS-A issues. "We've been working on IPPS-A for five to six years. It's important we have this system be successful, and there is a lot of leadership attention to make sure that it works."
IPPS-A is built to consolidate internal Army administrative work, moving away from aging Defense Department platforms that had processed a soldier's leave, awards and other critical career components.
Tricare covers some 9.6 million troops and family members across the active-duty forces, reserve elements, National Guard and retirees.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
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