Federal Health Care News



The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army has funded research to Banyan Biomarkers to create the first-ever brain trauma blood test.

On Feb. 14, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared marketing of the Banyan Biomarkers’ Brain Trauma Indicator, or BTI ™.

The BTI can identify two brain-specific protein markers, called UCH-L1 (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1) and GFAP (Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein). These proteins rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours following an incident where a head injury occurs and can signify if there is bleeding in the brain. The two protein markers won’t be elevated if your brain is uninjured or if you have a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), otherwise known as a concussion.

When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain. A hematoma, or blood in the brain, may indicate a more serious brain injury has occurred, which could require rapid evacuation for neurosurgery to remove a clot in the brain.

The first thing a doctor tries to rule out with suspected brain injury is the potential for serious complications, like losing consciousness, going into a coma, or death. According to the research results and FDA clearance, the blood test can help medical professionals determine the need for computed tomography (CT) scans in patients suspected of having a concussion.  It also can help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.

Prior to discovering these biological protein markers, medical professionals had to rely on symptom reporting and other more subjective means to evaluate patients with few signals of more serious head injury.

The Department of Defense has been seeking a method for diagnosing and evaluating TBI in service members for over a decade. According to DVBIC, over 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Approximately 82 percent of those TBI cases are classified as a concussion.

Making the machine required to run the blood test smaller and more portable is a work in progress, as currently it’s intended for use in a laboratory. Logistical constraints of the BTI device make deployment to the force a challenge. 


The Army chief of staff, announced the assignments of the following general officers:

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey B. Clark, director, healthcare operations, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, Virginia, to deputy commanding general (Operations), U.S. Army Medical Command, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Maj. Gen. Patrick D. Sargent, deputy commanding general (Operations), U.S. Army Medical Command, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, to commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Telita Crosland, deputy chief of staff for operations, U.S. Army Medical Command, Falls Church, Virginia, to commanding general, Regional Health Command-Atlantic, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Brig. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, commanding general, Regional Health Command-Atlantic, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to deputy to the surgeon general; and deputy commanding general (Support), U.S. Army Medical Command, Falls Church, Virginia.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey J. Johnson, commanding general, Brooke Army Medical Center; deputy commanding general, Regional Health Command-Central; and vice market manager, San Antonio Military Health System, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, to commanding general, Regional Health Command-Central, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Ronald T. Stephens, deputy chief of staff for support, U.S. Army Medical Command, Falls Church, Virginia, to commanding general, Regional Health Command-Europe; command surgeon, U.S. Europe, Germany.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, command surgeon, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to deputy commanding general, Regional Health Command-Atlantic, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Brig. Gen. Lee E. Payne, who has been selected for the grade of major general, from command surgeon, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to director, Healthcare Operations, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, Virginia.


The Defense Health Agency launched three new podcast series to hear the latest on how health technology can improve their lives.

Produced by Department of Defense experts in military health care and technology, the Defense Health Agency’s three new shows are: “Next Generation Behavioral Health,” “Military Meditation Coach” and “A Better Night’s Sleep.” These podcasts are designed to highlight health technology and offer tips, tools and techniques to help improve the lives of those in the military community.

The “Military Meditation Coach” podcast series features meditation, mindfulness and relaxation exercises. The goal is to help listeners learn how to be mentally fit, build resiliency and manage stress through a wide variety of exercises lead by clinicians at the Naval Medical Center San Diego and the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control. Each episode is designed for listeners to tune in on their own, in a group or with a health care provider.  

“A Better Night’s Sleep” offers listeners tips and information on sleep disorders, evidence-based treatments, nightmares and the importance of adequate rest. Kinn and Dr. Jonathan Olin, medical director of Evans Army Community Hospital’s Sleep Lab at Fort Carson in Colorado, host the podcast, along with other sleep experts in the Military Health System. In each episode, Kinn and Olin answer audience questions, explain how treatments work and interview other sleep specialists — to improve sleep for both military and civilian listeners.

The “Next Generation Behavioral Health” podcast offers 10-minute tips for clinicians using health technology in clinical care, such as how to prescribe mobile apps to their patients, as well as how to tell which apps are safe, effective and evidence-based. The podcast also takes an in-depth look at why mobile health is important and answers the most common questions that health care professionals have when integrating technology into practice. Kinn and fellow Defense Health Agency psychologist Dr. Christina Armstrong host the show.

Upcoming episodes will feature interviews with behavioral health experts on the latest mobile health research, integrating apps into treatment and protecting patient information.


On March 1, 2018, the Department of Defense named Brig. Gen. Lee E. Payne, who has been selected for the grade of major general, as director, Healthcare Operations, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, Virginia. Payne was command surgeon, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.



On March 1, 2018, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services released its 2017 annual report on matters relating to women serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. 

DACOWITS provides the Department of Defense with advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to women in the Armed Forces. The committee provides these recommendations to the Secretary of Defense via a comprehensive annual report, based on information gathered throughout the year.

For 2017, DACOWITS studied 13 topics. The committee gathered information from multiple sources including briefings and written responses from DoD, service-level military representatives, and subject matter experts; data collected from focus groups and interactions with service members during installation visits; and peer-reviewed literature. DACOWITS collected qualitative data during their visits to multiple installations representing the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.

The committee submitted 17 recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the following topics: accession and marketing, recruiting strategies, propensity to serve, mid-career retention, dual-military co-location policies, gender integration, key opportunities and assignments, gender integrated boxing, physiological gender differences, parent leave policies, childcare resources, family care plan policies, and the impacts of social media and sexual harassment online.

Established in 1951, DACOWITS is one of the oldest DoD federal advisory committees. The committee was created following the signing of the 1948 Women's Armed Services Integration Act. The law enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the Armed Forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Over the years, DACOWITS has been instrumental to the DoD and has made significant contributions on topics including opening career fields, specialties, schooling and training to women; developing gender neutral occupational standards; improving to the health of deployed servicewomen; and increasing marketing, accessions and recruiting.

Electronic copies of the committee’s annual reports and additional information about DACOWITS can be found at http://dacowits.defense.gov/Portals/48/Documents/Reports/2017/Annual%20Report/DACOWITS%202017%20Annual%20Report_FINAL.PDF?ver=2018-02-28-222504-937



The Defense Health Agency acknowledged that there are backlogs, call wait times and limited provider choice for beneficiaries in the West Region, which Health Net Federal Services (HNFS) began managing on Jan. 1, 2018.


Referral Backlog: HNFS is experiencing a large backlog processing referrals and authorizations. Medically urgent requests get priority in processing. This backlog was caused by many issues, including duplicate and incomplete submissions from providers.

Between now through March 18, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) is allowing HNFS to waive its usual authorization process for TRICARE Prime referrals in the West Region. This means that if you get a referral from your provider, you can download a referral and authorization waiver letter, then seek TRICARE outpatient covered service specialty care. Prior authorization is still required for inpatient, applied behavior analysis (ABA), laboratory developed test (LDT) and Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) services.

West Region beneficiaries referred to a specialty care provider by their primary care manager (PCM) between now and March 18 should ensure their PCM provides them with a TRICARE West Region Referral/Authorization Waiver Approval Letter.

If you have received a referral on or after Jan. 1 from your PCM for specialty care but have not received an authorization from HNFS, you should present your referral for specialty care and TRICARE West Region Referral/Authorization Waiver Approval Letter to a TRICARE-authorized provider.

Additionally, HNFS is working to process all requests within TRICARE standards by extending operating hours and adding additional staff. Simplified TRICARE urgent care guidelines allow most beneficiaries to seek urgent care without a referral or visit limits.

Call Center Wait Times:HNFS is experiencing extremely high call volumes. They are currently working to meet the increased demand by hiring additional temporary staff and cross-training. In the meantime, self-service options are available at www.tricare-west.com.

Enrollment Backlog: During the system-wide, three-week enrollment freeze in December 2017, enrollments were received but couldn’t be processed. HNFS is now processing the backlogged enrollments in addition to the January enrollments. Beneficiaries may check their current status on milConnect or register at www.tricare-west.com for additional self-service options.

Expanded Provider Network and Delivery: HNFS is working to improve the completeness and accuracy of the HNFS provider directory. While TRICARE contractors consistently update their information, the provider directories are dependent upon network providers and facilities to provide accurate information and to update that information whenever there are changes. 


On Feb. 20, 2018, the Air Force chief of staff announced Brig. Gen. Robert I. Miller, who has been selected for the grade of major general has been named director, medical operations and research, Office of the Surgeon General of the Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Falls Church, Virginia. Previously, Miller was commander, Air Force Medical Operations Agency, Office of the Surgeon General of the Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.


According to Military.com, TRICARE beneficiaries will only be able to change their coverage plans during open enrollment or after within 90 days of a qualifying life event (QLE) beginning in 2018.

This aligns the military health plan to practices held by most civilian health plans.

Currently, active-duty military families can switch members of their household from one plan to another at any time.  Family members of retirees who qualify for TRICARE Prime are also able to switch at any time. However, retirees and their families are often locked into the new plan for a year.

The new rules were ordered by Congress in 2016. The change does not affect TRICARE for Life.

Congress didn’t specify what defined as a QLE and according to Military.com, the list developed by the Defense Health Agency did not include pregnancy. 

Female TRICARE users often choose to switch plans when they become pregnant to  better fit their changed needs. This means pregnant women will be locked into their plans unless their pregnancy happens to correspond with a separate QLE, such as a relocation, or the annual late fall open enrollment period.

This is the DHA’s list of QLEs:




Injured on Active Duty


Separating from Active Duty


Getting Married

Getting Divorced

Having a Baby or Adopting

Children go to College

Children Become Adults

Becoming Medicare-Eligible

Death in Family



Archived Newsletters