A provision in last year's National Defense Authorization Act gave DoD permission to provide hearing aids, at government cost, to dependents of military retirees. This is great news for retired beneficiaries, who are already eligible for hearing aids through the Retiree At-Cost Hearing Aid Program, popularly known as RACHAP.

A provision in last year's National Defense Authorization Act gave DoD permission to provide hearing aids, at government cost, to dependents of military retirees. This is great news for retired beneficiaries, who are already eligible for hearing aids through the Retiree At-Cost Hearing Aid Program, popularly known as RACHAP. Now retiree dependents are eligible to use this program too. Key features of the program:

 Eligible beneficiaries directly purchase hearing aids, utilizing the government contract price through manufactures (at cost). Available at military treatment facilities (MTFs) only.

 Cost at the MTF is $300-$400 per hearing aid; the average savings to the beneficiary is $1,600 to $3,600 per hearing aid.

 This is a voluntary program for MTFs. This means individual MTFs are allowed to determine whether they will participate.

 Currently, there are 27 MTFs participating in the program, representing all three services and located only in the continental U.S. (CONUS).

 Capacity is limited at most MTFs. Active duty servicemembers and their family members have priority.

 The program is not a TRICARE benefit.

A hearing aid is considered a medical device, and getting one typically requires a series of three or four appointments with a qualified audiologist or technician for an evaluation, fitting, and follow-up. It's a bit more complicated than obtaining a new pair of eyeglasses. It's also more resource intensive, which is why many MTFs may have limited capacity. Military Health System officials have approved the new policy and indicated they intend to do a supply-and-demand analysis to determine how and where to expand this popular program. If you are a retiree or retiree dependent interested in the RACHAP program, contact your closest MTF to determine whether they participate and find out how to get an appointment. For more information, contact Sandra Van Zant at the Veterans Service Office at 602 Strong Ave. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or call 325-365-3612.