[Editor’s Note – The process of contributing to the TSP above the $18K annual limit while deployed can be confusing. Thanks to Dr. Levi Kitchen for giving us a first hand summary of how it works.]
By LCDR Levi Kitchen (Levikk81 < at > gmail.com)
Deployment offers a number of financial benefits, including tax free pay which can be directly contributed to your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). However, this can be tricky. The following numbers are based on 2017 limits, which can be seen at this link.
Normally, the elective deferral limit is $18,000 annually. A deferral is defined as the money you elect to remove from your paycheck and contribute to the TSP. This includes either Roth or traditional TSP contributions. When deployed to a combat zone and therefore receiving combat zone tax exempt (CZTE) pay, the deferral limit for the current calendar year increases to $54,000. However, even when receiving CZTE pay, you cannot exceed $18,000 in contributions to your Roth TSP. The remaining $36,000 would have to be contributed to the traditional TSP. Also, in order to take advantage of the higher limit, the money has to come from your CZTE pay, which has to come directly from your paycheck. So, you can only take advantage of the higher deferral limits while receiving CZTE pay, not after.
Although the decision between the Roth and traditional TSP can be complicated (a matrix can be seen here), it’s probably smartest to max contributions to the Roth TSP first as, due to the CZTE, this money will never be taxed by the federal government. Once you reach a total contribution of $18,000 to the Roth TSP, DFAS will automatically stop deducting money from your paycheck. At this point, you need to change your contributions to traditional TSP in MyPay, because you’ve reached the limit of allowable Roth TSP contributions. Automatic deductions to the traditional TSP would again stop once you reach the total limit of $54,000 ($18,000 in Roth TSP and $36,000 in traditional TSP) for the calendar year, or you stop receiving CZTE pay.
As far as I know, once you stop receiving CZTE pay, your annual limit returns to $18,000 regardless of either Roth or traditional contributions. If you’ve already contributed over $18,000 while deployed, then you cannot contribute anymore to your TSP for that calendar year.
For any comments or questions, please email Levi at Levikk81 < at > gmail.com.
Download your copy of the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) Quick Reference Guide:
What you get: Abbreviated TCCC Guidelines, TCCC in Algorithm Format, Pharmacology Reference specific to TCCC, Planning Considerations, and more…
If you want to get a copy of Up-To-Date on DVD because you are deploying, you just have to send your mailing address to:
Robin.Vello <at> wolterskluwer.com
Here is a link to an article that discusses two genuine concerns, the current operational tempo and the new Blended Retirement System (BRS):
According to the policy that controls these things, dwell time is “the period of time a unit or individual is not on an operational deployment.” This policy also states that the target deployment-to-dwell ratio is 1:2 or greater. Here is an example to illustrate how this works:
- You deploy for 7 months.
- You minimum dwell time (or time at home until you get deployed again) is 14 months.
The policy spells out all sorts of ways you can request a waiver of this policy and certain other circumstances you may want to check out, but if you are in a specialty that deploys alot (like me) it is good to know that a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio is the current target.
It is always good to know how to get help when you are deployed. During one of my deployments, I had a patient develop Mollaret’s meningitis, which I had never heard of, and using resources like those below I was able to get advice and provide the best care I could in a resource-limited environment. If you are going to deploy, make sure you are aware of these services that will allow you to get some help:
HEALTH EXPERTS ON-LINE PORTAL (HELP)
This system will allow you to get specialty consults and turn the consult into a patient movement request.
Background: Health Experts onLine Portal (HELP) is a web-based, HIPAA-compliant, secure, asynchronous, teleconsultation system started up by Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) in June 2014. Naval Medical Center Portsmouth serves as the DoD’s tertiary medical care facility for Navy Medicine East Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) in the eastern United States, Europe, Middle East, and their regionally associated Fleet and Marine assets. Many of these MTFs have limited or no access to local specialty consultation services. This vast region spans 11 time zones, making real-time synchronous teleconsultation impractical. This unique medical and geographic situation created the need for asynchronous teleconsultation capabilities. Health Experts onLine Portal was built upon the existing, tested, and proven Pacific Asynchronous TeleHealth (PATH) System in use at Tripler Army Medical Center since 2000.
System Description: HELP is a web-based, asynchronous (store-&-forward), HIPAA-compliant platform used for provider-to-provider teleconsultation, patient movement, and case management. The HELP website allows remote providers to submit patient demographics, clinical data, and supplementary multimedia as dictated by the clinical scenario. Consultations are screened by consult managers and forwarded to the appropriate subspecialist or Fleet Liaison for input. All case discussion is done on the web- based platform, with notification of new case activity via HIPAA-compliant e-mail.
Effectiveness/System Impact: HELP is based on the Pacific Asynchronous TeleHealth (PATH) system which first demonstrated improved healthcare access and quality with significant cost savings (Arch Ped Adol Med 2005 & Telemedicine and e-Health 2011). In February 2016, HELP demonstrated improved access and quality of care, while saving over $580,000 within its first year (SAGE Open Medicine 2016). Other associated benefits include HIPAA-compliance, proper documentation in the patient’s electronic health record, workload credit for specialty consultants, reduced testing, improved patient movement request coordination, and provision of continuing education to remote healthcare providers. In mid-2016, HELP brought providers and liason assets from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on board.
Patient Movement Functionality: Patient movement function was activated in February 2015 to allow outside MTFs and the Fleet improved visibility on their patients transferred to NMCP. It allows requests for information in a secure and HIPAA-compliant format, continuous situational awareness for consults, appointments, and patient arrival at NMCP. For more information on the patient movement functionality, please contact the NMCP Fleet Liaison office.
E-MAIL TELECONSULTATION SERVICE
This system is purely e-mail based, not HIPAA compliant, and cannot be turned into a patient movement request. That said, it is still available and will allow you to get a specialty consult so I wanted to make sure the information/service was available. The e-mail addresses and procedures to get a consult are all in this Powerpoint:
The gear you need for a deployment will obviously depend on the type of deployment, but every time I deploy I take a look at the gear lists I have to see what I might need to bring that I’m forgetting. Some of the gear lists and deployment checklists I have are old and I don’t even know who created them, but I wanted to post them so people could use them if they so desired. Here they are:
Thanks to Steve Temerlin and whoever else created these, and if you have any gear/deployment lists you’d like to share just use the Contact Me tab and you’ll then be able to send them to me over e-mail once I reply.