Federal Benefits Open Season is the window of opportunity to enroll in or change healthcare benefits under FEDVIP, also known as the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program. Open season is typically from mid-November, ending in mid-December.
This coverage is not the same as TRICARE; it is separate from that health insurance program but may require enrollment in TRICARE for certain options. There are some important differences in features compared to FEDVIP. It is not safe to assume that the same open season and qualifying life event rules for one program apply to the other.
Things To Know About FEDVIP
The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program is for federal civilian employees and certain eligible members of the uniformed services. Specifically:
- Military retirees
- Family members and survivors
- Dependent children until age 21 (non-students) or age 23 (full-time students)
Surviving spouses applying for FEDVIP must not be remarried. Active duty military members are not eligible for dental and vision coverage under FEDVIP. According to the official site, “most” retirees are eligible for dental coverage, most retirees and active duty family members are eligible for vision coverage IF they are also enrolled in TRICARE. FEDVIP premiums are charged post-tax, according to the official site.
Newly retired uniformed service members may be eligible to enroll in FEDVIP 31 days prior to their military retirement date to a deadline of 60 days following retirement.
Federal civilian employees, their family members, and/or survivors may be eligible. Employees may qualify for both dental and vision coverage, dependents are covered until age 22, and premiums are paid post-tax.
Things To Know About Federal Benefits Open Season
If you aren’t newly eligible for FEDVIP, your next opportunity to enroll outside of having a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) is open season. Any changes made in the current year should become effective on January 1 of the new year.
If you are already enrolled during open season and do not want to change your coverage, you don’t have to take any action. Your current FEDVIP plan is active as long as you are eligible for it.
Some may belong to both qualifying groups as federal employees and as uniformed service members. You are required to choose a FEDVIP plan for one or the other, you cannot carry policies for both Federal civilian workers AND uniformed service. This applies to all coverage types including dependents and spouses.
When signing up for FEDVIP you are required to certify that you are not getting double coverage. The enrollment form includes the following: “If I am or any of the eligible family members in my enrollment are covered or will be covered under someone else’s FEDVIP dental plan and/or FEDVIP vision plan, I will not proceed with this enrollment.”
Rights And Responsibilities Under FEDVIP
Enrollees should know FEDVIP plans continue automatically every year unless they opt to cancel it during the open season. You must take action to cancel your membership either online at the official site (BENEFEDS.com) or by telephone. If you do not act to cancel, your coverage will continue. This policy was in effect at press time–when in doubt, ask a representative what the current policy is at application time.
Changing your benefits outside of open season is, according to the FEDVIP official site, hard to do, with “extremely limited” opportunities to do so. FEDVIP does NOT allow you to cancel or change your coverage due to financial hardship.
Furthermore, retirement from military service is NOT viewed as a Qualifying Life Event (see below) but if you were active duty and retired from the military, your coverage “will be inactivated” according to the official site. To continue FEDVIP coverage in such cases you are required to submit a new application/enrollment.
You must keep FEDVIP contact information, beneficiary data, and other critical information current within the system. Your branch of service or government agency is NOT responsible for updating the system on your behalf in any way. If you choose to let coverage end, you are not offered a temporary extension of that coverage.
Changing FEDVIP Coverage With A Qualifying Life Event (QLE)
The QLE rules for FEDVIP may differ from benefits programs. Under FEDVIP your window of opportunity to request a change in coverage based on a QLE is from 31 days before the QLE to 60 days after. You are not permitted to apply for a new program or make changes based on a QLE before the actual event happens. Some exceptions may apply.
As mentioned above, military retirement is NOT a qualifying life event. (See below for information on how military and federal civilian employees may qualify.) The following circumstances may be considered a QLE:
- Lose other dental or vision coverage
- Adding a family member
- Losing a family member
- Returning from leave without pay
- Returning from active duty
- Annuity or compensation restored
- Returning to active duty
- Transferring or switching jobs
How To Apply After A QLE
If you have had a qualifying life event that permits you to enroll in FEDVIP, go to the official site and log into your BENEFEDS account. You’ll select “Enroll” and choose the appropriate coverage (dental or vision). You will get prompts to describe your QLE and submit the date of the event in order to qualify.
Have you experienced a QLE that allows you to change your current policy or policies? Log into BENEFEDS and navigate to the “Plan Overview” section and choose the option that lets you submit a QLE.
If you want to cancel your FEDVIP coverage after a QLE, you must call customer service. You cannot cancel online at press time. The same is true when you have a QLE that happens during open season and you decide to enroll, change, or cancel a plan in the current year.
It can be easy to confuse the open season rules for TRICARE, FEDVIP, and other programs. It is best to review your terms and conditions for each program before you commit to changes during open season or as the result of a qualifying life event.
Retiring Service Members and Federal Employees
When you retire from a civilian federal job, your retirement is not counted as a QLE for the purposes of adding, changing or applying for FEDVIP benefits. The official site explains, “You are not newly eligible to enroll in FEDVIP because you were already eligible as an employee.” What’s more, enrollees are not allowed to change or cancel FEDVIP coverage “just because you retire.”
For those already enrolled, coverage simply continues. A new payment plan may need to be worked out, but the coverage will not simply go away once you are officially retired.
When retiring as a service member, you are eligible to enroll in FEDVIP dental coverage. You may also enroll in vision coverage if you are in a TRICARE plan. Military retirement is not a QLE since according to the official site you would be “newly eligible for the program and may enroll between 31 days prior to your military retirement date and 60 days following.”
Those who fail to enroll during this time must wait until the next open season to do so. To avoid a gap in coverage under FEDVIP you must enroll before your retirement date.
Have you already retired from the military? You can enroll in FEDVIP within 60 days from your retirement date. Some applicants may have a qualifying life event during this time such as losing insurance. If this applies to you, you may be permitted to enroll in FEDVIP within 31 days prior to and 60 days after the QLE. This does NOT apply when canceling insurance that is still available to you. In such cases, you would be required to wait until the next open season to apply.
If you have questions about whether your circumstances qualify as a QLE or whether you are allowed to change or otherwise modify your current coverage as a result of a QLE, contact customer support online, or by phone.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.