BEAUFORT, S.C. — Four months after receiving a $10,630 bill from the Naval Hospital Beaufort for the 12 years of prescriptions she’d gotten there — and being told she had one month to pay the whole amount — St. Helena Island native Claretha Singleton found a much different letter in her mailbox on Dec. 3.
It said the Army veteran’s widow, who had taken out a loan to pay the bill, would be getting all of the money back.
After Singleton’s story in The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette was shared around the nation, the Secretary of the Navy 's office reviewed the retiree’s case and agreed to reimburse her for the entire amount.
On Tuesday, she received two letters. One was from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham 's office.
“I am sure you are pleased to have this matter resolved in your favor,” said the note, signed by Graham.
“I was expecting to win, but when you get it in writing... just wow,” Singleton told The Island Packet on Wednesday (Dec. 5). “We did it. We won!”
The second letter, dated Nov. 25, was signed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Russell W. Beland.
“I have determined that although the debt was valid, a waiver in the amount of $10,630.29 ... is warranted due to the delayed notification of your ineligibility and the timeliness of receiving the invoice,” he wrote.
The nightmare that had kept Singleton awake for months was finally ending.
Tricare beneficiaries who fill their prescriptions at a retail store or by mail will see their prescription costs rise on Jan. 1, and enrollment fees for most retirees and their family members on Tricare Prime also will increase next year.
Singleton, whose husband died in 1999 from lung cancer after exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, said she’s still in shock and can’t believe a resolution is near. It’s been more than a year.
Every 90 days from January 2006 to November 2018, she had filled four prescriptions at the Naval Hospital Beaufort.
She was never charged.
But during her visit last November, a hospital employee told Singleton she was never eligible to fill her prescriptions there and that she would be getting a bill for the 12 years worth of medicine.
The bill didn’t arrive until nine months later, in August, and she was given one month to pay it.
To avoid any more penalties or interest, Singleton took out a personal loan.
She told The Island Packet that although she felt intimidated and alone, she wasn’t going to back down.
She fought the decision when she was told in November, and again when she received the bill.
She questioned Naval Hospital employees, wrote a letter requesting reimbursement to the Pentagon, and reached out to her elected officials.
“Little old me fought the Pentagon and won,” she said.