MY SAN ANTONIO
Military 
Guadalupe County clinic forced to close 
By Roger Croteau 
San Antonio Express-News 

Web Posted : 01/02/2002 12:00 AM 

SEGUIN — A health clinic that served more than 400 area veterans has unceremoniously closed its doors despite efforts of local officials and a U.S. congressman to keep it operating.

"The clinic is closed, and the patients have been redirected to New Braunfels and San Antonio," said Guadalupe County Commissioner Jim Wolverton. "In my opinion it is ridiculous. To throw up your hands and say, 'I give up,' is not right. I can't find any logic in it. The bottom line is always money."

Guadalupe Valley Hospital Director Don Richey said the hospital has offered free space and help with X-rays and lab tests to anyone willing to run the clinic but will no longer operate the center itself.

The center's last day was Friday.

The Veterans Administration contracts with a Virginia company, CR Associates, to operate the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in the area. CR Associates sublet the local contract to Guadalupe Valley Hospital, which opened the clinic a year ago.

But the hospital was not meeting the contract requirements and decided not to renew the contract for another year, Jason Fisher, spokesman for the Veterans' Administration said.

"This program is designed to be run out of a doctor's office, and we were  running it out of our emergency room," Richey said. "We are just a square peg in a round hole. The program just did not fit our situation."

The problems at the clinic were a lack of adequate supervision by a doctor for the nurse practitioner who saw the patients, along with some other "minor sidebar issues," Fisher said. He said one other clinic in the area is run out of a hospital, but most are located in a doctor's office.

"From our perspective, closing the clinic was a matter of choice by the hospital," he said. 

Richey said two doctors recently volunteered to review charts at the clinic, but CR Associates was no longer interested in renewing the contract with the hospital. CR Associates offices in Virginia were closed Monday and attempts to contact the firm were not successful.

The Guadalupe County Commissioners Court, the Seguin City Council and U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, all voiced support for keeping the clinic open and tried to work out solutions between CR Associates, the hospital and the VA, but to no avail.

Wolverton said the county, which is part owner of the hospital along with Seguin, has scheduled a meeting with representatives of CR Associates in mid-January to try to find a way to reopen the clinic.

In the meantime, the 400 patients have been reassigned to other health clinics in New Braunfels and San Antonio. That's a hardship for many older veterans, said Paul Altherr, past commander of the Seguin American Legion Post. Many can no longer drive and rely on neighbors for rides to the clinic. Now instead of  a five minute drive, the clinics are 30 minutes or more away.

"I haven't used the clinic myself, but I sure hate to see it go down the tubes," Altherr said. "I'm confident something can be resolved."

rcroteau@express-news.net

01/02/2002 


HCVC Directors Meet with VA Officials

RECAP OF MEETING WITH CORONADO
12 April 2002

The following members of the Hill Country Veterans Council – Jack Ledford, Bob Weinberg, Joe Benham, Joe Strange, Doak Nibblett, Bill Stacy and Walter Schellhase,  met with Mr. Jose Coronado and his staff of about 20 to discuss several  issue as they relate to the Kerrville Hospital.  Following is the recap of that meeting:

Team Doctor Shortage    - Dr. Bacon will (and is) hire three local doctors on a fee bases in order to reduce some waiting time.  In addition, two new doctors are expected on staff very shortly and a third should be on staff later this year.

Appointment Time          - The additional doctors as referenced in the first item should help a great deal in reducing the long appointments being experienced now.

Parking @ Building       -  The current parking restrictions have been dictated by VA Washington and will not be changed any time soon.  There was a request made to not ticket those Veterans that double close to the pharmacy while picking up prescriptions.

Urologist                           - The urologist coming from Audie Murphy will always bring an intern with him when coming to Kerrville.  There is also a PA coming to Kerrville every other Thursday to assist in urology work.   This will help reduce the 100 plus days it takes to get an appointment.  There is also an effort being made to contract with a local urologist to take part of the load.

Library                               -  There will be no changes in the library situation at this time.  All though Nick will monitor the situation closely over the next few months to determine how the new system works.  There is a question as to what has happened to the many books the local library has given the hospital.

Eye Clinic                          - Current waiting time in November was over a year.  Today it is about 140 days.  A local contract has been given to TSO to do some of the back log work.  The effort is to reduce this waiting time considerable in the next few weeks.

Cancer Contract              -  Request for approval to use Dr. Barnett has been forward and a positive reply in expected in the next couple of weeks.  This action will let the Veteran take cancer treatment here in Kerrville.

More Local Contracts   -  Orthopedic waiting time in November was 102 days.  Now it is down to about 35 days as the results of using some local physicians to help work off the backlog.  An audiologist has been contacted to perhaps use the audio room at the hospital when not in use by the hospital doctor.  This action is being taken in an effort to reduce the waiting time for these appointments.

Nurses Concerns            -  The issue of computers going down will be addressed by the Audie staff.

Corpus Christi Issue      -  This issue is on hold for now – until VA Central releases the study made to determine the feasible of the VA operation the CC facility.  The estimated cost to put back a 40 bed hospital was about 27 million. 


PUBLIC LAWS PASSED 
DURING THE 107TH CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION

January 9, 2002

The Senate and House have adjourned for the year. They will begin the second session of the 107th Congress on January 23, 2002. Just prior to adjournment, Congress approved and sent to the President a number of bills, including a multi-provisional measure the “Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001” affecting a wide range of veterans’ benefits and services. 

VETERANS EDUCATION AND BENEFITS EXPANSION ACT OF 2001
H.R. 1291, PUBLIC LAW 107-103, ENACTED DECEMBER 27, 2001


Among its several provisions, H.R. 1291 authorizes more than $3 billion over five years to expand and increase educational, housing, burial, and disability benefits: 

· Increases Montgomery GI Bill education benefits from the current $672
per month to $800 per month beginning January 1, 2002; $900 per month on October 1, 2002; and $985 per month on October 1, 2003
· Increases Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance from $588 to $670 per month, effective January 1, 2002
· Repeals the estate limitation for mentally incompetent veterans
· Expands bases to presume permanent and total disability for purposes of entitlement to nonservice-connected pension
· Provides a nonservice-connected pension for low-income veterans aged 65 or older without necessity to show permanent and total disability
· Increases home loan guaranty amount for construction and purchase of homes from the current $50,750 to $60,000
· Extends to December 31, 2005, VA’s direct home loan program for Native Americans living on trust lands
· Increases burial benefits for service-connected veterans from $1,500 to $2,000, effective September 11, 2001, and increases burial plot allowance from $150 to $300, effective December 1, 2001
· Authorizes bronze markers for the marked graves of veterans buried in private cemeteries who die on or after the date of enactment of this law
· Includes ambiguously defined illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia, in the list of presumptively service-connected diseases associated with Gulf War veterans
· Extends until September 30, 2011, the period to presume service connection for disabilities related to service in the Persian Gulf
· Increases the grant for specially adapted housing for severely disabled veterans from $43,000 to $48,000, and increases the amount for less severely disabled veterans from $8,250 to $9,250
· Increases the automobile and adaptive equipment grant for severely disabled veterans from $8,000 to $9,000
· Replaces the 30-year presumptive period for service-connected benefits for respiratory cancer associated with herbicide exposure with an open-ended presumptive period
· Restores the presumption that Vietnam veterans were exposed to herbicides

HOMELESS VETERANS COMPREHENSIVE ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2001
H.R. 2716, PUBLIC LAW 107-95, ENACTED DECEMBER 21, 2001


Public Law 107-95 includes a number of provisions to achieve a national goal of ending homelessness among veterans, among which are the following:

· Improves laws relating to homeless veterans and consolidates them under a new chapter in title 38, United States Code
· Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to dedicate one full-time employee to oversee and coordinate homeless veterans’ programs at each of the 20 regional offices with the largest homeless population
· Increases per diem payments to community providers for care of homeless veterans 
· Authorizes appropriations for the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program
· Provides for coordination among agencies providing services to homeless veterans
· Requires a demonstration program for referral and counseling of veterans at risk of becoming homeless
· Establishes a grant program for homeless veterans with special needs
· Authorizes limited dental care for veterans in VA homeless programs
· Requires VA primary health care facilities to develop plans to provide mental health services and treatment for substance use disorders to homeless veterans
· Requires Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and
Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVERs) to coordinate employment services with entities receiving financial assistance under homeless veterans’ reintegration programs
· Requires specified numbers of rental vouchers for the HUD VA-Supported  Housing Program to be set aside for homeless veterans


DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2001
H.R. 3447, PASSED BY CONGRESS 12/20/01, AWAITING PRESIDENT’S SIGNATURE


· Enhances the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to recruit and retain qualified nurses for the Veterans Health Administration
· Authorizes consideration of regional differences in the cost of living for income determinations for medical care purposes
· Requires VA to maintain specialized medical programs
· Provides service dogs to veterans with certain disabilities
· Provides chiropractic care and services to veterans
· Authorizes major medical facility construction


VETERANS’ COMPENSATION RATE AMENDMENTS OF 2001
H.R. 2540, PUBLIC LAW 107-94, ENACTED DECEMBER 21, 2001


Public Law 107-94 provides a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 2.6 percent for compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation, and the clothing allowance, effective December 1, 2001.

H.R. 1696, PUBLIC LAW 107-11, ENACTED MAY 28, 2001 

Public Law 107-11 expedites construction of the long-awaited World War II Memorial in the District of Columbia.

VETERANS’ SURVIVOR BENEFITS IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2001
H.R. 801, PUBLIC LAW 107-14, ENACTED JUNE 5, 2001


· Expands health care insurance under CHAMPVA to survivors of veterans who died of service-connected disabilities 
· Expands Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Program to cover spouses and children of veterans
· Provides for retroactive applicability of increase in the maximum SGLI
benefits for members of the uniformed services who died in the performance of duty on or after October 1, 2000


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2002
S. 1438, PUBLIC LAW 107-107, ENACTED DECEMBER 28, 2001


This year, the Senate included a provision for concurrent receipt in the National Defense Authorization Act. Concurrent receipt would end the unfair requirement that military retirement pay must be reduced by an amount equivalent to the recipient’s VA disability compensation. Veterans were pleased that the Senate appeared sincere in ending the longstanding injustice. However, it appears the Senate’s support of concurrent receipt was not firm as the Senate receded to the House version of the amendment.

The House version requires offsetting legislation. To become effective, money must be taken from some other government program to cover the cost of concurrent receipt. In essence, the House provision, by itself, does nothing to authorize concurrent receipt, and continues the unfair offset between retirement pay and VA disability compensation. 

Special compensation for severely disabled retirees was slightly enhanced. Eligibility will be extended to 60 percent disabled military longevity retirees who were so rated within four years of retirement from Armed Forces on February 1, 2002. Payments to retirees who are 80 to 100 percent disabled will be increased by $25 on January 1, 2003. Another $25 increase will become effective October 1, 2004, for retirees who are 70 to 100 percent disabled.

CONCLUSION

Clearly, the first session of the 107th Congress was productive concerning veterans’ issues. Though many benefits were enhanced, it was deeply disappointing that the ban against concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation will continue. Sadly, those who dutifully served our nation and democracy will not be rightfully compensated for injuries and sickness sustained while on active duty.

When the 107th Congress reconvenes on January 23rd, DAV will be prepared to again vigorously pursue and fight for enactment of legislation seeking justice for our disabled military retirees. DAV National Commander George H. Steese, Jr., will present DAV’s legislative agenda to a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on Wednesday, February 27, 2002. I hope that all of you who are able to attend will do so, and that you will also provide your support to our efforts on Capitol Hill.

My staff and I would like to thank all who participated in grassroots efforts on behalf of America’s veterans this past year. Without your efforts, many veterans would not have benefits that are essential to their well being.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VETERANS BENEFITS UPPED 2.6 PERCENT
January 18

Veterans Benefits Upped 2.6 Percent
Veterans receiving monthly benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can expect a 2.6 percent increase in their service-connected disability compensation or pension payment. The cost-of-living adjustment also applies to survivors of veterans who are receiving death pension or dependency and indemnity compensation. Under the new rates, veterans will receive monthly payments ranging from $103 to $2,163 depending on the severity of their disability. Factors such as additional compensation for dependents and housebound veterans can also raise the payment level beyond $2,163 for individual veterans. The cost-of-living increase also applies to VA payments to survivors of veterans who died while in service or after discharge from a service-connected condition, as well as to survivors of wartime veterans who qualify for VA pensions. For more information, visit http://www.vba.va.gov.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VETERAN'S ACT RAISES HOUSING BENEFITS
January 18

Veteran's Act Raises Housing Benefits
The Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion act has increased the guaranty on Veterans Affairs home loans from $50,750 to $60,000. The increase means eligible veterans can use their loan benefit to purchase a home costing up to $240,000 without a down payment. This is up from the former guaranty of $50,750, which allowed no-down-payment loans of up to $203,000. The VEBE act also extends the Native American veterans housing loan program to December 31, 2005. That program, for veterans living on reservations, has a loan ceiling of $80,000, except in certain high-cost areas where VA has approved up to $120,000, said a spokeswoman. The VEBE also increased specialty housing grants from $43,000 to $48,000 for severely disabled veterans who need homes built to accommodate wheelchairs. Another grant program for housing adaptations for less seriously disabled vets had its ceiling raised from $8,250 to $9,250.
 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2002

CONTACT: Travis Murphy (202) 225-2715
www.house.gov/moranks01

MEDIA ADVISORY

MORAN TO CHAIR HEARING ON TREATMENT OF VETERANS

Veterans' Health Care Subcommittee to Focus on Prevention of Future Illnesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jerry Moran, chair of the Veterans Subcommittee on Health, today announced that he will conduct a hearing, on what has been learned in treating veterans since the Persian Gulf War. Veterans Administration officials hope that this diagnosis and treatment information will be used to prevent illnesses in the soldiers who will soon be returning from Afghanistan.

"Since the Persian Gulf War, much has changed in the detection and treatment of conflict-related illnesses," Moran said. "We must work to make sure that what we've learned is applied in the future, so that we may better serve our new veterans."

In 1991 and 1992, over 700,000 servicemen and -women were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Since their return, thousands have become ill with what has come to be known as Persian Gulf Syndrome.

Now, thousands more men and women have been deployed to Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East in the war on terrorism. This hearing bwill focus on what has been done to treat and deal with Persian Gulf  Syndrome and what is being done to prevent a similar illness in today's bveterans.

The hearing will be held on Thursday, January 24, 2002 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 334 Cannon House Office Building.

"Ten years ago, 2.5 million troops fought in Operation Desert Storm, and many returned to find themselves afflicted with an unknown illness," Moran said. "We have a duty to protect those who fight so bravely for our freedom."
For more information, contact Congressman Moran at (202) 225-2715 or visit his web page at
www.house.gov/moranks01
 


IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2002

CONTACT: Travis Murphy (202) 225-2715
www.house.gov/moranks01

MEDIA ADVISORY

MORAN TO CHAIR HEARING ON TREATMENT OF VETERANS

Veterans' Health Care Subcommittee to Focus on Prevention of Future Illnesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jerry Moran, chair of the Veterans Subcommittee on Health, today announced that he will conduct a hearing, on what has been learned in treating veterans since the Persian Gulf War. Veterans Administration officials hope that this diagnosis and treatment information will be used to prevent illnesses in the soldiers who will soon be returning from Afghanistan.

"Since the Persian Gulf War, much has changed in the detection and treatment of conflict-related illnesses," Moran said. "We must work to make sure that what we've learned is applied in the future, so that we may better serve our new veterans."

In 1991 and 1992, over 700,000 servicemen and -women were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Since their return, thousands have become ill with what has come to be known as Persian Gulf Syndrome.

Now, thousands more men and women have been deployed to Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East in the war on terrorism. This hearing bwill focus on what has been done to treat and deal with Persian Gulf  Syndrome and what is being done to prevent a similar illness in today's bveterans.

The hearing will be held on Thursday, January 24, 2002 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 334 Cannon House Office Building.

"Ten years ago, 2.5 million troops fought in Operation Desert Storm, and many returned to find themselves afflicted with an unknown illness," Moran said. "We have a duty to protect those who fight so bravely for our freedom."
For more information, contact Congressman Moran at (202) 225-2715 or visit his web page at
www.house.gov/moranks01
 


PRESIDENT SIGNS SMITH VETERANS' HEALTH LEGISLATION
January 23


CONTACT: Peter Dickinson (202) 225-3664

President Signs Smith Veterans' Health Legislation Adding $1.4 Billion in Expanded Medical Benefits

Becomes Smith's Fifth New Law Enacted Since Becoming Chairman (Washington, DC) - President Bush today signed legislation (H.R. 3447) authored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) that adds $1.4 billion to expand and strengthen health care programs for the nation's

25 million veterans, including almost 700,000 who live in New Jersey.

The new law, H.R. 3447, the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act, is the fifth major piece of veterans legislation sponsored by Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to be enacted into law during the 107th Congress.

"Perhaps most important for New Jersey is a provision which could provide significant relief for thousands of lower-middle income veterans," said Smith. "Under Section 202 of the new law, the VA will lower co-payments for hospital inpatient care by 80 percent for veterans meeting a new regional means test. This could translate into an out-of-pocket savings of over $600 for each hospitalization," he said.

"Since national formulas to determine financial need often fail to take into account the regional differences in the cost of living, this provision is a pivotal step towards ensuring full equity for New Jersey's veterans, who live in one of the most expensive regions of the country," Smith said.

"Another innovative new program will allow the VA to provide trained service dogs to veterans who are paralyzed, suffer severe immobility problems, loss of hearing or other conditions that would benefit from a service dog," said Smith. "Similar to guide dogs for the blind, trained service dogs can provide vital assistance -- such as listening for door bells, retrieving food or medicines from other rooms, or physically moving people -- that could allow many disabled veterans to lead more independent lives," he said.

Other provisions of H.R. 3447 will establish a National Commission to enhance recruitment and retention of nurses at VA facilities; establish chiropractic services within the VA health care system on a nationwide basis; and require the VA to maintain specialized medical programs -- such as for mental illness, spinal cord injuries and prosthetics -- in each of the VA's 22 health care networks.

The four Smith laws previously enacted during the 107th Congress are:

a.. H.R. 1291 - Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act (P.L. 107-103) Increasing educational, housing, burial and disability benefits by $3.1 billion Signed by President Bush on December 27, 2001 

ü Boosts the MGIB college education benefit amount by a record 46% within 2 years, increasing the lifetime college benefit for qualified veterans from $24,192 to $35,460.

ü The GI Bill is among the most successful government programs ever passed by Congress, helping create the middle class and serving as the military's top recruiting tool.

a.. H.R. 2716 - Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act (P.L. 107-95) Authorizes $1 billion to aid homeless veterans and prevent at-risk veterans from becoming homeless. Signed by President Bush on December 21, 2001

a.. H.R. 2540 - Veterans' Compensation Rate Amendments of 2001 (P.L. 107-94) Boosts compensation payments for disabled veterans by $2.4 billion over five years.

Signed by President Bush on December 21, 2001
a.. H.R. 801 - Veterans' Survivors Benefits Improvements Act (P.L. 107-14) Adds $100 million in new health care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans, and extends life insurance coverage to spouses and children of servicemembers.

Signed by President Bush on June 5, 2001
In addition, two other Smith veterans bills have passed the House and are in the Senate awaiting action:

a.. H.R. 3423 - Reforming Burial Rules at Arlington National Cemetery Reforms Arlington National Cemetery burial regulations for Guard and reserve.

Passed the House on December 20, 2001 - Pending in the Senate

a.. H.R. 811 - Veterans Hospitals Emergency Repair Act Authorizes $550 million to repair and renovate dilapidated VA medical facilities. Passed the House on March 27, 2001 - Still pending in the Senate

 


SCHELLHASE MEETING WITH SECRETARY PRINCIPI
Department of Veterans Affairs 
Washington, D.C.
23 January 2002
 

On 23 January of this year General Walter Schellhase, President of the Hill Country Veterans Council, met with Mr. Anthony Principi, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to discuss issues related to the STVHCV and the Kerrville VA Hospital. Major topics of discussion were: 

Positive Public Relations as opposed to the negative publicity the VA often gets. Many great things are happening at all our VA hospitals but there is not enough publicity on them. Discussion centered on what is being done at the Kerrville Hospital, where coordination between local Veterans and the VA staff are working together to publicize more good events and situations.  
Secretary Principi’s Visit to Kerrville was a real boost to the hospital staff and the Veterans hospitalized there. As a result of the Kerrville visit, Secretary Principi indicated he would try to visit more visits more rural-area facilities. 

The need for more doctors was discussed at length. Hiring qualified doctors is getting more difficult all the time. VA is doing several things to correct this problem. Secretary Principi was not aware of any hiring freeze as it relates to doctors or nurses  
 
Waiting time for appointments is still an issue. Where a clinic is operating at over 100% capacity, the accepted practice is to schedule appointments up to six months in the future. Secretary Principi was not aware that this was a common practice. He was given some details related to the Seguin Clinic closing and the overload existing in Kerrville. 

Failure to use more contracts in rural areas causes a hardship on Veterans and probably costs the VA more money. Many procedures done in San Antonio at Audie Murphy or one of the clinics could be done locally at Sid Peterson or local clinics. 

The cost of teaching hospital affiliations is out of control. VA is evaluating what teaching facilities cost the VA vs. the benefit to Veterans health care. In some cases there is the feeling that universities are running the VA. Interns over-riding veteran doctors decisions and recommended care and treatment occur not only in the San Antonio area. 

A national diagnostic center for Kerrville is really long range planning. A strong political push for this area by local, state, and national leadership would be the place to start. The fact that many large hospital groups, such as Mayo, are making such moves indicates it maybe the way of the future. Remember, that’s how we got our existing clinics.


VETERANS NEWS 

01/24/2002 

Veterans News 

Cleland and USO call for a “Military Appreciation Month” on anniversary of Pearl Harbor


Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) hosted a press conference with the U.S.O. announcing legislation to urge the President to create a
White House Commission on Military Appreciation Month. Joining Senator Cleland at the roll-out of this legislation was Senator
Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), also attending were U.S.O. President General John Tilelli, USA (Ret)
as well as members of several military and veteran associations including NAUS. During the ceremony, Senator Cleland told the
audience “I came across a line from one of Wellington’s troops that said: 

‘In times of war and not before, God and the soldier men adore, but in times of peace, with all things righted, God is forgotten and
the soldier slighted’ 

...I hope we can make this support of our troops permanent by designating the month of May, which begins with Armed Forces Day
and ends with Memorial Day, as National Military Appreciation Month.” 

Congressman Ronnie Shows (D-4-MS) introduced similar legislation on December 13 in
the House of Representatives. 


“What could be more important than paying tribute to the sacrifices and contributions that the members of our armed forces make
everyday,” stated Congressman Shows. “Our soldiers are in Afghanistan. They are putting their lives on the line in defense of our
great nation. It is more important than ever for us, as a nation, to join together in recognizing and honoring our military personnel in
all branches of service.” 

VA will use three-tiered co-payment system for outpatient care 

Veterans who now make co-payments for outpatient health care through the VA will have lower bills, and in some cases, no bills at
all, under new rules. VA has set up a three-tiered co-payment system. 

• The first tier will be for preventive-care visits and will cost veterans nothing; it includes flu shots, laboratory tests, certain radiology
services, hepatitis C screenings and numerous other preventive services. 

• The second tier is for primary-care outpatient visits and will require a $15 co-payment. 

• The final tier co-payment is $50 and includes specialty outpatient care, such as outpatient surgery, audiology and optometry. 

Another VA regulation will increase the co-payment some veterans make for outpatient medications from $2 to $7 for each 30-day
supply, with a maximum annual out-of-pocket payment of $840 for veterans in certain enrollment priorities. The VA is proposing no
changes to hospital care co-payments. 

Veterans health care 

To receive health care, veterans generally must be enrolled with the VA. A veteran may apply for enrollment at any time. Veterans
do not have to be enrolled if they; have a service-connected disability of 50 percent or more; were discharged less than one year for
a compensable disability; or are receiving care for a service-connected disability 

To permit better planning of health resources, however, these three categories of veterans are also urged to enroll. Veterans will be
enrolled to the extent Congressional appropriations allow. If appropriations are limited, enrollment will occur based on the following
priorities: 

Priority Group One - Veterans with service-connected conditions who are rated 50 percent or more disabled. 

Priority Group Two - Veterans with service-connected conditions who are rated 30 or 40 percent disabled. 

Priority Group Three - Veterans who are former POWs, veterans with disabilities rated 10 or 20 percent, and veterans awarded
special eligibility for disabilities incurred in treatment. 

Priority Group Four - Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or house-bound benefits and veterans who have been
determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled. 

Priority Group Five - Nonservice-connected veterans and service-connected veterans rated zero percent, noncompensable
disabled, who are determined to be unable to defray the expenses of needed care. 

Priority Group Six - All other eligible veterans who are not required to make co-payments for their treatment. This includes World
War I and Mexican Border War veterans, veterans receiving care for disorders associated with exposure to toxic substances or
environmental hazards while in service, and compensable zero percent service-connected veterans. 

Priority Group Seven - Nonservice-connected veterans and noncompensable zero percent service-connected veterans who agree
to pay copayments. 

Veterans will remain enrolled for one year. Enrollment will be reviewed each year and renewed, depending upon resources available
to the VA. Veterans who are not renewed will be nitified in writing. Additional information is available on the internet at www.va.gov.
Online enrollment is available at vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/. 

VA Upgrades its Preparedness Program 

After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the VA's emergency preparedness plans were tested and found to be up to the challenge.
However, as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi said, "VA has been called up to do more...more to protect veterans
and employees, more to support the nation’s emergency response." 

Secretary Principi has approved the creation of the new Office of Operations and Preparedness. The purpose is to combine the VA’s
Emergency Operations Center and the Office of Security and Law Enforcement and to oversee the VA’s readiness, work with the
other federal, state and local agencies on emergency related issues, and to serve as the liaison with the new Office of Homeland
Security. 

The new office will be led by C. M. Kicklighter, the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning, and will be fully effective by January
14. 

A Veteran in Every Classroom 

On Nov. 8, 2001, NAUS member Mark Allan Pollman participated in President Bush’s Lessons of Liberty program. Mr. Pollman, a
31 year-old Gulf War Veteran with 1st Cavalry Division, spoke at the Farmwell Station Middle School in Loudon County, VA. The
eighth grade students listened in awe as Mr. Pollman discussed why America fought in the Gulf War, described his duties as the
tank’s loader, and answered questions. 

This lecture was held in response to the Oct. 30, 2001, announcement by President Bush regarding the creation of the Lessons of
Liberty program. President Bush spoke at Thomas S. Wooton High School in Rockville, MD. While there, he discussed veterans’
contributions to America. After declaring the week-long veterans awareness observance, President Bush requested that schools
across America would invite veterans to come into the classrooms and talk about their varied experiences. 

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi, strongly supported this initiative and asked the participating veterans to stress the
significance of Veterans Day and the ideals of liberty, democracy and freedom. Secretary Principi said getting the message out to
young people during this time of war is “important to understanding what people in uniform do and how important it is. Schools are
encouraged to continue Lessons of Liberty throughout the year.” 

If you are interested in participating in the Lessons of Liberty program, contact your local school district, the VA website at
www.va.gov/vetsday or the Education Department’s website at www.ed.gov.
 

ARMED FORCES NEWS
VET GROUPS DEPLORE VA CUTS
January 25

AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans have written to the President criticizing a plan by the Department of Veterans Affairs to slash staffing. The plan would cut the administrative staff by some 13,000 in order to stay within a budget that is shrinking while the patient population is increasing, say the vets. VA Secretary Anthony Principi moved earlier to suspend fiscal 2002 enrollment for new patients who earned more than the VA's "means test" and whose medical conditions were not service connected, but that idea caused such a clamor that he backed off. The new plan, say the vets, would particularly hurt sick and service-connected disabled veterans.

ARMED FORCES NEWS
CONCURRENT RECEIPT LAWSUIT FILED
January 25

A lawsuit has been filed in a U.S. district court in San Antonio by attorney Philipe E. Jones, asking for relief and damages for plaintiffs who are being denied military retired pay because they accepted VA disability compensation. The plaintiffs state that they are the only federal retirees who have been forced to fork over $1 in earned retired pay for every $1 of VA disability compensation they have been awarded. Individuals who wish to join the suit will be asked to sign an agreement to provide from 25 percent to 35 percent of any damages awarded, depending upon their upfront donations to pay for the action. The fiscal 2002 authorization act authorized concurrent receipt to military retirees with at least 20 years of service, but left the funding up to the Bush administration, which has indicated it will reject the plan.

FED WEEK
BENEFIT IMPROVEMENTS FOR NURSES CONSIDERED
January 30, 2001


Benefit Improvements for Nurses Considered

The Senate may soon consider House-passed legislation
 HR-3477) aimed at improving benefits for Department of Veterans Affairs nurses by, among other things, allowing those covered by the FERS retirement system to apply unused sick leave as service time at retirement. The bill also would require the agency to set up a nationwide policy on staffing, a step designed to address what representatives of the nurses call overly extensive reliance on overtime.
 


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