Minutes of HCVC Meeting
OF VA HEALTH CARE FOR COMBAT VETERANS
|WASHINGTON (February 26, 2008) - Military veterans who served in
combat since Nov. 11, 1998, including
veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, are now eligible for five years of free medical care for most conditions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This measure increases a two-year limit that has been in effect nearly a decade.
"By their service and their sacrifice, America's newest combat veterans have earned this special eligibility period for VA's world-class health care," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.
The five-year deadline has no effect upon veterans with medical conditions related to their military service. Veterans may apply at any time after their discharge from the military -- even decades later -- for medical care for service-connected health problems.
The new provision, part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 signed by President Bush on Jan. 28, 2008, applies to care in a VA hospital, outpatient clinic or nursing home. It also extends VA dental benefits -- previously limited to 90 days after discharge for most veterans -- to 180 days.
Combat veterans who were discharged between Nov. 11, 1998 and Jan. 16, 2003, and who never took advantage of VA's health care system, have until Jan. 27, 2011 to qualify for free VA health care.
The five-year window is also open to activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, if they served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998 and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
Veterans who take advantage of this five-year window to receive VA health care can continue to receive care after five years, although they may have to pay copayments for medical problems unrelated to their military service. Copayments range from $8 for a 30-day supply of prescription medicine to $1,024 for the first 90 days of inpatient care each year.
EXPANSION HELPS COMBAT VETS
|Peake: Expansion Comes a Year Early to Help Combat Vets
PHILADELPHIA (February 27, 2008) - Secretary
of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today said an expansion by the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) of its Vet Centers, which provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to returning
combat veterans, is well ahead of schedule.
In February 2007, VA announced it would open 23 new centers during the next two years. Fifteen of
those centers are already operational, and five others are seeing patients in temporary facilities
while finalizing their leases. The other three facilities will begin operations later this year.
"Building on our past successes, 2008 will see a permanent increase in the number of Vet Centers, as
we bring the remaining facilities on line to reach a record 232 Vet Centers by the end of the year,"
"To support this expansion and augment the staff at 61 existing Vet Centers, this year we are
channeling a 44 percent increase in funding to the Readjustment Counseling Service, which operates the
Vet Centers -- nearly $50 million more than last year's budget," he added.
The community-based Vet Centers are a key component of VA's mental health program, providing veterans
with mental health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling, along with help for
family members dealing with bereavement and loved ones with PTSD.
The 15 new Vet Centers that are open in permanent locations are in Binghamton, N.Y.; Middletown, N.Y.;
Watertown, N.Y.; Hyannis, Conn.; DuBois, Pa.; Gainesville, Fla.; Melbourne, Fla.; Macon, Ga.;
Manhattan, Kansas; Escanaba, Mich.; Saginaw, Mich.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Baton Rouge, La., Killeen,
Texas; and Las Cruces, N.M.
Five additional Vet Centers are providing services in temporary space while they finalize their
leases: They are in Toledo, Ohio; Ft. Myers, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Everett, Wash.; and Modesto,
The final three locations where Vet Centers will open for clients later this year are in Berlin, N.H.,
Nassau County, N.Y., and Fayetteville, Ark.
Vet Centers provide counseling on employment, plus services on family issues, education and outreach,
to combat veterans and their families. Vet Centers are staffed by small teams of professional
counselors, outreach specialists and other specialists, many of whom are combat veterans themselves.
VA's Vet Centers have hired 100 combat veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan as outreach
specialists, often placing them near military processing stations, to brief servicemen and women
leaving the military about VA benefits.
These outreach specialists meet with returning veterans, work through family assistance centers and
visit military installations to carry the message that VA will be there for the troops and family
members after discharge.
|Recognizing that many veterans live far away from major centers and
clinics, the Department of Veterans Affairs took steps to ensure they would
receive the care and benefits they earned while in uniform. On Feb. 20, VA
Secretary James B. Peake announced the formation of an advisory panel on
rural health, which would provide the department's senior leaders with input
and advice on providing care for rural veterans. The action is one more step
in a continuing series, which includes opening more clinics in rural areas
and creating better avenues of coordination among the VA, state and local
providers, and veterans' service organizations.