VA Enrollment: Veterans Won't Lose Health Care Benefits

Article excerpt

any veterans are understandably confused about VA's health care enrollment system. To end the rumors and misinformation, VA wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Veterans will not lose their eligibility for health care, even if they fail to enroll by Oct. 1, 1998.

Enrollment will still be required (mandated by the Veterans Eligibility Reform Act of 1996), but VA wants to make the process as accommodating as possible.

"Veterans can make an application for enrollment any time they come to a VA medical center for care, even after Oct. 1, 1998; according to a VA news release. "Veterans who have received VA health care since October 1996 will have their application for enrollment automatically processed."

The release also stated that while enrollment must be renewed every year, a veteran's application will be automatically processed unless he or she chooses not to re-enroll.

Some veterans, however, will not be required to enroll. They include those who:

require treatment for service-connected injuries;

have a service-connected disability rating of 50% or more; and

were discharged from active duty within the last 12 months and incurred or aggravated a disability while on active-duty.

These veterans are still encouraged to enroll, however, so that VA can better plan its services and allocate its resources. VFW agrees.

"The VFW recommends that all veterans who feel they may use the VA as their health care provider should contact their local VA health care facility and enroll," said Fred Juarbe, VFW's director of Veterans Service. "Even if they are enrolled in the VA health care system, we recommend that veterans continue their present health insurance plan." Priority Groups

Veterans who apply for enrollment will be placed in one of seven enrollment priority groups specified by Congress. Based on the priority they are assigned, the number of other veterans requesting to be enrolled, and the funds available for VA health care, VA will determine how many veterans can be served.

The highest priority group includes veterans who are service-connected 50% and higher.

The next group includes veterans who are service-connected 30%-40%.

The third group contains veterans who are service-connected 10%-20%, former POWs, those who were discharged from active duty for compensable conditions and veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Chapter 38, Section 1151 of the U. …