By Marsha M. Brown
In a recent GIG LINE, I wrote that I was seeking a better understanding of how the new veteran VA Choice Card worked. It was obvious the Choice Program was a good thing that would benefit veterans seeking medical care but some veterans had questions about the 40 mile criteria in order to be eligible that prompted me to learn more.
Please understand the Veterans Choice Program is a good thing. It was established to help veterans in a more convenient and timely manner obtain medical care. See the website I referred you all to last week, www.va.gov/opa/ChoiceAct If you have access to a computer, please consider taking the time to familiarize yourself with the Choice Card first hand. If you don’t have a computer or a means to access it, the Card itself originated for veterans who live in areas far from VA hospitals and medical facilities. In light of the fact that so many veterans have waited so long at times to get medical help to the further detriment of their health, the VA made a provision…per their website, “Beginning November 5, 2014 the new Choice Program will begin to cover non-VA care for eligible veterans enrolled in VA healthcare.” I repeat…”for eligible veterans enrolled in VA healthcare.” And when I say ‘I repeat’ it isn’t meant to be sarcastic…it’s meant to emphasize veterans already enrolled in the VA system. If you attempted years ago to connect with the VA and the experience wasn’t as you hoped…go back again. Your situation finally and medically could have changed over the years and that could make all the difference in the outcome.
To summarize…when you look at the website under Veterans Choice Program ‘About the Program’, it explains how the ‘Card’ can help you. But…the key is to be in the system so the VA can communicate with you as to your eligibility and/or send you your Card if you do not already have one.
Countless times through GIG LINE I’ve stressed the fact that as a veteran you may be entitled for help…you may be eligible for health care…or for disability status which affords other benefits…or to a monthly disability check (determined following enrollment, then submitting a claim and determination by the VA) as well as potential benefits for your spouse. I also often reiterate that the process can be time consuming, tedious and frustrating but having spoken with so many…literally hundreds of veterans over the past 2.5 years, I can attest to the fact that m-a-n-y veterans are thankful they saw the process through; some are getting their prescriptions; some are getting medical equipment; health care at home and monthly disability checks that helps offset their expenses for injury or illness as a result of their service.
Have there been veterans who have submitted a claim but who were denied by the VA? Unfortunately yes darn it! Are there well deserving veterans who are bitter because of it? Yes, and I don’t blame them. But to be honest, I think it’s important to note that a vet shouldn’t give up but rather continue to pursue the issue or engage with a pro-veteran advocate to pursue it for them – at least to the point that there is no possibility of a VA decision being overturned.
Veterans are worthy of a good fight…that’s what you all did for us isn’t it? You put yourselves out there and fought…literally. It breaks my heart to see veterans who either go without…struggle every day with issues of health and well being, etc. when the VA has provisions available to remedy (or potentially remedy) those issues. You all are the very last Americans who should go without anything and when there are sources of help out there for you, why would a veteran not try, engage or pursue the possibilities?
And while I’m on my soapbox let me roll on…for almost three years now I know what its like to promote veterans…to want to help in any way imaginable…to support you all…and I know what its like to serve at meetings, devote one day each week to enable veterans to obtain their Veteran I.D. Card to save money at businesses (who also appreciate & support you) when you buy tools, eat at restaurants, buy gifts at gift shops, buy car parts etc. only to sit for hours and not see one single veteran come by…I know what its like to encourage all veterans to stay proud…or re-energize their pride for their service to our country and to remain united…together as brothers and sisters staying in touch as American Legion and V.F.W. members…only to also hear that new memberships for veteran organizations are diminishing across our county, state and even our nation. Why?
If we fall back…are too tired…too distracted…too disinterested…willing to let the same veterans keep doing the same jobs (even when they need comrades help and interest)…if veterans don’t keep the faith…stick together…keep abreast of changes in the VA that relate directly to benefits for you and your spouse…if you don’t attend veteran related meetings where you can support each other…make a positive showing at events allowing the rest of us to enjoy your company…thank you and get a chance to see and realize that you’re a veteran…if you feel you ‘did the time’…’been there, done that’…that ‘you’re over it’…that’s surely your prerogative…and I respect that, but as for me, I will continue my quest as the proud, loving wife of a U. S. Army Vietnam veteran to reach out to you and try…try…try my best to help you.
My joy comes through seeing and hearing from veterans own words that you took the advice we offered and sought what might be out there for you like vets who have gotten hearing aids…now attend P.T.S.D. counseling/support…obtained their Dare County Veteran I.D. Card saving money every day…who have registered their DD-214 for safe keeping to better ensure their document will be accessible to enable military honors at their funerals…many (probably the majority) have met with our Dare County Veteran Service Officer Rhonda Creef who has helped them obtain their lost DD-214…or submit VA claims that were approved…and many veterans now have grave markers provided at no expense to their spouse…showing the world from their final resting place that they were a proud veteran of the United States of America.
If you are a vet…thank you and God bless you…if you know a vet…are they doing O.K.? Have they sought help through Rhonda or another VA office elsewhere? Did they get info or assistance directly through the VA website online? Does the veteran you know…know how special he or she is? Do they know how much they’re our hero? Ask yourself…if you aren’t sure…ask the vet themselves…more than likely he or she will tell you. Help veterans get the help they need and deserve by directing them to the sources that can best help them first…Rhonda…the American Legion…V.F.W. Post 10950 and the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council. Also in addition to our Social Services there are several other outstanding agencies in our county who care deeply about folks who could use a helping hand. Utilize the help that is supported by everyone collectively through our tax dollars…that’s what we do as Americans…we take care of our own.
Upcoming meetings…please make a special effort to attend:
V.F.W. Post 10950: SPECIAL GATHERING! V.F.W. District Meeting, Sunday, January 25 @ 1 PM Kelly’s Outer Banks Restaurant & Tavern located MP 10.5, 2316 South Croatan Hwy., Nags Head. Veteran spouses are invited and encouraged to attend. Lunch is being provided @ $12 p/person. Important, informative get together! Note: regular monthly meetings – 1st Monday @ 7:00 PM (next being Monday, February 2 @ 7 PM – Colington Fire Department, 108 Schoolhouse Rd., Colington. Elevator available.
American Legion Post 26: Tuesday, January 27 (every 4th Tuesday) @ 12 Noon – 302 W. Lake Drive, Kill Devil Hills, MP 9.5 west side Croatan Hwy. (bypass) 2nd bldg. on right behind Gift Garden (across from new Ladles Soup, Salad & Sandwich Restaurant).
Dare County Veteran Advisory Council: Thursday, January 22 @ 3 PM public is invited. Every 4th Thursday monthly – 3 PM, Dare County Administrative Bldg., 954 Marshall C. Collins Dr., Manteo – Room 168.
Each veteran who does not already have their Dare County Veteran I.D. Card is invited to attend the meetings listed above where you can acquire yours. There is NO charge for the ‘Card’ and your only requirement to receive one is to bring your DD-214 showing Honorable Discharge and a local Driver’s License or picture I.D. Also, we do not copy or retain your DD-214. For any questions, please call me at (252) 202-2058.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. We are AMERICANS!! We have faith…we have courage…we have hope…and we have pride in the greatest military on earth. God bless you all. Stay tuned.