Exciting VA health care enrollment news

This is important news that all veterans should read.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced plans to re-open enrollment in its health care system by July 2009 to about 265,000 veterans whose incomes exceed current limits. 

“We’re pleased to be able to offer what has been called ‘the best care anywhere’ to many more new veterans,” said Dr. James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  “We’ll be able to provide these newly enrolled veterans with the kind of timely, high quality health care veterans who already use our system are accustomed to.”

10-percent rule

The change affects veterans whose incomes exceed the current VA means test and geographic means test income thresholds by 10 percent or less.  Congress provided funds in VA’s fiscal year 2009 budget to support the new enrollment.

In 1996, Congress established a priority-based enrollment system for VA and a uniform package of medical benefits for all enrollees.  The legislation opened enrollment in VA’s health care system to all eligible veterans and required that each year the Secretary of Veterans Affairs assess veterans’ demand for services and determine if the necessary resources are available to provide timely, quality care to all enrollees. 

Enrollment for the lowest priority of the eight groups — veterans who are not being compensated for a military-related disability and who have incomes above a set threshold — was suspended on January 18, 2003, although veterans in that priority group who were already enrolled for care were permitted to remain enrolled.

Enrollment reopened

VA originally suspended enrollment for Priority 8 veterans because it was unable to provide all enrolled veterans with timely access to its health care due to a tremendous growth in the number of veterans then seeking enrollment.  VA now plans to reopen enrollment for a portion of these veterans without compromising the department’s ability to provide health care services to all enrolled veterans who are eligible for care. 

VA’s computer systems are being modified to accommodate the changes, and the department is preparing communication and education materials to ensure that Congress, veterans service organizations, and the public are aware of the coming changes. 

“The rule will take effect by June 30, 2009, if the regulatory process proceeds smoothly,” Peake said. “We look forward to welcoming these newly eligible veterans into the VA system.  VA will continue to monitor wait times to ensure the quality of care is not adversely affected.”

All local veterans not currently enrolled and that have been waiting for this new enrollment policy to take affect, should come in and see me by June 30 this year with your 2008 IRS 1040 Income tax statement, 2008 out of pocket medical expenses, and cash asset information.

DAV vans

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays — call Mike Dunaway, 247-2198 — and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays — call Harriet Mulnix, (505) 793-1782.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 400 South Camino Del Rio, Suite G, next to Big 5 Sports. The phone number is 247-2214.

Further information

For information on these and other veteran’s benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 731-3837, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is afautheree@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 to 4, Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs and for filing in the VSO office.