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Veterans Administration Health Care updates

In January 2008, Congress increased combat veteran benefits by extending the period of enhanced health care enrollment eligibility from two to five years post discharge for veterans who served in the theater of operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War, or in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after Nov. 11, 1998.?

In addition, combat veterans discharged from active duty before Jan. 28, 2003, who had not enrolled in VA’s health care system were provided an enhanced enrollment window through Jan. 27, 2011.? This enhanced enrollment provides cost-free hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for any illness determined to be possibly related to their combat service. ?

Veterans whose enhanced enrollment eligibility is about to expire are encouraged to enroll.

VA’s special authority to provide care for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam has been made permanent by Public Law 111-163, S. 1963, Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, enacted on May 5, 2010. VA has long provided elevated Priority Group placement and cost-free care for conditions potentially related to herbicide exposure (Agent Orange). The presumption of service connection for Agent Orange exposure for those veterans who physically served or visited Vietnam now makes it easier to apply for VA health benefits.

You may be eligible! Below are some of the basic factors that go into determining your eligibility for health benefits:

• Eligibility for most veterans’ health care benefits is based solely on active military service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard (or Merchant Marines during WW II), and discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

• Reservists and National Guard members who were called to active duty by a Federal Executive Order may qualify for VA health care benefits. Returning service members, including reservists and National Guard members who served on active duty in a theater of combat operations have special eligibility for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for five years following discharge from active duty.

• Health care eligibility is not just for those who served in combat.

• Other groups may be eligible for some health benefits.

• Veterans’ health care is not just for service-connected injuries or medical conditions.

• Veterans’ health care facilities are not just for men only. VA offers full-service health care to women veterans.

In order to ensure the availability of quality and timely health care to veterans with service connected conditions, special authority based on military service, low income, and those with special health care needs, in January 2003 VA made the difficult decision to stop enrolling new Priority Group 8 (high income) veterans whose income exceeded VA Income Thresholds.

The new regulations went into effect on June 15, 2009, and enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to relax income restrictions on enrollment for health benefits. While this new provision does not remove consideration of income, it does increase income thresholds. You may be eligible for enrollment under this new provision.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). Phone?number is?247-2214.

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.

Further information

For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.