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VA offers benefits to OEF/OIF veterans

Have you recently returned from military service?

Now is the time to take advantage of the benefits VA offers OEF/OIF veterans.

Here are just a few of the programs VA offers:

• Going Back to School — VA pays benefits to eligible Veterans, reservists and active duty service members to support your continuing education goals, including on-the-job training, apprenticeships and non-college degree programs. Learn about the Post 9/11 GI Bill today.

• Finding a Job — You’ve served your country, now you are ready for a new challenge. What do you want to do next? Get help finding and securing a job, browse career opportunities, or learn more about working at the VA.

How do you get help? Are you eligible?

VA regional offices can help you with completing and filing the right VA forms. Find out where your local VA OEF/OIF Team is located.

• 5 Years of Cost Free Health Care — OEF/OIF combat veterans can receive cost-free medical care for any condition related to their service in the Iraq/Afghanistan theater for five years after the date of their discharge or release. Enroll in VA health care today.

• 180 Day Dental Benefit — OEF/OIF combat veterans may be eligible for one-time dental care, but you must apply with 180 days of your separation date from active duty.

Find family support at Vet Centers. If you have served in any combat zone, local Vet Centers can help you and your family with readjustment counseling and outreach services — for free.

Health Benefits Handbook

Veterans enrolled in the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs have begun to receive personalized booklets that explain their health care benefits and contain other useful information.

“VA is committed to providing our nation’s veterans with consistent, clear information about the services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. 

The new booklet, called a Health Benefits Handbook, will provide a personalized listing of health benefits based on each veteran’s specific eligibility.  The handbook will also have contact information for their local VA medical facilities, appointment scheduling information, guidelines for communicating with their clinical team and, as applicable, information about copays.

Distribution of the handbooks began this month, with all 8.5 million veterans enrolled in VA’s health care system scheduled to receive their handbooks by 2013.  Veterans will receive updates to their handbook to reflect changes to their benefits or eligibility.

VA operates 152 medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics.  Last year, inpatient facilities treated more than 690,000 patients, while outpatient clinics registered more than 79 million visits. 

For more information about the Health Benefits Handbook, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhbh or call VA’s toll-free number at (877) 222-8387.

Women vet programs

Between 2011 and 2012, The Women’s Wilderness Institute (TWWI) has offered six, six-day retreats for women who need support re-integrating to civilian life after their military service.

These retreats are funded by the Women Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2009, and are provided entirely free of charge to participants, including airfare. 144 women will be served over the two year period. The Women Veterans Retreats offer an intensive immersion experience of supportive and challenging activities, in a peaceful natural environment. The retreats allow women to connect with other women veterans and learn tools for dealing with post traumatic stress and other issues that commonly affect women veterans. In addition to outdoor activities and a high and low ropes course, the retreat provides a format for sharing experiences, and education about stress, resilience, and life skills.

To be eligible, women must have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in OEF or OIF and must be currently in counseling at a Vet Center, or have been in counseling at a Vet Center for at least six sessions at the time of application. Go to http://www.womenswilderness.org/files/2012%20Application%20Wmn%20Vet%20Retreat%20pdf.pdf for an application. Applicants are asked to choose the location nearest their residence, if possible. Locations and dates for 2012 are:

• Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center, New Mexico — March 17-22. Ghost Ranch is a beautiful facility located deep in the vast open space of the New Mexico desert. It is located in Abiquiu, in what is known as “Georgia O’Keefe country” — the area where she created her legendary art. There are high mesas, sandstone slickrock, and unusual rock formations. www.ghostranch.org.

• 100 Elk Outdoor Center, Colorado — Aug. 18-23. Located near the town of Buena Vista, 100 Elk Outdoor Center is a peaceful, quiet location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. 14,000’ peaks rise behind the camp, and the cabin and meeting area looks out over a grass lawn and small lake. Tall ponderosa pines are scattered across the property, and for those who are up for it, there is a vigorous half-day hike to a high alpine lake. www.100elk.org

• Camp Jewell YMCA, Connecticut — Sept. 14-19. Camp Jewell is a private conference facility on the shores of Triangle Lake, in the pastoral forested hills of northwestern Connecticut, just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail. Outdoor activities include canoeing on the lake, hiking, and viewing the beautiful fall colors of New England. www.campjewell.org.

For more information or have questions call (303) 938-9191; e-mail mailto:moreinfo@womenswilderness.org.

Useful links

For further information on VA 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 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. Third Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108, second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans, every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

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