Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Bill Harding: Recognize POW and MIA soldiers with national holiday

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Sept. 19 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This day of observance is the third Friday in September.

It is meant to honor the thousands of servicemen and women killed in action or who never have returned to this country for reunion with their families or burial.

In the National Cemetery of the Pacific is a plaque that reads: ": In these gardens (referring to overseas military cemeteries) are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and whose earthly resting place is known only to God :" We need to remember these servicemen and women, and their families, for which closure never has occurred.

Breakfast at the VFW

The VFW Steakhouse opened for serving breakfast on Sept. 16. They intend to remain open for early morning breakfast service during the major hunting seasons. If this proves successful, the VFW may approve year-round operation as a breakfast, lunch and dinner facility in Craig.

CVSO office absence

The Moffat County VSO office will be closed Oct. 2 through 7, as I will be out of state attending a family wedding.

VA health care enrollment

The No. 1 veteran benefit most often asked for is VA Health Care.

With rising unemployment, health care costs going through the roof, and an aging population now realizing they are not immortal, many veterans are looking to VA Health Care for the first time.

Enrollment into VAHC since Jan. 16, 2003, is based on several criteria. Sadly, not all veterans qualify for VAHC. Prior to that date, all eligible veterans could enroll regardless of income or disabilities. Those who enrolled prior to that date are "grandfathered" in the VAHC system.

The current guidelines for VAHC enrollment are as follows:

1. Fill out VA Form 10-10EZ.

2. VA Rated Service Connected Disability [SCD] -Veterans who are rated by the VA for any SCD may be enrolled in VAHC.

3. Special Awards or circumstances - Veterans with a Purple Heart, POW status, or Medal of Honor may be enrolled in VAHC.

4. Low Income - Veterans with income below a certain level may be enrolled in VAHC.

5. Hardship Enrollment - Veterans with catastrophic circumstances, such as sudden loss of income or severe health disabilities, can request a hardship enrollment in VAHC, even if their previous year's income was above the threshold. VAHC eligibility for these enrollments must be renewed each year.

Other requirements include a copy of the veteran's DD214 and 24 continuous months of active service after Sept. 8, 1980. Military service prior to that date requires only at least one day of active duty. Reservists with active duty for six months for training purposes does not quality (special circumstances can apply). Discharge from active duty must be for "under other than dishonorable conditions."

Veterans recently discharged from active duty in the current conflicts of war are eligible for five years of VAHC, regardless of income or disabilities.

VAHC-enrolled veterans are placed in Priority classifications 1 through 8. Once-enrolled veterans with less than 50 percent SCD and without any other special circumstances may be required to provide an annual financial "Means Test" report on VA form 10-10 EZR.

VA health care is a provider of medical services and is "not an insurer." No insurance premiums are charged, and those enrolled may or may not be required to pay co-pays, depending on their enrollment "priority" status.

I strongly urge all eligible veterans to enroll in VA health care, even if you have employer's health insurance or Medicare, etc. You never know when other health insurance circumstances can change.

Remember, there is no charge for applying for any VA benefit including VAHC enrollment, so you can't beat the price!

Stop by the Moffat County VSO office for further information or enrollment assistance.

VA opening 10 Rural Outreach Clinics

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Sept. 12 that it will open 10 new Rural Outreach Clinics by 2009 to increase the convenience of care for thousands of veterans living in rural areas.

"VA's commitment is to provide the best quality care to veterans, regardless of their address," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "These clinics are a major step toward fulfilling that pledge to increase access to care for veterans living in rural areas."

The clinics provide primary care services, case management and mental health services. Each outreach clinic will be part of a VA network, maintaining VA's quality standards and access to larger VA facilities for specialized needs.

The 10 new clinics include a facility recently put in operation in Aroostook County, Maine. Scheduled to begin operation this October are facilities in Houston County, Ga.; Juneau County, Alaska; and Wasco County, Ore.

Clinics to be operational by August 2009 are in Winnemucca, Nev.; Yreka, Calif.; Utuado, Puerto Rico; Lagrange, Texas; Montezuma Creek, Utah and Manistique, Mich.

"VA is constantly monitoring our veteran population. Where we see need to improve access to care, we act on it," said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA undersecretary for Health.

The Department's recent outreach to veterans in rural areas includes:

• Creation of a 13-member Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee to advise Peake on issues affecting veterans in rural areas;

• Announcement of the roll-out in early 2009 of four new mobile health clinics to serve veterans in 24 predominately rural counties;

• Announcement of three new Veterans Rural Health Resource Centers - in White River Junction, Vt.; Iowa City, Iowa; and Salt Lake City - to develop practices and products that will improve health care for veterans in rural areas;

• Nearly tripling the mileage reimbursement - from 11 cents per mile to 28.5 cents per mile - paid to veterans who travel significant distances to receive VA health care;

• and creation of a "Travel Nurse Corps" to augment existing nursing staff in needed areas.

For information on these programs and/or other veterans' benefits, call or stop in the Moffat County VSO office at 480 Barclay St. (west of the Bank of Colorado parking lot). Call 970-824-3246 or use the fax 970-824-7108. Our e-mail address is veterans@moffatcounty.net. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Other times can be arranged by appointment only.

Bring a copy of your separation papers (DD-214) for application for VA programs and for filing at our office.

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