Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Veterans Hotline: Craig Telehealth clinic administrator injured in accident

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— Deb Nicholas-Olson, the Craig Telehealth clinic administrator, was seriously injured in a two-vehicle auto accident Saturday north of Rifle and is in the intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. Please send a card to her c/o ICU, St. Mary's, 2635 N. 7th St., Grand Junction, CO 81502. A full recovery is anticipated, but it will require a long rehabilitation period.

Senior citizen dinner

The VFW auxiliary dinner Saturday was very poorly attended. Whereas normal attendance is usually 100-plus seniors, there were only about 40 this past weekend. The VFW knows there are issues regarding these meals and the current reduced program of operation. We would like to know if it is weather, menu or other reasons for the low turnout. If the seniors of the Craig area feel this program is no longer necessary, then the VFW will respond accordingly. Please contact the VFW or auxiliary members with your input. Thanks.

Mileage reimbursement

Service-disabled and low-income veterans who are reimbursed for travel expenses while receiving care at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities will see an increase in their payments beginning Jan. 9.

A recently passed law allows VA to cut the amount it must withhold from their mileage reimbursement. The deductible amount will be $3 for each one-way trip and $6 for each round trip - with a calendar cap of $18, six one-way trips or three round trips, whichever comes first. The previous deductible was $7.77 for a one-way trip and $15.54 for a round trip, with a calendar cap of $46.62.

"I'm pleased that we can help veterans living far from VA facilities to access the medical and counseling help they deserve, especially in the current economic climate," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said. "Together with the increased mileage rate approved last month, we can further reduce the financial hardship some veterans undergo to use our superior health care."

In November, Peake announced VA's second increase in the mileage reimbursement rate during 2008, from 28.5 cents a mile to 41.5 cents a mile.

Service-disabled and low-income veterans are eligible to be reimbursed by VA for the travel costs of receiving health care or counseling at VA facilities. Veterans traveling for compensation and pension examinations also qualify for mileage reimbursement. VA can waive deductibles if they cause financial hardship.

GI Bill update

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will provide funding for as much as 100 percent of tuition. In addition, the program provides a monthly housing stipend of as much as $1,000 a year for books and supplies. If you attend school less than full time, you will receive a portion of the payment based on the number of units of study. The amount of tuition and stipends paid under the Post 9/11 GI Bill will vary depending on your state of residence, number of units taken and amount of post Sept. 11, 2001, active-duty service.

Here is a quick reference showing the percentage of total combined benefit eligibility based on the following periods of post Sept. 11 service:

• 100 percent - 36 or more total months

• 100 percent - 30 or more consecutive days with disability related discharge.

• 90 percent - 30 total months

• 80 percent - 24 total months

• 70 percent - 18 total months

• 60 percent - 12 total months

• 50 percent - six total months

• 40 percent - 90 or more days

Under the new GI Bill, you will be provided tuition up to the highest established charges for full-time undergraduate students charged by the public institution of higher education in the state in which you are enrolled. One of the added features of this tuition payment plan is that the tuition will be paid directly to the school, relieving you of the responsibility. This is similar to the process used for military tuition assistance.

Based on 2008 in-state tuition rates, the anticipated annual tuition payment rate for 2009 will be just more than $6,000. The low being Wyoming $3,500 a year. Michigan, which is the highest payment in-state tuition rate, is at $13,000.

Senior snow removal

The contact for this community service is American Legion Post 62. Call commander Mel Shockley, and he will add you to the list and supply it to the sheriff's office. Then when at least 3 inches of snow falls, the sheriff's office can supply inmates to clean off sidewalks, or a path down the driveway, if that is the only access to the house. This isn't a program to clean driveways. The city will clean out driveway openings where the big plows have closed them off. The county will clean driveways for seniors outside city limits if they have registered for the programs.

Washington, D.C., trip

Still looking for WWII veterans to go to Washington, D.C., this spring. Also, looking for sponsors to help defray the costs of this program out of Grand Junction's airport. If you have questions or need an application contact my office from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

Veteran flu shots

Flu shot walk-ins still are at the Craig VA Telehealth Clinic. Call, stop in and visit with April Branstetter and Robbie Fentress. Vets must be enrolled in the VAMC health care system in order to get these shots. Questions? Call 824-6721.

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, fax 970-824-7108 or e-mail address is veterans@moffatcounty.net. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday to 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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