Veterans Hotline: House committee studying potential VA cutbacks

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Ed Wilkinson

A plan is being studied by the House Budget Committee to cut $6 billion annually in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care costs by canceling enrollment of any veteran who doesn’t have any service-related medical condition and is not poor.

Committee Republicans, searching for ways to curb federal deficits and rein in galloping VA costs, are targeting 1.3 million veterans who claim priority group 7 or 8 status and have access to VA care.

Priority group 8 veterans have no service-connected disabilities, annual incomes or net worth that exceed VA means-text thresholds and VA “geographic income” thresholds, which are set by family size.

Priority group 7 veterans also have no service-connected disabilities and their incomes are above the means-test thresholds.

But, their incomes or net worth fall below the geographic index.

In other words, because of where they live, in high-cost areas, they likely struggle financially.

In the annual report to Congress, one of the options for reducing VA spending is to close enrollment in VA care for veterans in groups 7 and 8 and to cancel existing enrollments.

During the Clinton administration, Congress enacted the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Act of 1996. The law directed the VA to build clinics across the country.

To ensure enough patients, the VA secretary was given authority to expand care eligibility.

The ban on group 7 and 8 veterans was ended by 1999.

Over the next three years, their enrollment climbed to 30 percent of total enrollees.

By 2003, then-VA Secretary Anthony Principi stopped group 8 enrollments, saying their numbers strained the system for higher priority veterans, including wounded returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Congressional Budget Office presented pros and cons for canceling 7 and 8 enrollments.

An advantage is VA could refocus services on “its traditional group of patients — those with the greatest needs or fewest financial resources.”

One disadvantage is that many veterans who rely on VA for at least part of their medical care would see that care interrupted.

I have more information on this situation in my office. Drop by anytime when I am here and I will be glad to share this with you.

I also have a compilation of services that will and will not be affected by the cutback.

News from D.C.

Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder can turn to their smartphones for help any time with the PTSD Coach application created by the VA and Department of Defense.

PTSD Coach lets users track their symptoms, links them with local sources of support, provides accurate information about PTSD and teaches helpful individualized strategies for managing PTSD symptoms at any moment.

I have more details on this new program, so feel free to come in and I will share this with you.

Weather woes

Hopefully we will start having nice weather and we can get outside.

I am sure this will be a great attitude adjustment for all of us.

For information

For information on these programs and/or other veterans’ benefits, call or stop in the Moffat County Veterans Service Office at 480 Barclay St., west of the Bank of Colorado parking lot.

Call 824-3246 or use the fax at 824-7108. Our e-mail address is veterans@moffatcounty.net.

The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

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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