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Explaining the Affordable Care Act for veterans benefits

By Greg Remus / For the Enterprise

The Affordable Care Act is applicable to everyone, including veterans.

The VA has muddied the waters with good intentions. Many veterans in our local communities received an information packet about the VA health care system. The information packet included a fact sheet about VA Health Care and the Affordable Care Act. Also included was an enrollment form (VA Form 10-10EZ). If you scan the packet it appears every veteran needs to reapply for VA health care and every veteran is eligible.

If you read the entire packet carefully it tells you that if you are a veteran you may be eligible for VA health care and if you are already enrolled, there is no need to re-enroll. And by the way if you are not enrolled and wish to enroll you may bring the packet to the CVSO Hubbard County for assistance in enrolling.

It is still unclear as to the entire impact of the Affordable Care Act but to date the main points affecting veterans are as follows:

n The VA wants all Veterans to get health care that improves their health and well-being.

n If you are not enrolled in VA health care, you can apply at any time, and again, some veterans are not eligible. In most cases, VA health care eligibility is mostly based on income and service connected disability.

n If you are enrolled in VA health care, you don’t need to take additional steps to meet the health care law coverage standards. If you are enrolled in any of VA’s programs below, you have coverage under the standards of the health care law: Veteran’s health care program, Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA) or the Spina bifida health care program. If you are a retiree, the TRICARE programs meet the coverage standards.

n The health care law does not change VA health benefits or veterans’ out-of-pocket costs.

The VA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system with more than 1,300 sites of care, including hospitals, community clinics, nursing homes, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers, and various other facilities. The nearest facilities include the Brainerd and Bemidji Community Based Outpatient Clinics and the Fargo, Minneapolis and St Cloud VA Medical Centers.

You are eligible to enroll in VA health care if you fall into the top seven priority groups. You are not eligible if you are assigned to priority Group 8 unless you enrolled prior to January 2003.

n Group 1: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 50 percent or more and/or veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions.

n Group 2: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 30 or 40 percent.

n Group 3: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 10 and 20 percent, veterans who are former Prisoners of War (POW) or were awarded a Purple Heart, veterans awarded special eligibility for disabilities incurred in treatment or participation in a VA Vocational Rehabilitation program, and veterans whose discharge was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

n Group 4: Veterans receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits and/or veterans determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled. Some veterans in this group may be responsible for co-pays.

n Group 5: Veterans receiving VA pension benefits or eligible for Medicaid programs, and non-service connected veterans and non-compensable, zero percent service-connected veterans whose annual income and net worth meet the VA National Income Thresholds (these thresholds change annually).

n Group 6: Veterans of the Mexican border period or World War I; veterans seeking care solely for certain conditions associated with exposure to radiation or exposure to herbicides while serving in Vietnam; for any illness associated with combat service in a war after the Gulf War or during a period of hostility after Nov. 11, 1998; for any illness associated with participation in tests conducted by the Defense Department as part of Project 112/Project SHAD; and veterans with zero percent service-connected disabilities who are receiving disability compensation benefits.

n Group 7: Non service-connected veterans and non-compensable, zero percent service-connected veterans with income above VA’s national means test threshold and below VA’s geographic means test threshold, or with income below both the VA national threshold and the VA geographically based threshold, but whose net worth exceeds VA’s ceiling (currently $80,000) who agree to pay co-pays.

n Group 8: All other non-service connected veterans and zero percent, non-compensable service-connected veterans who agree to pay co-pays.

As always the purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids, (218) 732-3561. Have a great day! I will be in Laporte at the Lakeport Town Hall from 9-noon and at the ARCC in Akeley from 1-3 pm every 3rd Thursday of each month.