Enrollment Process, Health Benefits Covered

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – A seminar on the health benefits available to veterans was held on Thursday, Feb. 1 at the American Legion Hall in Crockett.

Approximately 50 veterans and spouses were in attendance for the program organized by Houston County Veterans Service Officer Fred Newtz.

Those in attendance ran the gamut of service in: the Korean War era; the Vietnam War era; the Cold War era; the Persian Gulf War era; the post-9/11 era; and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.VA Healthcare Program Held at the American Legion in Crockett.

Newtz invited several speakers to give presentations covering a wide range of topics from how to enroll to what to do in case a veteran requires emergency care outside of the Veterans Administration.

The first speaker of the evening was Bridgette House, supervisor of the VA Enrollment in Houston.

“One of the things I always like to stress to veterans is while you may be getting healthcare out in the community, you can always access the VA because we do have a responsibility to coordinate your care,” she said.

House provided an example of prescription costs and said if a veteran is satisfied with his or her primary care physician, they could certainly keep seeing their doctor but use the VA for prescriptions to help reduce costs.

“Or, if you have a condition (diagnosed by a civilian doctor) and you want to get a second opinion, you can access the VA,” House said.

“The beauty of being a veteran and being enrolled in the VA healthcare system,” she continued, “is you are eligible to go to any VA medical center or outpatient clinic anywhere in the United States or any country that has a VA medical center.”

House also explained the various priority groups (1-8) to which veterans are assigned, based on a variety of factors. Among these factors, she said, were disability percentages, Purple Heart medal recipients, service in certain theaters of operations and financial need.

Next to speak was Sonja White, supervisor of the Veterans Choice Program. According to White, the VCP is “… a benefit that allows eligible veterans to receive health care from a community provider rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility.”

White explained to be eligible to participate in the program, veterans must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • A veteran is informed by the local VA they will need to wait more than 30 days for an appointment.
  • A veteran resides more than a 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility, with a full time primary care physician.
  • A veteran must travel by air, boat, or ferry to the VA medical facility closest to their home.
  • A veteran faces unusual or excessive burden in traveling to the closest VA medical facility based on a geographic challenge, environmental factor, medical condition, or other specific clinical decisions.
  • A veteran resides in a State or a United States Territory without a full-service VA medical facility that provides hospital care, emergency services and surgical care, and resides more than 20 miles from such a VA medical facility.

As the meeting continued, Amanda Reynolds and Sheronda Lacy, supervisors with the VA Consolidated Payment Center addressed emergency care outside of the VA.

Reynolds explained, “A medical emergency is an injury or illness that is so severe that without immediate treatment, it threatens your life or health.”

She added veterans may receive emergency medical care at a non-VA facility – at VA expense – when a VA facility cannot furnish economical care due to your distance from the facility or when VA is unable to furnish the needed emergency services.

As the different presenters concluded their portion of the seminar, veterans were able to ask specific questions about their personal health concerns and issues.

For more information about VA health care benefits, visit the nearest VA clinic in Lufkin or Palestine or call 1-877-222-8387.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.