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Many Veterans Unaware They Qualify For Health Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

Veterans Health Care

Many U.S. veterans are unaware of health care, tax breaks, andother state and federal benefits they are entitled to, according tolocal liaisons to former troops, USAToday reports. According to the Departmentof Veterans Affairs there are 25 million veterans. VA in fiscalyear 2006 provided health care to 5.5 million veterans and insuranceto 4.5 million veterans and active duty personnel. The departmentalso provided disability pay to 2.6 million veterans; pensions to320,000 veterans; education benefits to 500,000 veterans; andguaranteed home loans to 180,000 veterans.

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VA holds briefingsand distributes booklets informing military personnel about theirbenefits after they are discharged and sends all veterans "welcomehome" packets with reminders and contact information. However,veterans often do not know they are eligible to receive financial ormedical assistance or increases in disability pay, according to JimGolgart, a veterans service officer in Le Center, Minn.

JohnScocos, secretary of the WisconsinDepartment of Veterans Affairs, said, "A lot of veteransfrom all eras do not understand or know about their benefits."Jim Lynch, a veterans service officer in Valparaiso, Ind., said thatmany veterans "put the green suit away and that's it," andthen decades later, many develop health issues and "wonder whathelp they're entitled to." Long gaps can make it difficult tofind records detailing injuries and illnesses during a veteran'sservice, Lynch said.

Thirty states have county veteransservice officers who provide veterans with information and aid themin filling out paperwork, and the remaining states have state orregional officers. Scocos said outreach grants to state agencies fromthe federal VA could help improve the problem. Legislation (HR 67)pending in the Senate would create a separate budget for VA outreach,and the House has approved a similar measure. VA spokesperson MattSmith said, "VA is conducting a very active outreach effort torecently returning veterans" (Keen, USA Today,1/9).

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.