November 5, 2015 at 2:16 p.m.
For one thing, the Veterans Administration (VA) no longer requires disclosure of assets for those veterans enrolling solely on the evaluation of their income and assets. Now veterans and spouse report their income only from the prior year to determine whether they meet the federal income threshold guidelines.
There’s also a new special category of veterans to enroll for health care due to toxic water exposure. Marines and families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 should call the office to learn about the registry for Camp Lejeune exposure and about access to VA Health Care. There are 15 medical conditions, mostly cancers, that are presumed to have been caused by high levels of toxic chemicals in the drinking water that was supplied by the city of Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Once enrolled and accepted into the VA Health Care System, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 applies. It is referred to as the “40 mile - 30 day rule” whereby a veteran can call the 800 number on the Choice Card and if living more than 40 miles from home to the nearest VA medical facility, with a medical need to see a medical practitioner, can seek a medical clinic in the private sector. The same is true if the VA schedules an appointment more than 30 days into the future. In more remote areas of the state, it can be a nice option. Most veterans in this area seem to be better served by doing their medical appointments at the VA facilities, according to Budde.
Another new option is dental insurance for veterans using VA Health Care. Most veterans do not have access to VA dental care. The VA partnered with two dental insurers to offer reduced rates for dental insurance. Veterans can call the office for more information.
VA can now process disability claims in half the time it once took. VA encourages the filing of fully developed claims (FDC). Essentially, this means the veteran provides all evidence up front, including all relevant medical records from the private sector resulting in more expedient VA decisions.
Paper case files (also called hard files) were the norm. Now, most files have been scanned and are accessible via electronic document (e-doc). In short order, Budde said, “We will stop sending paper applications for federal VA benefits. Instead, we will load the application into the P.C. and submit it electronically.”
More recent is a change of reporting for those receiving VA Pension (not to be confused with retired military pay). In the past, reporting of income, medical expenses and assets was required annually. Today, the veteran or claimant reports when something changes up or down. The annual reporting has gone away.
Also new this summer was creation and dedication of a new memorial on the grounds of the MN State Capital and the MN Department of Veterans Affairs. Bill Popp of Popp Communications spearheaded a most unique memorial to honor the families that stand behind the active duty service member; referring to the people ‘behind the scenes’ that give moral and familial support to the one in uniform. The wives, parents, siblings, and extended family and friends all contribute to the success of the service member. The Minnesota Military Family Tribute Memorial was dedicated on June 13th of this year, and it is the first memorial of its kind in the country.
The relocation of the Veteran Services Office from a satellite office in North Branch to the Chisago County Courthouse in Center City is also a relatively new thing. Veterans access the service now through the lobby of the County Health and Human Services office at the courthouse. Both Al and Wendy Kowalke, Case Aide, went from part-time to full-time veteran service. Budde says the 4,200 veterans in the County keep him and Wendy very busy. They see on average of four veterans per day and appointments are preferred by calling Wendy at 651-213-5605. Walk-ins are seen as time is available.
What hasn’t changed, according to Budde, is “Our holding the veteran in high esteem for the unselfish service they gave on behalf of their Country. Men and women have stepped forward, taken the oath of service, and contributed to something greater than self. They stepped forward for the common good of the Country. As a nation, we thank the veteran on Veteran’s Day. We owe them this outpouring of gratitude”.
A plaque in the Veterans Service office says we are a ‘land of the free because of the brave;’ and their unselfish service and sacrifice.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.