Closer look at health care options for veterans


By Harold B. Wolford - Veterans Corner



There are many levels and benefits of the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system. I will not attempt to cover all levels in my columns. I will attempt to provide comprehensive and useful information. Because of the extensive coverage, I will devote multiple columns to various aspects of VA health care. For more detailed information and links, visit VA.gov. The Veterans Services Office (VSO) can also provide information and assistance. The Delaware County VSO is located at 149 N. Sandusky St. in Delaware. The office can be reached at 740-833-2010.

If you qualify for VA health care, you’ll receive coverage for services that will help you get and stay healthy. Each veteran’s medical benefits package is unique. They will include care and services to help treat illness and injuries; prevent future health problems; improve your ability to function; and enhance your quality of life.

All veterans who qualify receive coverage for most care and services. Only some will qualify for added benefits, like dental care. The list of covered benefits depends on the following: The priority group you are assigned to; The advice of your VA primary care provider (your main doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant); and the medical standards for treating any health conditions you may have. Priority group assignments and their requirements will be covered in another column.

VA basic health care services cover preventative care services such as health exams, including gender specific exams; Health education, including nutrition education; Immunization against infectious diseases, like flu shots; Keep your shots current with other preventative illnesses along with pneumonia shots; Counseling on genetic diseases (diseases that run in families).

VA health care covers inpatient hospital services such as surgeries, medical treatments and kidney dialysis; Acute care such as short-term treatment for severe illness or injury, or after surgery; Specialized care, including organ transplants, intensive care for mental and physical conditions, and care for traumatic injuries.

VA health care covers urgent and emergency care services. Urgent or emergency care is provided at some VA health facilities. Urgent care for injuries and illnesses that need attention right away, but aren’t life threatening, can be received at urgent care locations that are part of the VA connected network. This may include care at a VA approved facility. Walk-in retail health clinic for minor illnesses, like sore throat or earache. Urgent care facility for more pressing, but not life threatening, illnesses or injuries that require treatment, like splinting, casting or wound care. Emergency care in a non-VA hospital, clinic, or other medical setting, under certain conditions.

Other services and needs are also covered by VA health care. Mental health services to treat certain issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), depression, and substance use problems. Assisted living and home health care, depending on your needs and income, as well as available space in the programs. Prescriptions written or approved by a VA doctor. The VA will fill prescriptions by a non-VA community provider only if you meet all the requirements listed here. All of these must be true: You’re enrolled in VA health care; You have an assigned VA primary care provider; You’ve given your VA provider your medical records from your non-VA provider; Your VA provider agrees with the prescription.

There are also other medical services that VA health care will provide. They may cover services that your VA primary care provider concludes you need to support your treatment (called ancillary services), like the following: Tests used to diagnose health conditions, including blood work, X-rays, and ultrasounds; Therapy and rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, vision rehab, and therapy for traumatic brain injury; and additional services, including prosthetic items, audiology (care for hearing loss) and radiation oncology (cancer care).

You may be able to get help with some non-medical services like beneficiary travel benefits (help paying for travel related to treatment); caregiver support (help for the person who cares for you); and veterans transportation service (help getting to and from appointments).

If you qualify for VA health care benefits, you may be able to get some or all of your vision care through the VA. If you have VA health care benefits, they will cover your routine eye exams and preventive vision testing (like testing for glaucoma). To schedule an eye exam, talk to your VA primary care provider or contact your nearest VA medical center or clinic. If you’re a blind or low vision veteran, you may be able to get more advanced vision care and rehabilitation services. VA will cover the cost of your eyeglasses if you meet certain requirements.

These services are not included in your VA medical benefits package: Abortions and abortion counseling; Cosmetic surgery, unless it’s concluded it’s medically necessary (needed to prevent or treat a certain illness, injury, condition, disease, or symptoms); Gender alteration (gender reassignment surgery); Health club or spa membership; Inpatient hospital or outpatient care if you’re a patient or inmate in a non-VA government agency institution, if that agency must provide the care or services by law; Medicines and medical devices that aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), except in two special cases: You’re in an approved clinical trial or you’re seriously ill and your VA health care provider prescribes a new, unapproved medicine because there are no other comparable treatment options (called a compassionate use or expanded access exemption).

Many veterans ask if there is a co-pay or if VA medical care is free? This will depend on factors like your income level, disability rating, and military service history. Most veterans need to complete a financial assessment when they enroll. This helps the VA determine if you qualify for free VA health care. Information on co-pays will be covered in another column.

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By Harold B. Wolford

Veterans Corner

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973. Wolford can be reached via email at harold@wolfordhome.com.

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973. Wolford can be reached via email at harold@wolfordhome.com.