Five for Free

Here’s a deal: The VA has announced free medical care for combat vets serving after Nov. 11, 1998. Veterans need to have served in a theater of combat operations.

The benefit means those eligible will not have to fork over the co-payment for inpatient hospital services, outpatient medical care, medications, and even some nursing home care. The Web site specifies that care must be for conditions potentially related to combat service. (This can serve as a reminder why trigger pullers and others should try to get medical conditions documented and later rated. This can be a challenge in a combat zone. Ok, it can be impossible in a combat zone, but you’re left holding the medical care bag when you land back in CIVLNTFLT.)

Those who were discharged from the service after Jan. 28, 2003, are “eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for five years from the date of discharge or release,” according to the VA’s Web site. Those discharged before Jan. 28, 2003, have until Jan. 27, 2011, to sign up.

The program replaces one that allowed for two years’ treatment. It has no effect on veterans visiting the VA for service-related conditions (documented). This is free care for the average vet without a disability rating.

The program is also open to reservists and guard members who have served in a combat zone. Vets also must have a discharge other than dishonorable.

Additionally enrollment for veterans will be opened to those whose income exceeds VA eligibility criteria limit by 10 percent. Our guess is this number will increase as the debate on civilian care continues. Moving more vets on VA rolls reduces the burden on … the shell game net effect is zero, though the VA has a decent and rather cost effective program, something a new program may find hard to beat.

The program resulted from provisions in the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Bill on the Second Coming of Managed Care that may or may not occur. Regardless, some veterans leave the service after a few years with no health care and few thoughts on where they’ll get coverage.

Five free years may help.

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