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Enhanced VA Health Care enrollment

Certain combat veterans who were discharged from active duty service before Jan. 28, 2003, have until Jan. 27, 2011, to take advantage of their enhanced health care enrollment opportunity through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“While there is no time limit for Veterans to apply for the VA health care they earned with their service, I highly encourage this group of combat veterans to take advantage of the enhanced enrollment window to use their health care benefits through this simplified process,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “VA has health care eligibility specialists online and at every medical center eager to help veterans take advantage of this opportunity.”

The enhanced enrollment window was provided for in Public Law 110-181, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. That law gave combat veterans who served after Nov. 11, 1998, but separated from service before Jan. 28, 2003, and did not enroll before Jan. 28, 2008, three years, beginning on Jan. 28, 2008, to apply for the enhanced enrollment opportunity.

These veterans will still be able to apply for health benefits with VA after Jan. 27, but will have their status for receiving VA health care determined under normal VA procedures that base health care priority status on the severity of a service-connected disability or other eligibility factors. This would mean some veterans could face income or asset-based restrictions, as well as delays in establishing their VA health care eligibility while their disability status is determined.

Since the inception of the enhanced enrollment opportunity, VA has sent more than 750,000 personal letters to eligible veterans and hosted thousands of outreach efforts through OIF/OEF and enrollment coordinators stationed at every VA medical center.

Since June 2010, VA sent another 194,000 personal letters to give every eligible veteran a chance to take advantage of this opportunity, but to date only 13,000 of these veterans have enrolled.

The law does continue to provide the enhanced health care enrollment window to combat veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after Jan. 28, 2003. For these veterans, the five-year enrollment period begins on the discharge or separation date of the service member from active duty military service, or in the case of multiple call-ups, the most recent discharge date.

VSO vacation closure

A reminder the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office?is closed?through?June 13. I can be reached by e-mail: afautheree@archuletacounty.org or my cell phone (970) 946-6648. I prefer e-mail messages. I can also receive text message on my cell phone. Phone?call messages require writing down information and call backs (phone chasing) which I?may not have time for.

If you are scheduled to use one of the VSO vehicles during my absence, you must see Rob Gaston?(264-2167) for the keys in the Senior Lunchroom Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday between the hours of 9 and 11:30 a.m. You can send me an e-mail message or a text message to my cell phone to schedule a vehicle. I will have access to the schedule calendar.?All messages to me?should clearly?state your name, phone number, date of departure and return, destination and time of your first appointment.

All other matters such as travel pay, VA Health Care, and claims and benefits can wait for my return.

?Also, we will return to gas cards in June, probably through August, for veterans traveling to VA health care appointments. There will be no cash travel money available during that period as we await the approval of our 2011-2012 Colorado Veterans Trust Fund Grant.

Thank you for your patience.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). The phone?number is?(970) 247-2214.

Further information

For information on these and other veterans benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is afautheree@archuletacounty.org.

The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.

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