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VA removes annual income reporting requirement

Special to The PREVIEW

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is eliminating the annual requirement for most veterans enrolled in VA’s health care system to report income information as of March. Instead, VA will automatically match income information obtained from the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

“Eliminating the requirement for annual income reporting makes our health care benefits easier for veterans to obtain,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This change will reduce the burden on veterans, improve customer service and make it much easier for veterans to keep their health care eligibility up-to-date.”

Some veterans applying for enrollment for the first time are still required to submit income information. There is no change in VA’s long-standing policy to provide no-cost care to indigent veterans, veterans with catastrophic medical conditions, veterans with a disability rating of 50 percent or higher, or for conditions that are officially rated as “service-connected.”

Questions and answers

How does the change benefit veterans? 

This process change will reduce veterans’ reporting burden and enable VA to verify health care eligibility decisions more quickly.

Under the new process, veterans will be required to have one financial assessment on file — their current file if they’re already enrolled, or the assessment they provide when they apply. That assessment will be maintained and monitored by VA and updated as income changes occur. Additionally, veterans can benefit when VA finances and manpower previously spent focusing on acquiring financial information is redirected to other services to benefit them.

How will veterans know about the new means test criteria and processes? 

VA will notify affected veterans by mail of the elimination of the means test. In addition, information will be available on VA’s website and through printed materials as well as via social media.

This notification includes information about how VA will securely monitor future financial assessments (through IRS and SSA reports), that HEC will send veterans a letter when their self-reported income on file is different from the financial information obtained from the IRS and SSA and how to respond if they disagree with the information provided by the IRS and SSA.

What if a veteran’s income changes? 

If, at any time, the veteran’s financial status changes, the veteran may submit an updated financial assessment. VA encourages veterans to continue to report changes in their income information, as well as their personal information, such as address, phone numbers, dependents, next of kin, and health insurance by completing VA form 10-10EZR, health benefits renewal form, online at www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll, mailing it to the Health Eligibility Center, 2957 Clairmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, or by calling (877) 222-VETS (8387).

What if a veteran disagrees with the information obtained from IRS and SSA? 

If information received from IRS and SSA indicates a change in the veteran’s VA health benefits may be appropriate, the veteran will be provided comprehensive guidance on actions they may take, including submitting additional financial documentation should they disagree with the information obtained. Consistent with VA’s current income verification processes, no changes to the veteran’s health benefits will occur unless the review process confirms the veteran’s income exceeds applicable thresholds.

Who should veterans contact for more information? 

Veterans may contact their local VA health care facility or call VA’s toll-free number, (877) 222-VETS (8387). For more information, please visit va.gov/healthbenefits.

The office of the Archuleta County Veterans Service Officer provides assistance to qualified military veterans and their families, or survivors in applying to and obtaining VA program assistance, benefits and claims. This assistance is provided within the guidelines, policies and procedures established by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is a mandated program of the state of Colorado.

Further information 

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

The best way to contact me is to set up an appointment at home or in the office so I can schedule a specific time in order to answer and assist each veteran in Archuleta County.

I will be out of the office on the following days for regularly scheduled meetings:

• Vets4Vets: Tuesday mornings, 9 a.m.-noon.

• Arboles Community Center, first and third Thursdays. Back around 2 p.m.

• Pagosa Outreach Connection, 8:30-10 a.m. every Thursday.

• Home visits/Pine Ridge outreach, second and fourth Thursdays, back at 2 p.m.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590 and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. If the office is closed, I am out assisting veterans; leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

Veterans’ groups

The following veterans’ groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Quality Resort.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday at 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte: 731-1025.

• Point Man Ministries’ Breakfast for Veterans at 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday at Buffalo Inn, 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Vincent: 731-2769, vfortunato777@gmail.com.

This story was posted on April 3, 2014.