from Communications Office
Department of Veterans Affairs
1/23/2012 - Citizen Airman/Feb. 2012 -- (Editor's note: The Department of Veterans Affairs offers veterans -- both active duty and reserve component -- a wide variety of programs, services and benefits. The following information, provided by the VA communications office, is offered to give Air Force Reservists an idea of all of the different types of assistance that is available. For more detailed information or to determine your individual eligibility for VA programs, services and benefits, contact your local VA office or visit the agency's website at www.va.gov. A list of toll-free telephone numbers is available online at https://iris.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1703.)
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides three distinct services: health care, benefits such as educational assistance and home loans, and burial and memorial benefits. To deliver these services most effectively, the department is divided into three "houses" or administrations: the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. To learn more about the benefits and services provided by each of these, go online to www.va.gov and click on the "Veteran Services" link.
Veterans Health Administration
VA's health-care system includes 152 medical centers, with at least one being located in every state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. VA operates more than 1,600 sites of care, including 965 outpatient clinics, 133 community living centers and 293 veteran centers. VA health-care facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and rehabilitative care.
The Veterans Health Administration employs 244,000 people, including 20,000 physicians and 53,000 nurses. In 2010, VHA facilities provided treatment to approximately 6 million patients, including a steadily growing number of women veterans.
Health-care services available from VHA include the following:
* Primary care
* Hospital and community living center care
* Dental care
* Pharmacy and prescriptions
* Mental health care (counseling, addiction therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder treatment and more)
* Sexual trauma counseling
* Readjustment counseling
* Alcohol and drug dependency treatment
* Prosthetic services
* Specialized health care for women veterans
* Outreach programs for homeless veterans and veterans at risk for homelessness
* Medical evaluation for military service exposure, including Gulf War-specific exposures
* Agent Orange, ionizing radiation and certain other environmental hazards.
VA Liaisons for Health Care
Key components of transitioning injured and ill service members are the VA liaisons for health care, either licensed social workers or registered nurses, strategically placed in military treatment facilities with concentrations of recovering service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Having started with one VA liaison at two military treatment facilities, VA now has 33 liaisons for health care stationed at 18 military treatment facilities to transition severely ill and injured service members from the Department of Defense to the VA system of care. VA liaisons facilitate the transfer of service members from the military treatment facility to a VA health-care facility closest to their home or most appropriate location for the specialized services their medical condition requires.
Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom service members who have questions about VA benefits or need assistance in filing a VA claim or accessing services can contact the nearest VA office or call 1-866-606-8216.
Care Management Teams
Each VA medical center has a highly experienced and specially trained care management team to coordinate care and services for veterans injured in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, as well as those returning from combat theaters needing additional support as they reintegrate into the community. OEF/OIF/OND case managers are experts at identifying and accessing resources within their health-care system as well as in the local community to help veterans recover from their injuries and readjust to civilian life.
Since 1979, VA's Readjustment Counseling Service has operated veteran centers, which provide psychological counseling, community outreach, case management and referral activities, and supportive social services to veterans and family members. In addition, the centers provide trauma counseling to veterans who were sexually assaulted or harassed while on active duty and bereavement counseling to the families of service members who die on active duty.
Since the first veteran center opened, more than 2 million veterans have been helped. Every year, veteran centers serve more than 130,000 veterans and accommodate more than a million visits by veterans and family members.
Vet centers are open to any veteran who served in the military in a combat theater during wartime or anywhere during a period of armed hostilities.
To meet the needs of the growing population of women veterans, VA is expanding women's services and making these services more convenient and easier to access. Today, nearly one out of every 14 enrollees is female. In the next 15 years, the VA expects one in every nine enrollees to be female.
Indeed, the number of female veterans using VA health care has doubled in the past decade, from 160,000 in 2000 to 315,000 in 2010. And based on the upward trend of women in all branches of service, coupled with the drawdown of forces under way, the number of women using VA health care will keep climbing.
Women veterans -- and their families -- have made tremendous sacrifices. They deserve the very best in support and services this nation can offer. Across the country, VA has been pushing hard to offer new and improved services for women veterans. For example, it has hired full-time women veteran program managers for each VA medical center across the country. Their job is to coordinate health care for women veterans.
Health Benefits Website
VHA's Health Eligibility Center recently redesigned its health benefits website. The site, which is located at www.va.gov/healthbenefits, is more user-friendly and easier to navigate than the previous version.
The updated site provides timely information for veterans, family members, caregivers and other beneficiaries to learn about eligibility, enrollment, access, applicable co-pays and health benefits offered by VA. Features of the new site include:
* Simple, easy instructions on how to obtain and access health benefits
* Organized informational flow
* Health benefits package and priority group information
* Income threshold determination calculator
Veterans Benefits Administration
The Veterans Benefits Administration administers a variety of benefits and services that provide financial, educational and other forms of assistance to veterans, their dependents and survivors. Major benefits include veterans' compensation, veterans' pension, survivors' benefits, rehabilitation and employment assistance, education assistance, home loan guaranties, and life insurance coverage.
VA benefits and services are not necessarily limited to veterans. Those who are still in the military may be entitled to a variety of VA benefits. Following are a few examples:
Service members are eligible for up to a maximum of $400,000 in life insurance under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance. Spousal coverage is available up to a maximum of $100,000, while children are automatically covered for $10,000 at no cost. Any member of the uniformed services covered by SGLI is eligible for a traumatic injury protection rider that provides payments between $25,000 and $100,000 to members who have a traumatic injury and suffer losses such as amputations, blindness or paraplegia.
In November 2011, VA announced that the maximum amount of veterans' mortgage life insurance increased from $90,000 to $150,000 under the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010. Effective Jan. 1, maximum coverage increased again, from $150,000 to $200,000.
Veterans' mortgage life insurance is issued to those severely disabled veterans and service members who have received grants for specially adapted housing from VA. These grants are issued to veterans and service members whose movement or vision is substantially impaired because of their disabilities. For more information about VA's insurance program or other VA benefits, go to www.va.gov or call 1-800-827-1000.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for veterans with at least 90 days of aggregate service or 30 days of continuous service, if discharged for a service-connected disability, after September 10, 2001. The Post-9/11 GI Bill assists veterans by providing tuition and fee payment directly to the educational institution, a monthly housing allowance to offset living expenses, and up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.
Service members may transfer entitlement to a spouse and/or children after serving a minimum of six years and agreeing to serve four more. Non-college degree training including vocational/trade training, on-the-job training and apprenticeships are also eligible for reimbursement. The Gunnery Sergeant John D. Fry Scholarship also provides education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to dependent children of service members who were killed in the line of duty after September 10, 2001.
Educational assistance is also available to active-duty and reserve component members through the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty program, MGIB-Selected Reserve program and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. MGIB-AD requires service members to contribute $1,200 to the program, while those enrolled in MGIB-SR must be in an active drilling status to receive the benefit. Both programs pay a monthly benefit to the individual based on the number of hours he or she is enrolled in school.
Home Loan Benefits
People are eligible for a VA home loan guaranty after serving on continuous active duty for 90 days.
As one of VA's most recent additions, the Office of Survivors Assistance serves as a resource regarding all benefits and services furnished by VA to survivors and dependents of deceased veterans and members of the armed forces. More information about OSA is available by visiting www.va.gov/survivors/ or calling 1-202-461-1077.
Filing for Benefits Prior to Separation
Service members may file disability claims prior to separation from active or full-time duty through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge or Quick Start programs.
Service members may file claims for disability compensation, pension, vocational rehabilitation, automobile allowance and special adapted housing prior to separation.
VA employees will assist in the filing and preparation of the claim as well as adjudicate the claim as quickly as possible after separation. Additionally, VA offers counseling and claims assistance to separating service members throughout the United States and around the world through the Transition Assistance Program and Disabled Transition Assistance Program.
The eBenefits portal (www.ebenefits.va.gov) is a joint DOD and VA service that provides resources and self-service capabilities to service members, veterans, their families and caregivers with a single secure sign on. Using the portal, Reservists and National Guard members can access Tricare online, update their civilian employer information, transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to eligible dependents and review their Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance elections. Other portal features include the ability to download the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, check the status of a disability compensation claim or appeal, view payments, generate letters that verify civil service preference, update direct deposit information for certain benefits, and obtain a VA guaranteed home loan Certificate of Eligibility.
National Cemetery Administration
The National Cemetery Administration honors veterans with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces and veterans who have met minimum active-duty service requirements and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Spouses, widows or widowers, minor children and, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible family members may be buried even if they die before the veteran.
Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or while performing training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.
VA will provide, at no cost to the veteran's family, a gravesite, headstone or marker, Presidential Memorial Certificate, U.S. flag and perpetual care of the gravesite. Fees for services provided by funeral directors and other related costs must be paid for by the veteran's family.
The National Cemetery Administration currently maintains more than 3.1 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as in 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites.
Upon request and at no charge to the applicant, VA will provide a headstone, marker or medallion for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any private cemetery in the world. For deaths occurring before Nov. 1, 1990, VA may furnish a headstone or marker only for graves that are not marked with a private headstone.
The VA provides a medallion, by request, to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased's status as a veteran. This device is furnished in lieu of a traditional government headstone or grave marker for those veterans whose death occurred on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker. The medallion is available in three sizes: 5 inches, 3 inches and 1.5 inches. Each medallion is inscribed with the word "VETERAN" across the top and the branch of service at the bottom.
VA estimates that 651,000 veterans in the U.S. and Puerto Rico died in 2010. Forty-two percent of those deceased veterans were either buried in a national or state veterans' cemetery or received a VA-furnished headstone, marker or medallion in a private cemetery.
In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA has established 17 new national cemeteries in 13 states since 1997. In addition, VA has awarded grants totaling more than $483 million to establish, expand or improve 82 state cemeteries in 39 states, Guam and Saipan, with nine under construction.
Other Programs, Services and Benefits
The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Labor re-launched a new and improved website for wounded warriors in February 2010 -- the National Resource Directory. This directory (www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov) provides access to thousands of services and resources at the national, state and local levels to support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. The NRD is a comprehensive online tool available nationwide for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans, and their families.
At any given time, VA has thousands of jobs posted that are only open to veterans and other status candidates. To search for a job with VA, go to the organization's recruitment website at www.va.gov/jobs. You can also search and apply for VA jobs at www.vacareers. va.gov.
To receive hands-on assistance with landing a job at VA, visit the Veterans Employment Coordination Service website at www.va.gov/VECS
VA's newest hiring program is called VA for Vets (www.VAforVets.va.gov). Launched on Veterans Day, VA for Vets is a program that facilitates the reintegration, retention and hiring of veteran employees at VA. It offers career-search tools for veterans seeking employment at VA, career development services for VA's current veteran employees, and coaching and reintegration support for military service members.
VA for Vets is high-tech because it leverages the best of existing technology to help veterans translate their military skills and experience to the civilian job market, take online skills assessments, build a federal resume and apply for a job at VA. It offers coaches who provide guidance and counseling to veteran applicants and military service members throughout their entire employment lifecycle.
Veterans now have on-demand access and can download official data about their military training and experience, which can be used to help them find jobs and continue their careers. Their service data can be uploaded to job search and networking sites to help identify employment opportunities. Effective Dec. 3, veterans can use VA's online My HealtheVet Personal Health Record (www.myhealth.va.gov) to see official information about their military service, including deployment data, in-uniform experience, and military occupational specialty codes that define the types of work performed and skills learned during their tour of duty.
With access to key portions of the DOD military service information, eligible veterans who are VA patients with a My HealtheVet account can download that information to their personal computers using the updated VA Blue Button function. Veterans can get access to military service information through My HealtheVet by enrolling for care in a VA health-care facility or community outpatient clinic, registering for a My HealtheVet account, and completing a one-time identity-verification process to help assure data privacy.
In fiscal year 2011, VA spent approximately $3.4 billion to provide health care to homeless veterans and $800 million in specialized homeless programs. According to a supplemental report to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, about 76,000 veterans are homeless on a typical night, and about 144,000 spend at least one night a year in a homeless shelter.
Recently, VA has transformed its efforts in the fight against homelessness. It is changing its focus from temporary, shelter-based services and focusing more on prevention, employment, permanent housing, and providing help to veterans, as well as families, at risk of becoming homeless.
As part of its drive to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, VA has launched a nationwide outreach initiative known as Make the Call. Since March 2010, VA has offered a toll-free telephone number, staffed around the clock by trained professionals, to help veterans who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as their families. The number to the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans is 1-877-424-3838.
More information about VA's programs for homeless veterans, at-risk veterans and their families is available at www.va.gov/homeless.
VA operates a 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line. Veterans, active-duty military personnel and reserve component members can call the national suicide prevention hotline number, 1-800-273-TALK, and then push "1" to reach a trained VA professional who can deal with any immediate crisis. More than half a million people have called the Crisis Line since it was established in 2007.
VA has long recognized the crucial role that family caregivers play in helping veterans recover from injury and illness and in providing for their daily care at home, surrounded by those they love. VA values the sacrifices caregivers make to enable veterans to remain at home.
On Feb. 1, 2011, the National VA Caregiver Support Program, Care Management and Social Work Service and Office of Patient Care Services launched a new toll-free National VA Caregiver Support Line. The National VA Caregiver Support Line serves as an important resource for caregivers, veterans and community members associated with caring for veterans. The support line is staffed by licensed independent social workers who receive extensive training and education to provide the highest quality of care to callers.
Since its opening, the National Caregiver Support Line has responded to more than 22,000 calls and has connected more than 7,500 callers to the caregiver support coordinator at their local VA facility.
To reach the VA Caregiver Support Line, call toll free 1-855-260-3274. Operating hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST) and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST).
Don't Delay: Enroll With VA
It's important to remember one thing: If you've already been discharged or if you've separated from active duty and are now back on reserve status, you can't get VA health-care services and certain other benefits unless you enroll. You can get enrollment information and assistance at any Veterans Service Center or at any VA medical center or clinic.
Veterans will find it easier and faster to apply for health-care benefits now that VA has enhanced and streamlined its online Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits. This revised online application now features a chat function that allows veterans to receive live assistance while they are filling out the form.