Veterans

Veterans Journal: Long-term care benefits for veterans protect your retirement

Published by George W. Reilly in Providence Journal

 

A long-term care event for a veteran or any adult can happen at any age, and the potential financial and emotional strain that comes with it can have an impact on you, your family and your loved ones.

Did you know millions of Americans require long-term care during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes the need for either cognitive or physical assistance with everyday tasks such as bathing, eating and dressing.

Unfortunately, traditional health insurance, including TRICARE or TRICARE for Life, does not pay for the chronic, ongoing assistance with daily living that is most often associated with long-term care.

As a member of the armed services, you are entitled to apply for benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, although several factors come into play when determining eligibility. For this reason, and to ensure you are prepared for any situation, it is important to understand how VA benefits work so you can form a clear understanding of your traditional health-care benefits as well as what a long-term care event might mean for retirement planning.

The VA health benefits program provides coverage for long-term care, but you must qualify for the program. The VA determines the number of veterans who can be enrolled in the program based on congressional funding allocated each year. Due to the limited availability of enrollments, the VA has established eight separate priority groups (see VA Health Care Eligibility online at www.military.com/benefits/veterans-health-care/va-health-care-eligibility.html) to categorize enrollees and determine the level of benefits they are entitled to or whether the potential enrollee is eligible at all.

Eligibility to receive long-term care benefits depends on many factors, including service-connected disability status (70 percent or greater — see the VA’s Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors online at https://bit.ly/2zcGyLv), current income levels, and even your ability to contribute to the cost of care.

Members of the uniformed services seeking long-term care benefits may find they are unable to meet the VA’s eligibility criteria. Long-term care can be expensive, and service members often rely on the VA to cover the associated costs. Depending on your eligibility status in the VA benefits program, the level of coverage available to you may not be enough. For this reason, you may want to consider applying for standalone long-term care insurance like the plan offered through the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program at https://bit.ly/2tUYTau.

FLTCIP provides long-term care insurance for enrollees who are federal and U.S. Postal Service employees and annuitants, active and retired members of the uniformed services, and their qualified relatives.

With benefits designed specifically for active and retired members of the uniformed services since 2002, the FLTCIP offers a good way to help protect your savings and assets should you or your loved ones need long-term care. Designed to provide solutions for a range of financial situations, this employer-sponsored program has grown to be the most successful and used program of its kind, providing comprehensive coverage for more than 270,000 people.

Certain family members, or qualified relatives, are also eligible to apply even if the veteran does not. Qualified relatives include spouse, domestic partner, parents, parents-in-law and adult children.

To learn more about the FLTCIP’s benefits and features or to find the average long-term care costs in your geographic area, visit online at LTCFEDS.com. Certain medical conditions or combinations of conditions will prevent some people from being approved for coverage. You need to apply to find out if you qualify for coverage.

The Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program is sponsored by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, insured by John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company and administered by Long Term Care Partners, LLC.

For personalized assistance, call (800) 582-3337 or TTY (800) 843-3557 to speak or interact with a program consultant available to answer any questions and provide step-by-step information on plan design and the application process.

 

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Understanding Veteran Emergency Medical Care

Published in Camp Lejeune’s The Globe by Ena Sellers Managing editor

This week we would like to highlight essential facts to help you understand emergency medical care for veterans. But first and foremost, if you are experiencing a medical emergency and believe your life is in danger, please go to the nearest emergency room.

According to the Veterans Health Administration Office of Community Care, veterans can seek emergency care and call for an ambulance during a medical emergency before checking with the VA. The key is in acting promptly and notifying the VA within 72 hours of admission.

“This allows VA to assist the veteran in coordinating necessary care or transfer and helps to ensure that the administrative and clinical requirements for VA to pay for the care are met,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Now that we have the most important part out of the way, let’s review service-connected emergency care and nonservice-connected emergency care to assist you navigating through the process.

SCEC covers an urgent medical condition that has been adjudicated by the Veterans Benefits Administration as related to the veteran’s service and granted a disability rating. In order to meet the requirements for the SCEC, a veteran must meet the following criteria: the veteran’s medical emergency was perceived, by the veteran or another person without medical training, as life-threatening and immediate medical attention was needed. The veteran is receiving emergency care for a service-connected, or adjunct condition in a community emergency department; the veteran is disabled as a result of a service-connected condition or the veteran is participating in a VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and requires emergency treatment to expedite their return to the program.

For a service-connected emergency to be eligible, the emergency must meet five specific requirements. First, the veteran must have received the medical care at a hospital emergency department; second, the emergency was of such nature that the veteran or another person — without medical training, perceived it as life-threatening. Third, a federal facility was not reasonably available to provide the care. Fourth, the veteran has received care within a VA facility during the 24 months before the emergency care. Fifth, the veteran is financially liable to the emergency treatment provider.

Remember that time is of the essence, especially when it comes to submitting a medical claim. According to the VA, veterans who were treated for a service-connected emergency have up to two years from the date the emergency care was provided. Those who were treated for a nonservice-connected emergency have up to 90 days from the date of discharge.

Keep in mind that in order for your claim to be processed, you must allow enough time for the VA to receive and review your documentation. If your documents are incomplete or need further clarification, the processing of your claim might be delayed.

For more information about emergency medical care for veterans, eligibility and claims, visit www.va.gov/communitycare.com.

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‘They Deserve It’: In Foster Homes, Veterans Are Cared For Like Family

By Patricia Kime for Kaiser Health News

With the motto “Where Heroes Meet Angels,” a small Veterans Affairs effort pairs vets in need of nursing home care with caregivers willing to share their homes.

Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.

“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.

Caregiver Joann West calls taking care of veterans Ralph Stepney (left) and Frank Hundt at her home in Baltimore a “joy.” “They deserve it,” she says. (Lynne Shallcross/KHN)

It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.

The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.

Read full story

 

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8 Things to Know About VA Healthcare

Published in Newsmax By Jerry Shaw  

Healthcare benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs are available to all those who served in the active military, naval, or air service. You can qualify under any discharge condition other than dishonorable.

The first step is enrollment for VA health benefits. Veterans may apply by phone or by contacting their local VA facility. They will be asked to choose a preferred VA center, usually one close to their residence. If the particular medical center cannot provide the healthcare needed, the VA helps make arrangements for your specific health needs. 

Here are eight things to know about VA healthcare:

  1. Provider — The VA does not have to be the exclusive healthcare provider. You can receive care from the VA and a local provider, but the VA encourages vets to coordinate with all parties for one treatment plan for health and safety reasons.
  2. Billing private providers — VA healthcare is not considered a health insurance plan and bills private health insurance providersfor medical treatment and prescriptions for treatment of nonservice-connected conditions. The VA doesn’t usually bill Medicare but can bill Medicare supplemental insurance for certain services.
  3. Responsibility — Vets are not responsible for any unpaid balances not covered by a third-party health insurance provider. However, copayments may be required for non-service related care. Copayments are sometimes offset by payments made to the VA by private insurers.
  4. Preventive care services — The VA covers health exams, health and nutrition education, flu shots and other immunizations, and counseling for hereditary diseases.
  5. Hospital services — Inpatient VA healthcare treatment includes surgeries, short-term treatment for illness and injury after surgery, kidney dialysis, and specialized care, such as mental and physical conditions, traumatic injuries, and organ transplants.
  6. Emergency care — Vets under the VA program can receive emergency care in VA hospitals, outpatient clinics, and vet centers. Emergency care in non-VA facilities is allowed under certain conditions.
  7. Mental health treatment — VA services include treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance abuse, military sexual trauma, and other conditions.
  8. Vision, dental, and assisted living care — Routine eye exams and preventive tests are provided as well as eyeglasses or vision disability rehabilitation in some cases. Dental care is provided, depending on individual cases. The VA can help veterans find assisted living, live-in, or home healthcare.

 

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Veterans Can Access Mental Health Services

Most Vets Don’t Know What Mental Health Services VA Offers. So Here You Go

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Roughly half of all post-9/11 veterans who may need mental health care do not seek it through the Department of Veterans Affairs or in the private sector, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Alarmingly, the report also says a significant number of veterans are unaware of the services available to them from the Veterans Health Administration — the VA’s medical arm.

Veterans who need mental health care but haven’t sought VA help cite several reasons, including “that they do not know how to apply for VA mental health care benefits, they are unsure whether they are eligible, or they are unaware that VA offers these benefits,” according to the Congressionally mandated Jan. 31 report.

“I was dismayed to learn how many veterans didn’t know how to access care,” Ralph Bozella, Chairman the of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission for The American Legion, told Task & Purpose. “The VA has done a great job advertising their mental healthcare services on the web and via social media.”

But, he added, “At this point, I think the entire veteran community needs to do more to ensure veterans in need link up with the care they require. We all need to play a more active role here.”

To help with that, here’s a list of mental health services the VA provides to recently transitioned veterans.

Are you a combat vet?

Veterans who served in a combat zone can receive medical services — including mental health care — for five years through the VA, beginning the day of their discharge. This isn’t the same as having a service-connected disability rating; instead, think of it as free health insurance. Eligible vets will have free care and medications for any condition that might be related to their service; there’s no enrollment fee or premium, but you do have to cover copayments. This also opens you up to the VA’s CHOICE program, which means you can receive care through a private-sector specialist at the VA’s expense, not yours.

Soon, every transitioning vet can receive a year of mental health care through the VA.

Last month President Donald Trump signed the executive order “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” It expands VA mental health care services to the 60% of recently separated vets who were previously deemed ineligible — usually because they lack a verified service-connected disability or service in a combat zone. Beginning in March, all transitioning service members with an honorable discharge will be eligible for 12 months of mental health care through the VA. Though the details of the program are still being worked out, veterans will be eligible to receive care at VA facilities — or in the private sector through CHOICE, if a local clinic can’t meet their needs.

Related: Here’s What We Know About Trump’s Executive Order To Combat Veteran Suicide »

Emergency mental health care is available for veterans with OTH discharges.

Though the executive order provides a year of care to many veterans, it doesn’t cover those with “bad paper” discharges — punitive discharges that preclude access to Veteran Affairs benefits, like education and health care. But last March, the VA launched a separate program offering emergency mental health services for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. Though not all vets with bad paper are eligible, those with an OTH discharge in need of emergency mental health care can receive treatment through the Veterans Health Administration for up to 90 days — inpatient, residential, or outpatient care.

The VA offers much more if you’re enrolled in their system, though.

Veterans who qualify to register with the Veterans Health Administration enjoy a variety of mental health services. These include counseling, therapy, and, often, a treatment plan that includes prescribed medication. The range of coverage is fairly expansive, with experts able to offer support to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and stress, among other concerns. Additionally, the VA offers short-term inpatient care for vets suffering from life-threatening mental illness; outpatient care to a psychological rehabilitation and recovery center; video conferencing with a care provider; and residential rehab programs.

If you need immediate help, or just someone to talk to, resources are always available.

For those in need of immediate support, responders with the Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1; via text, by sending a message to 838255; or online. The conversations are confidential and the line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week year-round, and the staff is trained to assist veterans of all ages and circumstances.

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Veterans’ Day: A Reminder that Heroes Walk Among Us

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Frank Hay

The 68-year-old courier has tried to put his memories of the unpopular war in Southeast Asia behind him. He certainly doesn’t think of himself as a hero. Nevertheless, while Frank Hay was making his rounds at Houston Hospice recently, his Vietnam Veteran ball cap was spotted by a staff member who thanked him for his service. He nodded his thanks and thought he’d be on his way until the staff member invited him to talk about the war. Houston Hospice is part of The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s “We Honor Veterans” program. As a result of learning more about the needs of veterans and their families, staff members have a tendency to notice vets.

An 18-Year-Old in America

In 1966, 18-year-old Frank Hay and his family lived a quiet country life on the banks of a lake outside North Guilford, Connecticut. North Guilford is a pleasant town with a volunteer firehouse, a general store and a gas station. As a kid, Frank got a kick out of walking on the lake’s barely submerged island to the astonishment of visitors who thought he was walking on water. With a school career frustrated by dyslexia behind him, Frank went to work as a Railway Postal Clerk. He counted bags of mail that were loaded and unloaded from rail cars as part of the Railway Post Office (RPO). Frank’s family knew young men were being conscripted to assist with a conflict in a place called Vietnam, so they weren’t surprised when he was drafted.

Frank was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for pre-induction physical examinations and testing. His dyslexia caused the army to suspect he was faking to get out of service. However, additional testing revealed a high IQ and the kid who grew up deer hunting in the woods of Connecticut was trained to be a gunner on a helicopter. During basic training Frank recalls thinking the war was a game. “I thought we’d come in and say ‘John Wayne’s here. Step aside.’ The first time someone got shot, I thought, ‘Wow! This is real.”’

Confusing New World

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Frank’s first impressions of Vietnam were clouded by confusion. “We’re in our own world in the U.S. and when you go there you realize things are not the same.” He felt disoriented to be in a place where people were so impoverished that they were forced to sell a child rather than part with a cow. Frank had been in Vietnam only seven months when his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed killing the pilot and co-pilot. He was captured immediately by the enemy who took him into the jungle where they were holding other prisoners of war. There were no POW camps at that time so the enemy cut the sole of Frank’s foot to prevent him from escaping.

Prisoner of War

He remembers being moved constantly for 14 months. “I talked with other prisoners but I didn’t become close because a lot of them died. Some of them went loony.” Fellow POWs died of disease and starvation. Frank figures he lost about 50 pounds. “We’d stay in a hole dug in the ground with bars over it. They fed us rice and fish. I’ll never eat rice again.” During the constant moves, the prisoners were separated and brought back together. Whenever Frank’s foot began to heal, it was cut again. “I took my anger out on God. I’d say ‘Why did you let this happen?’ ‘Why don’t you do something?’ I couldn’t be mad at the enemy. They were soldiers too.”

One day while the prisoners were out of their holes for a move, their encampment came under fire from a U.S. Army helicopter. Everyone ran. Guards ran. Prisovietnam_1967ners ran — in all directions. Frank ended up half running and half hobbling with two other prisoners. “We just kept running until we ran into a U. S. Army unit.” He was taken to a field hospital where he was treated and debriefed. From there, Frank went to a VA hospital. After his injuries healed he was sent home.

People Asked Why I Was There

Frank didn’t stay in touch with any of the guys he met in Vietnam. He didn’t keep a uniform, or a photo or any memento of his service. “After the war, people asked why I was there and why I was fighting and killing. We were just soldiers on both sides. We were only doing what we were told. I just wanted to get on with my life.” Frank recalls being spit on and called a baby killer. He went to the VFW Hall in Guilford, Connecticut where he was ridiculed. “The other vets said that Vietnam was not really a war.” Frank resents being denied camaraderie at the hall. “In those days they had dances, parties and baseball games. Now it’s just a place to go drinking. I’m tired of older people coming up and shaking my hand. Where were you when I came home?”

Frank doesn’t like to talk about the war. But in an act of extreme generosity, he did. He did move on. He moved to Houston and, at 50, met and married his wife who hails from Buffalo, New York. Frank has no desire to return to Vietnam. The courier has moved on but some wounds remain.

We Honor Veterans

About Houston Hospice: As a leader in hospice care for people of all ages and all walks of life, nonprofit Houston Hospice provides for the distinct needs of Veterans and their families through its We Honor Veterans Program. Care is provided to patients and families in private homes and in residential facilities throughout Houston and 10 surrounding counties. Inpatient care is provided in the Houston Hospice Margaret Cullen Marshall Hospice Care Center in the Texas Medical Center. To learn more about the We Honor Veterans Program and other services, call 713-468-2441 or visit www.houstonhospice.org.

—Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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Veterans Day: Honoring America’s Veterans Includes Meeting Their Unique Needs

soldier-708711_1280Houston Hospice delivering Veteran-centric care to those who served our country

1 in 4 of All deaths in the U.S. are Veterans

Many Americans do not realize that 1 in 4 of all deaths in the U.S. are Veterans. As the nation honors these American heroes for their military service on Veterans Day, November 11, it’s important to remember that they also deserve recognition and compassionate care when dealing with a serious illness.

As a We Honor Veterans participant, Houston Hospice is providing specialized care to Veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs created We Honor Veterans to empower hospice and other healthcare providers across America to meet the unique needs of seriously ill Veterans and their families.

We’re Intentional About Caring for the Unique Needs of Our Veterans

“Through We Honor Veterans we are taking a giant step forward in helping healthcare professionals and volunteers understand and serve Veterans at the end of life,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “It is time that we step up and acquire the necessary skills and fulfill our mission to serve these men and women with the dignity they deserve.” Houston Hospice CEO, Jim Faucett, noted the benefits of the program to patients and families and the organization, “As we’ve trained to meet the unique needs veterans face at the end of life, our staff has become more aware of all veterans. We’ve been enriched by seeking out our veteran volunteers and learning their stories, and we’re less hesitant to introduce ourselves to other veterans and thank them for their service.”

military-864397_1920Within the We Honor Veterans program, there are four levels of distinction that hospices can earn based on their involvement with Veteran education and their interaction with the Veterans and their family members that they are caring for. The goal of these levels is to ensure the very best care is being provided to those who have served our country. Houston Hospice is working toward the highest level of participation. It is meeting the specific needs of Veterans by being knowledgeable about the wars in which they served and the associated traumas; such as radiation exposure from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests after World War II, and pulmonary maladies resulting from the oil rig fires of the Gulf War. Houston Hospice is also strengthening its relationship with the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and offering community outreach educational programs for Veterans’ groups about advance care planning, available resources, and care options.

They Know I UnderstandMikeMcCardle_BronzeStar_ForValor_FtBragg_1968

Houston Hospice volunteer, Mike McCardle, began visiting veteran patients 15 years ago. Because he’s a veteran, he said patients open up to him about their lives and the emotional burdens they’ve carried since battle. “I walk in, give my military pedigree, then they give me theirs and we’re off and running. They know they don’t have to explain. They know I understand.” Mike served in Vietnam from 1964-69. He went to war as a young private and left Southeast Asia just five years later as a battle-seasoned Captain in the United States Army. Often, the wives of the veterans he visits have not even heard the stories their husband’s share with him. “The biggest surprise is how much I get out of it. I form a bond with these guys. I’ve met some real characters. I’ve heard about the Battle of the Bulge, and lots of stories about the South Pacific. I was just mastering my own PTSD and these guys really helped me to know that what I was going through is normal.”

As we celebrate our nation’s heroes this Veterans Day – and every day of the year – we must not forget that it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home. Learn more at www.WeHonorVeterans.org.

—Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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