I am constantly reminded of the importance of information flow in our communities within Pontotoc County. As most Veterans will attest, dealing with the Veterans Administration (VA) can be a daunting task; that is exactly why the County Veteran Service Office (CVSO) exists, to assist as a liaison between the Veteran and the VA in negotiating the paperwork and making the appropriate coordination for benefits.
Several months ago a young Veteran came to get his tag at the court house, saw the sign on my door, and decided to stop by. He had absolutely no clue that this office existed, nor what services were provided to Veterans and families. This is a common theme and my goal is to continue this monthly article as well as creating other forums to get the word out in regard to VA benefits available to those that have served. I often say that the VA will not come looking for you, it has to be the other way around. I can assist with the vast majority of Veterans Benefits that are offered to include disability benefits, education and training, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan guaranty, dependents and survivors benefits, health care/medical treatment, life insurance and memorial benefits.
I hear many misconceptions and myths about VA benefits. One sad result is many Veterans and family members eligible for VA benefits think they are not entitled to these earned benefits and never apply. Some of the common myths are:
- “I am not considered a Veteran because I didn’t serve in war” – this is not true, even if you never served during a war, you are still considered a Veteran and eligible for most VA benefits. Some benefits such as VA Pension require that a Veteran must have served at least one day during a wartime period. But benefits such as Disability Compensation have no such requirement. It is true that each benefit has different eligibility criteria, but generally a Veteran is eligible for most of what VA has to offer.
- “I wasn’t injured in the service, so I’m not eligible for VA health care” – One of the most common myths revolves around eligibility for health care at VA. Many think that you have to first establish a disability rating before you can start to make appointments, see doctors and receive medication. That is not the case. If you served in the military, even during peace time, and were honorably discharged, you likely qualify for VA care. If you are an Iraq or Afghanistan Veteran, there are special combat Veteran benefits from VA and guaranteed access to Priority Group 6 for five years.
- “ VA delivers mediocre care or worse” - It’s not hard to find instances of outrageous deficiencies in the system, but compared with the rest of the U.S. health-care system, VA’s performance is pretty impressive. As a Rand review of the literature concluded, study after study has found that the “quality of care delivered by VA is generally equal to or better than care delivered in the private sector.” The bipartisan Commission on Care, found the quality of VA’s behavioral health programs “largely unrivalled.” In many areas, VA offers specialized polytrauma and rehabilitative care for Veterans that cannot be obtained at any price elsewhere. Part of the reason you hear so many negative stories about VA health care is that it receives far more scrutiny than the rest of the health-care system, including from two standing committees in Congress, an inspector general, Veterans service organizations and a highly engaged press.
- “The claims process is slow because of VA bureaucrats” - The process certainly could be more administratively efficient, but it is ultimately Congress that makes it so difficult for many Veterans to get VA care. Because of laws that strictly limit eligibility, Veterans must show that they are either poor or suffer from some specific degree of disability related to their military service to qualify for many health-care services as well as pension and compensation benefits. Recently President Trump signed the VA Modernization Act which has helped to significantly cut down on the processing times and backlog of claims and appeals. On average, from what I have seen over the past two years, a basic claim takes roughly three to five months from start to end, this is significantly faster than in the past. Complex claims may take longer due to the supporting documents and exams required to make a decision.
My advice, don’t believe the myths, rumors or what someone told you and please help me get the word out that I am here to help. Call or stop by and see me and we can discuss your particular benefits. My phone number is 489-3907 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org – my office is located in the Pontotoc County Courthouse, Veterans Service Office.