Monday, January 10, 2011

Enhanced VA Health Care Enrollment Opportunity Closing for Certain Combat Veterans

WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2011) - 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 January 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.