The national debate over health insurance has added a layer of complexity for veterans seeking medical care, so it pays to know your options.
The Hampton VA Medical Center is reaching out to former service members in southeastern Virginia to inform them of how the VA might help. The main message: Apply to enroll in VA health care.
VA health care satisfies the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which requires all Americans to have health insurance starting in 2014. There are various thresholds for determining eligibility too numerous to list here. But you won't know if you don't ask. So get someone from the VA on the phone, or apply online, and get started.
Veterans who served in combat zones should consider another option. The VA offers five years of free health care for combat veterans who suffered a service-connected disability. That also satisfies requirements of the new law.
Many veterans who fought on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on a Navy ship in a combat zone, don't know this benefit even exists, said Lydia Acosta, a transition patient advocate who works with many recently discharged service members.
The Hampton VA is also trying to spread the word in rural areas, from Gloucester and Mathews counties to North Carolina. Currently, about 45,000 veterans use the Hampton center, and it has seen a 7 percent annual increase in patients for several years running.
"We go everywhere the veterans are," said Eddie A. Hughes, who works in rural outreach.
To apply online, go to http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll or call 1-877-222-VETS (8387).You can also visit the Hampton VA Medical Center.
VA officials want veterans to apply for VA health care even if they might have other options. Hughes, who is retired from the military, has enrolled in TRICARE. However, he's also enrolled in VA health care. In his case, he can get an eye exam under VA health care and "walk away with free glasses" as opposed to paying a deductible under TRICARE – but he still uses TRICARE for other needs.
Congrats to the Rogers family
The Peninsula Town Center holds its annual tree-lighting ceremony Saturday at 6 p.m. in Town Square. It promises to be a special day for the Rogers family of Hampton.
The Town Center has selected them as the 2013 Military Star Family.
The Military Star program is an annual effort that allows the public to nominate a deserving service member. This year, Carrie Rogers told the story of her husband, nine-year Navy veteran Antonio. Until 2012, he couldn't live with his family due to his service. Now that he does, he still works long hours but manages to coach his son's football team.
Because of an upcoming deployment, he will miss another round of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.
"I know how hard my husband works," Carrie said. "This will be a great memory for our family while he is serving our country."
The entire family will light the 45-foot Christmas tree to kick off the shopping season. On Nov. 23, they get to ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus in their horse-drawn carriage during the annual Coliseum Central Holiday Parade. Antonio and Carrie have three children.
Contact Lessig at 757-247-7821. Read the Hampton Roads Recon blog at hrmilitary.com.