Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Congress Passes Enhanced Benefits for Veterans

February 7, 2008

Expansion includes extension of enrollment for
free VA health care for Combat Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to enhance benefits for many of our nation's Veterans, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008 extends the period of enhanced VA health care eligibility provided to Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998. This includes combat Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq.

Under the "Combat Veteran" authority, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides cost-free health care services and nursing home care for conditions possibly related to military service and enrollment in Priority Group 6, unless the Veteran is eligible for enrollment in a higher priority of care.

This new benefit applies to OEF/OIF Veterans, currently enrolled Veterans, and new enrollees who were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003 and is good for five years after discharge. Additionally, Veterans discharged from active duty before January 28, 2003, who apply for enrollment on or after January 28, 2008, are eligible for the enhanced benefit until January 27, 2011.

Veterans, including activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, are eligible if they served on active duty in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, and have an honorable discharge. Health benefits include cost-free VA health care and medications provided for conditions potentially related to combat service.

Additional benefits for all military members, who are eligible Veterans, also include the following:

  • Expansion of Dental Eligibility:  Veterans who served on active duty 90 days or more are eligible to receive one-time VA dental benefits if they make an application to VA within 180 days post discharge from active duty and if their discharge forms (DD Forms 214) does not indicate necessary dental treatment had been provided with 90 days of release from active duty.  This basically doubles the time for members to receive their benefits.
     
  • Beneficiary Travel Benefits:  On Feb. 1, 2008, beneficiary travel reimbursement rate is increased to 28.5 cents per mile for travel to or from a VA or VA-approved non-VA facility for the purpose of examination, treatment or care.  The deductible for travel is $7.77 one way or $15.54 for a round-trip, with a monthly cap of $46.62 after which travel payments are free of deductibles.

Veterans in southeast Texas with questions on VA health care eligibility or enrollment can call (713) 794-7288.  OEF/OIF Veterans are encouraged to contact OEF/OIF Support Team at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center at (713) 794-7034/8825 or by email vhahouOEFOIF@va.gov. The VA Eligibility Web site is www.va.gov/healtheligibility.

Web links to more information on each benefit:
Combat Veteran Fact Sheet **
Outpatient Dental Treatment Fact Sheet **
Higher Mileage Reimbursements for Beneficiary Travel Fact Sheet **

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