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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston Chronicle MedBlog

December 3, 2009

http://blogs.chron.com/medblog/archives/2009/12/chat_live_at_no_1.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+houstonchronicle%2Fmedblog+%28MedBlog%29 *

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Photo by Fran Burke, Public Affairs Specialist

 

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center participated in a Live Internet Chat on the MedBlog of the Houston Chronicle on Dec. 2, 2009.  For more than an hour, Briggette Allen, Eligibility Supervisor (right), and Michele Farrow, Patient Advocate Supervisor, chatted with bloggers on topics related to VA eligibility, services for homeless female veterans, PTSD, applying for benefits, and VA’s Suicide Prevention program.  This was a great opportunity to get the word out about VA healthcare and services. The response was extremely positive and the Houston Chronicle is interested in doing this project again.
  
Cindy George:
Welcome everyone. I am the Chronicle's health reporter and will serve as the moderator for this discussion.
Technical difficulties forced us to postpone this chat the week of Veterans Day, but we're back!

We're joined today by Michele Farrow and Briggette Allen  from  Houston's Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. They will discuss your concerns and answer questions about health care resources for veterans.
 
Michele Farrow is the VA medical center's patient advocate supervisor and has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 28 years. She has been assisting veterans as a patient advocate for 19 years and currently serves as the South Central VA Health Care Network's patient advocate coordinator.
 
Briggette Allen is the VA medical center's eligibility supervisor and has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 22 years. She is an active member of the Management Advisory Group, which ensures that veterans directly influence patient care issues.
 
One more thing: They will not be prepared to respond to inquiries about regional office claims or the VA cemetery.

So, here we go.

 

12:01

 

Michele Farrow:

Thank you for having us

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:01 Michele Farrow

12:02

 

Cindy George: 

So, let's start with a question about assistance for our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's say the person just doesn't seem right after the experience. Is there someone the veteran can talk to?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:02 Cindy George

12:03

 

briggetteallen: 

Thanks for having us today.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:03 briggetteallen

12:05

 

Michele Farrow: 

Veterans Chat, an internet adjuncct to VA's Suicide Prevention program.Veterans Chat is available from 3-10 p.m. while the Suicide Prevention Hotline is availabel 24 hours a day seven days a week.   Websit at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org *

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:05 Michele Farrow

12:05

 

[Comment From ArmyMarkArmyMark: ] 

I live in The Woodlands. Where is the nearest VA hospital for people who live in norht Harris Co?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:05 ArmyMark

12:07

 

briggetteallen: 

We have a outpatient clinic in Conroe, Texas.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:07 briggetteallen

12:07

 

Cindy George: 

I see lots of programs online  on the Veterans Administration Health web site.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:07 Cindy George

12:08

 

Cindy George: 

Army Mark -- What's your zip code?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:08 Cindy George

12:09

 

briggetteallen: 

The address is
VA Conroe Outpatient Clinic
800 Riverwoord Court
Conroe, Texas 77304
(936) 522-4000

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:09 briggetteallen

12:09

 

[Comment From ArmyMarkArmyMark: ] 

77381

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:09 ArmyMark

12:09

 

Cindy George: 

Find the closest VA medical or health care center with the VA's Facility Locator. It looks like you can enter your zip code and find the closest 5 facilites.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:09 Cindy George

12:09

 

[Comment From khamiltonkhamilton: ] 

where are the resources for homeless women vets

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:09 khamilton

12:10

 

Cindy George: 

Here are the five closest to ArmyMark:

 

1)

Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic

View Map:  
Yahoo!* | MapQuest* | Google*

 

800 Riverwood Ct Ste 100  
Conroe,   TX   77304

 

 

Approximate distance of   11 miles

 

 

2)

Houston National Cemetery

View Map:  
Yahoo!* | MapQuest* | Google*

 

10410 Veterans Memorial Dr.  
Houston,   TX   77038

 

 

Approximate distance of   18.2 miles

 

 

3)

Houston Vet Center (Veterans Resource Center)

View Map:  
Yahoo!* | MapQuest* | Google*

 

701 N. Post Oak Road Suite 102  
Houston,   TX   77024

 

 

Approximate distance of   27.7 miles

 

 

4)

Houston Vet Center

View Map:  
Yahoo!* | MapQuest* | Google*

 

2990 Richmond Suite 325  
Houston,   TX   77098

 

 

Approximate distance of   30.9 miles

 

 

5)

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center

View Map:  
Yahoo!* | MapQuest* | Google*

 

2002 Holcombe Blvd.  
Houston,   TX   77030-4298

 

 

Approximate distance of   33 miles

 

 

 

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:10 Cindy George

12:11

 

Michele Farrow: 

Please contact our Health Care for Homeless Veteran Program at 713 794-7848.   They will be happy to assist you

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:11 Michele Farrow

12:12

 

[Comment From ArmyMom_2ArmyMom_2: ] 

are there any income limitations that would prevent a veteran from receiving medical or prescription benefits from VA?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:12 ArmyMom_2

12:13

 

Cindy George: 

There's also an entire page on the VA web site about homeless services. Click here. The site includes information about programs provided by the federal government and private organizations.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:13 Cindy George

12:17

 

Cindy George: 

You can find VA health care, benefits  and eligibility enrollment information here. Take the Quick Eligibility Check quiz, which will  give you an  idea about what benefits you could receive.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:17 Cindy George

12:17

If you are a veteran, in which branch of the military did you serve?
Air Force

 ( 11% )

Army

 ( 78% )

Coast Guard

 ( 0% )

Marines

 ( 0% )

Navy

 ( 11% )

 

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:17 

12:18

 

briggetteallen: 

In January 2003, VA made the difficult decision to stop enrolling new Priority Group 8, this   is based on your gross   annual houshold income.   However new regulations   as of June 2009 has increase the allowable gross annual income by ten percent of the VA income theshold.   To get the exact income level, please contact the VA Eligibility Office at 713-794-7288.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:18 briggetteallen

12:18

 

[Comment From prdad007prdad007: ] 

A friend mentioned something about a "Peace Officer", someone to talk with concerning PTSD Symptoms at the VA Houston. Can you help?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:18 prdad007

12:19

 

Michele Farrow: 

We have a Trauma Recovery Program that offers comprehensive treatment to V eterans with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder or a related disorder.   This program   provides a wide range of services to help Veterans better manage their sysmptoms.   TRP uses a tema approach because brining together professional from psychiatry, nursing, social work, psychology, and other discipliness allows the program to better assess, plan for, and treat Veterans seeking assistance.   You can each them at 713 794 7848

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:19 Michele Farrow

12:19

 

[Comment From RowdyRowdy: ] 

Good Luck getting an answer to that one---Armymom-2....

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:19 Rowdy

12:20

 

briggetteallen: 

Priority Group 8, generally includes veterans with higher income.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:20 briggetteallen

12:21

 

[Comment From StevenSteven: ] 

My father is an Army veteran. What can I do to make sure he won't into any issues with his medical and dental benefits? I don't think he's been for a while now, but he's recently retired and might be using them soon

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:21 Steven

12:23

 

Michele Farrow: 

If he has not enrolled please contact our Eligibility Office

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:23 Michele Farrow

12:24

 

briggetteallen: 

VA Eligibility Office at 713-794-7288 or va.gov 

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:24 briggetteallen

12:26

 

Cindy George: 

A lot of people wonder, I think, how far VA benefits extend when veterans turn 65 and qualify for Medicare. What happens then? Can they receive Medicare AND VA benefits at 65 and older?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:26 Cindy George

12:27

 

[Comment From prdad007prdad007: ] 

To Steven: He's going to run into issues. That's just part of the system. But, get him started well before he needs the services.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:27 prdad007

12:29

 

Cindy George: 

Here's a step by step explanation about Determining Your Eligibility, from the Va web site.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:29 Cindy George

12:30

 

[Comment From WoodlandsRobWoodlandsRob: ] 

I recently got out of the Army. Does the free health benefits for (5 years i think) cover things that have happened after I got out of the army? (sickness, injury etc)

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:30 WoodlandsRob

12:32

 

briggetteallen: 

Woodlands Rob,
If you are a returning combat veteran, who served in the combat theater, and you received a Honorable Discharge, then you are eligible for cost free healthcare for any medical conditions that are directly related to your military service.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:32 briggetteallen

12:32

 

[Comment From RowdyRowdy: ] 

I'm a 8 yr--Air Force Vet--(59-67)--and have been turned down Twice---for Med/Pharmacy from the VA--because and I Quote." Nothing happened to you--and you made too much Money"... This directly from VA office on Holcombe.... ..

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:32 Rowdy

12:32

 

Michele Farrow: 

Rowdy:   Please contact our Consumer Affairs Office at 713 794-7884 so that we can look into this denial,

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:32 Michele Farrow

12:34

 

Cindy George: 

Here's an interesting, though lengthy,  95-page document that explains the ncome  thresholds BY COUNTY for every state based on income, dependents, median income for a family of 4 in each county — and a few other factors —  for higher-income vets. That might help you a little bit, Rowdy.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:34 Cindy George

12:34

 

Michele Farrow: 

Rowdy:   you can file an administrative appeal   or clinical appeal depending on the type of denial you have receivded.   Please again contact our Consumer Affairs Office

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:34 Michele Farrow

12:36

 

Cindy George: 

If a loved one is having surgery at the DeBakey VA hospital in Houston, is there somewhere for the veteran's relatives to stay?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:36 Cindy George

12:42

 

Michele Farrow: 

The MEDVAMC is fortunate to have housing options availale for those Veerans and their families who have a medical need for temporary lodgin.   Becausde of the large number of Veterans we serve, we cnnot guaranteehoursing will be available for everyone.   There are also restrictions on lengths of stay. Criteria is as follows 1.   Housing is mediclaly necessary for pre- or post-care. 2.   Be medically stable and capable of self-care or be accompanied by a caregiver ab le to prov ide care; 3. Be required to travel more than 100 miles frm their home to the Houston VA; 4.   Can stay in an unsupervised setting.   Please contact either your referring physician or the social worker on the nursing unit ore clinical area.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:42 Michele Farrow

12:42

 

[Comment From FreddyFreddy: ] 

How do I apply? Do I have to go to a physical office?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:42 Freddy

12:44

 

Cindy George: 

Mark Paul -- The ladies will answer your question about volunteers at the DeBakey VA hospital, but here's the VA Application for Voluntary Service.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:44 Cindy George

12:44

 

briggetteallen: 

You can apply for enrollment at any VA health care facility, VA Regional Office or the Veteran Service Office, or you may apply via the Internet at www.va.gov.   You can apply in person, by mail or on the VA web page.   Your completed application form must be signed and dated, you can visit us in person, or mail it in or fax it to us at 713-794-8752.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:44 briggetteallen

12:44

 

[Comment From mark Paulmark Paul: ] 

I have tried to do volunteer work at the VA and I have left numersous messages but to no avail on call backs. Who is running the Volunteer desk and why do they not call back? Thanks

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:44 mark Paul

12:45

 

Michele Farrow: 

Mark Paul:   Pleased contact our Manager of   Volunteer Office, Bryan Dyck at 713 794-713

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:45 Michele Farrow

12:46

 

Michele Farrow: 

Mark Paul:   Sorry here is the full # 713 794-7135

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:46 Michele Farrow

12:47

 

Cindy George: 

Mark Paul -- Her's a listing of volunteer assignments at the DeBakey VA hospital.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:47 Cindy George

12:48

 

[Comment From KilkennyKilkenny: ] 

The income thresholds do not apply for Cat 2 vets do they?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:48 Kilkenny

12:49

 

Michele Farrow: 

Kilkenny:   Not sure what you are asking in referrence to CAT 2

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:49 Michele Farrow

12:49

 

[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 

As a reservist, how long after deployment am I eligible for military healthcare?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:49 Guest

12:49

 

briggetteallen: 

As a Reservist, you must be called or ordered to active duty service per an Executive Order issued by the President of the United States and complete the active duty sercie you were ordered to with a Honorable or General Discharge.   This must be stated on your DD214, member copy 4.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:49 briggetteallen

12:50

 

Cindy George: 

Kilkenny -- Do you mean Priority Group 2?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:50 Cindy George

12:52

 

Cindy George: 

Kilkenny -- Priority Group 2 includes veterans with VA service-connected disabilities rated 30% or 40% disabling. Is that what you're asking about? If so, we've got an answer.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:52 Cindy George

12:54

 

[Comment From KilkennyKilkenny: ] 

Priority 2..30% rating already

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:54 Kilkenny

12:54

 

[Comment From KilkennyKilkenny: ] 

Yes. That is what I am referring to.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:54 Kilkenny

12:55

 

Michele Farrow: 

Kilkenny:   Not an income treashold

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:55 Michele Farrow

12:55

 

[Comment From BobBob: ] 

As a national guardsman who was deployed, how long am I eligible for military healthcare after my deployments?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:55 Bob

12:55

 

briggetteallen: 

As a National Guard, who was deployed you become eligible upon your release from active military duty.   If you were in a combat theater, you are eligible for cost free healthcare for 5 years for any medical conditions related to your combat service.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:55 briggetteallen

12:55

 

[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 

I got out of the Service in the early 70s and have never used the VA for medical care since I have always had medical insurance. I may be without insurance in the near future. Can I get medical help from the VA if that happens?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:55 Guest

12:55

 

Cindy George: 

Since it's been brought up, the VA ranks veterans' elibility in  eight categories with Priority Group 1 being the highest priority and Priority Group 8 the lowest. Group 8 also has subpriority groups. For more about which veterans fall into what groups, click on VA Health Care Enrollment Priority Groups.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:55 Cindy George

12:56

 

[Comment From Bill FortBill Fort: ] 

I got out of the service in the early 70s and have never used the VA medical services because I have always had insurance. That may change soon. Can I still get VA medical benfits if that happens?

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:56 Bill Fort

12:56

 

briggetteallen: 


Please contact our VA Eligibility Office at 713-794-7288.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:56 briggetteallen

12:56

 

[Comment From KilkennyKilkenny: ] 

Thanks

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:56 Kilkenny

12:56

 

[Comment From BobBob: ] 

I was called up and sent to Afghanistan to fight (yes, there were real bullets flying around there two years ago, too). Anyway, I have my DD214, etc. I have heard that I have enhanced VA medical benefits for the five years since my last deployment to a combat zone. Oh, and I don't have any disabilities. Thanks

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:56 Bob

12:58

 

briggetteallen: 

Please contact our OEF/OIF Team at 713-794-8825 and   they are ready to assist you.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:58 briggetteallen

12:58

 

Cindy George: 

H1N1 -- I just couldn't resist. The swine flu vaccine is available in limited quantities to high-risk veterans. For more information, contact your VA primary care provider.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 12:58 Cindy George

1:01

 

briggetteallen: 

Bob,
It sounds like you are eligible as a combat veteran;therefore we hope you will contact our OEF/OIF Team at 713-794-8825.   They are ready to assist you.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 1:01 briggetteallen

1:01

 

Cindy George: 

What an informative and timely discussion! Thanks to all who participated. We appreciate Briggette Allen and Michele Farrow for sharing their expertise with the community. You can find more information about veterans health at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) web site.

 

Veterans: We hope today’s chat gives you more insight about your health. Thanks for joining us and continue to read the Houston Chronicle, chron.com * and MedBlog.

Wednesday December 2, 2009 1:01 Cindy George

1:01

 

Will Radcliffe: 

This window will automatically become a transcript once the live chat is over.

* This link will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site and will open in a new window. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites.