Coast Guard members sacrifice a great deal for our country and seem to be sometimes overlooked. Therefore, the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the admirable service of Coast Guard members by providing a host of health care benefits. Knowing what benefits are available can do a world of good, as can understanding how to earn those benefits.
There’s no shortage of health care benefits. Coast Guard service members and veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have access to:
-services at hospitals
-outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
-health care specialized for female veterans
-counseling for veterans adjusting to their return
-alcohol and drug treatment
The VA actively uses several programs to inform members of National Guard, including the Coast Guard, about these benefits. Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, members of the Coast Guard and their family members learn about VA benefits at events held before, during and post-deployment. VA staff can enroll veterans in VA health care and suggest other VA benefits.
Launched in 2008, the Combat Veteran Call Center keeps veterans connected with a VA connected directly by phone. A VA worker provides VA benefit information, services and job opportunities. Veterans even get the chance to get an assigned care manager at the nearest VA Medical Center.
Since 2005, 62 National Guard Transition Assistance Advisors have helped returning veterans get VA benefits they deserved. The advisors are VA liaisons who work at a state level to synchronize state benefits with VA services.
Eligibility for VA health care benefits is often easy to determine. Those who may eligible include:
-National Guard members called to duty by federal order
-Veteran’s dependents and surviving spouses, children and/or parents
Spread throughout the country, there are 27 VA liaisons at 13 military treatment locations. The primary duty of these liaisons is to get severely injured service members and veterans from the military treatment facilities into the hands of the VA. When a veteran needs treatment close to home, the liaisons ensure that the local VA can offer that service. Liaisons may also create a care plan, find out if a veteran needs a care manager and secure appointments with the VA.
OEF/OIF care management teams operate at every VA Medical Center. Nurses or social workers are the managers who plan patient care activities. They assist National Guard members when they need help going through the VA health care system. VA health care is broken into two branches of the Veterans Health Administration. The VHA provides primary and specialized care, as well as related medical and social services.
At more than 1,400 sites nationwide, the VHA offers these services. The two branches are:
-VA Medical Centers, which run a gamut, from tiny local clinics to big hospitals.
-VA Vet Centers where counseling and outreach services are available for free to veterans who served in a combat zone. Family members affected by military-related issues can also get treatment at any one of the 232 community-based centers.
Photo thanks to Coast_Guard under creative common license on Flickr.