Top questions asked at VA community town hall event

Dental, Blue Water, Agent Orange, Marijuana, Choice Program



In late September 2018, Secretary Wilkie hosted a State of VA community town hall event which allowed Veterans to ask questions. VA reviewed those questions and found several consistent themes which are listed and answered below.

Q: Why can’t I get Dental?

A: All Veterans are not eligible for dental services per Title 38 United States Code (U.S.C.) §§1710(c), 1712 and Title 38 Code of Federal Regulation (C.F.R.) 17.160 – 17.166. Eligibility includes, Prisoners of War, Veterans rated 100% service-connected disability, or Veterans who received dental injuries due combat or service trauma. To see the full list of eligibility factors, take a look at Dental Benefits for Veterans. The good news is if you are not eligible, Veterans enrolled in VA health care can purchase dental insurance at a reduced cost through the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP).

Q:  What is the status of granting benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans?

A:   With the HR 299 passing the House of Representatives and the Senate hearings on the same bill there have been a lot of questions regarding the VA’s position about securing benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans.

Dr. Paul Lawrence, Undersecretary of Benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified that “no credible scientific evidence supports extending Agent Orange-related benefits to shipboard personnel who never went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its rivers.” Without such evidence, he said, “it would be wrong, and would create a disastrous precedent, to award VA benefits.” Currently, Blue Water Veterans are not presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides. The Department of Veterans Affairs can only provide benefits as approved by law.

However, certain Veterans who stepped foot in Vietnam or served on its inland waterways anytime between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides when claiming service-connection for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure. Veterans in these circumstances can find the ship(s) on which they served in the list as well.

Q:  Will the VA expand its list of Agent Orange presumptive conditions?

A:  Currently, VA recognizes 14 presumptive conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. VA has recognized certain cancers and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service. The Department of Veterans Affairs can only provide benefits as approved by federal law or regulatory guidance and presumes that certain diseases are a result of exposure to these herbicides. This “presumptive policy” simplifies the process for receiving compensation for these diseases since VA foregoes the normal requirements of proving that an illness began during or was worsened by your military service.
However, in November 2017 the Department of Veterans Affairs started to review the National Academy of Medicine (NAM)’s latest report regarding Veterans and Agent Orange and is conducting a legal and regulatory review of these potential presumptive conditions for awarding disability compensation to eligible veterans.

A Veteran who believes he or she has a disease caused by Agent Orange exposure that is not one of the conditions listed below must show an actual connection between the disease and herbicide exposure during military service.

Q:  When will the VA allow promote the use of Marijuana for pain and PTSD.  How can I get into a Marijuana study?

A:  Several states in the U.S. have approved the use of marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. Veterans should know that federal law classifies marijuana – including all derivative products – as a Schedule One controlled substance. This makes it illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is required to follow all federal laws including those regarding marijuana. As long as the Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule One, VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.

To comply with laws, such as the Controlled Substances Act (Title 21 United States Code (U.S.C.) 801 et. al.), VA health care providers are prohibited from completing forms or registering Veterans for participation in a State-approved marijuana program. However, Veterans that are in state medical marijuana studies should consult their VA provider to discuss how marijuana may impact other aspects of their overall care, such as how marijuana may interact with other medications. View the full directive: Access to VHA Clinical Programs for Veterans Participating in State-Approved Marijuana Programs.

Q:  How can I find out which (outside) providers can provide me healthcare though VA Community Care programs (Choice)?  

A:  If you are requesting Care in the Community (formerly known as the Choice Program), please contact your local VA medical facility to coordinate your care. They will be able to provide you help with your healthcare needs and offer community care options. If you are unaware of whom you should contact, visit the VA Facility Locator to find your closest VA site of care at: https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp.  

Q:  How do I know if I am eligible for Community Care Programs through the VA?

A:  Veterans may be eligible to receive care through the VA Community Care Program (formally known as the Choice Program), if a Veteran faces an excessive burden in traveling to the nearest VA medical facility (such as geographic challenges, environmental factors, or a health problem that makes it hard for you to travel), lives more than 40 miles (driving distance) from the nearest VA medical facility, or can’t make an appointment for the Veteran at the nearest VA medical facility within 30 days of the clinically indicated date. If you are having issues please call the Choice Program Support Line: 866-606-8198 or visit
https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/VCP/index.asp#news

Q:  My provider has not been paid by the VA for Community (Choice) Care and it is impacting my credit score; who can I reach out to?

A:  VA Adverse Credit Helpline: 877-881-7618 VA will help you resolve adverse credit reporting and debt collection issues as a result of using the Veterans Choice Program.

Blog submitted by David Francavilla. 

Author

Beth Lamb

Beth Lamb has been a member of VA’s Veterans Experience Office since January 2017. She previously held Public Affairs positions for several Veterans Health Administration facilities and currently lives in Missouri with her family.

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