MedFlight911 Air Ambulance on Working Your Way through the VA
As an air ambulance provider, we are proud of our ability to assist in caregiving in a specific way at a crucial time. However, the journey of caregiving is long and requires aid from a variety of sources. In previous blogs we have discussed resources such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Stepping Stones of Hope and hospice.
There are many other resources available to caregivers, but consistently, the caregiver resource that brings the most confusion is the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, formerly and still commonly called the Veteran’s Administration or the VA. Caregivers often have many questions regarding services, eligibility, and how to prove eligibility after “that fire.” Here are some answers to help you make your way through the VA system – to get the benefits you or your loved one need.
What services does the VA provide?
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has three main subdivisions:
- Veterans Health Administration, which is responsible for providing health care in all forms. The VA operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,400 sites including hospitals, clinics, community centers, counseling centers and other facilities.
- Veterans Benefits Administration is responsible for initial veteran registration, eligibility determination and Home Loan Guaranty, Insurance, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Education (GI Bill) and Compensation & Pension.
- National Cemetery Administration provides burial and memorial benefits.
Who is eligible for services?
This is the most common question asked about VA benefits – am I eligible? Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, Environmental Science Services Administration or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or its predecessor, the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Generally, men and women veterans with similar service may be entitled to the same VA benefits.
Eligibility for health care benefits is limited to those who served in active military, naval or air service and who were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable discharge. Reservists and National Guard members may also qualify. Upon enrollment, veterans are assigned to a priority group to help the VA balance demand. There are 8 different priority groups; division into groups is determined by medical need, disability, and income. For example, a veteran with 50% or higher service-connected disability is a Group 1 and is provided comprehensive care and medication at no charge.
Qualification for certain VA benefits requires the veteran to have served during wartime. The VA recognizes these war periods:
- World War I: April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918. For veterans who served in Russia, April 6, 1917 through April 1, 1920.
- World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946.
- Korean War: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955.
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975. For veterans who served in Vietnam, the beginning date is February 28, 1961.
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a not yet determined end date.
How do I receive benefits?
A veteran seeking benefits for the first time must submit a copy of his or her service discharge form (DD-214, DD-215 or WD form). This form should document the service dates and type of discharge or give the veteran’s full name, military service number, branch, and dates of service.
For family members seeking benefits, the following documents are required:
- Veteran’s marriage certificate for claims of a surviving spouse or children
- Veteran’s death certificate (if the veteran died in a VA care facility, a death certificate is not needed)
- Children’s birth certificates or adoption papers to determine children’s benefits
- The veteran’s birth certificate to determine parents’ benefits
What about that fire?
When discussing veteran’s benefits the second most common question is “What if my records were lost in that fire?” “That fire” refers to a 1973 fire at the National Archives and Records Administration which caused the loss of approximately 16-18 million military personnel records. The records of 80% of U.S. Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960 and 75% of Air Force personnel discharged from 1947 to 1964 were lost and no duplicate copies existed. So, what does a veteran do if their records were lost in the fire?
- If the veteran or beneficiary filed a claim before 1973, the VA should have records
- Service information can often be found in organizational records including unit morning reports, payroll or military orders on file at the NPRC
- Sometimes records can be obtained through the state veteran services offices
Dealing with an organization the size of the VA can be daunting. Keep careful notes, make copies of all records and never give away your original copy.
As an air medical transport provider, we provide a crucial service for caregivers at a very specific time. There are many other resources available to aid caregivers on their journey. Our goal in writing caregiver resources blog posts is educate you on available resources. Please let us know if you have any questions or issues you would like us to address.