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Veterans’ Administration: Myths and facts for 2019

With new laws in place for Veterans’ Administration programs, it is important to separate what is true from false speculation. Rumors fly, and people fear their benefits are going away.

The government shutdown and politically hostile climate may have added to a feeling of insecurity. Many veterans worry about how new laws may affect their benefits.  

Myth #1: New restrictions cut private health care access

Private health care access is currently available to veterans who must drive 40 miles or wait a month or more for an appointment at a VA medical facility. For some living in rural areas, road condition such as poor infrastructure, excessive curves through hills and valleys caused slow travel. For those in urban areas, heavy traffic made their drive time difficult, but they did not live far enough away to qualify for private care. Common sense prevails in the new law’s requirement.

Drive time now determines access to private health if it takes 30 minutes or more to reach the nearest VA facility. The rural driver or the urban commuter, regardless of miles, can elect to seek private health care to minimize the travel hardship. The appointment wait time before getting private care is 20 days under the new law, and a further reduction to 14 days may occur by next year. Veterans may still access VA facilities, regardless of the law’s new benefits, if they wish, but they should not have to drive hours or wait a month to get decent health care. 

Myth #2: Government shutdowns disrupt veterans’ support payments

Although veterans who work for the government in jobs categorized as essential must work without pay, this does not affect veteran support benefits. The VA department has full funding in place throughout the year. There should be no interruptions to veteran support programs.  

Myth #3: Medicaid limits that determine eligibility will hurt veterans

For many years, veterans in financial need were victims of arbitrarily approved or denied applications. No rule stated a maximum asset amount by which to accept or deny a claim. The new law uses Medicaid’s maximum community spouse resource allowance, also called CSRA, to set a net worth limit.

Veterans already receiving benefits or those who plan to apply on behalf of an incapacitated elder naturally want to maximize a veteran’s benefits and eligibility. It may be helpful to get information from a qualified legal professional who understands the complex laws.