By Larry Dandridge
Private insurance, Medicare, or Tricare may go away or become unaffordable;
Mental health care may not be covered by existing insurance;
The vet may need a vaccination not be available at other sources;
The vet they may not be able to afford Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance, or other health insurance; and
The closest major medical services may be a VA Medical Center (VAMC) or clinic.
Another important reason for applying for VA health care is, the VA Medical Centers get 90% of their funding based on numbers of Vets enrolled and the complexity and frequency of their care needs. The sooner we educate vets on the fact that, they are not taking away from other vets by enrolling in VA health care, the better.
Every patient seen at a VAMC is assigned to a patient classification based on the type and amount of care received. If veterans do not apply for their hard-earned VA health care and do not contact, by phone, zoom, or in person, their primary care physician, patients can fall below the optimal category or even fall completely out of the funding model, resulting in a significant negative financial impact to the VAMC.
Veterans like me, living in the LowCountry of SC, who are also retired military and use Medicare and Tri-Care and perhaps other private insurance need to also apply for VA Health Care, get a Primary Care Physician and Social Worker assigned, and visit their Primary Care Doctor at least once every two years. This will ensure that our terrific Ralph H. Johnson (RHJ) VAMC is adequately funded and help make certain that our VAMC Center remains in the top 10% of all public and private hospitals in the USA based on quality of care.
Some of us veterans, who have other health insurance, may decide to use, if eligible, the VA for some but not all of their health care based on:
Better care being available through the VA, prescriptions are all but free, a patient can be approved to see a civilian doctor, the RHJVAMC is a flagship health care facility;
Hearing aids/eye glasses are free, transportation to and from the VAMC is free, free Fisher House lodging for families is available;
Enrolling in VA Health Care does not prevent a Vet from using other health care and other reasons.
Vets seeing their VA Doctor, at least once every two years, will enable the VA to get funding for that veteran and allow our RHJVAMC to have the best equipment, facilities, staff, pharmacy, software, publications, tools, training, parking, transportation, and other capabilities. If a Vet does not see their Primary Care Doc every two years, they will be dropped from the rolls of their VAMC and the VA will assume the Veteran has moved to another VA area of responsibility, expired, or stopped using the VA Health system —– and their VAMC will lose funding.
So, the message is clear. Veterans should:
Contact the RHJVAMC Eligibility/Enrollment Office, located in room B189, 109 Bee Street, Charleston, SC 29401, phone 843-789-7008. Enter thru the main entrance to the hospital, which faces Bee Street, and the eligibility office is located near the center of the lobby. Make sure you sign in at the automated Kiosk to get a place in line and a numbered ticket. Your ticket number will be called when it is your turn to enter the Eligibility Office. It takes 48 hours after you apply for an eligibility determination to get an answer from the Eligibility Office.
When you go to the Eligibility Office, take a legible copy of your DD214 and a picture form of identification (driver’s license, SC ID card, passport, etc.). You will need to fill out a VA Enrolment Application for Health Benefits Form 10-10EZ. You can download the 10-10EZ Form at https://www.va.gov/find-forms/about-form10-10ez/ or you can call the RHJ VA Eligibility Office at 843-789-7008 and they will send you a copy of the blank form.
You may use any of the following sources to request help in filling out the VA 10-10ez form: The RHJ VA Medical Center Eligibility Office, VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387), the VA’s website at http://www.va.gov and select “Contact the VA”, or a National or State Veterans Service Organization (VSO). You can find a list of SC County Vets Service Offices at https://scdva.sc.gov/county-veterans-affairs-offices.
Once you are determined eligible for VA health care, ask for a Primary Care Physician to be assigned to you and schedule a base-line phone, zoom, or in-person visit with him or her. Also ask who your nurse and social worker will be.
Use your health care benefits whenever you decide you need them.
Schedule a visit with your VA Primary care Physician at least once every two years to ensure you remain enrolled at your local VAMC.
Larry Dandridge is a patient at the RHJ VA Medical Center; an Army ex-Enlisted Infantryman, Ex-Warrant Officer Combat Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel; a past Veterans Service Officer; a volunteer Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Medical Center; the Fisher House Charleston volunteer Good Will Ambassador; the volunteer VP for Veteran Affairs for the Coastal Carolina Association of the US Army (AUSA) Chapter; the Author of the award winning BLADES OF THUNDER (Book One); the CEO of TVV Publishing LLC; a past Aerospace Company Regional Manager; the Founder of CLC Hospice LLC; a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt; a Motivational Speaker; a past University Business, Aeronautics, Military Science, and Writing Instructor; and a contributing writer for the Lowcountry Weekly & Island News. You can reach Larry at LDandridge@earthlink.net.