Sunday, April 21, 2024


Not a day goes by when I do not tell someone about the advantages of the VA health care sys­tem, including potential financial savings. There are probably a few days when I do not hear about the rising costs of nearly everything. I am going to slowly climb onto my VA health care soapbox and share a recent announcement that may help some Veterans save money.

The entire press release from 02/26/2024 can be read here: news.va.gov/press-room/veteran-toxins-hazards-serving-eligible-va/

All Veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving in the military — at home or abroad — will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care beginning March 5, 2024. This means that all Veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghan­istan, the Global War on Terror, or any other combat zone after 9/11 will be eligible to enroll directly in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits. Additionally, Veterans who have nev­er deployed but were exposed to toxins or haz­ards while training or on active duty in the Unit­ed States will also be eligible to enroll.

As directed by President Biden, this expansion of VA health care eliminates the phased-in ap­proach called for by the PACT Act — meaning that millions of Veterans are becoming eligible for VA health care up to eight years earlier than written into law. This is a critical step forward because Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care are proven to have better health outcomes than non-enrolled Veterans, and VA hospitals have dramatically outperformed non-VA hospitals in overall quality ratings and patient satisfaction ratings. Additionally, VA health care is often more affordable than non-VA health care for Veterans.

“If you’re a Veteran who may have been exposed to toxins or hazards while serving our country, at home or abroad, we want you to come to us for the health care you deserve,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “VA is proven to be the best, most affordable health care in America for Veterans – and once you’re in, you have access for life. So don’t wait, enroll starting March 5th.”

This expansion also covers many Veterans who never deployed as a part of a conflict but were ex­posed to toxins or hazards while serving in the U.S. Specifically, under this expansion of care, any Veteran who participated in a toxic exposure risk activity (TERA) — at home or abroad – is eligible for VA health care.

The application process is relatively easy and free. For more information call MyVA411 at 800- 698-2411, online at va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction, or schedule an appoint­ment with your CVSO.

Brad Anderson and Melissa Crandall are the Lake County Veterans Service Officers and can be reached at 218.834.8326 or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Veterans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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