About the Choice Program
In 2014 the VA created the Choice Program for Veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a Veterans Administration Healthcare facility. Under the Choice Program, a Veteran could call the VA healthcare facility he was assigned to, explain he lived more than 40 miles away and wanted to visit a healthcare facility closer to his home. The VA would coordinate care for the Veteran and make arrangements for the VA to pay the bill. At least this is the way the program was designed to work.
Unfortunately, many of these rural healthcare providers have gone unpaid for months and in some cases years. Veterans are receiving bills in the thousands of dollars from facilities they thought had been paid long ago threatening to take the money from their bank accounts.
Change is Coming
In June 2018 Congress got involved, passing a massive overhaul called The VA Mission Act. One of the many items addressed by this bill is the requirement that the VA will have to pay bills to Choice providers within 30 days when filed electronically or 45 days when filed by mail. If these bills are not paid on time, they will begin to accrue interest, something Congress does not want to pay.
To make sure this is happening, the VA is required to report to Congress each month the number of claims outstanding, how many days late each payment is, and how much interest is due on the arrearage.
The law gives Congress authority to hire an outside company to handle these payments on behalf of the VA if Congress finds the VA cannot fix the problems that exist. However, it is expected the VA will be given some time to correct the situation.
Not a Done Deal
The VA Mission Act is long overdue, but don’t look for these corrections to take place tomorrow. The bill is still working its way through the Rulemaking process in Congress. It could be some time before implementation begins.
In the meantime, if you are contacted by a provider about an overdue bill from the VA, a toll-free number (877-881-7618) has been established for you to call. Don’t wait until your credit has been affected.
The program provides:
- Peer support mentoring,
- A support phone line, and
- A website with a wealth of resources on family caregiving.
The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, a program specifically for eligible Post 9/11 Veterans and their caregivers, offers additional support and services, including access to health insurance and financial assistance. The primary family caregiver must meet certain criteria but is not required to be the Veteran’s spouse.
Click here to learn more about the Caregiver Support Program.
Women Veterans Eligible for Many Benefits
While female Veterans have access to all of the benefits male Veterans enjoy, including Veterans health care and pharmacy programs, educational benefits, compensation for disabilities, VA home loans, and job assistance.
“Some women Veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”
The hotline for women Veterans (1-855-VA-WOMEN) is the latest in a growing suite of hotlines the VA is hosting to make sure critical information regarding available assistance is quickly available to Veterans. Female Veterans may also visit the Center for Women Veterans for additional information and programs available specifically for women.
Other Available Hotlines
Other hotlines available to both male and female Veterans include a hotline for Veterans in crisis (considering suicide) and another for Veterans facing the possibility or reality of homelessness. Veterans can receive information and apply for benefits online at VA’s www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.
I worked for 35 years in the civil litigation world where U.S. companies are accused of hiding evidence and refusing to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees, and I can say those accusations have been proven true in some cases. There was definitely a desire to cover up for financial gain.
Let me qualify this paragraph that these comments are my opinion only and not those of Legacy Beyond Valor. But as I have been researching the web for Agent Orange, Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune, and now Asbestos exposure, I see a government that is being completely open and accepts responsibility where they have learned their personnel have fallen ill and need medical assistance. If you go to the link I provide in the next paragraph, and if you follow the links on that page to other pages, you will see that the VA describes how they got into using asbestos products, where they were used, and how they have now come to realize they were dangerous to those who worked with them. Not only no cover-up, but instead statements of regret and acceptance of responsibility.
I am not going to repeat the enormous detail given on the VA website regarding Asbestos exposure. Instead, I highly recommend you go to the site and read in detail how open they are regarding who was exposed and what they plan to do for them. I am going to simply point veterans who have come down with mesothelioma or cancer to the following links where they can file a claim and begin receiving assistance.
Did you serve in any of the following occupations?
- Shipyard work,
- Insulation work,
- Demolition of old buildings,
- Carpentry and construction,
- Manufacturing and installation of products such as flooring, roofing, cement sheet, pipe products, or
- Servicing of friction products such as clutch facings and brake linings.
Did you serve in Iraq or any other Middle Eastern country?
- You must be a Veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- You must have been exposed to asbestos while in military service.
- You must have a disease or disability related to the asbestos exposure that occurred in military service.
- Your military record must show you actually served where Asbestos exposure is known to have occurred; such as the Middle East.
- You must have served in one of the specialties the VA has identified (see the list above, but do not assume it is all-inclusive).
- You must claim and have evidence of a medical diagnosis of a disease or disability known to be related to asbestos.
- Your military record must connect your service to one of the known exposures.
How to Apply
- Apply online using the eBenefits portal, OR
- Work with an accredited representative or agent, OR
- Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find your regional office on our Facility Locator page
- For more information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, visit our How to Apply
Learn more about health risks related to asbestos exposure from the VA Office of Public Health. If you are concerned about health problems associated with exposure to asbestos during your military service, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator. If you are a Veteran, but are not enrolled in the VA health care system, you can find out if you qualify for VA health care.
Exposure to Agent Orange In Vietnam
Dates of Service
January 9, 1962 through May 7, 1975
Definition of “Service in Vietnam”
- Service on land in Vietnam or on the inland waterways of Vietnam, including Veterans who:
- Set foot in Vietnam. This includes:
- Brief visits ashore
- When a ship docked to the shore of Vietnam
- When a ship operated in Vietnam’s close coastal waters for extended periods and crew members went ashore
- Smaller vessels from the ship went ashore with supplies or personnel. (The Veteran must provide a statement of personally going ashore.)
- Served on a ship while it operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam
- Set foot in Vietnam. This includes:
Presumed Eligible for VA Disability Benefits
- Presumed to have been exposed to herbicides (Agent Orange Act of 1991)
- Do not need to prove exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides
Blue Water Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure
Definition of “Blue Water Veterans”
Veterans who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War
Exposure to Agent Orange
- Not presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides.
- Have served on ships on the inland waterways of Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975
- Have set foot in Vietnam or
- If they did not meet the above criteria, they must show
- They were exposed to herbicides during military service.
- These claims are decided on a case-by-case basis.
- Exception: Veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in Vietnam 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
List of Ships Associated with Service in Vietnam
See VBA’s “Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange” Web page.
HMD report on Agent Orange exposure
The VA’s Health and Medical Division (HMD) report concluding “the committee was unable to state with certainty whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange,” (the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure) was released in May 2011.
Eligible Veterans may receive the following VA benefits:
- Medical benefits.
- Disability compensation: A monthly payment for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.
- Other benefits: Home loans, vocational rehabilitation, education, and more
- Survivors’ benefits: Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and died as the result of diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.
Need help determining exposure?
VA can help determine Agent Orange exposure or qualifying service in Vietnam after you file a claim for compensation benefits.
Then you’ll want to read this!
It has been officially determined that people who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water. You can read more about the specifics of the chemical contamination at this link.
Presumptive Service Connection
As of 2017, the following eight diseases have been declared to have a presumptive service connection for Veterans, Reservists, and National Guard members living or working at Camp Lejeune during the affected dates:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
It has been determined that enough scientific and medical evidence exists to support the creation of presumptions for these illnesses.
The Final Rule Regarding Presumptive Service Connection
You can read the final rule released by the VA on January 13, 2017, at this link. It will become effective either 60 days following publication in the Federal Register, or after conclusion of the 60-day Congressional Review, whichever is later.
If you suffer from another condition that you believe may have resulted from exposure to chemicals at Camp LeJeune, you can still file a claim. The only difference is no presumption that your illness was caused by your service-related exposure to contaminated water. The VA will consider the documentation you submit and make a determination on a one-by-one basis.
Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
The 2012 Camp Lejeune health care law provides cost-free health care to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune from January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.
Qualifying health conditions include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Hepatic steatosis
- Neurobehavioral effects
If you are eligible for coverage for any of these 15 conditions under the 2012 Camp Lejeune health care law, all medical services, including co-pays, will be at no cost to you.
Family member health care reimbursement
If your family lived at Camp Lejeune with you during the period outlined above, they may also be eligible for reimbursement for the same 15 covered health conditions. Unfortunately, the VA will only pay the costs paid by you after all insurance coverage has paid its share.
How to apply for assistance
Apply online or call 1-877-222-8387.
Inform VA staff that you served on active duty at Camp Lejeune
for at least 30 days during the covered time period.
For more detailed information on the application process, click here.
What type of evidence can I submit with my family application?
- Marriage license or birth certificate showing your relationship to a Veteran who served at Camp Lejeune during the covered period.
- Proof you lived on the base for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1987 (i.e., copies of orders or base housing records).
- Evidence you paid health care expenses for a covered condition respective to the following date ranges:
- If you lived on Camp Lejeune between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987, then you can be reimbursed for care that you received on or after August 6, 2012.
- If you lived on Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1956, then you can be reimbursed for care that you received on or after December 16, 2014.
If you cannot submit evidence to support your claim, the VA will examine its internal sources and the Department of Defense (DoD) to support your application. This may take longer to complete a review of your application.