Home Front program shows vets the 'starting point' for benefits

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kevin Chandler
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs
Local military members and their spouses received important information regarding veteran health benefits during the March Behavioral Health Support Office's Home Front UTA program.

Since May 2008, Home Front UTA has hosted experts from various community support agencies. Deborah Ross, behavioral health support coordinator for the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, said the program successfully informs local military members what benefits are available to them.

One such benefit is health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The difficulty in finding affordable health care has generated much national attention, but veterans may be entitled to health benefits at little or no cost.

Mr. Don Sutton, an OEF/OIF transition patient advocate with the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, encourages those returning from deployments to contact the VA immediately upon their return home. He says making an appointment to see a VA doctor and filling out some paperwork opens the door to many potential benefits.

"They need to walk in and get a doctor, get into our system," he said. "Every process has a starting point and (for VA health benefits) this is it."

Once in the system, all returnees are entitled to five years of free care for all deployment related illnesses or injuries. Veterans can also apply for other health benefits and disability compensation and speak to social workers and counselors.

According to Mr. Sutton, procrastination can be devastating. He tells the story of an Army veteran who failed to apply for health care benefits before getting into a motorcycle accident. Had he applied and been eligible for VA health care, he would have only incurred $1,000 in medical bills, instead of the $120,000 bill he now has.

"It's just devastating," Mr. Sutton said, shaking his head.

For more information on VA health care benefits and eligibility visit www.va.gov/healtheligibility/ or call the Veterans Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-8387.