Having referred hundreds of veterans to the VA, I was familiar with the bureaucratic side of the enrollment process, but not the client side, so I took the opportunity as a chance to learn firsthand what VA enrollment looks like. There were some hurdles, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.
This post aims to inform you about some challenges you may face and some information that may help you overcome them based on my experiences in Bedford.
Challenge 1 - Finding the Admissions Office
Seems funny, but it's true. The parking lot is large and across the street, leaving you with a view of buildings that all look the same. You are looking for the flag pole and the building numbered "2." Here you will find a reception area and a person capable of letting you know you need to proceed straight through to building 78 (you do not need to go outside), onto the elevator and up to the first floor. Once there, sign in and what to speak with an admissions specialist.
Challenge 2 - Enrollment
In my next post I am going to discuss enrollment, both eligibility and how to enroll, but a quick warning for this blog post, it's helpful to go to a VA medical center armed with knowledge about the enrollment process. At a minimum, you need to bring the following in order to fill out the VA form called the 10-10EZ with the admissions specialist. Of course, if you are more tech savvy, you can sign up online or over the phone.
1.) Identification (two types)
2.) DD214 showing honorable or general under honorable service
3.) Basic demographic information
4.) Income information (annual) for your household
5.) Information about your service connected disability (if it applies)
Challenge 3 - Know the Process
Once enrolled, the VA has a process for bringing veterans into the system.
1.) Confirm enrollment
2.) Gather labs for primary care visit
3.) Complete patient orientation
4.) Meet with primary care for a physical
During your admissions interview, you will have the chance to speak with a scheduler to make appointments for your labs and your first physical. The fasting lab is quick; however, you will need to keep from eating for 10-12 hours before the blood draw and you will need to provide a urine sample. The patient orientation is also useful, providing you with 90 minutes of briefs and a chance to ask questions about VA healthcare. Finally, once oriented, you will meet with a primary care and have full access to the VA healthcare system.
Challenge 4 - Not Every Veteran is Eligible
Some people are surprised by this, but federal law limits the number of veterans using the VA system by necessitating income testing and creating priority groups. If you make more the VA National Income standards, you may be ineligible for VA care unless you meet other criteria. These are, but are not limited to...
1.) Service-connected disabled veterans
2.) Purple heart recipients
3.) Vietnam veterans (boots on ground)
4.) Recently returned veterans
5.) Other exempted veterans like POWs, toxin exposed veterans and veteran serving in the gulf war eras
Our district is committed to connecting veterans to the federal benefits they earned and deserved. If you would like to take advantage of the Bedform VAMC services, please contact our offices and we will assist you with the process. Future district services may include:
1.) Enrollment trips to the VA
2.) Group counseling sessions
3.) Internet application working groups
So the final question you have is why did it take me so long to enroll? The answer is simple, like many veterans I k now, I am a better advocate for my peers than I am for myself on occasion. I don't have a good excuse, but I do hope that my story might prompt you to start taking advantage of your federal benefits.