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Health care limits receive needed boost BILL SMITH VIEWS ON VETERANS

MILITARY VETERANS WHO have served in combat since Nov. 11, 1998, including veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, are now eligible for five years of free medical care for most conditions through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This measure increases a two-year limit that has been in effect for nearly a decade.

The new five-year limit has no ill effect on veterans with medical conditions related to their military service. Veterans may apply at anytime after their discharge from military service, even decades later, for medical care for service-connected health problems. The new provision, part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 signed by President Bush on Jan. 28, 2008, applies to care in a VA hospital, outpatient clinic or nursing home.

It also extends VA dental benefits previously limited to 90 days after discharge for most veterans to 180 days. Combat veterans discharged between Nov. 11, 1998, and Jan. 16, 2003, who have never taken advantage of the VA’s health care system have until Jan. 27, 2011, to qualify for the free VA health care.

The five-year window is also open to activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, if they served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998, and were discharged other than a dishonorable discharges. Veterans who take advantage of this five-year window to receive VA health care benefits can continue to receive care after five years, although they may have to pay co-payments for medical problems unrelated to their military service stints. Co-payments range from $8 for a 30-day supply of prescription medicine to $1,024 for the first 90 days of inpatient care each year.

This information comes from the Public Affairs Media Relations of the VA, Washington, D.C, 20420. Phone 202-461-7600 or visit www.va.gov.

Holiday is bittersweet

This holiday signals the coming of spring, then summer and all that comes with the season of summer. To those who wear the uniform of this country it means another holiday away from their families and homes while they serve their country and place their lives in jeopardy every day.

The families that these soldiers are separated from hope and pray for their safe return, and once again ardently plea for an end to the war zones now so designated as war theaters.

Sure these young, patriotic Americans will miss being home but they are also aware that they too have duties to perform and act upon to perhaps bring these conflicts to a conclusion.

Veterans of all conflicts have been through holidays such as Easter and have done so with honor, determination and dedication.

Of course you are missed and those at home are bearing your absence each and every day in the same way soldiers serve with iron-willed determination and hope. Let it be known prayers are being offered each and every day asking that your safe return be upon the horizon in the very near future.

Happy Easter!

The new five-year limit has no ill effect on veterans with medical conditions related to their military service. Veterans may apply at anytime after their discharge from military service, even decades later, for medical care for service-connected health problems.

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