If you know a veteran, please forward this issue to him or her as it provides important updates, resources, and information.
In this Update:
Veterans: Now is a Good Time to Review and Update Benefits
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) says that the start of the year is a good time for veterans to meet with an accredited veteran service officer to ensure they are receiving or maximizing the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice while in unform.
Safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step for securing benefits. Filing these documents for free at the county courthouse is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future. Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can call the DMVA at 800-547-2838 or email RA-REQ@pa.gov.
VA Begins Processing Disability Compensation Claims Under PACT Act
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has, as of Jan. 1, begun processing claims for all veterans under the PACT Act.
Prior to Jan. 1, the VA began reviewing disability compensation claims for veterans who have a terminal illness.
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 (PACT Act) was signed into law last year to address our service members’ exposure to burn pits and other toxic substances.
The act provides expanded access to health care and disability benefits for veterans harmed by certain toxic exposures, whether in the jungles of Vietnam or the mountains of Afghanistan. It will also let the VA move more quickly and comprehensively in the future to determine if illnesses are related to military service, and it will offer critical support to survivors who were harmed by exposures, including from water contamination at Camp LeJeune.
If you believe you experienced health issues because of burn pit exposure, you can call the VA at 1-800-MyVA411 (1-800-698-2411) to get more information about filing a claim. You can also learn more about the PACT Act and sign up here.
If you need help applying for benefits, the VA, accredited representatives, and Veteran Service Officers are always standing by and ready to help. The American Legion also offers accredited American Legion service officers who are specially trained to provide expert assistance, free of charge, to veterans and their families.
There’s no cost for the forms, no fees to apply, and the VA will never charge veterans for processing a claim.
Farmer Veteran Grant Recipients Announced
During Military Appreciation Day at the 107th Pennsylvania Farm Show, the first recipients of the PA Farm Bill’s Farmer Veteran Grant program were announced.
This Farmer Veteran Grant program is available through the Agriculture Business Development Center which was created by the PA Farm Bill. Through the PA Farm Bill, the Department of Agriculture awarded $200,000 to two veterans’ service organizations – Community Partnership Inc. (Butler, Butler County) and Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Network (Greensburg, Westmoreland County) – which are offering the farmer veteran grants.
Grants of up to $10,000 have been awarded for various agricultural business needs including the purchase of cattle handling equipment, hay storage, value-added processing equipment for chicken, livestock watering equipment, and construction of a farm store, among other projects.
The 11 recipients of the grants are:
VALife: The VA’s Newest Life Insurance Program
The VA’s newest whole life insurance program is the Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALife). It offers cash value and very competitive premium rates.
Enrollment opened on Jan. 1 for all service-connected veterans ages 80 and under.
More information about the program is available here.
Tricare Mail Order Refills Must be Reconfirmed Starting Jan. 1
Tricare, the U.S. military’s health care program and government-managed health insurance, is requiring patients using its mail order pharmacy to confirm that they want their prescriptions refilled, rather than sending them automatically.
Express Scripts, Tricare’s pharmacy benefits manager, began notifying patients in early December 2022 about the change. According to the email, Tricare Mail Order Pharmacy users will receive a notification via email or text when their prescription is up for a refill and must log in to confirm the request.
According to the Tricare, once authorized, Express Scripts will send the medication. If a beneficiary turns down a refill or does not respond, the prescription will be removed from the automatic refill program, but Express Scripts will continue sending reminder notifications until the prescription expires.
Veterans in Suicidal Crisis Can Seek Free Emergency Health Care
As of Jan. 17, veterans in acute suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost, including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.
This expansion of care is intended to help prevent veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to veterans in times of crisis.
It’s also important to note that it is expected to increase access to acute suicide care for up to nine million veterans who are not currently enrolled in the VA.
Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:
Registration is Open for PA VFW Annual Women Veterans Retreat March 24-26
Each spring, the Pennsylvania Department of VFW hosts a Women Veterans Retreat at little or no cost to participants thanks to donations from VFW posts and districts.
This year’s retreat will be held March 24-26 (March is Women Veterans Month) at the Pittsburgh Mariott North, 100 Cranberry Woods Dr, Cranberry Twp, PA 16066.
The retreat is an opportunity for women veterans of all services and eras to gather in camaraderie to honor the dedication and sacrifices of all women who served and are serving today. The weekend focuses on services and opportunities available to women veterans.
What are Vet Centers?
VA vet centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for war-zone veterans and their families, from World War II to the current Global War on Terror.
Vet centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.
Our region is served by the Lancaster Vet Center, which is one of 12 vet centers in Pennsylvania and more than 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at vet centers you can form social connections, try new things and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed.
Who is Eligible to Receive Services at Vet Centers?
Vet center services are available to veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access vet center services if you:
Contacting Your Local Vet Center
Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a vet center, please contact a center.
Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of veterans who were receiving vet center services at the time of the veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.
The Lancaster Vet Center, located at 1817 Olde Homestead Lane, Suite 207, Lancaster, PA 17601, can be contacted at 717-283-0735 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).
The other vet center locations in Pennsylvania are:
For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov.