Bob Muenchausen, County Veterans Service Officer
The Grant County Veteran Services Office is a joint commitment of Grant County and the Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs to all veterans living in Grant County.
We serve as authorized/certified agents/representation to the VA for our veteran population as required by law, even though we are NOT the US Dept of Veteran Affairs itself.
This office facilitates assistance and access to a range of benefits and services offered to veterans and their family members by the US Department of Veterans Affairs AND the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs including:
- VA Health Care Benefits
- VA Compensation
- VA Pension possibilities
- VA and State Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment programs
- VA Education and Training Programs
- VA and ODVA Home Loans
- VA Burial and Memorial Benefits
- State of Oregon Disabled Veterans benefits
- State of Oregon Veteran's Home in The Dalles
To get to know more about these programs and benefits, you may view the 2014 ODVA Veteran Benefits magazine online at the link below:
And, if your wish to view the VA's Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors book, you may do so or download a PDF copy to store on your computer free at this link:
Call 541-575-1631 to make your appointment to visit with our County Veteran Services Officer
Walk-ins will be accepted as scheduling permits.
Limited available office time means that an appointment is your best assurance of having time just for your needs.
The Office is open T-W-Th from 10AM to 4PM
"When the flag flies outside our door, we are in. When it is gone, so are we!"
If you have never set foot inside a Veteran Services Office or the VA before, and now you find that you have a reason to file a claim or enroll in a program such as VA Medical Care or Education Benefits, you will need to have certain documents available in order to file that claim and to verify your eligibility for many benefits and programs.
1. A copy of your DD-214 separation from service form, either the original you were issued at separation or a certified copy. This is the key that unlocks your benefits. Without it, you are likely to be shut out from VA benefits.
If you have neither, they can normally be gotten via the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. You may get them online via the NPRC records online request site at this site --
If you use the online site, you MUST use the current Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser to access full functionality of the site. It was purposely set up to work with only that browser!
2. Other things you may need to have available when you eventually get to filing a claim or for some enrollments are:
Death Certificate (when dealing with survivor benefits to widows and dependents)
Occasionally, Medical records from private physicians or Military Medical records (which can be requested
at the same time as DD-214s from the NPRC.
And, perhaps other documents as required by the VA on request.
We will help you to get your military records if necessary, and to get other forms of evidence and documentation that supporting a claim may require.
Veterans can also access online what is perhaps the most complete VA claims and information site and become enrolled in the VA's online eBenefits program by going to their Secure and Encrypted Online Portal
The eBenefits program provides the most convenient way for those who have a need to handle their own affairs due to distance from your county office, or any other factor where convenience, privacy, security are issues that matter. The direct access to your Dept. of Defense (branch of service), VA, and National Personnel records all in one place that eBenefits provides is something even your county veteran's office cannot offer.
All VA matters on eBenefits are handled in a secure, encrypted environment to assure that your privacy and security are always and in all ways respected. Check into this program today!! It may be one of the best moves you'll make as a veteran!
eBenefits.com also provides you with a National Resources Directory - https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/nrd - which you can turn to when you need resources, like housing assistance, temporary emergency services, etc, both within and outside of the VA.
However, if you'd rather just come into our office and discuss your needs and questions in person, do please give us a call and we will make an appointment for you. 541-575-1631
All veterans are entitled to apply for VA Medical care. There are eligibility requirements which must be met, and veterans are assigned to Priority groups based on certain criteria of Service Connection and financial need. A completed application, VA Form 10-10EZ, and a copy of the veteran's DD-214, are required for determination of eligibility. Submission of these items can be accomplished through this office, or by simply taking them in person to the Burns, Oregon VA Clinic
Once accepted into the system, Veterans in Grant County generally go to the VA Clinic in Burns, OR or to the Boise VA Medical Center (VAMC, hospital) which serve this region of the VA Healthcare system. Other clinics and VAMCs can also be used by veterans from Grant County, such as the clinics in Bend and LaGrande. Many times, veterans going to any of these can occasionally be sent to another region's Medical Center, for very specific types of care not provided at their usual facility.
***NOTICE!! VA Medical Care and the Affordable Care Act.***
Enrollment in VA medical care meet ALL requirements for the Affordable Care Act, nothing else is required once enrolled.
So, Please! If you are considering VA Medical Care, do go right ahead and apply.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Straight Scoop on the VA "Choice Card" for Local Healthcare
"How 'Choice Card' and $15B will help veterans get care
By Tom Philpott
Special to Stars and Stripes
Published: July 31, 2014
"Veterans reading only headlines, hearing only sound bites, might have a few misconceptions about how Congress and the VA plan to use non-VA healthcare providers to ensure more timely and convenient access to care.
"A magical sounding item called a “Veteran’s Choice Card,” for example, won’t be a limitless credit card given qualified veterans to cover whatever health services they receive from whatever physician they use.
"And veterans not already enrolled in VA health care won’t gain accelerated access to outside care as promised by the legislation – unless they serve in areas of combat operations within five years of enrollment.
"The centerpiece of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of (HR 3230) is a special $10 billion Veterans Choice Fund. Over the next three years, VA is to use the fund as needed to buy care from non-VA care providers for veterans if they face long waits for VA care – defined initially as more than 30 days – or if they reside more than 40 miles from VA care.
The intent is to eliminate VA patient wait lists that some VA health administrators and staff conspired to hide in recent years, thus compromising the integrity of performance reports and putting patients’ health at risk.
"VA leaders and veteran service organizations prefer to attack wait times through improved resourcing. They want VA spending raised to meet actual patient demand from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the expansion of diseases presumed caused by defoliants used in Vietnam, and from higher costs of caring for aging veterans.
"So HR 3230 also authorizes VA to spend $5 billion more to expand its own capacity to deliver care, by hiring more medical and support staff and also building and leasing more space.
"House-Senate conferees, in shaping the final bill, categorized the Choice Fund as emergency money so the $10 billion gets added to the nation’s debt but not to VA budgets. The $5 billion for more VA-delivered care is to be paid through cuts elsewhere in VA, including executive bonuses and by deferring planned rate cuts for some types of VA home loans.
"The legislation mandates use of a new Veteran’s Choice Card but it isn’t a golden key to private sector care. It will be more like an informational insurance card to be presented to non-VA health care providers to identify the veteran and to verify eligibility for episodes of care that, sometime earlier, were arranged through and approved by a VA care coordinator.
"The administrative challenges ahead for VA in coordinating a vast expansion of private sector care, monitoring outside care quality and integrating those medical records back into VA health care will be profound. But the bill is said to set aside only $300 million for these added tasks.
Indeed, in reviewing the new law’s requirements, VA officials are weighing whether current Veteran Identification Cards (VICs), which are issued when veterans enroll in VA health care, might be modified to serve as the “choice card” that the new law mandates.
"Other details in the reform package will disappoint reformers who seek to fully “privatize” VA care. The bill is a series of compromises between near-term action to address the patient wait-time scandal and steps to shore up the integrated VA health care system so prized by many veterans and their service organizations. Here’s more on how non-VA care will grow:
"ELIGIBILITY – The hurdles to gain easy access to non-VA care go beyond how far veterans reside from a VA clinic or how long their wait for care. To be eligible, veterans must have enrolled in VA health care by Aug. 1, 2014 or, if they enroll later, they must have served on active duty in a theater of combat operations within five years of enrolling.
"These restrictions address cost concerns fiscal conservatives had after the Congressional Budget Office projected that up to two million more veterans would drop current health insurance and enroll with VA if given the chance to use current doctors and have VA foot the bill.
NO FIRM 30-DAY GOAL – Architects of HR 3230, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), would like non-VA care offered to any vet who can’t get a VA appointment within 30 days. But their legislation allows VA to set a different wait-time goal if they can defend it. What VA finally decides will be part of interim rules for implementing the law, to be published within 90 days of President Obama signing the bill into law.
"The bill would require that if VA can’t offer a timely appointment then it must inform the veteran electronically or, if the veteran chooses, by mail, and explain that outside care is authorized. Last year, VA spent $4.8 billion on non-VA health care but half of that involved emergency services.
40 MILES AS CROW FLIES – Veterans who reside more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or who must travel by air, boat or ferry to access VA care are to be offered non-VA care instead. VA is to use “geodesic distance” or the shortest route between two points on Earth, or, if you like, “as the crow flies.” VA’s early estimate is that 500,000 vets will qualify.
"However, House-Senate conferees in their explanatory report on HR 3230, say they do not intend the 40-mile criteria “to preclude veterans who reside closer” to a VA facility “from accessing care through non-VA providers, particularly if the VA facility…provides limited services.”
"So VA will have to clarify in regulation what 40 miles really means.
"CHOICE OF PROVIDER – Not all veterans who become eligible for non-VA care will get to choose their outside provider, and not every non-VA care provider will opt to treat veterans through the VA coordinated care program, even if the vets are existing patients. One issue for physicians will be the level of reimbursement and another the timeliness of VA payments.
"VA has existing contracts with individual physicians and with pools of private sector providers. Many more such arrangements are expected. But VA cannot pay rates higher than Medicare allows, with exceptions possible if care is delivered in very rural areas.
"Timeliness of VA payments to non-VA care providers has been a significant concern for years. The reform bill has language urging VA officials to improve their payment procedures."
And here is a copy of a "Real World" letter to a qualifiying vet explaining more about the Veteran's Choice Card they had just received in the mail...
"On Behalf of the department of veterans Affairs (VA), thank you for your service to or country. At VA, we value your commitment and strive each day to honor your service by providing you with timely and reliable access to health care and benefits - a responsibility we take very seriously.
"Three months ago, the President and Congress enacted the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 which directed the establishment of a new program to provide improved access and meet the short-term health care needs of our Nation's Veterans. This is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving.
"As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran enrolled for VA health care as of August 1, 2014 or eligible to enroll as a recently discharged combat Veteran within 5 years of separation. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on their residence, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law.
"Your Choice Card is enclosed. If your eligibility for the new program is verified, the Choice Card provides flexibility in meeting your health care needs. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits. Please do not throw away that identification card.
"While there are multiple bases for eligibility, VA's records indicate that you may be among those eligible to use the benefits of the Choice Card because your residence is more then 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Accordingly, you may request authorization through this new program to obtain needed health care from an eligible provider outside of VA. This may include one of VA's health care partners in your community, or a health care provider of your choosing, subject to certain rules.
"It is important to know the Choice Card does not provide guaranteed health care coverage or unlimited medical benefit. In fact, before your Choice Card fro this benefit can be used, your eligibility must be verified and you must receive advance authorization from VA. If you are satisfied with your local VA facility, there is nothing you need to do at this time.
"If you have questions about your eligibility or would like to start using your Choice Card for non-VA care, please call 866-606-8198 to verify your eligibility and get approval to seek care in the community based on your distance from a VA facility. If you do not confirm your eligibility by calling this number prior to seeking care in your community, you may be responsible for some or all of the costs of the non-VA treatment you receive. This does not impact any other approved non-VA care.
"When you call us,lease be prepared to provide us with information on any other health insurance coverage you have, such as employer or union-provided health plans. Providing this information is required by law and will help us assess what community-based care may already be covered by your health plan (s).
"If you would like more information on the Choice Card and this health care program, please refer to the additional materials enclosed or visit http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/.
"Thank you for your service to the Nation. We are honored you have elected to enroll in VA's health care system, and we are committed to providing the highest quality care to you and to all the Veterans we serve."
Grant County is lucky to have a volunteer service affiliated with the VA and the DAV (Disabled Vets of America) which provides transportation services to our veterans to and from these facilities. Staffed by local volunteers, this is a great convenience for veterans of all wars, and provides the needed transportation to these two vital VA Medical centers.
The DAV Van can boarded at the Elks Lodge parking lot in John Day behind the True Value Hardware on Main Street. You can find out their schedule of pick ups and returns and more information by contacting:
Please Contact Jim Jerome @ 541-620-4486 to make arrangements.
Transportation of our veterans is an important service, and this group of volunteers and others are working on making transportation ever more available to all Grant County Veterans in the future.
The Grant County Dial-a-ride has received a grant for transporting Veterans to their medical appointments!!!! Please watch the media for announcements about their expanded servicies!!
--- PRESS RELEASE ---
For Immediate Release
RURAL VETERANS TO GAIN BETTER ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
SALEM -- Oregon military veterans who reside in highly rural areas will have improved access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and services thanks to a $400,000 grant that has been designated to expand transportation services for veterans in eight counties.
The VA and the White House Rural Council have announced a national award of grants which will improve health care access for veterans across the nation. The Congressionally authorized funding program will assist more than 11,000 veterans in seven states and 56 counties by providing up to $50,000 per highly rural area to fund transportation services for veterans to and from VA medical centers and other facilities that provide health care.
The Oregon counties that will be receiving $45,000 each from this grant include Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Wallowa and Wheeler.
For thousands of veterans living in rural Oregon, the challenges of accessing the VA's health care system stem from a lack of transportation to one of the three major medicals centers across the state.
Eric Belt, the Administrator of Veterans Services for the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs (ODVA), said each of the state's counties that are receiving grant funding have unique transportation needs. The grant addresses these needs by enhancing existing community linkages and new routes established by grant funding through increasing staff, outreach and marketing.
"Many times the distance between a veteran and a VA Hospital or Community Based Clinic can be hundreds of miles apart. It's even more difficult for those who can't drive themselves," Belt said. "The grant will specifically address and improve transportation concerns so Oregon veterans may better receive VA health care and services."
As an accredited service office, the ODVA applied for the grant on behalf of eligible rural Oregon counties.
A highly rural area is defined as a county or counties with a population of fewer than seven persons per square mile. At least half of the states, including Oregon, have at least one highly rural area. About one quarter of the nation's 22 million veterans live in rural areas and a majority are enrolled in the VA health care system.
ODVA Public Information:
503-373-2386, 2389, 2390.
New VA Medical Care ID Cards to be issued!!
Please go to this site to read more about what this will mean for Vets enrolled in VA Healthcare!http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic/
New!! VA announces the new Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Program!!
For more information, please go to http://deltadentalvadip.org/
It is the first national dental program authorized by the US Government for eligible Veterans Affairs beneficiaries! You have the freedom to choose which plan best meets your needs: Standard, Enhanced, or Comprehensive.
You can sign up online at the internet address provided above, or stop by your Grant County Veteran Services office for more info and forms. Once signed up, your local provider is Advantage Dental in John Day.
Congress passes new VA Veterans Choice Program and Card for local medical care card. Please go to the page on this site for Vet Services for more in depth information at this time. It is coming but not quite ready for primetime.