- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 4, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My daughter and I are eligible for ChampVA health care services. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to use them. I’m looking for a family practice physician for the two of us along with a medical facility. My husband is a disabled veteran and uses the Veterans Affairs hospital in Bedford, Mass. How do we use our ChampVA benefits with a local doctor and hospital? I read that a facility that honors Tricare will also honor ChampVA. How do I find both physician and hospital that honor both?

Yours truly,

Lois D.

Dear Lois:

I suggest you go to the Web site of the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (ChampVA), which has a wealth of good information. Included on the Web page is an e-mail address for specific questions on ChampVA, not answered from the Web site materials. The site is www.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/champva/champva.asp.

Shaft notes

• The good news is that more than 1 million visually impaired veterans will receive enhanced health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs under a reorganization of VA’s vision rehabilitation services, as announced by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson.

“These veterans, many of whom had their vision damaged by their military service, have earned the best health care America can provide,” Mr. Nicholson said. “Under this new plan, we can provide all eligible visually impaired veterans with world-class health care closer to their homes.”

VA will make approximately $40 million available during the next three years to establish a comprehensive nationwide rehabilitation system for veterans and active-duty personnel with visual impairments. The system will enhance inpatient services and expand outpatient services throughout the 1,400 locations where VA provides health care.

Under the reorganization plan, each of VA’s 21 regional networks — called Veterans Integrated Service Networks, or VISNs — will implement a plan to provide eye care to veterans with visual impairments ranging from 20/70 to total blindness. Basic low-vision services will be available at all VA eye clinics, and every network will offer intermediate and advanced low-vision services, including a full spectrum of optical devices and electronic visual aids.

VA’s 10 existing inpatient blind rehabilitation centers will continue to provide the department’s most intensive eye care programs, but each VISN also will provide outpatient-based blind rehabilitation care.

“We intend to ensure that our visually impaired patients receive appropriate care and the latest technological devices at the right time and in the best setting to meet their needs,” said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA’s acting undersecretary for health. “Our goal will be early intervention, so that we can maximize the independence of these veterans and substantially reduce their dependence on their families and communities.”

After the start of Healthy Weight Week (Jan. 21 to 27), more than 41,000 veterans were participating in a weight-management program designed by the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce the high rates of illness among VA’s patients caused by obesity.

“There is a growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the nation, especially among veterans,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson. “Seventy percent of the veterans VA cares for are overweight and one in five has diabetes, both of which increase the risk of many diseases.”

The MOVE (Managing Overweight Veterans Everywhere) program encourages veterans enrolled in VA care to get in shape and offers information to family members and anyone else trying to lose weight through an Internet link.

VA started MOVE to encourage veterans to increase their physical activity and improve their nutrition. Through individual and group counseling, physicians, nurses, dietitians and recreational therapists help enrollees change their eating behavior and increase their exercise. Primary-care teams at all VA medical centers stay in touch with participants to track their progress. Increasing numbers of VA community-based clinics also are enrolling veterans.

“The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band and Marine Chamber Ensembles are presenting several concerts this month, including a program on Sunday in the District.

The concert will start at 2 p.m. at the John Philip Sousa Band Hall, at Marine Barracks Annex and Band Support Facility, 600 Virginia Ave. in Southeast. The program will feature George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” as well as works by Dana Wilson, William Albright and Morton Gould.

For more information, call 202/433-4011 or visit www.marineband.usmc.mil.

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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