- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The Viera Outpatient Clinic (OPC) is a well-run clinic but like other VA facilities in Florida it has more veterans to serve than it has staff or funds. Several disabled veterans have told me that when they need medical care that cannot be provided at the Viera OPC they are sent to the Tampa VAMC. We are on the Atlantic Ocean, and Tampa is on the Gulf of Mexico. The vets tell me that when they have asked to receive these medical services locally they have been denied.

What is the VA policy? If fee basis is allowed for service-connected disabilities, what action should a veteran take if his request is denied?

Dennis W.

Melbourne, Fla.

Dear Dennis:

VA officials tell me that fee-basis care may be authorized to treat service-connected disabilities when VA has determined that available VA facilities do not have the necessary services required for treatment; the veteran is not able to access VA health care facilities based on geographic constraints or due to medical emergencies; or when it is economically advantageous to provide treatment using fee basis. These determinations are left to local management because they are in the position to best apply these considerations.

In the case of veterans in Central Florida, staff members at the Orlando VAMC, which is responsible for the Viera OPC, review all fee requests individually to determine the entitlement of veterans in accordance with established Veterans Health Administration guidelines and to determine clinical urgency.

Should a veteran’s request for fee basis be denied, the veteran may seek reconsideration of the decision through the local Patient Advocate’s Office. VA has outlined this appeal process through issuance of VHA Directive 2006-057 “VHA Clinical Appeals.”

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a funeral director (25 years) and a veteran (three years Army). I have developed a unique program that displays all military medals issued from World War II to the recently issued campaign medals for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Developed for display with veterans groups, there is a companion tabletop display stand that holds information pages that describes each of the 97 depicted medals in detail. Award criteria, design symbolism and the ribbon color meanings are all explained.

This is a brand new program and I thought your readers might like to know about it. Your readers can contact me for additional information.

Thomas A. Poolton

www.colorsofhonor.com

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

It’s bad enough that the Navy Exchange buys its gasoline from Citgo (it’s probably a long-term contract, but I hope the NEX is working its way out of the deal).

However, here’s what Citgo thinks of the U.S. military’s own credit card: the NEX and AAFES retail exchange services issue their own credit card — the Military Star credit card. I use mine to buy goods in the PXes and gasoline at the Exchange service stations.

At the Army Exchange gas station on Fort Myer, there’s no problem — I can pay at the pump with my Military Star credit card.

However, at the nearby NEX gas station, the pumps will not let you pay at the pump. You have to “see cashier inside.” When I asked the cashier why the NEX pumps didn’t accept my Military Star credit card, she told me that Citgo doesn’t recognize the card.

Of all the gall.

Thanks for your time, and for your work on behalf of vets.

Regards,

Buck S.

Dear Buck:

I have forwarded your missive to the powers that be at the Department of Defense. Simply, Citgo has to go.

Shaft notes

With the number of known living American veterans of World War I now standing at four, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is seeking public assistance in determining whether others are still alive.

“These veterans have earned the gratitude and respect of the nation,” said VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. “We are coming to the end of a generation that helped bring the United States to the center of the international arena.”

Mr. Nicholson noted that VA usually knows about the identity and location of veterans only after they come to the department for benefits. None of the four known surviving WWI veterans has been on the VA benefits rolls.

The secretary asks members of the public who know of a surviving WWI veteran to contact VA. To qualify as a WWI veteran, someone must have been on active duty between April 6, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918. VA is also looking for surviving Americans who served in the armed forces of allied nations.

Information about survivors can be e-mailed to [email protected]; faxed to 202/273-6702, or mailed to the Office of Public Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs (80), 810 Vermont Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20420.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]


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