- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

It is rumored that under special circumstances a veteran who receives health care from the VA under its CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs) health care program may apply for the military health services program (Tricare). I am an honorably discharged vet with a 100 percent service-connected “permanent rating.”

I’m interested in receiving services sponsored by the military rather than the VA system.

Note: I opted out of the Veteran’s Health Care System. Opting out was offered by VA. I still get health care from them though because of my service-connected disability status. I’ve heard that Tricare is for active servicemen and CHAMPVA is not available to them.

I’ve also heard that CHAMPVA and Tricare both may be available to disabled vets under special circumstances.

Even though the two health care systems are similar, Tricare would be better for me as I plan to move near a good military facility and no veterans medical facility is nearby. Under what special circumstances can this (non-military retired) 100 percent permanent vet receive Tricare?

Veteran (Army)
Via the Internet

Dear Army:

Those in the know tell me that Tricare is for active duty service members and their families, and also for military retirees and their families. To be eligible for CHAMPVA, you cannot be eligible for Tricare, and you must be in one of these categories:

1. The spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office.

2. The surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a VA-rated service connected disability.

3. The surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was at the time death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service connected disability.

4. The surviving spouse or child of a military member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct (in most of these cases, these family members are eligible for Tricare, not CHAMPVA).

You are eligible for medical care through the VA — that is not the same as CHAMPVA. I know of no program where a disabled retiree can opt out of the VA Health Care System to use Tricare.

Shaft Notes:

• Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki is encouraging interested colleges and universities to join the VA in participating in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Yellow Ribbon Program for the upcoming 2011-2012 academic year.

“Through shared responsibility, VA and our nation’s colleges and universities are working together to ensure that our service members, veterans and dependents receive the education benefits they have earned,” he said. “I strongly encourage any interested school to formally sign up with us before the May 23 deadline to guarantee their participation.”

Interested schools should visit VA’s website for more information at https://gibill.va.gov/school-certifying-officials/yellow-ribbon-agreement/, where they will find a copy of a letter recently sent to all school presidents and department heads, an agreement form, instructions and an easy-to-follow checklist.

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill that allows degree-granting institutions to voluntarily enter into a formal agreement with VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed either the annual $17,500 private institutions cap recently instituted by Congress or the in-state tuition and fees charged to out-of-state residents attending public institutions.

The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses and VA will match this additional funding for eligible students. This may enable qualified students to attend school tuition-free.

This Post-9/11 GI Bill program is available for service members and veterans at the 100 percent benefit level, specifically those who have served at least 36 months on active duty or served at least 30 continuous days and were discharged due to a service-related injury after Sept. 11, 2001. The benefit can be transferred to eligible family members.

Effective Aug. 1, 2011, under a new law passed by Congress, there is a cap on the maximum payment of tuition and fees at $17,500 per academic year for private and foreign schools, a change from the previous Post-9/11 GI Bill. The law also provides for full payment of in-state tuition and fees (undergraduate, graduate or doctoral) at public institutions.

The institutions of higher learning (IHL) requesting participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program must enter into an agreement with VA each year, whether to renew participation from the previous academic year or enter first year agreements.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, VA signed more than 1,200 Yellow Ribbon agreements with IHLs across the nation. For a complete listing of the schools presently participating, go to www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/YRP/YRP_List.htm.

Additional information about the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, including upcoming changes to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill based on recent legislation, can be obtained by visiting VA’s website at www.gibill.va.gov and www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/Post911_changes.html or by calling 1-888-GIBILL-1 (or 1-888-442-4551).

• Dr. Haru Okuda was recently named national medical director for the Department of Veterans Affairs Simulation Learning Education and Research Network (SimLEARN) program. Dr. Okuda leads a staff in conducting research, developing curricula and best practices, and coordinating acquisitions of clinical simulation training systems in support of health care providers at VA medical centers.

“Dr. Haru Okuda is a recognized leader in clinical simulation,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health. “He brings a drive and energy to SimLEARN that will help advance the program’s vision of unparalleled excellence and will benefit veterans in VA’s health care system.”

Before joining VA, Dr. Okuda served as the director and assistant vice president of the Institute for Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., the largest municipal health care system in the United States. He oversaw the construction of a 10,000-square-foot, $10-million simulation center. He also coordinated the development and implementation of simulation programs in areas such as central line placement, obstetrical emergencies and code team training.

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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