For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Sunday, October 14, 2001

See also: In The Military

Vets must pay overdue
costs for treatment

Question: I recently received a letter from the Veterans Affairs telling me I owe the federal government money and that steps will be taken to recover it. What is this all about?

Answer: Letters were recently sent to 270,000 veterans to remind them that they owe the federal government and that money can be taken from other federal checks to settle debts. Veterans affected by the mailing were treated in VA medical facilities for conditions unrelated to their military service. They are responsible for co-payments that range from $2 for a 30-day supply of a drug, $50 for a visit to their VA doctor, or perhaps the veteran's share of hospitalization costs.

Federal law says that when veterans owe more than $25 to VA and the debts are more than 90 days overdue, VA officials must report the debts to the U.S. Treasury Department. The Treasury Department then collects the debts from other income, including income tax refunds, Social Security (but not Supplemental Security Income) and other federal payments to individuals.

Veterans who owe the VA money are urged to contact the VA Medical and Regional Office Center to set up payment plans or dispute the debts. This will head off any reduction in other forms of federal income.

Question: I got a "certificate of eligibility" from VA to buy a home using my GI Bill benefits. Then the deal fell through. Do I have to get a new certificate when I try to buy another home? Does it expire?

Answer: The certificate of eligibility is the form VA provides to show a veteran is eligible for the home loan benefit. Veterans can obtain the application for a certificate and information about where to send it by calling the VA at 433-1000 or visiting the VA Medical and Regional Office Center's E Wing benefits section. Certificates generally are valid until used, but a certificate issued to a person on active duty is only valid while the person remains on active duty. For persons qualifying based on service in the Reserves or National Guard, eligibility expires Sept. 30, 2007.

Question: I have a friend who is a veteran enrolled in the VA. He is concerned about emergency treatment because he has no insurance or way to pay the bill. Will the VA assist him?

Answer: Yes. To qualify, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have been seen by a VA health care professional within 24 months; and carry no other health insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid. If any third party pays all or part of the bill, VA cannot provide reimbursement. It is strictly for emergency care and when no other VA or federal facility is available. When these conditions are met, the veteran pays nothing.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

E-mail to City Desk

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