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For and about Hawaii's military

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VA benefit claim

Question: I am a Vietnam veteran who has been declared 100 percent unemployable due to post-traumatic stress disorder. I recently got married. How do I inform the Department of Veterans Affairs of my new marital status so they can increase my monthly disability compensation?

Answer: You are entitled to an additional allowance for your spouse (as are all veterans rated 30 percent or greater). Entitlement to this increase is effective on the first day of the month following your marriage only if the VA receives your claim within a year of marriage. Otherwise, increases are effective on the first day of the month following VA's receipt of the claim.

The claim can be initiated by sending the VA a copy of your marriage certificate. If either you or your wife had any prior marriages, VA will require additional information. The simplest way of making sure you furnish the required evidence is to use FA form 21-686c, which is designed to solicit the necessary data. You can call the Honolulu VA benefits and services at 433-1000 for more information or stop by the VA's E-Wing where the benefit counselors are located and be sure to bring the required evidence. E-Wing is located on the oceanside, Diamond Head side of Tripler Army Medical Center.

Q: Does the VA collect from third-party insurers for a veteran's health care?

A: Absolutely. VA collections from health insurance companies have reached record numbers. The number of veterans seeking care at VA facilities continues to climb. Collections are topping $100 million a month. In May, for instance, VA collected $123 million.

Since 1997, VA has collected $3.8 billion from private insurers, all of it retained by VA to enhance medical care. Since VA authority in 1986 to seek reimbursement from third-party insurers in regards to co-payments for furnished care to certain veterans, annual collection increased to around $1.2 billion from $24 million. Before 1997, collected funds were deposited with the U.S. Treasury. Since then, VA has been able to keep the money to enhance patient care. VA does not make collections for treatment of service-connected conditions.

Q: What is a Vet Center?

A: Because some veterans experience psychological and social distress after coming home from war, Congress established the provision for readjustment counseling by the VA. As a result, there are 206 Vet Centers nationwide.

Vet Center services include individual readjustment counseling, referral for benefits assistance, group readjustment counseling, liaison with community agencies, marital and family counseling, substance abuse information and referral, job counseling and placement, sexual trauma counseling and community education. Vet Centers originally were designed to assist only Vietnam War veterans; however, legislation passed by Congress and passed into law in 1996 changed eligibility. Vet Centers now are open to all veterans who served in a combat zone or area of armed hostility.

Since the first center opened in 1979, Vet Centers have assisted more than 1.6 million veterans. The Oahu Vet Centers is located at 1680 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite F-3. Vet Centers also are located on Hilo, Kailua-Kona, Kauai, Maui and Guam.

For more information, call the Oahu Vet Center at 973-8387.

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, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

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