For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

See also: In The Military

Veterans of Iraqi war
get new health benefit

Question: Are veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom going to receive fewer VA benefits than veterans of other conflicts?

Answer: No. They will receive the same veterans benefits usually associated with the VA: GI Bill home loan guarantees, educational assistance, disability compensation and medical care, as well as survivors benefits, if qualification requirements are met.

They also will receive one benefit not available at the time of Desert Storm: Under rules that went into effect last year, everyone who served in the combat zone will be eligible for two years of free health care from the VA, without having to prove that a medical problem is connected to military service.

For continual free treatment beyond the two years, the disability must be service-connected or the veteran has income or net worth below a threshold dollar amount.

This new benefit is an outgrowth of the VA's experience with Gulf War illnesses after the first Gulf War and Agent Orange after the Vietnam War.

Q: Will the VA be able to restore enrollment of Category 8 veterans?

A: Actions by Congress to date on the current year's appropriations, including the recent emergency wartime supplemental, maintain the VA's ability to care for its core constituency of service-disabled and lower-income veterans.

Until the waiting time for medical appointments can be reduced to an acceptable standard, it would not be in the best interest of those most in need of care for the VA to enroll additional priority 8 veterans.

Priority 8 veterans are those with incomes above $24,644 per year (for a single veteran) and above a geographic means test.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or visit the VA Web site at
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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