Page 7 - Senior Times South Central Michigan February 2021 - 28-02
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Senior Times - February 2021
Page 7
 VHA & LOCAL SUPPORT AT CALHOUN COUNTY VETERANS AFFAIRS
By: Aaron Edlefson, MPA, Director, Calhoun County Veterans Affairs
  The Department of Veterans Affairs is essentially divided into three units.
 1. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) handles benefits such as compensa- tion, pension, home loans, and education.
2. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) maintains national cemeteries, prints Presidential Memorial Certificates, issues burial flags, and facilitates the creation and distribution of headstones, markers, and medallions.
3. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, has many programs. Chiefly among them is providing medical care to eligible Veterans through VA Medical Centers (such as the Battle Creek VAMC), Community Based Outpatient Clinics, and through partnerships with community providers.
Each year the VHA serves over nine million Veterans.
receiving medical care from the VA or would like to see if you are eligible for care, you can contact Calhoun County Veterans Affairs (our contact information is at the end) or
at several locations including the National Archives, state archives, and county offices. If a Veteran does not have a copy of their discharge, it is important that they seek one out and maintain it in a secure place.
In 2019, 3,500 Veterans who reside in Calhoun County received medical care through the VA and the VA’s medical expenditures in Calhoun County were over $61 million.
the eligibility office at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center at (269) 966-5600 extension 33887.
The county office where a Veteran resides can help assist the Veteran or next-of-kin
in locating their discharge and getting it to them. It is important not to wait until they are needed to seek a discharge document. While they are immediately available if maintained by the county, there can be a wait if ordered from the state or National Archives.
  The VHA oversees the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), which pro- vides healthcare benefits for eligible spouses, surviving spouses, and children of Veterans.
Over the past few months, we, at Calhoun County Veterans Affairs, have been working on digitizing all our files. This will allow us to more efficiently and effectively serve our Veterans and their families. It is a daunting project given the number of files that must be scanned and inputted into the new system. Since September we have created digital files for more than 5,800 Veterans and we have barely scratched the surface.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the VHA. In the past 75 years the VHA has not only provided medi- cal care for Veterans but has also contributed greatly to the medical field at large. On May 5, 1963, Dr. Thomas Starzl, a staff member at the Denver VA Medical Center, completed the first successful liver transplant. In 1984, VA researchers developed the nicotine patch. The VHA is also credited with creation of the first cardiac pacemaker in 1960.
By far the most common document that our office maintains are discharge docu- ments.
The State of Michigan is highly respon- sive when it comes to sending discharge documents with a standard request usually reaching the Veteran or family within a week. Discharge requests with the National Archives can take months to arrive espe- cially now with their limited staff. As I said before, and cannot say enough, be proactive and seek out these documents if you do not already have them in a secure location.
  The VHA is a leader in telehealth with over 900,000 Veterans using telehealth services in the VA’s 2019 fiscal year and with a usage increase of 1,180% during the COVID-19 pandemic. VHA researchers
have also won numerous awards and honors including three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine and seven Lasker-DeBakey Awards, which are awarded for clinical research. The VHA also provides medical training with over 70% of health care provid- ers throughout the nation receiving a portion of their training through the VA. Needless
Our office maintains discharges from
2020 all the way back to 1863. Whether it is a DD214 (which were issued after January
1, 1950) or one of many different forms
that were used prior to the DD214, these documents help share a Veteran’s story on
a single page. Of course, the whole story is not capable of fitting on that one page, but they do allow us a miniscule glance into each Veteran’s time in service whether that be 23 days or 35 years.
If you are in need of getting discharge documents, or other military documents such as Official Military Personnel Files or medi- cal records, please do not hesitate to contact us. Likewise, if you have questions regarding benefits for Veterans please contact us.
to say, the VHA plays an integral role in not only providing care for our Veterans, but also in strengthening the medical community throughout our nation and the world.
Discharge documents are incredibly vital and are the key to unlocking benefits for both Veterans and their families. They are required to apply for disability, pension, medical, education, and burial benefits. They are often required to receive emergen- cy assistance. Discharges are maintained
Contact Calhoun County Veterans Affairs if you would like more information on receiving medical care from the VA, to see if you are eligible for care, or for assistance receiving documents, and more. Calhoun County Veterans Affairs can be reached at (269) 969-6735. If you would prefer to reach us by e-mail, you can do so at va@calhouncountymi.gov.
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