The Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, D.C., is shown in this undated file photo.

The Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, D.C., is shown in this undated file photo. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

(Tribune News Service) — I trust the VA for all my health care needs and have for more than 18 years. I feel safe, connected and know my providers have my best interest at heart. They strive to deliver positive health outcomes. Further, as I age, I know that VA will be positioned, ready, and capable of caring for me when I need them most.

The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Act — PACT — is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in the history of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among its many provisions is one that that should be urgently highlighted, for it directly affects post-9/11 combat veterans: providing those who qualify the opportunity to enroll for VA’s full medical-benefits package.

When President Biden signed the PACT Act into law last year, his pen stroke initiated a one-year, open-enrollment period for veterans who meet the following criteria:

▪ They served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War or served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after November 11, 1998, and

▪ They were discharged or released between Sept. 11, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2013, and not previously enrolled in VA health care.

Time is of the essence. Oct. 1 is the deadline to apply for VA health care without the need for additional eligibility verification. For some veterans, meeting the VA’s income threshold requirements prevents them from being eligible for care. Applying for care before the deadline eliminates this challenge entirely.

To apply and to learn more about the PACT Act, veterans can go to or visit the closest VA medical center or clinic.

One of the primary advantages of VA health care is the comprehensive coverage it offers. From preventive care to specialized treatment for service-related conditions, veterans receive high-quality medical attention without the financial burden commonly associated with private health insurance, and private health care in general. Furthermore, the VA health care system focuses on the unique health challenges veterans face, ensuring their specific needs are met.

In 2005, after I completed my first VA primary-care appointment, I felt the same way as I do now: VA health care is about building a lifelong relationship and empowering veterans to access its services throughout lives. As a community, it is our duty and responsibility to encourage and support veterans in applying for health care from the VA. They deserve nothing less.

David Isaacks is a Marine Corps veteran and executive director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network of VA hospitals and clinics in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

©2023 Miami Herald.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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