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If you have not already done so, enroll for VA health care. Simply complete VA Form 10-10EZ at McLean County VAC Office, 200 W. Front St., Bloomington; 309-888-5140. Attach a copy of your DD214 and send it to the Bob Michel VA Clinic at 7717 N. Orange Prairie Drive, Peoria, IL 61615. Additionally, veterans should inquire about Connect Mobility, which may provide the veteran with pick-up at their residence and a round trip to the VA clinic. Veterans must “pre-qualify” for the service: call 309-828-9833 or visit www.connect-transit.com for more information. As with any bus service, there is a charge for using the service.

MILITARY COMMISSARY

The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs are gearing up for what will be the largest expansion of patrons to the military commissary system and exchanges in 65 years. The expansion will start Jan. 1 when Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and all service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of rating, as well as caregivers enrolled in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, will be able to shop at Defense Commissary Agency stores and military exchanges. They will also have access to golf courses, recreation areas, theaters, bowling alleys, campgrounds and lodging facilities operated by MWR. Since most new patrons lack the credentials to get on military bases, installations will accept the Veteran Health Identification Card, or VHID, from disabled and other eligible veterans. The plan calls for the VA to issue a memo to eligible caregivers in the coming months, which will be used in conjunction with any picture identification that meets REAL ID Act security requirements.

ROLLING THUNDER

Memorial Day 2019 saw the end of the traditional “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C. Amvets has pledged to continue the tradition. The purpose of the rally remains the same: ‘To raise awareness of the plight of U.S. prisoners of war and the 82,000 service members still missing in action.’ The 2020 ride will also address the national suicide epidemic taking the lives of more than 20 military veterans a day. Register at amvets.org/amvets-to-host-major-pro-veterans-demonstration/.

GOLD STAR MOTHERS

When an active-duty service member dies, his or her mother automatically becomes a Gold Star mother. Gold Star Mothers Day was Sept. 29 this year. Many veterans' organizations conduct ceremonies to honor these mothers of our fallen comrades. American Gold Star Mothers has about 1,000 members. Visit goldstarmoms.com for more information.

DID YOU KNOW?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects hundreds of thousands of veterans of military service, first responders and others who serve their fellow citizens in hazardous environments. New research is now focusing on biomarkers, which are defined as any substance, structure or process which can be measured in the body or its products, and influence or predict the incidence of outcome or disease. Essentially, it is a physical biological manifestation of a condition, like PTSD. The hope is that locating these markers will lead to better treatment of PTSD. Visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774961/.

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Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission. 

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