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Q: I heard, some time ago, that veterans can have the word "veteran" printed on their Illinois driver’s license or state-issued ID card. I messed up and did not take advantage of this program a couple of years ago when I first became aware of it. Am I too late?

A: No. The process is relatively simple. Take your DD214 or National Guard Form NG22, Report of Separation and Record of Service, to your Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs office. The representative will take certain information from your separation documents and ask other questions concerning your service and your use of VA benefits. This information will be in a database of Illinois veterans and will include information such as exposures to Agent Orange, Camp Lejeune water contamination, etc. Later, if vital information or benefits for the particular group occurs, the database will be used to contact that particular group of veterans.

Event

North Pekin Amvets 169 will hold its second annual Agent Orange Awareness Ride on Sept. 22. The ride forms at 9 a.m. at the post, 660 Radio City Drive, North Pekin. This event is a major fundraiser for Amvets 169 and proceeds will go for Agent Orange awareness, helping families and veterans affected by Agent Orange, and the Michael Ragusa Agent Orange Scholarship. Sign in will be from 9 to 11 a.m. with the ride commencing as soon as sign-in is complete. Cost is $25 for the rider and $5 for the passenger. Last bike will return by 5 p.m. with activities at the post immediately following.

Flu shots

Flu shots from the VA will be available beginning in mid-September at VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Peoria and Decatur, other Illiana VA CBOCs and Illiana VA Medical Center at Danville. Veterans also may go to Walgreens and certain other stores that offer the shots. If the veteran is enrolled with the VA Health Care System, the cost usually is covered by the VA. Notify the store that you are enrolled in VA Health Care before receiving the shot. Call your local VA CBOC or medical center to ensure that the location is dispensing the flu shots.

Did you know?

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie clarified collective bargaining authority related to professional conduct and patient care by VA providers. Wilkie rescinded a Memorandum of Understanding that the VA entered into in 2010 with National Nurses United, Service Employees International, National Federation of Federal Employees, and National Association of Government Employees on how VA applied 38 USC ss 7422. The change would affect about 1,700 employees using taxpayer-funded union time. For more detailed information, visit https://www.va.gov/opa/pressel/ and click on News Releases — Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Q: I am a veteran who served in the Middle East in the early 2000s. I began having skin irritation issues while serving there. The irritation was not completely resolved when I left the military. While the condition is not life threatening, it is frustrating. I am not enrolled in VA Health Care because my current income is above the means test for eligibility. Is the VA providing any benefits for someone like me?

A: Effective Aug. 13, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs updated portions of the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities that evaluate conditions related to the skin. VA is updating all 15 body systems of the VASRD. Claims for service-connected disability compensation for skin conditions pending prior to Aug. 13 will be considered under both the old and new criteria. Claims filed on or after Aug. 13 will be rated under the new rating schedule. If you have not done so, you should file a claim for service-connected disability for your skin condition. Order your medical records from the National Personnel Records Center using Standard Form 180 Request for Military Documents. That form is available online by “browsing” SF 180, or contact the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission Office at 309-888-5140. For more information about the exposures that may have caused or contributed to your skin problems, go to https://publichealth.va.gov/exposures.

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Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission.