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The University of Illinois Chez Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education and Illinois Joining Forces will present “Women Veterans: Health, Community, & Legacy” from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Urbana National Guard Armory at 600 E. University Ave.

This event explores specific needs and challenges of women veterans while simultaneously honoring and celebrating their service. Breakfast and lunch are provided. The event is hosted in honor of the late Army Sgt. Shawna M. Morrison of the 144th Transportation Company with the Illinois Army National Guard. Morrison, a former University of Illinois student, was the first female Illinois Guard member killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. RSVP to http://abs.illinois.edu/womenvetervent

Did you know?

The Army released its new policy for dealing with soldiers who are non-deployable for administrative reasons, a month after the Pentagon’s new deploy-or-out policy took effect Oct. 1. The new Army policy states that “Soldiers who are non-deployable for an administrative reason… for more than six consecutive months, or six non-consecutive months in a 12-month period, will be processed for administrative separation.”

All branches of service have struggled with non-deployable soldiers for a long time. The Army, since a year ago, has seen the number of non-deployables decrease from 121,000 (about 15 percent of the total Army) to 6 percent. Some of those non-deployable troops have been processed out while others have resolved any outstanding issues that prevented them being able to deploy. In the last month, the Army non-deployable have decreased from 66,000 to 59,000. The new policy does not apply to all 59,000 because about 80 percent of the non-deployables are medical with another smaller potion being legal.

Veterans expo

VA Illiana Health Care System presents the Veterans Health & Services Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Sheels Store at 3801 S. MacArthur Blvd, Springfield. Experts will provide the following information and services: flu shots, health screenings, caregiver support, suicide prevention, enrollment and eligibility, veterans benefits counseling and Whole Health Introduction: Yoga and Mindfulness.

Flu shots require enrollment and eligibility verification. If you are not enrolled in VA Health Care or unsure of your eligibility status or would like to enroll before the event, call 217-554-6424. For more information, call 217-554-5099.

Changes to TRICARE dental/vision coverage 

The current TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) will end Dec. 31. The plan will be replaced as retirees with TRICARE will be transitioned to the federal employees' Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) dental coverage options. Vision plans also will be available to eligible TRICARE beneficiaries through FEDVIP. Retired uniformed service members and their families who were eligible for TRDP are eligible for FEDVIP dental coverage, effective Jan. 1. Enrollment for these new options began Nov. 12, and runs through Dec. 10.

Q: I enrolled in VA Health Care many years ago and find myself increasing my use of VA Heath Care more and more as my outside insurance plans increase my monthly payments, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. I am astounded that so many veterans whom I meet do not have VA Health Care. What are the facts about participation by Veterans in VA Health Care?

A: The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest integrated health care system, providing care at 1,243 health care facilities, including 172 medical centers and 1,062 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity such as Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC’s). These VA facilities serve 9 million enrolled veterans each year. Almost 2 million U.S. vets lack health insurance, along with 3.8 million members of their households, a recent study exposed.

Many veterans are not aware they are eligible for VA health care benefits. The common misconception is that veterans can only use VA medical care facilities if they have a service-connected disability rating. Additionally, many veterans have been denied VA Health Care Benefits due to the “means test” which was added to the eligibility requirements in 2003.

If a veteran’s annual household income is above a certain level, the veteran will be denied. However, veterans who served “boots on the ground” in Vietnam who may have been denied enrollment previously may now be eligible to enroll. There also are a number of other reasons why a veteran may now be eligible to enroll. Your VAC office has Form 10-10EZ, Application for VA health benefits, or it can be found on-line at www. Va.gov. The VAC office can assist you in completion of the form.

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Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission

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