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As a reminder to veterans familiar with Veterans Assistance Commission services and to those veterans new to the community, the VAC office is located at 200 W. Front St., Suite 400D, Bloomington, in the Health Department building; the phone number is 309-888-5140.

The VAC provides a variety of services to McLean County veterans, including assistance with rent and utility bills; acquiring military service documents (DD 214s), military medical records and other documents; offering daily weekday transportation to the Bob Michel VA Clinic in Peoria; scheduling transportation to Illiana VA Health Care Medical Center, Danville.

The VAC regularly assists veterans in identifying who to contact at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and/or federal Department of Veterans Affairs to resolve questions and problems with the VA. This column is provided weekly by the VAC with the cooperation and assistance from The Pantagraph.

AMERICAN LEGION TO HOST PAST NATIONAL COMMANDER

Ruel-Neal American Legion Post 79, LeRoy, will host immediate past national commander Denise Rohan on Jan. 26 in the local session of the American Legion National Membership Caravan. A dinner will begin at 4 p.m. at the Post building. Rohan will speak after the dinner. Reserve a dinner seat at 309-530-1313.

The Legion was founded in 1919 at the end of World War I, making 2019 the official 100th anniversary of the veterans organization. All Legion members are invited to the LeRoy event. Seventeenth District post commanders and adjutants should bring membership cards or have them delivered to the meeting by calling 309-824-7748.

NEW CONGRESS

A total of 96 military veterans were sworn in as members of the 116th Congress. According to the Army Times, 19 are serving in the Senate and 77 in the House for an overall veteran percentage of 17.9 percent. Forty-eight served in the military after the year 2000. Thirty are Democrats and 66 are Republicans. Nineteen are first-time lawmakers and seven are women. Four decades ago, veterans in Congress exceeded 70 percent.

Q: I am a veteran and am enrolled in VA Health Care. I live about 50 miles from the nearest VA health care facility. If I use the local emergency room in my hometown, will the VA pick up the cost?

A: The answer can be somewhat confusing! If your need for ER care is for a life-threatening condition, generally the answer would be yes. The VA determines “life-threatening” using the “… Prudent layperson definition of an emergency.” The veteran must notify the VA within 72 hours of the use of the emergency room, or the VA may deny the claim. Additionally, if the veteran has not used VA Health Care at a VA facility within two years of the ER visit, the VA will deny the claim.

Nationally, a records study covering Jan. 1, 2015, through Sept. 1, 2017, showed 219,681 ER claims were denied, with a $791 million price tag for the veterans. The same study found that many ER claims were denied inconsistent with the standing determination rules.

The VA is retraining to ensure the determination rules are administered properly. Possession of a VA Health Care card does not automatically guarantee that the VA will cover the costs associated with a visit to a non-VA emergency room.

SNEAK PEEK

The Jan. 21 column will include information on veterans employment and how the local veterans’ employment representative and disabled veterans outreach program specialist from the Illinois Department of Employment Security can assist veterans to prepare to succeed in the labor market.

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Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission.