The VA Modifies Mental Health Benefits

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Veterans Affairs has modified eligibility rules so veterans with mental illness may receive treatment while waiting for confirmation of their service, according to a revised regulation.
     The VA has revised its rules to allow for tentative eligibility approvals for VA health care for those who served in the military after Sept. 7, 1980. Applicants must still meet the minimum service requirement under federal code and tentative approvals are contingent on whether they have filed for VA health care within six months after their discharge under conditions “other than dishonorable,” the agency said in its action.
     Effective June 13, veterans may receive medical treatment before their psychosis or “mental illness other than psychosis” has been confirmed to be service-connected, the rule says.
     The VA said the rule change makes sense considering most veterans are able to connect their medical condition to military service, and early treatment could improve their chances of a positive outcome.
     “The immediate medical treatment will, in turn, enable the veteran to manage his or her medical condition more effectively,” the agency said in its action.
     The agency also removed the six-month minimum service time to be eligible for the mental health benefits. The minimum was originally set by a Congress concerned about some service members who would enlist with the sole intention of obtaining eligibility for veterans’ benefits, but then would bring about their own early discharge, the agency explained in its action.
     The agency said that the rule has been changed “in consideration of the fact that very few, if any, veterans will be seeking tentative eligibility determinations within six months of discharge for a period of service that began over 32 years ago. The amount of time that a veteran, who entered active duty after Sept. 7, 1980, must serve on active duty to be eligible for VA benefits is governed by another U.S. code.
     In addition, mental health care has been extended to “non-enrolled” veterans, or veterans who receive their care from private hospitals instead of the VA, and copayment obligations have been removed.

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