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Scotty Allison: How the Affordable Health Care Act will affect veteran benefits

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You may be wondering how the new Affordable Health Care Act affects Veterans Administration Health benefits.

Right now, it looks like there is no effect.

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Bottom line is that the new health care law does not change VA health benefits or charges for co-pays.

If you are currently enrolled in VA health care, there is nothing you have to do to meet the new standards as established by this act.

Recently, I read email traffic regarding extra Social Security benefits for those folks who served on Active Duty prior to January 2002.

The fact is you may earn up to $1,200 of extra earnings credit per year with the Social Security. The way it works is this:

“From 1957 through 1977, the credit is $300 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.

“From 1978 through 2001, for every $300 in active duty basic pay, you are credited with an additional $100 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200 a year. If you enlisted after Sept. 7, 1980, and didn’t complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings.

“From 1957 through 1967, the extra credits will be applied when you apply for Social Security benefits.

“From 1968 through 2001, you do not need to do anything to receive these extra credits. The credits were automatically added to your SSN record.

“After 2001, there are no special extra earnings credits for military service.”

So if you have military service before 1968, you might want to check with your local SSN office to ensure you have received your credits.

If you want more information please go to: ssa.gov/retire2/military.htm

If you are receiving TRICARE-for-Life (TFL) and want to use the VA for health care, you might see a change in how much you pay if you are currently enrolled in Priority Group 8 (co-pays required).

This change only affects costs for non-service connected disabilities.

“TFL normally pays after Medicare or other insurances have paid and as the VA cannot receive Medicare payments, on October 1, 2013, TRICARE will pay only 20 percent of TFL allowable charges.”

The remaining balance will then become the responsibility of TFL participants. If you fit under this category, and without some legislative change, you might find yourself paying a lot more out of pocket than you counted on.

The anticipated Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for VA benefits next year will be 1.5 percent effective  Dec. 1.

This means any increase will be posted  Jan.

This COLA increase is currently working its way through both the Senate and the House.

Even though it looks like this increase will take place, nothing is final until it is fully approved by Congress.

Remember on Sept. 25, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Bemidji, the Veterans Supporter Community will once again conduct a Veterans “Standdown.”

Free services available include meals, clothing distribution to those qualified, haircuts, employment assistance, VA benefits claims processing and many other services.

Don’t forget if you have any questions regarding veteran benefits, please call the County Veterans Service Office at 218-333-4177/4178.

SCOTTY ALLISON is the Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer.

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