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Scotty Allison: Travel rules can be tricky

BEMIDJI — We get a lot of questions about travel pay regarding VA appointments.

So here are the general rules as to who gets reimbursement:

• If you are 30 percent or more service-connected by the VA.

• If you are less than 30 percent, then the treatment you are receiving must be for a service-connected condition.

• If you receive a VA pension, Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits.

• If you are traveling in relation to a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam.

Veterans with an annual income below the annual VA pension rate (determined by a means test).

The current allowable reimbursement amount is 41.5 cents per mile. There is a $3 deductible for each one-way visit, or $6 for each round-trip visit. Upon reaching $18 in deductibles or six one-way (three round) trips, travel payments made for the balance of that particular month will be free of deductible charges. A waiver of these deductibles is given to eligible veterans with low income.

Travel reimbursement is not solely given for appointments at the Veterans Affairs’ Regional Medical Centers. If you travel from, say, Kelliher to the Bemidji VA clinic and you meet the requirements as laid out above, you are eligible for travel reimbursement.

• It is your responsibility to apply for any VA travel benefits. You can go back normally 30 days to claim any travel reimbursement. The Beltrami County VA office has the claims form if you need to file.

• In 2011, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) unveiled several Department of Defense/Veterans Administration programs they believed could be eliminated or reduced given the ongoing budget fights at that time. Listed below are four that they believe remain in danger for reduction given current budget circumstances:

• Increased health care premiums for retirees on TRICARE.

• Increased pharmaceutical fees for military retirees.

• Elimination of presumptive service-connected conditions for disabled and ill veterans.

• Lock out or increase fees for VA Priority Group 7 and 8 veterans.

• If you have any opinion on these issues, please make your voice known to your elected officials.

The state now has the capability to indicate that you are a “veteran” on your driver’s license.  You must present a certified copy of your DD214 at time of application, which will certify you are a veteran. Your certified copy will be returned to you after they get what they need from the DD214. Best time to do this is when you renew your license but you certainly can do it before that date.

Don’t forget, unless you are 100 percent service-connected permanent and total, you must file each year for your market value exclusion for disabled veterans on your homestead property.  All applications must be in no later than July 1. There are no exceptions to this date.

Also, don’t forget that 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