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VETERANS ISSUES COLUMN: New medication co-payment rates at the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently changed its regulations on co-payments for veterans' outpatient medications for non-service connected conditions.

Scotty Allison

The VA currently charges veterans either $8 or $9 for each 30-day or less supply of outpatient medication. The VA is now "switching to a tiered system in the hopes of keeping outpatient medication costs low for veterans"' according to VA Under-Secretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. The new Tiers are: Tier 1, Preferred Generics; Tier 2, Non-Preferred Generics including over-the-counter medications; and Tier 3, Brand Names.

The new co-payment amounts become effective Feb. 27 and are:

• Tier 1. $5 for a 30-day or less supply.

• Tier 2. $8 for a 30-day or less supply.

• Tier 3. $11 for a 30-day or less supply.

These changes apply to veterans with no service-connected conditions, or veterans with a disability/disabilities rated less than 50 percent and who are receiving outpatient treatment for a non-service connected condition, and whose annual income exceeds the limit set by current law.

If you use TRICARE to obtain medicine, you should know that CVS pharmacies, including those at Target locations, will no longer fill TRICARE prescriptions as of Dec. 1. Walgreens has been added back into the TRICARE network so you can now get your medicine there if you wish.

You can now call 1-844-MyVA311 (698-2311) to obtain information on who to call in the Veterans Administration if you have any questions about VA benefits. This line can also connect you directly to the suicide or homeless hotline. Remember in Minnesota, County Veteran Service Officers are a good source to help determine what benefits you may be entitled to.

Don't forget that the 0.3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for VA compensation and pension benefits goes into effect Jan. 1.

On June 1, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law an income tax exemption for military retirement pay. This exclusion is effective for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2015.

I want to thank the Hill's Plumbing and Heating Team in Bemidji for providing a kind monetary donation to this office to support local veterans in need. Already some of these funds have been put to good use. Your support is much appreciated.

Don't forget, if you have any questions regarding veterans' benefits please call the County Veterans Service Office at (218) 333-4177 or 333-4178.

Allison is the Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer.