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Military Veterans

Veterans’ Ongoing Struggle to Get the Care They Need

Written By: Gentle Path

By Melissa Riddle Chalos

Veterans in the US face health challenges daily, most of which have a direct correlation to the experiences and injuries sustained while in service. The sheer number of vets with healthcare issues in need of help is staggering.

In fact, according to Wounded Warrior Project,  a recent survey of vets injured in service after 9/11 found that:

  • 94% experienced severe physical injury
  • Almost a third require daily assistance with their disabilities
  • 91% are currently living with significant mental health conditions

Even more shocking is the suicide rate. Despite a $1 billion federal investment in military suicide prevention, suicides among veterans are higher than ever, outpacing the general population, according to National League of Cities (NLC). Clearly, these “invisible wounds” — the mental health issues unique to veterans — are not getting the treatment they so desperately need. And without treatment, there is little hope of healing, as these tragic losses bear witness.

Each year, as Veteran’s Day rolls around, we consider the sacrifices our military and their families make, but most of us civilians don’t understand the ongoing struggle our vets face after they return from deployment.

Each year, as Veteran’s Day rolls around, we consider the sacrifices our military and their families make, but most of us civilians don’t understand the ongoing struggle our vets face after they return from deployment.

Why is it so difficult to get the care they need?

TRICARE vs. CHAMPVA

For starters, it’s important to note that there is healthcare coverage for veterans. In keeping with the Affordable Care Act, there are two forms of veteran healthcare coverage.

TRICARE is the healthcare program offered by the US Department of Defense for active duty and retired service members and their dependents. This version of veteran health insurance features two levels of coverage: Select and Prime. Eligibility requirements vary for each plan level, but the Veterans Affairs (VA) department details the following benefits for veterans:

CHAMPVA is the acronym for Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to VA.gov, those who do not quality for TRICARE but have at least one of the following are eligible for CHAMPVA:

  • The spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office
  • The surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a VA-rated, service-connected disability
  • The surviving spouse or child of a veteran who, at the time of death, rated permanently or totally disabled from a service-connected disability
  • The surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct

Generally speaking, CHAMPVA covers medically necessary services as authorized by an approved provider, including: ambulance service, medical equipment, family planning and maternity, inpatient and outpatient services, mental health services, pharmacy, skilled nursing care, hospice, and more.  ​​

If you are eligible for TRICARE, you are not eligible for CHAMPVA. And you must apply for CHAMPVA benefits.

The Up Sides and Down Sides

But even with veteran healthcare coverage options, it’s not always easy to understand what is covered and what isn’t. These plans come with advantages and disadvantages.

TRICARE offers a variety of plans within their two levels of coverage that can be customized, including those for young adults aging out of their dependent status, military retirees, and participants living overseas. It also offers TRICARE for Life (TFL), a Medicare supplement program for those who are eligible.

CHAMPVA is secondary to Medicare for those who are eligible for Medicare, and beneficiaries must be enrolled in Part A and Part B to keep CHAMPVA benefits. Benefits may be lost if a surviving spouse remarries. Also, stepchildren are not eligible postdivorce, and other shifts in eligibility are possible. 

And neither TRICARE nor CHAMPVA includes dental coverage.

Help Beyond the Stigma

It’s imperative that our vets get the physical and mental healthcare they need, but veteran health insurance coverage isn’t always enough. The physical injuries that come with military service may lead to years of ongoing disability. But the psychological wounds of service leave many veterans struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, trauma from sexual abuse, and more. 

Somehow, healthcare for our veterans must include education to help our veterans overcome the stigma — the myth of mental health issues as a sign of weakness — and get the mental health help they need.

Somehow, healthcare for our veterans must include education to help our veterans overcome the stigma — the myth of mental health issues as a sign of weakness — and get the mental health help they need.

Gentle Path is part of The Meadows, one of the leading centers for trauma and addiction in the US. Here, we understand the challenges of reintegration and the stressors unique to military service that make it difficult to seek help. As part of the HealthNet Federal Services (HNFS) for their TRICARE program, The Meadows provides behavioral health and substance abuse inpatient services with an emphasis on trauma, PTSD, and addictive disease disorders to active duty and retired military and their dependents. We are here to help.

November 10th, 2021

Categories: military trauma trauma recovery trauma treatment tricare

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