|Amidst this public health crisis, we still have a commitment to our veterans, who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom.
Many veterans have been wondering how the current COVID-19 outbreak impacts their care at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS) and their benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Here are some of the questions I have heard most often from our central Arkansas Veterans:
Is the VA open?
The VA is open, however, visitation to facilities is by exception only – for example, end-of-life and emergent situations.
How can I get in touch with my doctor or pick up my prescriptions?
If you urgently need a prescription filled, the CAVHS is offering curb-side prescription pickup services.
To pick up an urgent prescription, call 501-257-2900 to arrange the curbside service. Pickup hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Little Rock and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in North Little Rock.
However, mail-out prescription service remains the best option.
The best way to contact your doctor or to order mail-out prescriptions is via MyHealtheVetHEREor by calling 1-888-492-7845 or 501-257-1549.
For help registering forMyHealtheVet clickHERE.
How can I best get veteran-specific COVID-19 information?
Veterans looking for information on COVID-19 can call the CAVHS’s Info Hotline at 1-888-357-1978, or can find it at the VA’s COVID-19 information pageHERE.
If you haveflu-like symptoms, especially persistent coughing and fever, if you have been to areas known to have COVID-19 cases, or if you have have been in contact with a person with COVID-19, you should call ahead to your clinic, or call the after-hours nurse triage line at 501-257-2006.
There is a VA COVID-19 veteran drive-through test collection site in the parking area of John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. Veterans showing symptoms who have been recommended for testing by their provider will be able to enter the main parking lot via West 7th Street, to be directed to a quick and easy covered drive-through where they will be tested for COVID-19.
I am a disabled veteran. Can I get both VA disability benefits and Social Security at the same time?
You can receive both social security and your VA disability.
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance):
SSDI benefits are not affected by unearned income through VA benefits. In the following
example, Jane receives partial VA benefits of $400 per month. Because she worked and paid into the Social Security system, she now receives $850 per month in SSDI. Her VA and SSDI monthly benefit amounts will be added together:
VA Monthly Disability Benefit Amount $400
SSDI Monthly Benefit Amount + $850
Total Monthly Income = $1250
SSI (Supplemental Security Income):
Since SSI is a needs-based program, additional income from VA benefits will affect the cash benefit amount. SSA classifies VA benefits as “unearned income,” since it does not come from paid employment. As such, it will be deducted dollar for dollar from the SSI federal payment amount, after a general exclusion of $20. All SSI recipients are eligible for this exclusion, where the first $20 of earned or unearned income is not counted against their SSI payment. For example, Paul receives partial VA benefits of $400 per month and has been approved for SSI. This is how the VA benefits will affect his SSI cash benefit:
VA Monthly Disability Benefit Amount $400
General Exclusion - $20
Counted Income = $380
Maximum Monthly SSI Benefit Amount (2016 rates) $733
Counted Income - $380
Monthly SSI Amount = $353
Total Monthly Income (VA + SSI benefit amounts) $753
Do I still receive my GI Bill benefits?
Yes. I was pleased to hear that the president signed S. 3503 into law on March 21, 2020, which will enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students who have to take courses online due to the coronavirus outbreak.
How is my VA home loan affected?
The VA is encouraging all holders of guaranteed loans to extend forbearance to borrowers in distress as a result of COVID-19. They should also work with impacted borrowers who are unable to make their mortgage payments during these uncertain times.
The VA believes that many lenders plan to waive late charges on affected loans and has encouraged all lenders to adopt such a policy for any loans that may be affected. Lastly, in order to avoid damaging the credit records of Veteran borrowers, lenders have been encouraged by the VA to suspend credit bureau reporting on affected loans. For more information, please clickHERE.
How can I file a claim since the Regional Office is closed?
If you have a specific question regarding your benefits or how to file a claim, call 1-800-827-1000 or visit www.ebenefits.va.gov to be walked through the e-benefits process.
Many in-person services are already available via the phone or online through virtual options like VA Video Connect, which you can accessHERE.
The VA has discontinued VA benefit briefings and services on military installations for transitioning service members and their families through the interagency Transition Assistance Program (TAP) until further notice. However, the VA is providing virtual briefings and individualized counseling for transitioning service members where possible. Service members who have not received these briefings, as required by TAP, may access the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) platformHEREand register for “TGPS-US006: VA Benefits and Services”
As always, my team stands at the ready to help their central Arkansas veterans with the VA or any other government agency. If you or someone you know needs assistance, visit my website at Hill.House.gov or call my Little Rock office at (501) 324-5941.
We have been working to help central Arkansas veterans through this process. Here are my team's veterans wins for March.