For Our Veterans: Returning soldiers should contact VA

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In this occasional column, director and CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf from VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System answers your questions about care and benefits for VA-enrolled veterans.

Q. My daughter served in Iraq, and she is hurting -- but she's reluctant to give VA a try. What can I do to help her get the care that she needs?

A. Know that you're not alone. Newly returned service members from Afghanistan and Iraq are sometimes eager to get on with their lives at home. However, connecting new veterans with VA care is critical, as our services are specifically tailored to veterans and their unique health care needs. To help you start this important conversation, check out Coaching into Care. This free, confidential VA phone service is devoted to helping you talk to your loved one about VA care. Just dial 888-823-7458 or check out the fact-packed website at Good luck!

Q. I recently served in Afghanistan and am newly enrolled in VA care. I need dental work done. Can VA Pittsburgh help?

A. We can help. If you are a combat veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, you may qualify for dental care if: 1) you are within a 180-day window of your discharge date 2) you did not receive final dental services prior to leaving the military (uncertain? check your DD214 form). If you think you are a candidate for free dental care and want to schedule an appointment, start by contacting our clinic devoted to serving new veterans at 412-822-2362.

Q. My loved one's health is starting to decline, and he is a veteran but he has never used the VA. Can VA Pittsburgh still help with equipment and medications?

A. Assuming your family member is eligible for VA care, we absolutely can. Your first step is to call us at 412-822-3000 to get connected to a primary care physician. After this initial appointment, the doctor will be able to order medications and medical equipment that meet your loved one's needs.

Q. I am a veteran and new to the VA. Do I have to give up my private primary care doctor to use VA services?

A. Absolutely not! You can happily keep all your non-VA doctors. However, you will need to visit your primary care team at VA Pittsburgh if you want any medications or referrals within the VA.

Q. I am a veteran with an established primary care team at VA Pittsburgh. I would, however, like to see a specialist. Can VA Pittsburgh help?

A. Yes. Start by contacting your primary care team, who will discuss your needs and arrange for any necessary consults. If you don't yet have a primary care physician at VA Pittsburgh, call us at 412-822-3000 to get started.

Q. I am a veteran. How do I know if I am eligible for a VA pension, Aid and Attendance or the GI Bill?

A. Since this is a financial benefits issue, you'll need to speak to a claims representative at the Veterans Benefits Administration. They can be reached at 1-800-827-1000. You can also see them in person in the Federal Building at 1000 Liberty Ave, Downtown.


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