VA Healthcare System


There are many stories we have all heard about the VA Healthcare System. Some of us may have had both good and bad experiences.  Some of this may have to do with the facility that you visited but I thought you may find my story helpful to you. There were many aspects of this that I was not aware of and others may be in the same position.

Until 2009 I had never applied to the VA for health benefits. I have been fortunate so far to have not had any serious health issues. I am retired but my former employer still covers me for medical needs. Since this was my status, I never felt the need to apply to the VA and I did not want to take time or benefits away from those veterans who have no other place to go for health-care.

In 2009 however, at a local NJ Veterans seminar run by my county, we were advised that we should get into the system just in case the need ever arose where we needed the VA to provide care particularly with one of the Agent Orange presumptive illnesses.  Since I was concerned that there might be a time where my former employer would no longer cover me, I went ahead and applied. I was also concerned that I may at some point develop some illness or disease from my exposure to AO.

When I dropped off the application at a local VA clinic, I was asked if I wanted to have an Agent Orange Exam. I did and shortly thereafter went to the VA Hospital in Philadelphia for the AO exam. Quite honestly, I thought the exam itself was a joke. They took blood, did a chest x-ray and I spoke with a Doctor for about 30 minutes. He spent most of that time talking to me about a book I had with me and never performed any exam other than checking my blood pressure. I later got a letter telling me that I had no signs of any Agent Orange diseases. I was added to the Agent Orange Registry and was told I would be advised of any developments in that area.

I never did, to this day, receive any letter advising me that I was now in the VA Health system. Recently, I was told that if you are in the VA system and are not seen at least yearly you will be dropped. This concerned me and, coincidentally at this time, our county had the same Veterans seminar they had in 2009. While there I inquired if it were true about being dropped and while no one would categorically say it was true, they all advised that it would be wise to be seen at a VA clinic or Hospital at least yearly "just to be safe".

So, I contacted my local VA Health-care clinic about this. The person I spoke with confirmed that I was in the VA system. When I asked why I never received a letter telling me I was, they had no idea why I had not received a letter but said, not to worry, I am in their system. I was able to make an appointment to be seen at their clinic in December and she further advised that even though I was in pretty good health at this time, to make annual appointments, or more often, if the need arises. It was after my visit in December 2010 that I finally received a VA Healthcare System ID card.

Bottom line is, it is a good idea to apply for VA Health benefits even if you don't currently need them and it is a good idea to be seen yearly to avoid possibly being dropped from their system. While you are at, have an AO exam to at least get on the AO Registry.

If you have any questions on my saga, let me know. You can email me at

Bill Taggart

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