Deadline looms for post-9/11 vets to get the care they’ve earned | Opinion

There is a huge reason why I trust VA for all my health care needs and why I have for over 18 years — I feel safe, connected and know my providers have my best interest at heart and strive to deliver positive health outcomes. Further, as I age, I know that VA will be positioned, ready and capable of caring for me when I need them most. The overwhelming majority of veterans who use VA for their care feel the same way.

The PACT Act, which became law last year, is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in the history of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among the many provisions in the law, there is one that I’d like to urgently highlight that directly impacts post-9/11 combat veterans and the opportunity to enroll in VA’s full medical benefits package.

David Isaacks is a Marine Corps veteran and executive director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network.
David Isaacks is a Marine Corps veteran and executive director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network.

When President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act into law last August, his pen stroke immediately initiated a an open enrollment period at the VA for veterans who meet both of the following criteria:

  • Served on active duty in a theater of combat operations during a period of war after the Persian Gulf War or served in combat against a hostile force during a period of hostilities after Nov. 11, 1998.
  • Were discharged or released between Sept. 11, 2001, and Oct. 1, 2013, and not previously enrolled in VA health care.

Time is of the essence as the deadline to apply for VA health care without the need for additional eligibility verification is Sept. 30, 2023. For some veterans, meeting VA’s income threshold requirements prevent them from being eligible for VA care. Applying for care before the deadline eliminates this challenge entirely.

To apply for care today and to learn more about the PACT Act, veterans can visit va.gov/PACT or visit the closest VA medical center or clinic.

One of the advantages of VA health care is the comprehensive coverage it offers. From preventive care to specialized treatment for service-related conditions, veterans receive high-quality medical attention without the financial burden commonly associated with private health insurance and private health care in general. Furthermore, the VA health care system focuses on the unique health challenges faced by veterans, ensuring that their specific needs are met.

Back in 2005, after I completed my first VA primary care appointment, I felt the same way as I do now. VA health care is about building a lifelong relationship and empowering veterans to access VA throughout their life journey. As a community, it is our duty and responsibility to encourage and support veterans in applying for VA care; they deserve nothing less.

David Isaacks is a Marine Corps veteran and executive director of the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8), the network of VA hospitals and clinics located in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. VISN 8 is the largest VA health care network in the country, serving approximately 10% of all U.S. veterans enrolled and eligible for VA care.