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VA Adds Hotline for Health Benefits

November 19, 1998|PETER M. WARREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Veterans Health Administration has established a toll-free hotline for information about new eligibility guidelines that expand medical benefits to millions of former military personnel.

Under eligibility changes that took effect Oct. 1, virtually all qualified veterans will be able to get outpatient care, prescription medicines and a full range of medical benefits. Previously, such programs were guaranteed only to veterans with low incomes or those with 50% or higher service-connected disabilities.

The toll-free number, (877) 222-8387, is answered from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Counselors can send enrollment packages to veterans or provide the location and phone numbers of hundreds of new VA clinics.

In addition, the counselors can switch callers directly to those clinics, where veterans can enroll for the program.

The change in eligibility rules comes at a time when the Department of Veterans Affairs in Southern California and elsewhere has been reorganizing veterans medical facilities to emphasize outpatient treatment and preventive medicine.

Those programs include the opening of satellite clinics in Orange, Los Angeles and other Southern California counties to bring primary care into the community, said veterans administration officials.

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