HARTFORD, Connecticut -- There are more than 200,000 military veterans in Connecticut, and a new tool aims to make it easier for them to access health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
AARP's Veterans and Military Families Health Benefits Navigator launched this month. It is a user-friendly document explaining qualifications for certain health benefits, and how to start the application process.
Only 26% of Connecticut veterans have used their health-care benefits through the VA, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nora Duncan, state director of AARP Connecticut, said the application process can often be confusing and frustrating, which can keep many veterans from accessing their benefits.
"We need to help get that information out there if they're not accessing care, because they don't know that it's available to them," Duncan urged. "The guide really talks about the navigation of the application process, which I hope helps people understand that they have more they can get to live healthier, happier lives here in Connecticut."
The navigator also provides information on how to get assistance applying for benefits with the help of a veterans service organization. According to a RAND study, nearly 60% of veterans are eligible for VA health care, but less than half of those eligible utilize their benefits.
Roberto Burgos, an AARP Connecticut volunteer based in Manchester, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 25 years. He said the process of finding and applying for VA health benefits should be as simple as possible.
"Veterans have worked hard and have dedicated their service and sacrifice to this country," Burgos asserted. "Having access to the right people who can provide the right information will allow people like me to be able to maybe see if there are VA health-care benefits that would be beneficial to us, especially as we get older."
AARP Connecticut plans to highlight the navigator on social media for Veterans Day, along with Caregiver Awareness Month in November, as the tool can be helpful to veterans' family members who are supporting them.
Source: Connecticut News Service