Many years ago when I was honorably discharged from the US Navy I had very little awareness about the VA benefits available to Veterans. I was not aware that health care and other benefits were available to me at that time, or even years later when I found myself a single mother. My children were covered for several years by their father’s policy, but I was on my own. I was in school full-time, and so I worked as many hours as I could – often hitting full-time work hours, in addition to my school hours – to ensure that I had health insurance coverage.
More than 2 decades later as attention to female veterans has increased due to their involvement in the most recent wars, the local VA built a new Women’s Veteran Health area within their large facility. I learned of this in random conversations with a few women who were also veterans and who used the VA for all of their medical care. They encouraged me to check it out. I thanked each of them for the information at the time, but didn’t get around to making an official inquiry until recently when I was “in the neighborhood”.
I decided it might be convenient to register with the VA so that when I was in the neighborhood, I could utilize the services there. I wasn’t looking for free care – I have robust health insurance, and I know that the VA does bill 3rd party insurance when it is available. Mostly I was looking for the convenience of location as my own Primary Care Physicians are a good 45 minutes away from my home, and more than an hour away from my work place, so it made sense to me to at least explore the VA option, which I assumed was available, especially since I was a Veteran who also had health insurance.
The registration clerk took my information and entered me into the system. It was an efficient process overall and included some financial questions as well as other demographic ones, including when I served (during peace time) and required the presentation of my DD-214 (discharge papers), which I had with me that day.
After a few minutes, the clerk came back to the window and sat down.
“I’m afraid we can’t help you,” he said, pointing to a section in a book. “You make well over the minimum salary amount for someone who doesn’t also have service in a conflict (e.g. war) logged.
I looked at the number his pencil was resting on and in a flash of understanding got the biggest smile on my face.
“Oh, thank you!” I said to him, as I struggled to conceal the joy that emerged as I understood.
He looked at me quizzically.
“You realize that you’re not eligible for care at the VA right now, even with your insurance” he was confused and I hadn’t meant to confuse him, “but you can re-apply later if your circumstances change.”
We chatted briefly for a minute more, and I thanked him again, took the information he had shared with me and left.
I realized in that moment the extraordinary financial blessings that I have experienced throughout my life. I may have qualified for benefits when I first became a single mother, based on my income of $9,000 – $11,000 a year, but as soon as I graduated from college and took my first job (the Monday after graduation and less than 3 years after becoming a single mother), I made too much to qualify for VA benefits. Today, with a “little Ivy” graduate education, and decades of relevant work experience, I am well-provided in a way that is more clear to me now than ever. I believed that I knew this (that I am provided), but it took a stamp of “ineligibility” to remind me of the scope of the blessings I have realized and continue to realize in my life.
Since that episode, I look at my life with renewed gratitude; I see my circumstances in a totally new light. It is difficult to convey what happened to me that day. It was as if a veil had been pulled back to allow me to see how very blessed I am today, and have been throughout my life – even during some times that didn’t feel very divinely guided.
A few days later one of my friends asked me, “How did it go up at the VA?”
I smiled and said, “It was great! I got the information I needed and I’m good to go.”
I am indeed “good to go” knowing that I Am provided, always and in all ways…and understanding what this means in a much more profound way than I did before.
And so it is.