When the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) expired on May 11, 2023, some of VA’s pandemic-related authorities expired as well. VA has been preparing for this moment for months, working to make this transition as seamless as possible for Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

As our nation enters this new phase, the VA remains committed to delivering world-class care and benefits to all those we serve.

Here are a couple of things that will change as a result of the Public Health Emergency ending:

  • Return to in-person visits for Veteran Family Caregivers. During the pandemic, VA relaxed requirements for in-person visits associated with VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).
  • Use of VA Video Connect for telehealth.
  • Reinstatement of pre-pandemic deadlines for VA travel reimbursement. This flexibility will end on June 9, 2023. After that date, Veterans submitting a claim for travel reimbursement will have to submit it within 30 days of their VA medical appointment. To learn more about travel reimbursement and eligibility, visit the Beneficiary Travel Self-Service website.

The Grundy County VAC and Edward Hines VA Medical Center staff are continuing their outreach program and will be available to answer questions about the post public health emergency and other veterans’ benefits and services.

Here are the events during June:

  • Monday June 5, 2023 from 10 am to 2 pm at the Morris American Legion Post 294 212 W Washington Street Morris, IL 60450
  • Wednesday June 14, 2023 from 10 am to 2 pm at the Channahon Village Hall 24555 S Navajo Drive, Channahon, IL 60410.
  • Monday June 19, 2023 from 10 am to 2 pm in Garner at the Community Foundation of Grundy County South Resource Center 229 Liberty Street Gardner, IL 60424

These events are all free and open to all area veterans, no registration is required.

The Grundy County Veterans Assistance Commission along with the US Department of Veterans Affairs Edward Hines Medical Center are able to help answer questions about VA health care, the PACT Act, Camp Lejeune water, and many other veterans benefits and programs. They can also discuss many other federal, state and local veterans benefits and services.

All services provided by both agencies are free and open to all veterans and their surviving spouses.

There have been significant changes and additions to federal benefits with the passage of recent legislation. With the passage of the 2022 PACT Act, certain Post-9/11 Veterans are now eligible for expanded VA benefits. The Hines outreach program is here to help you get enrolled in VA health care services during the special enrollment period of October 1, 2022 – October 1, 2023.

To enroll, a Veteran must have 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 November 11, 1998 and the Veteran must have been discharged or released between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013, and not previously enrolled in VA health care.

The PACT Act empowers VA to deliver benefits to Veterans suffering from more than 20 toxic-exposure conditions. For more information and to see a full list of the new presumptive conditions, visit https://www.VA.gov/PACT. The Grundy County VAC can help answer question regarding the claims process and work with you to file a claim free of charge.

The legislation also included additional presumptive conditions for veterans who served in Vietnam and several other countries in Southeast Asia who have been exposed to Agent Orange herbicides.

You may also be eligible for VA health care benefits if you served in the active military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge. If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered active duty after October 16, 1981, you must have served 24 continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty. There are other criteria that may also make you eligible for VA health care.

Please bring a copy of your DD214 and a Photo ID if you would like to discuss any benefits or you would like to file a claim for any benefits or services. If you do not have a copy of your DD 214, the Grundy County VAC can assist you with getting a copy.

“There have been several significant changes to the benefits and services provided by the US Department of Veterans Affairs as a result of legislative acts by Congress last year. The Grundy County VAC and Hines VA Outreach are available to help answer questions and assist with applications for these new benefits.” said Ken Buck, Superintendent of the VAC. A veteran is also welcome to contact the VAC at vac@grundycountyil.gov or 815-941-3152 to ask general questions or to schedule an office appointment.