Veteran sign-ups continue to surge at Sheffield Village VA Clinic

Sheffield Village

by Michele Murphy

In just over nine months, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Lorain Community-based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), located in Sheffield Village, enrolled 475 area veterans for services for the first time. Connie Duensing, medical administrative officer, attributes a percentage of the growth to increased visibility resulting from the move to Sheffield Village from Lorain last summer.

She says being on a public transportation route also helps because it is easier for vets to get to the facility, adding that Lorain County vets can get free door-to-door service from the nearby Veterans Services Commission.

A number of vets have told Duensing they drive by the facility located on Abbe Road close to the I-90 interchange at Detroit Road and it prompts their curiosity to stop in and ask about available services. She says a number of new patients were not aware of all the services available at the site, citing specialties like optometry, podiatry or physical therapy as just a few examples.

While Duensing is pleased with the enrollment spike, she says she hopes more of the county’s veterans will check out the facility and look into services that may help them.

She has been with the VA 13 years and realizes some vets think the application process to determine eligibility for services seems complicated. She says all a vet needs to get started are a government photo ID like a driver’s license, passport or state ID card, and their DD214 discharge papers. However, she said if they have lost their papers, she can assist vets by accessing federal databases, or in extreme cases, by ordering another set of discharge papers from the National Archives. She says if someone has their documents, registration takes about 15 minutes and she is more than happy to walk vets through the process. Many vets have told her afterward that, if they had realized the process was that easy, they would have applied much sooner.

She also is trying to tamp down the misperception among vets that they have to give up their outside private doctors or services if they get some services from the VA. “It is not all or nothing,” she states flatly. Vets can choose to stay with their outside doctors and continue to pay for those services through their private insurance and still get a portion of their services from the VA. “They can use the VA for what is cost effective for them,” Duensing says. As examples, some might find it beneficial to use the VA to fill prescriptions or for lab work or hearing aids, if their private insurance has a co-pay provision.

Duensing also wants to dispel another misconception concerning VA services. She says many vets who carry private insurance do not use VA services because they think it will help vets who have no other insurance. Duensing says this actually hurts those vets, particularly those most in need of services from the VA. The budget for each facility is based on the number of vets enrolled for services, with each vet getting an allocated amount based on services for which they qualify. Duensing says healthy vets will not surpass their limit and so those funds can be reallocated to a vet with multiple medical issues.

She wants to get the word out and is willing to speak to community groups of all types. She says most people know a veteran and the VA wants to let vets know about the services they have earned through their service. For more information or to schedule a presentation, call Duensing at the Sheffield Village VA at 440-934 9158, ext. 8908.

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