Photo: U.S. Veteran Health Administration

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Members of the U.S. Embassy’s Federal Benefit Unit (FBU) met with former U.S. military personnel at Mexico City’s American Legion Alan Seeger Post 2 on Wednesday, Nov. 30, to discuss benefits available to those who have served.

In a two-hour discussion, the FBU staff outlined an array of Social Security benefits and other benefits to which U.S. vets and their families are entitled.

But the main focus of discussion from the veterans’ point of view was the lack of medical care available for U.S. veterans living outside the country, in this case, particularly, in Mexico.

Former Alan Seeger Post 2 Commander Jay Van Heuven said that the American Legion, the United States’ largest wartime veterans service organization, has been advocating for the U.S Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to allow vets to be treated in the countries where they reside, which, he said, would not only save the administration money in most cases, but would provide better benefits for the vets themselves.

Van Heuven said that, in some cases, vets are allowed to be treated abroad, but they must pay for the services out-of-pocket and later seek refunds from the BVA, which can be complicated and time-consuming.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, U.S. veterans living or traveling abroad can receive medical care for Veteran Administration (VA) service-connected disabilities through the VA Foreign Medical Program.

Under this program, the VA assumes payment responsibility for the necessary treatment of service-connected disabilities, but there is definitely a lot of bureaucratic paperwork involved.

Another veteran who attended the Alan Seeger Post 2 meeting, a young woman by the name of Emma who asked for her last name not to be revealed and who was left with full disabilities during her four years of service in the U.S. Air Force, said that trying to program medical care in the United States while living in Mexico was a constant labyrinth of paperwork and red tape, leaving her essentially without access to U.S. government healthcare that she desperately needs.

“We need to find a way to better serve those who have served their country,” said Van Heuven.

“These are men and women to whom the U.S. government and U.S. people owe a great deal, and they are entitled to medical care.”

Van Heuven admitted that to create such coverage it would take an act of Congress, but he said that the biggest obstacle to realizing that objective is the lack of prioritization for veteran healthcare.

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