Wounded Times

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Deported Vets Eligible for VA Healthcare, GI Bill

Deported Vets Eligible for VA Healthcare, GI Bill
Jan 07, 2013
Military.com
by Bryant Jordan

There is irony and tragedy in the death in Mexico last year of 55-year-old U.S. Army veteran Manuel de Jesus Castano.

The irony is that Castano, a life-long legal U.S. resident deported for a past criminal conviction that had nothing to do with his Army service, was allowed into the U.S. for burial -- with full military honors -- at Fort Bliss, Texas. It was, as far as his family knew, the last and only veteran’s benefit he was entitled to.

Deported in 2011 from El Paso, Texas, where he was getting healthcare from the Department of Veterans Affairs for Lupus and Lou Gehrig’s disease, his conditioned worsened, according to his nephew. He died last June following a heart attack.

The tragedy is that Castano, his family and his supporters -- including other “banished veterans” forced to live outside the U.S. -- never knew that he was entitled to VA healthcare, including medications, regardless of his deported status.

VA spokeswoman Jo Schuda told Military.com that a deported veteran who already has VA healthcare can use the VA’s Foreign Medical Program, which is set up for veterans traveling or living overseas. Under the program, the VA assumes responsibility for necessary medical services related to a veteran’s service-connected medical conditions.

The same program can be used by vets submitted a claim and requiring evaluations and physicals, she said.

Even education benefits remain available.

“Veterans who are eligible for education benefits and have been deported may use their benefits to attend school outside of the U.S. as long as they enroll in a VA approved program,” she said. The VA’s Weams Institution Search website lets veterans find approved schools and universities both within the U.S. and overseas.
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