Surviving spouses of vets could get health care restored

By Kathy Helms Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Some surviving spouses of U.S. military veterans could have their health care benefits restored under a new law which recently went into effect, according to Randy Lingerfelt, veterans service officer for Carter County.
   Surviving spouses who previously had medical coverage under CHAMP VA -- or Civilian Health and Medical Program under the Department of Veterans Affairs -- could have their benefits reinstated if they apply before Feb. 4, 2004.
   "But there are two conditions: They have to be the surviving spouse who remarried after becoming the age of 55, and their husband [or wife] has to either have been on permanent or total service-connected disability or have died of a service-connected condition," Lingerfelt said. "There are quite a few who will fall into that."
   For example, he said, if you were 55 and your spouse died, and you have since remarried, "now at age 56, 57 or 58, you're this many years old but you're still not old enough to draw Social Security.
   "Where are you getting your health care from? You're having to pay for it out of your own pocket. If the surviving husband or wife who lost their CHAMP VA benefits by remarrying before Feb. 4, 2003, remarried after becoming the age of 55, they could be reinstated by Feb. 4, 2004. If they don't apply before then, they will not be reinstated," Lingerfelt said.
   For more information call Lingerfelt at 542-1824.