Honoring veterans through end-of-life care

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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All enrolled veterans eligible for hospice services

It surprises many Americans to learn that 25 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are veterans. That's 1,800 people a day; more than 680,000 veterans every year. These heroic Americans deserve the benefits derived from their military service, particularly at the end of life's journey.

More surprisingly, many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for hospice services through the VA.

On March 29, St. Cloud VA Health Care System and community hospice and palliative care providers are participating in the second annual We Honor Veterans: Partnering on End of Life Care conference in St. Cloud. The We Honor VeteransÊprogram is a national program designed to help hospice and palliative care providers understand and serve veterans at the end of life, and work more effectively with VA medical facilities in their communities.

"All hospices are serving veterans but often aren't aware of that person's service in the armed forces," said Carrie Barnes, RN, a Community Health Nurse Coordinator at the St. Cloud VA. "We want our community partners to be in a position to help veterans, and that's why we are participating in this conference. Moreover, we want Veterans to be aware of and, when they are needed, to be able to utilize their hospice benefits."

"Any veteran enrolled for VA health care, regardless of assigned priority group, is eligible for hospice benefits through the VA as a standard feature of the medical benefits package," said Dawn Marker, Eligibility Chief at the

St. Cloud VA. "The VA will provide for or purchase needed hospice and palliative care services for all enrolled veterans, whether those services are needed in an inpatient setting or in the home."

Some veterans, because of income limitations or other factors, may have not been eligible for enrollment for VA health care at the time they initially applied, Marker said. Life situations change, and as veterans encounter terminal illnesses their eligibility may also change, she added.

"I tell everyone, apply, apply, apply! The importance of applying for enrollment cannot be overstated," Marker said. "Even if a veteran is deemed ineligible for VA health care enrollment, if their situation does change simply having their name and information in our system will make for a quicker review in the future."

When the need for hospice and palliative care arises, it's comforting for the Veteran and their family to know their needs can be met, she added.

To apply for VA health care benefits, veterans can contact their County Veterans Service Officer, call the St. Cloud VA at (320) 255-6340, or apply online at www.1010ez.med.va.gov.

To find out which community hospice providers participate in the We Honor Veterans program, go to www.WeHonorVeterans.org, and select "Visit Our Partner Directory" link in the lower right-hand corner of the page. Search by organization name, city, level or state, and quickly identify hospices in your area that have made the commitment to provide quality care and services to veterans. Community hospice providers can learn more about participating in the We Honor Veterans program at the same site.

For more information on the local conference, please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .