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Updated Guide Aims to Help AZ Veterans Navigate Health-Care Options


Monday, June 20, 2022   

For many retired Arizona veterans, traversing the health care system can be both frustrating and challenging.

Now, AARP has launched an updated website to help veterans, military families and their caregivers navigate the maze of health care choices. The tool provides Arizona veterans with critical information on how to qualify for health care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Department of Defense.

Alejandro Juarez, communications director for AARP Arizona, said it should not be difficult for veterans to use the health care benefits they earned while serving their country.

"When veterans retire, many of them struggle through the system, the VA system, because it is very confusing," Juarez observed. "There's over 40,000 organizations that try to help them. So it's a very difficult navigation process that many of these veterans go through."

Juarez pointed out in addition to basic benefits, the Veterans and Military Families Health Benefits Navigator includes guides to women's veterans care, emotional and mental-health services, dental, hearing and vision services, and assistance for family caregivers.

He noted while studies show the quality of care delivered by the VA is generally equal to or better than care in the private sector, many veterans are often frustrated with the application process and confused about qualification requirements.

"More than anything, it's a referral," Juarez explained. "It's a tool that provides contact information, the resources, who to contact, where to go, et cetera. So it's just an online research and resource tool."

He added the Navigator is designed to be particularly helpful to veterans who may not live near health care providers or have other impediments to accessing care.

"People in rural areas don't take advantage of many of these resources," Juarez stressed. "It's very difficult for them to get it. They don't find the information. So we're hoping that with this tool, they are going to find the resources that are necessary."

According to Juarez, of the 522,382 veterans in Arizona, only 30% have utilized VA health services, with women veterans the least likely group to use their earned benefits.

Disclosure: AARP Arizona contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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