Episode 230 Joanna Morales PACT Act and Veteran Legal Resources Transcript

This transcript is from episode 230 with guest Joanna Morales.

[00:00:00] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host Scott DeLuzio and now let’s get on with the show.

[00:00:21] Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Joanna Morales. Joanna is a cancer right attorney and the CEO of Triage Cancer, a nonprofit organization that provides education on the practical and legal issues that impact individuals with cancer and their caregivers.

[00:00:42] Scott DeLuzio: Cancer is a huge issue amongst veterans. Complications coming out from Agent Orange with the Vietnam era burn pits, and a number of other toxic exposures that we all have been exposed to throughout our time the military. So she’s here today to discuss the rights that veterans [00:01:00] and service members have with regards to cancer and all that type of stuff.

[00:01:03] Scott DeLuzio: And so that way we can understand, especially with some of the new legislation that’s come out you know what it is that we have available to us to. Us in getting the care that we need. So, without further ado, welcome to the show, Joanne. I’m glad to have you here.

[00:01:19] Joanna Morales: Thank you so much for having

[00:01:20] Joanna Morales: me.

[00:01:20] Joanna Morales: I’m happy to be here.

[00:01:21] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. So, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your background?

[00:01:26] Joanna Morales: Sure. So I’m a cancer rights attorney by training, which means that I have spent the better part of my legal career teaching people how to navigate the systems that come up as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

[00:01:40] Joanna Morales: So a lot of people kind of look at me funny when I say I’m a cancer rights attorney. They don’t really know what that means. Even most lawyers don’t really know what that means, and the reason why is because it actually covered lots of different areas of the law. So it’s employment issues and accessing health insurance coverage and disability benefits or [00:02:00] other types of government programs, estate planning and medical decision making.

[00:02:05] Joanna Morales: Just general finances. So how do you manage your medical bills and what are the consumer protections that exist? So a lot of the things that we talk about as cancer related legal issues are things that people don’t think of as legal issues. You know, most people don’t think of how do I buy health insurance as a legal issue, But there are laws and programs that exist to help people do that and to protect consumers.

[00:02:30] Joanna Morales: And our goal is to teach people what those laws say so that they can. Do the things that they need to do to find their best path forward.

[00:02:38] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I think that’s a big thing, especially in the legal world where so many things change all the time. New laws are passed. New rights are created, or I don’t wanna say rights are created necessarily that’s probably not the best way to say it, but new opportunities exist for people to access certain resources whether it’s[00:03:00] care through the VA or different insurance programs and things like that will come up and you may do your research today and find out all that there is to know.

[00:03:11] Scott DeLuzio: All of the programs that are available today. But a month from now, new laws could be passed, new programs could be created, different things like that could happen. And all of a sudden all of that knowledge is, I don’t wanna say it’s outdated completely, but there’s new stuff that you didn’t even know about.

[00:03:26] Scott DeLuzio: And so, you know, I think it’s important to have somebody like you on your side, especially if you’re dealing with things, scary, things like cancer. You have other things to worry about than the legal aspects of everything that’s going on. You gotta get yourself healthy and Exactly. And everything right.

[00:03:43] Scott DeLuzio: And so, that’s why I thought it was really important and timely, especially with some of the new law laws that have passed recently. I think it’s important to have someone like you on to let people know that there are things that they’re probably just not even aware of that will help them should.[00:04:00]

[00:04:00] Scott DeLuzio: Receive a cancer diagnosis or want to plan for something, you know, in their future when they’re going through this kind of thing, you know, it’s really a difficult time that people are going.

[00:04:10] Joanna Morales: Absolutely. And our goal is really just to make sure people have the information that they need so they can make educated decisions and not lose out on some of the benefits and protections that they have access to.

[00:04:23] Scott DeLuzio: Right, exactly. And I think one of the things that you mentioned earlier was picking like a health insurance plan that was like one of the things that you are involved with and. Again, you don’t think of that as a legal issue? You know, I think, you know, a lot of us have health insurance and you know, whether it’s through the va, it’s through a third party, whatever it is we have some sort of healthcare coverage.

[00:04:43] Scott DeLuzio: And I think it’s interesting to learn more about how that insurance that you might have interacts with VA benefits, for example, that the veteran may have access to. Could you talk a little bit about that? Sure.

[00:04:56] Joanna Morales: So, In the cancer community, there’s a lot of [00:05:00] conversation around the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis, and I think that exists when we’re talking really about any type of serious medical condition.

[00:05:08] Joanna Morales: And we think the number one way to solve that problem is by making sure people have adequate health insurance coverage. But most people don’t know actually how to pick a health insurance plan to do that. It’s one of those things that we say should be taught in high school because it’s something everything needs to do, everyone needs to do, but really no one ever teaches us how to do it.

[00:05:28] Joanna Morales: And so, Understanding really all of your health insurance options is the thing that we think is most important. And then comparing those options and figuring out which option is actually going to cost you less and help you actually get the care that you need. So when you have access to multiple options, like if you have access to VA care and then you have access to a private insurance option, for example, if you have an employer sponsored health insurance coverage, What decisions you make in terms [00:06:00] of how those interact or where you go to get your care can make a huge financial difference for you.

[00:06:06] Joanna Morales: Sure. VA healthcare, a lot of people assume it’s free, but it’s not free for everyone. It’s means tested. So if you have a higher income level, you’re gonna be paying for certain types of care at the va. So, You wanna make sure that if you do also have private insurance, that you are deciding and looking into what it’s gonna cost you to go to the VA for care versus private insurance.

[00:06:31] Joanna Morales: But sometimes the VA covers things that private insurance doesn’t and vice versa. So understanding the care that you need and where to go to get that care is gonna impact your finance.

[00:06:42] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, it certainly will. And there’s a lot to consider there. There’s a big web of information that has to get kind of weeded out to, to figure out what is the best for me, especially like you’re saying, if you have third party insurance through your employer and you also have VA benefits and things like that, then you have to figure [00:07:00] out where.

[00:07:01] Scott DeLuzio: Where am I gonna be spending the most money? Where am I gonna be getting the best care? And kind of figuring out what the best option is for you. And I think a crucial thing, and you went back to saying this probably should be something taught in high school, but how do you figure out what is adequate healthcare coverage for yourself?

[00:07:21] Scott DeLuzio: So gen,

[00:07:22] Joanna Morales: generally speaking, first, you wanna make sure it’s covering the providers that you’re going, that you’re going to. So does it cover the hospital that you’re going to, or your primary care physician, or if you have a specific specialist you’re going to go see? You wanna make sure any plan that you’re looking at actually covers those doctors and providers.

[00:07:39] Joanna Morales: Then you wanna make sure if you’re taking any prescription drugs, that your plan is also covering those drugs and the list of drugs covered by a particular plan is called the formulary. So you can actually ask the plan or any plan that you’re looking at for their formulary, and then you can check to see if the drugs are on that list or not.[00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Joanna Morales: But you also wanna make sure that you’re picking a plan that has the lowest out of pocket costs, especially if you do have a serious medical condition and you’re actually utilizing your healthcare insurance. So the way that you do that is you. Take the monthly premium and you multiply it by 12 because that’s how much it’s gonna cost you to have the plan for the year.

[00:08:24] Joanna Morales: And then when we’re talking about private insurance, there’s something called the out of pocket maximum, and that’s the most that you’re gonna pay out of pocket for your medical care during the year. So we actually think it’s the most important thing for people to find out about their own insurance is what that out of pocket maximum is, because at least you.

[00:08:43] Joanna Morales: Kind of plan, or at least know what the worst case scenario is because once you reach that out of pocket maximum in paying those co-payments and those deductibles out of pocket, then your insurance kicks in at a hundred percent for the rest of the year. [00:09:00] So once you reach that threshold, you kind of get some relief from having to pay anymore out of pocket for the rest of the year.

[00:09:07] Joanna Morales: So picking a plan. And understanding what the Outof pocket maximum is key to the map. So once you do the math on the premium, so monthly premium times 12, then you add that to the outof pocket maximum, and that’s really what you’re gonna pay for your healthcare and any outof pocket costs for the year.

[00:09:28] Joanna Morales: And oftentimes, plans with more coverage will have a higher monthly premium, but a lower out of pocket maximum. So sometimes those plans actually end up saving you thousands of dollars by the end of the year if you’re actually using your healthcare coverage. So unfortunately as a society, we kind of look at the monthly premium and we say, Oh my gosh, it’s a high monthly premium.

[00:09:55] Joanna Morales: But it could end up saving you a whole lot of money by the end

[00:09:58] Scott DeLuzio: of the year. And I think that’s [00:10:00] one of the things that is almost a gamble because you don’t always know if you’re going to be using your full healthcare coverage for the year. I mean, in a an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to use it at all because we’d just be healthy.

[00:10:11] Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. We wouldn’t get into any accidents. We, nothing bad would happen to us at all as far as our health goes. It would just be there for the, just in case scenario and we wouldn’t need it. But when those things happen unexpectedly, because no one’s expecting to get hit by a bus or come, you know, get diagnosed with cancer or anything major like that you should have adequate coverage to, to cover your family’s financial situation so that way you don’t end up losing everything because of this one off type of thing.

[00:10:47] Joanna Morales: Exactly, and that’s really, we’ve sort of forgotten the idea that insurance is insurance. It’s just in case something were to happen. And unfortunately, the people who I talk to every day have had something happen. [00:11:00] And so even if they didn’t have adequate insurance when they were first diagnosed with cancer, you can still make changes now.

[00:11:09] Joanna Morales: Because of certain consumer protections that you couldn’t used to. So you now every single year, can look at your health insurance coverage and make sure it’s still meeting your needs. Sure. So if you did have really high out of pocket costs this year, you could actually make some changes to your coverage so that next year, You’re not facing those huge out-of-pocket costs again.

[00:11:30] Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. And I know from my own family’s personal experiences, we’ve had some very unexpected things pop up. And when those things happened, it was a huge relief. We looked at the bill that was coming from the hospital, like what it would’ve cost us, like how many hundreds of thousands of dollars that would’ve cost us.

[00:11:51] Scott DeLuzio: It would’ve ruined us financially, but we had the coverage that was there, that, that took care of that, and really saved us. I mean, it, [00:12:00] we would not. We’d still be paying it off for years and years to come. It just would not be something that we could cover ourselves. So, you know, we’re, we are very fortunate in that case that we had some sort of coverage that took care of that type of situation.

[00:12:13] Scott DeLuzio: So, I know especially a lot of times younger people People in their twenties are just starting out in their life. They’re invincible. They’re, nothing’s bad is gonna happen to them. Right. But until it does. And then when it does, then you’re gonna wish that you had something available there, you know, to help you out financially.

[00:12:29] Scott DeLuzio: Right?

[00:12:30] Joanna Morales: Yeah. Well, I’m glad to hear that was your family’s experience. Unfortunately, there are too many people who don’t have the adequate health insurance coverage. Right. And end up having to file bankruptcy. They can’t pay their bills and they end up losing their home or. You know, they’re worried about their job and losing access to their health insurance.

[00:12:51] Joanna Morales: So we really, our goal in providing education on all these topics is to prevent some of those crises. [00:13:00] And you know, as I shared a lot of what we end up teaching people we talk about through the lens of a cancer diagnosis, but it really is just stuff that applies to everyone. So you know how to pick a health insurance plan and understand your rights at work and.

[00:13:14] Joanna Morales: State planning and making sure you know you planned ahead for your family or. Managing your finances or understanding your credit score. Those are all just those, all those things that we really should be taught in high school.

[00:13:27] Scott DeLuzio: Right? And you don’t think of those things as legal issues, but you can see how they can quickly become legal issues if they’re not addressed appropriately in the beginning, right?

[00:13:37] Scott DeLuzio: You’re talking about filing for bankruptcy and things like that. But those become legal issues when you no longer have the ability to pay for you know, whatever the services were that you needed. Let’s switch gears a little bit here and there’s been a lot of talk recently about legislation and things like that regarding burn pits and stuff, and recently the PACT Act passed and was signed into law.

[00:13:56] Scott DeLuzio: Could you talk about some of the benefits that are available now to veterans that [00:14:00] maybe weren’t available prior to this being signed into law and how that impacts veterans?

[00:14:06] Joanna Morales: Yeah, so the PACT Act is a new law that expands healthcare and disability benefits for veterans who are exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while serving in the military.

[00:14:17] Joanna Morales: But it, a lot of the news was really around some of the new benefits available for individuals who served in the Gulf War and in post nine 11 Situations who were exposed to burn pits or sort of other kind of unknown toxic exposures. And really why that’s so significant is that it sort of eliminated all the work that veterans have to go through to prove.

[00:14:43] Joanna Morales: That their medical conditions were tied to those exposures, and that was really a pretty big deal because it eliminated that barrier to getting access to benefits and just presumes that anyone who served in those conflicts actually can get access to the benefits. [00:15:00] But it also snuck in some other older issues that veterans were experiencing.

[00:15:05] Joanna Morales: So it added some presumptive eligibility related to Agent Orange exposure. In the Vietnam War, there was some radiation exposure. There were some base cleanups that had radiation exposure. So it added some additional categories of individuals where they allowed for presum eligibility for healthcare and disability benefits for veterans.

[00:15:27] Joanna Morales: And so if you want that information, they actually, it’s very clearly laid out. On the VA website, but we also did a blog on it, on triagecancer.org/blog. That kind of breaks down the key eligibility requirements for each of those groups and then connects to the benefits that someone might be eligible

[00:15:47] Scott DeLuzio: for.

[00:15:48] Scott DeLuzio: Great. Yeah, and I know there. From my own experience, there’s definitely situations where people were exposed to things like burn pits. On the [00:16:00] base that I was stationed on in Afghanistan, we had a pretty large burn pit. We had it situated up on top of a mountain that was kind of surrounding the base that we were on.

[00:16:11] Scott DeLuzio: But we would burn everything plastic water bottles. We’d burn electronics like computers and batteries, and. Old uniforms and just we’d burn everything in there. And I’m certain that there was some toxic chemicals that were released in there. And, you know, we had to pass by that burn pit to go to some of the the points that we had around the base for base security purposes.

[00:16:36] Scott DeLuzio: We had to go buy that. We were breathing that. All night long you know, the wind would blow sometimes and blow all the smoke down to where the barracks were and everything. We were definitely exposed to that. And we also were exposed to radiation as well. There was a a building near the Pakistani border in Afghanistan where it was like an x-ray building where trucks would drive in and they’d be able to scan the trucks to look for weapons and things of [00:17:00] that nature in there.

[00:17:02] Scott DeLuzio: And some of the local Afghans who were working in this building, they were being diagnosed with cancer and at an alarmingly high rate, and they couldn’t figure out why. So we brought in, and I forget the name of the reader, but the thing that basically detects radiation levels. And it was probably about 20 yards or so away from the building that you had to be in order to be at a safe level from the radiation and.

[00:17:28] Scott DeLuzio: I frequently would walk into that building to go, you know, check out things and I’d be in there. Other people that I served with were in there and, you know, it’s, you know, it’s amazing 12 years later that I still haven’t come down with anything, you know, like that. But it’s nice to know that some of these conditions are, Just assumed now that yes, this was because of your experience over there.

[00:17:51] Scott DeLuzio: You don’t have to jump through hoops anymore. To try to prove to the VA that yes, this is definitely because of you know, the exposures that [00:18:00] I had. And I think that’s something that, that is important that maybe people. Quite understand. Maybe people haven’t applied for any VA benefits or anything like that before and they don’t realize It’s not just an automatic, You have XYZ condition and you boom.

[00:18:17] Scott DeLuzio: Now all of a sudden you get the VA benefits. You kind of have to, you have to prove that it was connected to your service. Right. Could you talk a little bit about how that works?

[00:18:26] Joanna Morales: So it’s actually really hard to prove. That your medical condition is connected to a specific cause, especially when we’re talking about cancer, when there are so many reasons why someone, and sometimes no reason why someone might actually develop cancer.

[00:18:42] Joanna Morales: And so that causation is actually often really hard to prove and a barrier to getting access to benefits, which is why this law was actually such a big deal. Is that people don’t have to go through those hoops to show medically speaking that you are [00:19:00] exposed X on X day to X thing. And therefore it caused your cancer or your respiratory illness.

[00:19:07] Joanna Morales: And so this is why it just makes it easier for people to get access to benefits. And I think the other piece is if someone had tried to get access to benefits and were previously denied, Because they couldn’t prove it. This is a moment where you can actually reapply for benefits and get access to those

[00:19:27] Scott DeLuzio: benefits.

[00:19:28] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, so that was gonna be my next question actually, because I know there are people who have applied for benefits and this may have been a couple years ago and they got denied and now all of a sudden this is past and I think that’s sort of what I was getting at before is you could have done all the research in the world.

[00:19:45] Scott DeLuzio: Months or years ago. And that research may not apply right now because there’s something new and we now have the back act that now allows you to go back and say, Okay, I’m gonna you know, reapply for this or appeal the decision that [00:20:00] was made back that far however far back that it happened to be.

[00:20:03] Scott DeLuzio: When you apply for benefits and this is just from my experience and for the listeners who may not be familiar with this, but when you apply for benefits, the benefits will start. If you’re approved for those benefits, they’ll start on the day that you applied for those benefits. It Correct.

[00:20:20] Joanna Morales: So this law, if I recall off the top of my head, it was. Supposed to go into effect 90 days from the enactment. Okay. But it’s still, So I, my, my message to everybody is, if you think that you qualify for these benefits or you were previously denied and need to reapply, contact the VA immediately. And you can file a claim online, you can do it over the phone, you can do it in person at a VA location.

[00:20:56] Joanna Morales: And there are a lot of resources online, on the VA [00:21:00] website on how to actually file the claim and what you need to include. So I don’t wanna discourage anyone from getting access to the benefits right away, especially retroactively given if someone applied before and was

[00:21:14] Scott DeLuzio: denied. Yeah. And that, that I think is the point I was trying to get at is the retroactive aspect of this.

[00:21:20] Scott DeLuzio: Because if someone applied, let’s say two years ago for certain benefits and they were denied and now they come back and they appeal that decision. They, as far as I understand, they should be assuming it gets approved, they should be owed that back pay for those last two years. So if it, let’s say it’s a thousand dollars a month just for easy numbers, I know it, it doesn’t exactly ever work out to that, but, you know, you’re looking at $24,000 that would be paid kind of lump sum to you for that type of thing.

[00:21:53] Scott DeLuzio: As long as I’m understanding that correct.

[00:21:56] Joanna Morales: That is my understanding of the law. I think that the piece about [00:22:00] laws is they pass the law and then an agency actually has to implement that law. And when in that process an agency releases regulations and the details about how that’s actually gonna happen.

[00:22:12] Joanna Morales: So I haven’t heard about any details of where. Someone hasn’t gotten access to past benefits at this point, but theoretically that’s the way that it’s supposed to work. Right. They do call that claim a supplemental claim. If someone has been denied previously, but now ha but has a medical condition that is now considered presumptive then they just file that supplemental claim.

[00:22:37] Scott DeLuzio: Got it. Okay. Yeah, and so that, that makes sense. So, Certainly if you have been denied in the past for the listeners, if you’ve been denied your benefits because you didn’t, weren’t able to prove that it was service connected or whatever. Definitely go back, appeal that decision. You could be looking at a significant amount of money that would be coming your way for that.

[00:22:59] Scott DeLuzio: And I [00:23:00] know money is not going to fix everything, right? You money doesn’t necessarily, isn’t going to take the cancer away. It’s not going to you know, resolve that respiratory illness or whatever else it is that you may be dealing with. It’s gonna, it’s gonna make things a little bit easier for you you know, for your family for yourself.

[00:23:17] Scott DeLuzio: It, it’ll make things certainly easier as far as that goes. And I know there’s been other issues on various military bases around the country, around the world, really. There’s a bill in Congress, I believe regarding harmful water on Camp La June. There’s an issue at in Hawaii. I.

[00:23:34] Scott DeLuzio: Joint base, Pearl Harbor, Hickum that had another water issue. Other bases have had similar issues with their water and mold and other things like that. What legal resources, or, sorry recourse do the service members have for dealing with all of that type of.

[00:23:51] Joanna Morales: So it does depend on the issue.

[00:23:53] Joanna Morales: So with Camp June, they actually have a law that also just passed [00:24:00] recently. Okay. That provides some presumptive eligibility and add some medical conditions. So if you were diagnosed with one of those presumptive medical conditions and you served at that base or your, or it affected your depend.

[00:24:13] Joanna Morales: Who are living on base, then you get access to healthcare and disability benefits through those presumptive conditions. So that also made things a little bit easier because now you don’t have to hire a lawyer to actually file a lawsuit. You can actually just apply for the benefits online through VA Now with Hawaii, I think that’s an ongoing issue.

[00:24:36] Joanna Morales: So, I think that’s something that people do need to think about what they might have been exposed to. I think we’ll probably learn more as that unfolds. I, my understanding is they’re still trying to remedy the water situation there. But if someone is, has questions about really any of this, I think going to the VA to pose some initial questions about [00:25:00] what you have access to.

[00:25:01] Joanna Morales: And then if you need more information or need help navigating the system there are veterans legal resource programs out there. The American Bar Association which is ABA dot. O org has a veteran’s resource page for legal resources. But certainly you can contact us at triagecancer.org. We can point you towards resources based on the issues or questions that you have.

[00:25:27] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that, that’s great that there are people out there like yourself and there’s resources available for people to you know, get in touch. But, you know, I can only imagine. I, fortunately I haven’t had to deal with this, but I can only imagine having, basically having to live on, in these substandard conditions where the water is undrinkable, there’s mold and other toxic exposures really, that are going on.

[00:25:52] Scott DeLuzio: And not only. Would it be bad enough that it’s just, you know, me as a service member or you know, somebody else as a service member but when your family [00:26:00] has to live in those conditions as well, like, that just to me just doesn’t seem right. Is there anything like that people can do to help expedite the process of remming the situation that they’re living?

[00:26:14] Scott DeLuzio: As opposed to just waiting for yeah. Okay. Yeah. Now we have this exposure to this. Now we get X, Y, Z benefits or whatever. That seems like a a reaction kind of thing as opposed to being proactive.

[00:26:27] Joanna Morales: I think the first piece is most of us don’t know what we’re being exposed to, and I think that isn’t, that’s isn’t a situation that’s just limited to military bases.

[00:26:37] Joanna Morales: But I think that elected officials are an untapped resource with respect to these types of issues, especially when it’s around access to veterans benefits. , or someone who’s currently serving in the military because. They’re responsible. So our elected officials are the ones who are making decisions about these [00:27:00] laws.

[00:27:00] Joanna Morales: They have the power to ask questions of federal agencies about what’s going on in their districts. So if you are serving on a military base where. You think that there is an issue communicating with the elected official who’s responsible for where that military base is actually step number one.

[00:27:21] Joanna Morales: I think that also that applies when you’re having trouble getting access to benefits. There are actually staff of members of Congress who are responsible for constituent services. So if you’re having trouble getting access to VA benefits, then communicating with their office and the staff person who’s responsible for constituent services can actually speed up resolution.

[00:27:44] Joanna Morales: So I think we sometimes forget that, that is what they’re there for, right? And that we don’t kind of tap into those resource.

[00:27:52] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I had an issue, It wasn’t a medical or anything like that issue. But I had an issue where some of my paperwork [00:28:00] was incorrect and needed to be amended in corrected basically.

[00:28:02] Scott DeLuzio: And so I filed all the paperwork with the right agency, the right organizations, all the T’s were crossed, all the I are dotted, everything. In the right place. It took over two years, and I still hadn’t heard a response from them as far as the status of this. And I tried following up, I got nothing.

[00:28:20] Scott DeLuzio: It was just crickets. So I ended up writing a letter to one of the elected officials in this area, and within a month, paperwork was corrected, everything was sent back, everything was done. And so it was a much faster process once, and I did that. But you’re absolutely right that. What they’re there for.

[00:28:38] Scott DeLuzio: They’re there to represent you in the government organizations that you are trying to navigate. And you know, if you can’t rely on the people who you are electing to represent you, then you probably should elect some other people. , you

[00:28:53] Joanna Morales: know? Exactly. I mean, they work for us. Right, Right.

[00:28:56] Joanna Morales: So, I mean, it, and they, it’s everything that the federal government [00:29:00] handles to everything from. Getting your passport expedited to the issue with an issue with the irs. So, yeah. I think that we definitely don’t use those resources as much as we could.

[00:29:15] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, for sure. And this is definitely not a political thing.

[00:29:18] Scott DeLuzio: It’s not a Democrat or Republican independent thing. It’s, it doesn’t matter who that person is. That’s their job. They’re there to represent you regardless of the little initial letter after their name. It doesn’t matter. That’s their job. And so when you elect these people, whether you voted for them or not, it doesn’t matter.

[00:29:37] Scott DeLuzio: That’s their, they’re there to serve you and. I think we, That’s a refreshing reminder. I’m glad you brought that up, .

[00:29:45] Joanna Morales: Yeah, and I think so, so, so it’s important to know those constituent services individuals are usually at the local level, so you wanna go to their local office as opposed to their DC office.

[00:29:55] Joanna Morales: And their staff are there to help people locally.

[00:29:59] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. [00:30:00] And you can usually find the local office, You can usually find them on the website for your congress person or the senator, whoever it is that you’re dealing with. You can usually find where the local office is and. The hours and phone numbers and address, things like that.

[00:30:15] Scott DeLuzio: You can find all of that stuff usually on their website. So, you know, first off, identify who the person is because it may not necessarily be your congress person that you’re dealing with. It may be like if you’re stationed at a base someplace else. Exactly. You know, you made it be away from your hometown.

[00:30:28] Scott DeLuzio: You may be someplace else. So figuring out who that congress person is, who’s responsible for that area that you’re dealing with, and then figuring out where their office is and who the right people are to talk to. Make an appointment there and get in touch with them. But that’s, I think that’s one of the best takeaways I think out of all of this is that there are people there who are not being utilized.

[00:30:48] Scott DeLuzio: A lot of times we sit here you know, moaning and complaining about how no one is doing anything for us, and there’s literally people sitting there waiting to help you, and we don’t utilize those services. So, definitely reach out to those people and [00:31:00] try to get the assistance that you need and they’ll move things along from my experience anyway.

[00:31:04] Scott DeLuzio: So I’ll definitely move things along a little bit quicker than you might be able to do on your own. So, Wow. I think we’ve covered a lot of stuff here. I’m sure we’ve just scratched the surface with regards to all of the benefits that are available and things like that. But I think the actionable insights in this episode is that you know, there are things constantly evolving.

[00:31:26] Scott DeLuzio: Check with the va, see what benefits are available to you now that may not have been available to you six months ago or a year ago, or whatever time period it was that you maybe last applied for certain benefits. Keep up on that. Just because you’ve been denied certain benefits doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story.

[00:31:43] Scott DeLuzio: You may still have. Access to some of those benefits now that certain things have changed and we’ll continue to change in the future. There may be other laws that get passed that allow you to have access to things that maybe you were denied in the past. You know, utilize those elected officials.

[00:31:59] Scott DeLuzio: [00:32:00] They are there to help you to represent you in cases like this. And so use those those resources and you. Make sure you , one of the biggest things I think, is making sure you have the adequate health coverage, cuz that could totally ruin your family. If you don’t have the right coverage should something unexpected happen.

[00:32:20] Scott DeLuzio: So, Really awesome episode here. I think a lot of actionable advice. Where can people go to find out more about what it is that you do and get assistance for things that maybe we didn’t cover, but still may fall under that umbrella of the, those legal resources that you might provide.

[00:32:35] Joanna Morales: Sure. So you can visit our website at triagecancer.org, and we have free educational events to provide information about these topics and so many more. And we have materials on our website, but we also have a legal and financial navigation program that’s also free, and so people can get one on one assistance for getting their questions answered as.

[00:32:58] Scott DeLuzio: And like any other [00:33:00] nonprofit, I’m sure fundraising is a an issue that you are always looking for help with or volunteers or things like that. If people want to help out where can people go to, to help out whether it’s through volunteering their time or finances or whatever it is that you may be looking for.

[00:33:16] Joanna Morales: We definitely are funded entirely through grants and sponsorships and donations. So if you are interested in making a donation, you can do that at triagecancer.org and find out about volunteer opportunities and the other ways we engage with the community.

[00:33:32] Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. So definitely go check out triagecancer.org if you’re interested in helping out supporting this cause, this mission that they have.

[00:33:40] Scott DeLuzio: And if you are. In need of financial resources or legal resources, definitely check out triagecancer.org. Lot, lots of free resources available there, and they can point you in the right direction if. Maybe they’re not the right person or group of people to help out in your particular situation.

[00:33:59] Scott DeLuzio: I’m sure [00:34:00] they have plenty of resources available that they can point you in that, that right direction. So thank you again, Joanna. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on the show and share all of these resources with us. I think this is a really impactful, powerful episode and hopefully it will help out a lot of people.

[00:34:15] Joanna Morales: Well, thank you so much for having me.

[00:34:18] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book. Go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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