Until recently, veterans who brought up marijuana use with their Department of Veterans’ Affairs (“VA”) health providers were treated like drug addicts. They felt stigmatized, and even feared that they might lose their VA benefits. However, a recent VA directive seeks to erase that stigma – encouraging veterans who use medical marijuana as a part of their treatment to discuss their use openly.
VA Directive Allows Veterans Living in States with Legal Medical Marijuana – Such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, and Hawai’i – to Discuss the Drug with VA Doctors
The directive, which has been lauded by groups such as The American Legion, allows VA employees to talk to their patients about the use of marijuana to treat “medical and psychiatric symptoms or conditions.” This push for more honest discussions between veterans and their doctors will allow health-care providers to assess interactions between drugs that they were previously unable to consider and, ultimately, will help them create safer and more comprehensive treatment plans for their patients.
Veterans who bring up marijuana use cannot be penalized through the suspension or denial of VA benefits, however the directive still leaves several marijuana-related restrictions in place. For example, the VA is still forbidden from recommending marijuana use or completing paperwork for marijuana programs, and veterans are not allowed to bring marijuana onto VA property.
The American Legion Sees the Directive as a Step Forward
American Legion National Commander, Denise Rohan, sees this as a step forward, but not the end of the struggle. Her group will continue to call for the removal of marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs.
Getting the Benefits You Deserve
As veterans’ advocates, we support any step that makes access to benefits more secure for our nations’ heroes. If you served, you should never fear that choosing a legal treatment option will put the benefits you rely on in jeopardy. Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the directive.
If you are a veteran with a service-connected disability and you believe you may not be getting all of the benefits you deserve, we encourage you to apply for benefits through your Regional Office right away. If your application is denied or you receive an unacceptable disability rating, send us a note or give us a call at (877) 629-1712. Our goal is to make sure this nation’s veterans are cared for and, with decades of experience overturning RO decisions, we are certain we can get you the benefits you deserve.