What to Know if You're Affected by a Hurricane or Other Natural Disaster

How to Get Prepared and Ride Out a Hurricane
The U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also called the Hurricane Hunters, track a storm in September 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Chris Hibben)

If you live on the East Coast anywhere between Florida and Virginia you probably have heard there is a storm coming. 

You may have ventured out to the store and seen the shelves of bread and water bare, you may have put up sandbags around your house and packed an emergency kit, all good things. 

What about your family who was told to evacuate from base housing, your GI Bill payments for the school you just started, your VA audiology appointment, your prescription refills or the doctor's appointment to get that sports physical for the kids? 

Not to worry, we have all the info here.

Family Evacuation

As of this writing, several military installations have received evacuation orders.

If you have been issued an evacuation order, take it and get out of town. The military will pay you and your family to leave. Normally you are authorized to move not more than 400 miles away from your station, or to a designated evacuation location. The military will pay you and your family to travel round-trip to your evacuation location and for your meals and lodging while you are evacuated.

If you haven't received an evacuation order you travel at your own expense.

We have more details here.

Suspension of Debts Owed to the VA

The VA is offering a suspension of debt repayments for veterans and family members affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Debts related to benefits such as compensation or GI Bill - Those affected should contact the VA Debt Management Center via Ask VA at https://ask.va.gov (select Veterans Affairs-Debt as the category) or call 800-827-0648.

Medical debts - Those affected should contact the Health Resource Center or by calling 866-400-1238.

Veterans can also check the status of their VA debt online on VA's debt portal.

Receiving VA Benefits During A Disaster

If you had to relocate, or are unable to otherwise receive your VA payments due to a natural disaster you can contact the VA at 800-827-1000 to update your address, change your direct deposit or request emergency payment methods.

GI Bill Benefits During and After Natural Disasters

The law is specific on what will happen to your GI Bill benefits.

If your school is temporarily closed due to the hurricane, VA will consider your attendance as continuous and your payment won't be affected. This means that you will continue to get your housing allowance even if you can't attend classes. Veterans using the GI Bill must verify their attendance online like normal to receive payment.

Of course, this comes with some fine print. If you are enrolled, and the school hasn't sent your enrollment to the VA yet, you are out of luck. You won't get any money until classes resume. Also, if the school remains open, or opens later but you can't attend due to hurricane related issues, you won't get any GI Bill payments.

GI Bill Payments and Natural Disasters

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment payments are extended for two months in the case of natural disaster.

VA Home Loans

VA can help you if you encounter challenges with making mortgage payments after a natural disaster. They can issue a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures or contact your lender to waive late charges on your mortgage payments. Also, the VA may be able to work with your lender to apply pre-payments already made to your upcoming mortgage payment.

VA will also contact every veteran with a VA-adapted home located in the impacted disaster region to determine if they suffered any property damage and provide further assistance in rebuilding.

VA Medical Appointments

If you have a routine medical appointment you can just reschedule it. You can do this by calling the VA or using MyHealtheVet if you are in one of the locations that offer online scheduling. 

You can also go to ANY VA medical center or outpatient clinic if you have a more urgent need.

If you have a medical emergency, go to the nearest emergency room and fight with the VA over the money later. If you have any conditions which may require emergency care it is a good idea to call the VA now and figure out all your options before it becomes an emergency.

Usually after a natural disaster, the VA will bring in emergency support personnel in mobile medical centers to help out.

VA Clinics in Southern States Close Ahead of Hurricane Dorian's Arrival.

VA Pharmacy

If your prescription is about to run out, try to get it refilled before the storm hits. You may not be able to get refills for a long time if mail service is disrupted.

As above, if you have any issues you can go to ANY VA medical center or outpatient clinic in an emergency to get a refill or new prescription. If you are somewhere that isn't near to a VA facility you can usually call the VA and have them send your prescription to a local pharmacy if need be.

Also, you can usually get an early refill of maintenance medications from your local VA if there is an emergency. This should prevent you from running out if you have to relocate or mail service is disrupted.


Due to an emergency Tricare will let you fill your prescriptions early. To get an emergency refill, take your prescription bottle to any Tricare retail network pharmacy. To find a network pharmacy:

If possible, visit the pharmacy where the prescription was filled.

  • If you use a retail chain, you can fill your prescription at another store in that chain.
  • If your provider is available, he or she may call in a new prescription to any network pharmacy.
  • You can request assistance at another pharmacy, but it's at that pharmacy's discretion to help you.

Also, if you are evacuated, Tricare may waive the requirement to get a referral from your primary care manager to see a Tricare authorized provider. 

Check out the Tricare website for more information.

Stay On Top Of Your Benefits

Military benefits are always changing -- keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox, as well as give you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.

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