Veterans deserve due compensation for any condition related to their military service. And unfortunately, too many of our vets just do not know the ins and outs of qualifying and applying for programs. That is why I am outlining a few areas of interest in this article, but I urge veterans and their families and widows to seek out a local Office of Veterans Affairs to deal with the bureaucracy. There, you will find capable people who can help you navigate the system.
Qualifying for Benefits
Qualifications may vary depending on what kind of assistance you are seeking. A veteran can qualify for disability compensation even though he did not see active duty combat, nor serve on the front lines. A veteran need only have been in uniform at the time, or traveling to or from National Guard duty.
Recently a Korean War nurse was diagnosed and received treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder for her service treating severely wounded soldiers shipped from the battlefield. She was not on the front lines, and she was not actually under fire. But having to face severely disfigured patients was very difficult for this young nurse. Now that she has been diagnosed, she receives free psychological treatment and is doing much better.
Compensation payments are not dependent on one’s current income; they are pegged to the percentage of disability suffered. Disability is assessed by a physician, and the veteran may appeal if he or she feels that it was not correct.
For example, a 30 percent disability rating currently triggers a payment of $376 a month for a single veteran, while a vet who is 100 percent disabled receives $2673 a month. Those who are married may receive somewhat more.
Veterans who may have been turned down in the past should reapply, because the VA has changed its priorities. Formerly it rejected all but the most serious service-related disabilities. Now it is much more likely to recognize certain conditions such as PTSD or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Eligibility for VA Healthcare
The VA runs 1,400 hospitals and other care centers across the country. Eligibility for treatment is based on an income test, and is not limited to those who served during wartime.
The current income cap is $32,342 for a single veteran, and $38,812 for a married veteran. (This number is adjusted for higher-cost localities.) Deduct your family medical expenses, including Medicare premiums, to calculate your income level. Federal assistance (food stamps, SSI) is not counted toward your income. Your home and a personal car are not counted as assets, because the VA’s goal is to try to keep you in your own home.
In addition, veterans who have a disability rating of 50 percent or higher may receive free care at the VA.
What’s Covered: Home Health, Assisted Living, Respite Care
Benefits extend to many other services that you may need in order to stay in your home. Some home-health service companies are contracted with the VA to provide help to veterans who qualify. Veterans must also meet the income test. Veterans may be assessed a $15 copay unless there is a hardship finding.
Respite care may also be provided so that family caregivers can have a day off. Copays will vary with income levels, though.
Vets and their spouses who live in assisted living facilities may qualify for a pension or allowance to help cover their expenses. The benefit is based on the level of disability, but is also linked to income after deducting your medical bills.
No Donut for Veterans
The VA has a much better drug plan than the basic Medicare Part D. Your medications may be provided free or for an $8 copay; which amount you pay will depend on your income. If a veteran is also a VA pension recipient, the vet will not be assessed copays for VA health services including medications.
The VA Even Runs Nursing Homes
The VA runs 132 nursing home facilities, and contracts with 2,500 private nursing homes in areas where it does not have a facility. Veterans with a disability rating of 70 or higher will be placed by the VA.
Getting Help Applying
The worst part about the VA benefits is that you have to deal with a government bureaucracy in order to apply. The rules and procedures and ‘governmentese’ unfortunately make some people give up before winning their rightful benefits.
The best way to start your application process is to go to an Office of Veterans Affairs, or a local veterans organization. An example of the latter is the American Legion, or Veterans of Foreign Wars. Every state and most counties have a local office that handles Veterans Affairs. Their services are free.
To begin your application process, the veteran (or his widow) should have the vet’s discharge papers. All the key data is in those papers, things like your serial number, the dates of induction and discharge, where served, etc. If the vet has lost those papers, the office can help obtain a copy.
So look into getting veterans benefits if you think you have suffered a disability, or may qualify due to income. In addition, veterans may qualify for pensions if they served a single day during wartime, even if it was stateside. Widows may receive their husbands pensions even if they later remarry.
The many and varied types of assistance available to veterans can go unclaimed, and veterans may suffer needlessly, if they do not at least look into getting assessed by the VA. For your own peace of mind, please check into it this week.
SOURCES, and to get assistance with a claim:
Veterans Administration: VAbenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/about_vonapp.asp
American Legion: legion.org/veteransbenefits/links
Veterans of Foreign Wars: go to vfw.org, and click on ‘Veterans Services’