What Every Veteran Needs To Know: Part 1 of a Series


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Over the next few months (I presume I'll interrupt myself on more than one occasion over the next few months to report on some veteran related current event) I will share some basic and perhaps not too basic veterans benefits information. This will include information concerning: VA healthcare, other VA benefits, counseling and support, housing, education, employment, burial benefits, and general assistance and advocacy. Having said that, I'll start off this series with some very general concepts that are all too often misunderstood, or not even know to many veterans. What follows in this column, and the rest in the series, is based on VA provided information available to any veteran... who knows where to look.

Did You Know

When you receive VA benefits it does not take benefits away from any other veteran.

There is no time limit to file a claim for VA compensation or pension benefits. Veterans serving more than 60 years ago are being awarded benefits everyday.

The number one and two disabilities granted in the Country are bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Any combat veteran or veteran who had a military occupation that was consistent with exposure to acoustic trauma should file a claim.

Millions of veterans had their records destroyed in the fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO in 1973. Lost or destroyed records don't mean you can't be granted benefits. It depends on what information is on your Discharge Document. And, many of the destroyed records are available on microfilm or other backup systems used at that time.

Your Discharge Certificate is not your Discharge Document. For World War II veterans their Discharge Document is on the back of their Discharge Certificate. This, as most World War II veterans were separated from active duty with out any remaining reserve duty obligation. Subsequently, your Discharge Document was issued at the time a veteran was separated from active duty and is known as a DD 214.

Most veterans who served in the Battle of the Bulge or Chosin Reservoir are granted disability benefits from the VA as a result of cold injuries. If a veteran was exposed to extreme cold temperatures for long periods of time in service they should consider filing a claim.

Any veteran who served on land in Vietnam was exposed to Agent Orange. There are 11 conditions recognized (known as "presumptive causation illnesses") as being related to herbicide exposure. The most common is Type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the larynx. Any of those veterans who have been diagnosed with these disabilities should file a claim for compensation.

Regardless of whether and not the VA had recognized a presumptive causation illness prior to a veterans death, if the veteran dies of a presumptive causation illness or condition aggravated by a presumptive causation illness there is a good chance his surviving spouse or family might be entitled to life-time tax-free compensation.

Receiving compensation affects what you are entitled to from the VA medical center. Any veteran awarded a 10 percent evaluation is entitled to free inpatient care, outpatient care, eyeglasses and hearing aids at any VA facility. When a veteran is rated 30 percent or more they are entitled to additional compensation for their dependents. When a veteran is rated 50 percent or more they are entitled to free medication for all conditions whether service connected or not. When a veteran is rated 70 percent a veteran can get free nursing care from the VA. Most veterans who are not gainfully employed and who are rated 60 percent or more can apply for a 100 percent evaluation (individual unemployability benefits). Age is not a factor. A veteran can be 90 years old and still be awarded these benefits.

All wartime veterans are potentially entitled to a pension from the VA depending on their income. Any wartime veteran who is totally disabled or over 65 years old or in receipt of Social Security benefits may be entitled to a VA pension depending on their income and medical expenses. Nursing home care and in-home care are considered medical expenses.

Example: Single World War II veteran needs aid and attendance of another person. His income is $1,500.00 in Social Security benefits. He moves in with his daughter and gives her his income from Social Security to take care of him. His income for VA purposes is reduced to zero because all his income is being used for his care. The VA will award this veteran $1,470.00 a month in pension benefits.

Not all veterans are entitled to VA benefits.

Don't Short Change Yourself

To find out more about what you might be entitled, 10 contact a veterans service officer from the veteran service organization to which you are a member. You can also contact me at the Town of Oyster Bay's Veterans Services Division at (516) 733-8414. The Town of Oyster Bay is located in the VA's NY/NJ Veterans Healthcare Network - VISN 3 (Veterans Integrated Service Network 3). Or if you prefer you can contact the VA directly. For information on health care benefits and services: Telephone: (877) 222-8387. For information on monetary benefits (disability compensation, education, loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation, and insurance): Telephone: (800) 827-1000

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt