Veterans Benefits

VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation

The Veterans Administration provides an important benefit program for veterans who have service-connected disability. The program is called "Compensation" and is different from the non-service-connected "Pension" program that elder law attorneys often discuss with wartime veteran clients or their surviving spouses. Like the pension program, VA compensation comes in the form of income-tax-free money payments to the veteran, who must have received a discharge other than dishonorable, or certain of their family members. The big difference from the pension program, however, is that VA compensation entirely flows from the linkage between the veteran's disability and his or her military service.

For most veterans, the key issues in accessing VA compensation benefits have been proving service connection for the disability, and then dealing with the disability level rating that the VA assessment system applies to the particular veteran's case. Often veterans who prove service connection are nonetheless frustrated by their disabilities being rated in seemingly unreasonably low percentages, such as 30% disabled rating, with the result that their compensation benefits may not be adequate to sustain them despite the actual disabling effects on their lives.

It is important to be aware that the surviving spouse of a compensation recipient may be eligible for a benefit called DIC, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. DIC applies to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died of his or her service-connected disability, or who received VA compensation for a period of 10 years prior to death not caused by the service-connected disability. For more information about DIC, see the VA website.

The Presumptive Disease List

As Vietnam War veterans become "elders" in their 60s and 70s, it is increasingly important for professional advisors of all kinds to be aware of a special situation that applies to them. This special situation is the "presumptive disease list."

Increased Assistance for America’s Vets

My Grandfather was a WWII Vet although he didn’t talk much about his war experience. In his last years of life, he suffered from the crippling effects of a stroke. For almost three years he struggled to speak, move around on his own, and provide for his normal activities of daily living. As far as I know, none of his family members had any idea that his service in the military made available to him nearly two thousand dollars per month of reimbursements for his medical expenditures including in-home health care, assisted living and other health care costs.

Long Term Care Benefits Available to Surviving Spouses of Wartime Veterans

There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States. Many of these surviving spouses are receiving long term care or will need some type of long term care in the near future, and there are funds available from the Veterans Administration (“VA”) to help pay for that care. Unfortunately, many of those who are eligible have no idea that any benefits exist for them or that an attorney can help them become eligible.

Benefits Available. There are three types of pension benefits available that provide monthly cash payments to surviving spouses who either have low income, long term health care needs, or both. The pension benefit is referred to as “Death Pension.” Below is an overview of the three benefits, and more detail will be provided on each benefit in the following paragraphs.

Veteran’s Day Helps Us Remember

This week, my eight year old boy came home from school telling me all kinds of things that he had learned in school about the first two World Wars. With his eyes wide, he said that one of his friends had a grandpa who had been in WWII. It dawned on me that he didn’t realize that he too came from a family with a history of service in the military.

I had the opportunity to go grab a copy of one of my history books about World War II and together with my boys and my wife we spent a good deal of time talking about my grandpa, his service in the Army in Europe during WWII and about the incredible sacrifices made by so many for the freedom of not only our own countrymen, but of people throughout the world. It was a proud moment for me to be able to share with my children how their great-grandfather put everything on the line to defend innocent people and put down evil men. I saw the admiration and pride in their eyes and was grateful that we celebrate Veteran’s Day for that reason.

A Holocaust Survivor and an American Soldier

Before I became a lawyer, I wanted to be a historian like my dad. As part of his work as a historian, he recorded the oral histories of Jewish Holocaust survivors. He spent a great deal of time with members of the Phoenix-area Jewish community capturing their memories and experiences of one of the darkest periods of human history.

One such interview was with a Hungarian woman who was taken to the Auschwitz concentration/death camps in Poland as a teenager. This woman survived that nightmarish experience only because of a young American G.I. This soldier, while liberating Auschwitz from the Nazis, was walking amongst the piles of dead bodies when out of the corner of his eye, he saw a foot twitch beneath dozens of other bodies. It was her foot.

Despite the horror he undoubtedly felt as he pulled the emaciated, broken bodies from off of her, he removed her nearly lifeless body and rushed her to the American medics who eventually nursed her back to health.

Shortly after the war, she emigrated to the U.S. and obtained degrees in psychotherapy and professional counseling. She has since gone on to work as a licensed therapist with hundreds of U.S. Veterans, helping them to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse challenges. She has dedicated her life to giving back to those who sacrificed so much to bring freedom to those who had been so oppressed by the Nazi regime. She, for one, understood the sacrifices made by these young people on her behalf.

Veteran's Day: Even Criminals "Get It"

Yesterday it was reported that a young soldier in Milwaukee was mugged at gunpoint by a group of four men. However, as the muggers rifled through his wallet, they found his military ID. Apparently, the leader of the group suddenly had a change of heart and told the others to give back everything that they had taken from him.

Veterans Benefits Law Seminar by Expert Victoria L. Collier

I have just spent the last three days in beautiful San Diego, CA attending a workshop by one of the foremost legal authorities on Veterans Benefits Law, Georgia Elder Law attorney Victoria L. Collier. A veteran herself, Ms. Collier has amassed an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in helping veterans qualify for, apply for, and actually obtain benefits that have already been earned, but are often overlooked by veterans and their families when searching for ways to pay for long-term care.

Many veterans, widows (or widowers) of veterans, and disabled children of veterans are not aware of the benefits that may be available to them. My own grandfather was an honorably discharged, World War II veteran who put everything on the line for his country. Nevertheless, he failed to obtain a number of these wonderful benefits merely because neither he, nor his family members (myself included) were aware of them, or of the steps required to claim them. Although I was not an attorney at that time, I often look back with regret at the fact that we were not more aware of the availability of these benefits. Only now do I realize how much that extra income could have helped him.

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