Veterans’ Benefits: Knowing the Basics

In honor of Veterans Day, November 11th, we’ve dedicated this month’s blog posts to our country’s veterans.   We’ll try to provide context for the common challenges faced by our veterans in order to better provide support, where possible.

If we are not veterans ourselves, many of us have the desire to express our gratitude and show support for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Aside from thanking them when we see them, there may be more substantial ways in which we can help.

Recent statistics tell us that there are more than 23,800,000 veterans in America and 40% of them are over the age of 65. We know that the trials of service, both physical and psychological, can take their toll on the well being of veterans and their families. As this population grows and continues to age, the challenges they face will also grow and getting them the support they need is of great importance.

If you know a veteran in need of help, whether a friend, loved one or acquaintance, one of the best things you can do is understand what benefits are available to them and assist them in acquiring those benefits. Be forewarned: this is often easier said than done. But, we’ve got to start somewhere:

Historically, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been the primary entity providing benefits to veterans.  Currently, 36% of our country’s veterans receive benefits and services from the VA. Of that group, 32% receive services from more than one of the VA programs, while 68% receive just one service.

Why is the percentage of veterans receiving benefits so low?

There appear to be several reasons for this but here are two primary reasons:

1)     People don’t know what is available to them.

2)     Receiving benefits can be an exercise in bureaucratic gymnastics and self-defense.

One particular VA benefit, the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension, provides a bit of a case study. This benefit can provide over $2,000 for a veteran and their spouse to cover the cost of caregivers in the home, assisted living or a nursing home.  It can also provide funds for a veteran’s widow. But, a very small percentage of the eligible veteran population has claimed this benefit. The New York Times sheds more light on why and also discusses the roadblocks (and the reasons for them) that some people run into when applying for it.

But, generally speaking, having a basic idea of what is available to veterans and where to find that information is a great first step.

What types of services does the VA offer?

  • Disability pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Geriatric and long-term care
  • Home loans
  • Vocational rehab and employment
  • Education and training
  • Dental
  • Reemployment and unemployment
  • Medical and long-term care

If you want to know more about the VA benefits available and how to receive them, go to:

www.va.gov. You can also download their benefits guide.

Additionally, we’ve learned a lot of our information from a guide produced by The Society of Certified Senior Advisors.  This guide is available for download in our resources section:

Understanding Veteran’s Benefits

What about other support and services for veterans?

These days, there are many organizations that provide veteran-specific support. Chances are, your state has an aging and disability resource center that offers information and programs for veterans.

But, there are also numerous nonprofits that you can look to. These groups provide a range of services and support, from sending letters and packages to providing advocacy, to supplying funds in support of in-home care.

Here are two stellar examples:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) advocates through media and on Capitol Hill for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They focus on big issues like the backlog in disability claims, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury care, education benefits and employment.

Purple Heart Homes provides services, free of charge, to “restore both dignity and quality of life by creating an injury-specific, barrier-free living environment utilizing the space and structure they have and pairing it with Purple Heart Homes resources. These solutions can range from creating wheel chair access, widening doors, and renovating bathrooms to be accessible to constructing additions creating a barrier free first floor living space.”

These are just a few examples of where there are benefits available to veterans and how you might go about acquiring them. Be sure to look in your local area for additional sources. And, if you have the opportunity to thank a veteran, consider taking the time to ask them if they need any help or are facing specific challenges in their lives. You may just discover a chance to give back.

 

 

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