Benefits For Older Veterans And Their Families
The United States Veterans Administration (VA) offers a broad range of services for veterans of all ages. Unfortunately, some services are underused because many older veterans and their families do not realize these services exist or that they may qualify. They don’t apply for VA benefits even though factors such as low income, disability, or war-time service may have made them eligible. Perhaps, when younger, they used VA education benefits or had a VA home loan while thinking that only veterans with service-related injuries would qualify for other services.
Requirements for benefits have changed from time to time. Some benefits today do not require a service-related injury, although they may require copayments for veterans whose family income and assets exceed the annual limit for no-cost service. Ask about these benefits and whether there are others that may apply:
- Respite care to relieve family caregivers of veterans.
- Medical care for eligible veterans who were discharged with other than dishonorable discharge.
- Disability compensation for veterans with service-related injuries.
- Non-service connected pension for low-income disabled veterans who served during war times.
- Aid and Attendance for eligible veterans in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person.
- Burial benefits for eligible veterans.
- Death pension for low-income surviving spouse and dependents of veterans who served during war times.
Finding VA Resources and Getting Help in Applying
There is a Booklet entitled “Florida Veterans’ Benefits Guide” which can be downloaded here (note – it is a large file and may take some time to download): /aging/flveteransguide2.08.pdf
Information on VA benefits or a VA Medical Center serving your area can be found by calling toll-free 1-800-827-1000 or visiting the national Veterans Administration web site, www.va.gov. To locate a VA nursing home in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs web site, www.Floridavets.org. An alternative way to find this site is to go to the Florida state web site, www.myflorida.com. Click on Find an Agency at the top of the home page, then on Veterans’ Affairs.
Veterans, widows, and dependents can receive counseling and assistance in filing claims for a wide variety of VA benefits from a local County Department of Veterans Services Office.
General Eligibility for VA Benefits
Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Honorable and general discharges qualify a veteran for most VA benefits. Dishonorable and bad conduct discharges issued by general courts-martial bar VA benefits. VA regional offices can clarify eligibility of prisoners and parolees. Active service means full-time service as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service, the Environmental Services Administration or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Women veterans are eligible for the same VA benefits as male veterans. Additional services and benefits for women veterans are gender-specific and include breast and pelvic examinations and other general reproductive health-care services. Preventive health care provided includes counseling, contraceptive services, menopause management, Pap smears and mammography, Referrals are made for services that VA is unable to provide.
Check with the VA Medical Center serving your area under extended care benefits. A Facility Locator is found on the Veterans Administration web site, www.va.gov.
Certain VA benefits require wartime service. Under the law, VA recognizes these war periods:
- Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders or in adjacent waters.
- World War 1: April 6,1917, through Nov. 11, 1918; for veterans who served in Russia April 6, 1917, through April 1, 1920: extended through July 1, 1921, for veterans who had at least one day of service between April 6,1917, and Nov 11, 1918.
- World War II: Dec. 7, 1941, through Dec. 31, 1946.
- Korean War: June 27, 1950, through Jan. 31, 1955.
- Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964 (Feb. 28, 1961, for those who served “in country” before Aug. 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975.
- Gulf War: Aug 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation.
To receive health care, veterans generally must be enrolled with the VA. A veteran may apply for enrollment at any time. Veterans do not have to be enrolled if they: (1) have a service-connected disability of 50% or more; (2) want care for disability, which the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which VA has not yet rated, during the 12 month period following discharge: or (3) want care for a service-connected disability only.
Veterans will be enrolled to the extent Congressional appropriations allow. If appropriations are limited, enrollment will occur based on the following priorities:
1. Veterans with service-connected conditions rated 50% or more disabled.
2. Veterans with service-connected conditions rated 30 or 40 % disabled.
3. Veterans who are former POWs or were awarded a Purple Heart, veterans with disabilities rated 10 and 20%, and veterans awarded special eligibility for disabilities incurred in treatment.
4. Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits and veterans who have been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled.
5. Non service-connected veterans and service-connected veterans rated zero percent, non compensable disabled, who are determined to be unable to defray the expenses of needed care.
6. Non service-connected veterans and no compensable zero percent service-connected veterans who agree to pay copayments.
The Veterans’ Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act of 1999 authorized VA to expand long-term care services and to reimburse emergency treatment expenses for certain enrolled veterans.
Veterans who want to enroll in priority group 5 based on their inability to defray the cost of their care must provide VA with information on their annual income and net worth to determine whether they are below the “means test” threshold or agree to copayment requirements. The threshold is adjusted annually and announced in January. In making the assessment, the veteran’s household income is considered.
The “means test” eligibility assessment includes income such as Social security, U.S. Civil Service retirement, U.S. Railroad retirement, military retirement, unemployment insurance, any other retirement income, total wages from all employers, interest and dividends, workers’ compensation, black lung benefits and any other gross income for the calendar year prior to application for care. Also considered are assets such as the market value of stocks, bonds, notes, individual retirement accounts, bank deposits, savings accounts and cash. The patient may fill out VA form 10-10EZ at the time application for enrollment is made. VA may compare income information provided by the veteran with information obtained from the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
After a veteran completes a financial assessment that determines the veteran’s income and assets are above the “means test” threshold, the veteran must agree to pay copayments to be eligible for VA care. VA holds older patients whose income is determined to be above the “means test” threshold responsible for the Medicare deductible for the first 90 days of care during any 365-day period. For each additional 90 days of hospital care , the patient is charged one-half the Medicare deductible. Less than 10% of service connected veterans may be subjected to an extended co-pay after 21 days of free care. In addition to these charges, the patient is charged co pays for hospital care and VA nursing-home care.
VA is authorized to submit claims to health insurance carriers for recovery of VA’s reasonable charges in providing medical care to non service-connected veterans and to service-connected veterans for non service connected conditions.
All veterans applying for VA medical care will be asked to provide information on their health insurance coverage, including coverage provided under policies of their spouses. Although veterans are not responsible for paying any remaining balance of VA’s insurance claim that is not paid or covered by their health insurance, veterans whose income is above the “means test” threshold are responsible for the VA’s copayments required by federal law. However, when VA receives payment from the veteran’s health insurance company or the care furnished, VA credits that recovery toward the amont of the veteran’s copayment obligation.
VA disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred and aggravated during active military service. The service of the veteran must have been terminated through separation or discharge under conditions that were other than dishonorable. Disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of dependents. It is paid monthly. The benefits are not subject to federal and state income tax. The payment of military retirement pay, disability severance pay and separation incentive payments affects the amount of VA compensation paid.
Former prisoners of war who were incarcerated for at least 30 days are presumed to be eligible for disability compensation if they become at least 10 percent disabled from diseases associated with POW’s. These presumptive diseases are avitaminosis, beriberi, heart disease and ischemic heart disease where the prisoner of war experienced localized edema during captivity, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis. Malnutrition including optic atrophy, pellagra and other nutritional deficiencies, psychosis, anxiety states and dysthymic disorder or depressive neurosis, post traumatic osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer, and arthritis, neuropathy and skin cancer at the site of the old injury.
Non service-connected Disability
Veterans with low incomes who are permanently and totally disabled for reasons other than the veteran’s own willful misconduct may be eligible for monetary support if they have 90 days or more of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war. The discharge from active must have been under conditions other than dishonorable. Payments are made to qualified veterans to bring their total income, including other retirement or Social Security income, to level set by Congress. Countable income may be reduced by unreimbursed medical expenses.
The payment is reduced by the amount of the countable income of the veteran and the income of the spouse or dependent children. When a veteran without a spouse or a child is being furnished a nursing home or domiciliary care by VA, the pension is reduced to an amount not to exceed $90 per month after three calendar months of care. The reduction may be delayed if nursing home care is being continued for the primary purpose of providing the veteran with rehabilitation services.
Aid and Attendance
A veteran who is a patient in a nursing home, who is otherwise determined by VA to be in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person, or who is permanently housebound is entitled to higher income limitations and additional benefits.** Veterans receiving Disability Compensation or Nonservice-connected Pension may qualify for Aid and Attendance.
Five burial benefits are available for veterans who were honorably discharged:
- United States flag is provided at no cost to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran.
- Families of veterans on VA Disability or Pension at the time of death may receive a burial and funeral allowance.
- Veterans and dependents may be buried in National Cemeteries.
- A Presidential Memorial Certificate expressing the country’s thanks is available for families of deceased veterans.
- Upright stones and flat grave markers are available for the veteran regardless of whether internment is in a VA or private cemetery. Spouses and dependents may qualify if burial is in a National Cemetery.
Death pension is a benefit paid to eligible spouses and dependent children of deceased veterans who served during war times. Income limits must be below a yearly limit set by law, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not counted as part of income. This benefit can be important to a widow or widower trying to survive on a low income, but they may not be aware that they should apply.
For counseling and help in applying for death pension or other VA benefits, call or visit your local County Veterans Service Office. See Finding VA Resources and Getting Help in Applying above.
VA FACILITIES ADDRESSES AND TELEPHONE NUMBERS:
SUICIDE PREVENTION 1-800-273-8255
VA Regional Office, St. Petersburg – PO Box 1437, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 1-800-827-1000
Regional Processing Office, Atlanta, GA (education claims) – PO Box 100022, Decatur, GA 30031-7022
Telephone number for Chapter 30 self-verifications-1-877-823-2378
VA EFT Information Hotline (electronic funds transfer-direct deposit) 1-877-838-2778
Veterans Health Administration Toll-Free Hotline (medical care) – 1-877-222-8387
VA Health Revenue Service (information on amounts owed to VA Medical Centers) 1-866-793-4591
VA Insurance Center, Philadelphia (VA Insurance) –
PO Box 42954, Philadelphia, PA 19101 1-800-669-8477
VA Health Administration Center (CHAMPVA and SpinaBifida health care) –
CHAMPVA inquiries: PO Box 65023, Denver, CO 80206-5023
CHAMPVA claims: PO Box 65024, Denver, CO 80206-5024
Spina Bifida inquiries and claims: PO Box 65025, Denver,CO 80206-5025 1-800-733-8387
10,000 Bay Pines Blvd N, Bay Pines FL 727-398-9426
6502 SW 102nd Ave, Bushnell FL 352-793-7740
6501 S State Rd 7, Lake Worth, FL 561-649-6489
4083 Lannie Rd, Jacksonville FL 904-766-5222
Naval Air Station, Pensacola FL 850-453-4108/4846
9810 State Hwy 72, Sarasota FL 877-861-9840
104 Marine St, St Augustine FL 352-793-7740
National Cemetery Administration Office of Memorial Programs (headstones and markers) –
5109 Russell Rd, Quantico VA 22134-3903 1-800-697-6947
Loan Guaranty Eligibility Center (certificates of eligibility) PO Box 20729, Winston-Salem, NC 27120, 1-888-244-6711
Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) Unit -Chicago VA Regional Office 1-800-829-4833
INTERNET SITES OF INTEREST:
VA Web Site: www.va.gov
VA Web Automated Reference Materials System (WARMS) www.warms.vba.va.gov
St. Petersburg VA Regional Office: www.vba.va.gov/ro/south/spete
Property Management (sale of VA-repossessed homes): http://va.reotrans.com/
Federal employment: www.usajobs.opm.gov
Florida Dept of Veterans Affairs: www.floridavets.org
Florida Vets First: www.FloridaVetsFirst.com
Library of Congress (information on pending legislation) thomas.loc.gov