Valuable Benefits that Often Go Unused by Our Country’s Veterans
This blog post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated to include the most current information.
Our country’s veterans selflessly sacrificed in service of others, but whether due to pride or lack of knowledge, many don’t take advantage of the help available to them after leaving the military. There are many valuable benefits available to veterans—from tuition to long-term care assistance—that often go unused. Many of those who are eligible are unaware that certain benefits exist. Others whose eligibility is uncertain don’t realize that an attorney can help them obtain the benefits they’ve earned.
It’s a big problem. According to the most recent statistics from the US Census, there are 18.2 million veterans and over 9 million surviving spouses in the United States. Many are needlessly struggling to pay bills for education, housing, and healthcare when significant benefits are available to address these and other needs.
November 11 is Veteran’s Day and to help clarify some of the available options, here is a summary of benefits broken down by category that are available to U.S. veterans.
Veterans with a service-related disability (who were not dishonorably discharged) can qualify for a monthly tax-free Veterans Administration (“VA”) Disability Compensation benefit ranging from approximately $152 to over $3,332 every month, depending on your percent of disability and your exact circumstances.
Pension and Long Term Care Benefits
Service Pension. The VA provides a monthly cash payment to wartime veterans who meet minimum service requirements (it does not require actual combat experience), and who are either 65 or older, or disabled, and who have limited income and assets. Service pension is also available to a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,160.91 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $1,521 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $778 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).
Pension with Housebound Allowance. A slightly higher monthly payment is available to wartime veterans (who meet the same service requirements as Service Pension) but who are confined to their home for medical reasons. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,418 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $1,778 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $951 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).
Pension with Aid and Attendance. The highest monthly benefit is available when a wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living, is blind or nearly so, or is a patient in a nursing home. This benefit, often referred to simply as "Aid and Attendance" is the most widely known and talked-about benefit as it offers the highest possible monthly payment. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,936 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $2,295 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $1,244 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).
Eligible veterans have access to hospital care and outpatient care services, as “needed” through the VA. The VA defines "needed" as care or service that will promote, preserve, and restore health, including treatment, procedures, supplies, or services. There are specific programs available for particular health conditions, such as blindness, brain injury, radiation exposure, and alcohol and drug dependency, among others. In addition, earlier this year, the VA introduced a telehealth system known as “anywhere-to-anywhere.” This system allows qualified practitioners to access the VA’s telehealth system and provide care to patients across the nation. An in-depth guide to veteran health benefits and programs is available on the VA’s website.
Education benefits available to veterans, often referred to collectively as the “GI Bill,” helps Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces members and their families cover the costs of education and training. Education benefits are administered through a number of different programs, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program, each of which has its own eligibility requirements.
Eligible veterans can obtain a VA mortgage loan by which to build or buy a home with favorable interest rates, as little as $0 down, and no private mortgage insurance. In 2021, the maximum loan amount obtainable is $548,250, although the loan cap increases for homes financed in certain high cost of living markets.
Job Training Benefits
The VA offers veterans various forms of job training assistance through the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (“VETS”) program. VETS works with both employees and employers to help veterans train for and find quality jobs as they transition back to civilian life.
Readjustment Counseling Services
Veterans and their families can obtain counseling services through Vet Centers located in all 50 states. Counselors are available to help with a wide range of issues, including challenges associated with re-acclimating to civilian life, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health struggles.
Burial and Memorial Benefits
When a veteran dies, his or her family is eligible for benefits to help defer the costs of a burial or memorial service.
It’s important to keep in mind that each veteran benefit has its own eligibility requirements. The type of service, length of duty, and manner of discharge are all important considerations when determining what benefits a veteran may be eligible for. A veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, may be wrongly denied benefits due to oversights and errors. In such cases, a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can help the veteran obtain the benefits he or she is entitled to.
At a time when we stop to honor the sacrifice of veterans on Veterans Day, it’s important to help and encourage those who are eligible for benefits to claim the help and support they’ve earned. For more information about the benefits available to veterans, please contact a member of Foster Swift’s elder law practice.
*Please note that all amounts cited above are approximate based upon www.va.gov rates for 2021 unless otherwise noted.
- 2021 VA Pension Rates For Veterans | Veterans Affairs
- 2021 VA Survivors Pension Benefit Rates | Veterans Affairs
- 2021 VA Loan Limit Calculator - Max Limits by County (veteransunited.com)
Due to the shock of the death of a spouse or a loved one, the steps of what needs to be done first can be an overwhelming process for the survivor(s). To aid in the breakdown and to act as a tool amidst the emotional days ahead, estate planning Jonathan "Jay" David has assembled a "Survivor's Checklist" of some of the important things that need to be addressed when a spouse or loved one dies.
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