13 May 2013|
According to Department of Veterans Affairs estimates, there are more than 13 million veterans and single surviving spouses older than 65. If you or your spouse are among that number, you may be entitled to a range of tax-free benefits, from cash assistance to subsidized healthcare. While some of these benefits are well known, others are not. Familiarizing yourself with the different forms of support available from the Department of Veterans Affairs can help you manage financially in retirement.
VA Pension Benefits
Low-income veterans who served during wartime may be eligible for cash benefits from the VA. In addition, veterans or their surviving spouses who are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible to receive a supplemental cash benefit. Low-income surviving spouses who aren't remarried may receive survivor's benefits (sometimes called a death pension) after an eligible veterans' death.
Low-income veterans who served during wartime may be eligible for cash benefits from the VA. [Tweet this]Disability Compensation
Veterans with a service-connected disability may receive disability compensation payments. Service-connected disabilities may be the result of active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training or an injury from VA healthcare. Compensation can range widely, from $130 a month to $8,000 a month. Veterans must be at least 10% disabled to receive benefits.
Usually, veterans must provide evidence both of disability and the connection between the disability and their military service. However, in certain cases, the VA may determine that current disabilities were caused by military service, even if there isn't specific evidence indicating a connection. For example, Veterans who served in Vietnam and later developed conditions such as type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease can receive disability compensation because of a presumed connection between those conditions and exposure to Agent Orange.
Important note: A veteran can't receive a pension benefit and disability compensation at the same time.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) provides benefits to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related injury or disease. In 2013, a surviving spouse receives $1,215 in DIC. The monthly benefit may be increased if there are dependent children. In addition, a surviving spouse who needs aid and attendance support (such as home care or nursing home care) or is housebound may receive additional aid. A surviving spouse can't receive a death pension or dependency or indemnity compensation at the same time.
The largest provider of healthcare in the U.S. is actually the VA health system. Anyone who served in active duty military service (including members of the Reserves or National Guard called to active duty by federal order) may be eligible to receive VA health benefits. Enhanced eligibility exists for certain groups, such as those veterans with a service-connected disability, low-income veterans, and veterans who have received service recognition such as a Purple Heart or were a prisoner of war.
All veterans are eligible for free burial in a state or federal VA cemetery; they can also receive a grave marker, flag for their coffin and a graveside honor guard. Two thousand dollars of burial benefits are available if the veteran's death was related to a service disability. Seven hundred dollars is available is the deceased veteran was receiving a VA pension or disability compensation.
Get the Support You Deserve
Those who served our country (and their families) are entitled to a range of benefits and support services. Accessing those benefits, however, can be confusing and complicated. If you think you are eligible for benefits, it may be worthwhile to retain the services of an attorney who is familiar with veterans benefits, specifically, a VA-accredited attorney. He or she can help you navigate the VA system so that you receive the benefits to which you're entitled.
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