Veterans’ Benefits: Are You Missing Out?

Lisa Wild
Lisa Wild
From burial benefits to long-term hospice and home care, veterans can count on a wide array of services (but many are not are aware of them)

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you’re a veteran of the armed forces, you may be eligible for benefits of which you’re not aware. They range from hospice services to home care.

According to Lisa Wild, veteran service center manager with Canandaigua VA Medical Center, some veterans don’t know about some of the benefits available to them, such as health care benefits at the Veterans Affair hospital.

“Many think they have to have served during a time of combat or have a service-related injury to receive health benefits,” Wild said. “It can be non-service related [health needs]. But there are some income requirements that can determine what they’re eligible for and what they would have co-pays for.”

The VA offers a full range of out-patient care, prescriptions, referrals to internal and external specialists, long-term hospice care, respite program for caregivers and home care, among other health related benefits.

Many veterans also may not realize that VA health care, while not insurance, satisfies the Affordable Care Act mandate to maintain health insurance. If they decide to also enroll in a health insurance program, that does not affect their VA benefits.

The VA also offers some burial benefits to surviving family members.

For qualifying veterans, “death benefit could apply whether they’re buried at a national or private cemetery,” Wild said.

She urges veterans to look into their benefits long before they are urgently needed because the enrollment process takes time.

Adam McMahon, public affairs officer for the Veterans Affairs Buffalo Regional office, which covers Upstate and Western New York, said that “getting benefit information to our veterans is of the utmost importance, and there is a team of employees at every regional office across the nation dedicated to outreach services to ensure that veterans are aware of the benefits that we offer.

“There’s an enormous amount of benefits that a veteran and his or her dependents may be eligible for. Even if one veteran is unaware, that is one too many.”

To help veterans learn about their benefits, the VA maintains an ongoing national effort to inform veterans. The VA works with veteran service organizations such as local posts of the American Legion and VFW. Although not employed by the VA, these organizations often help veterans in learning about their benefits and eligibility requirements, and in filing claims.

Confusion about how to get information represents part of the reason that vets don’t use their benefits as much as they could. The VA has maintained numerous websites and phone lines for the various health, education, home loan and other benefits available. McMahon said that the VA is working on consolidating these points of contact so that one site provides the main source of online information and one phone number can direct veterans to where they can find out more.

In recent years, the military has also begun briefing personnel before they sever from service about their benefits.

To learn more about veteran eligibility and benefits, call 800-827-1000 or visit www.benefits.va.gov.

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