Vets urged to apply for benefits

Part of what is due to veterans when they return from stations overseas is medical and other benefits.

Exactly who qualifies is not always clear.

“‘Am I entitled to VA benefits?’ That question comes up a lot in the VA office,” Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Burris said. “We don’t mind because it is the only way most people find out what, if any, benefits they are entitled to.”

Veterans with service-related injuries and illnesses should apply. “If the veteran was injured in the service or was diagnosed with some specific disease, regardless of when they served, they may be entitled to compensation,” Burris said.

“Those who have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan can enroll in the VA health care and receive five free years care for anything that may be considered connected to their tour of duty,” he said. “For those who were injured in service and are having problems from those injuries should consider submitting a claim for them to determine if the VA considers them to be service connected.”

“All recent returnees should contact their county VA directors to see if there are any programs of benefits that they should apply for,” Burris said.

There are a number of illnesses associated with war-time service overseas.

Benefits are available “for those who served in country in Vietnam and now have Diabetes; Type II Diabetes; prostate cancer; respiratory cancers such as cancers of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea; Hodgkin’s disease; and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – all of which are related to exposure to Agent Orange.”

Three more illnesses – ischemic heart disease, B cell leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease – were added to the presumptive list.

Those who served in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea between April 1, 1968, and Aug. 31, 1971, also qualify for services for the illnesses listed above as “it has been confirmed that Agent Orange was used in that area,” Burris said.

“Any veteran who served honorably more than 90 days and has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) may be eligible for compensation,” he said.

Not all of the benefits are related to injuries and illnesses acquired in service.

“If a war-era veteran’s income is low and they are permanently not able to work or over the age of 65, they may be entitled to a non-service-connected pension,” Burris said.

An “aid and attendance” benefit is available to war-era veterans and their spouses who are in nursing homes being paid by Medicaid.

War-era veterans and surviving spouses who are in personal care homes and have been identified by their doctors as needing assistance with at least two activities of daily living (ADL) may qualify for an aid and attendance pension. Those who have to pay for home health care out of pocket may also be eligible.

The state veterans emergency assistance program can provide benefits to veterans who lose their jobs for reasons other than misconduct or quitting and are not eligible for unemployment, or in cases where a veteran or spouse passes away and the survivor qualifies on the basis of income. Emergency requests must be submitted through the county VA office within 180 days of the event.

The goal is to “make sure that everybody that’s entitled to a VA benefit gets it,” Burris said, “especially those in dire need.”

Burris can be reached at the Warren County Court House and at 728-3478.