Chapter 7: BENEFITS FOR DISABLED VETERANS
Compensation is a gateway benefit. Being service-connected opens the gate to a variety of other important benefits. Not only for the veteran but also for dependents and survivors. Veterans who are service-connected may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, special housing grants, VA life insurance, medical insurance, preference in hiring and many other benefits. The dependents and survivors of certain service-connected veterans may also be eligible for educational benefits, medical insurance and other benefits through the VA and or the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs.
Compensation is a monthly monetary benefit awarded to veterans who suffer a disability that is directly related to military service or that is secondary to a service connected disability. Veterans who suffer a disability as a result of VA medical care or as the result of participation in a VA approved Vocational Rehabilitation program may under certain circumstances be eligible for service-connection.
Generally to receive the monthly benefit the disability must be rated at 10%. However under 38 C.F.R. § 3.324 Multiple noncompensable service-connected disabilities. a veteran with two or more 0% rated service-connected disabilities may be eligible for a 10% rating. Veterans who are 30% or more disabled by the VA are entitled to an additional amount compensation for dependents. Veterans who are 50% or more disabled are entitled to free treatment of any disability from the VA including free medications. Dependents of veterans who are 100% service-connected and who’s rating is considered permanent will be eligible for both state and federal educational and medical benefits. Spouses and dependent children of veterans who die as the result of a service-connected disability will be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation. However if the veteran was considered to be permanently and totally service disabled for at least 8 years prior to the date of death spouses and dependent children will be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation-2- regardless of the cause of death.
Compensation-3- was discussed in the first part of the book. The purpose of this chapter is to explain the various benefits available to service disabled veterans and their dependents and survivors. It is assumed that the reader is already service-connected at some level. However this chapter is also a good motivator for those veterans who are “thinking” about applying for service-connection but have put it off for some time. As explained above compensation, being service-connected for a disability opens the door to a number of benefits. So if you have a disability that is directly related to your military service apply for compensation, don’t wait. Use one of the sources of help in Chapter Three, Sources of Help in Obtaining Benefits.
Though healthcare was discussed earlier in the book we will briefly discuss VA healthcare benefits for service-connected veterans here. As previously stated health care for service-connected veterans is significantly enhanced. Veterans who are service-connected are entitled to medical treatment, prosthetic appliances and free medications as prescribed by a physician for any service-connected disability. Where a veteran who is being treated for a non-service-connected disability may be required to pay for treatment and medications and will be required to complete a yearly “means test” veterans being treated for a service-connected condition have no such requirement, as long as they are being treated for the service-connected disability. A word of caution however, the VA will bill service-connected veterans who are rated less than 50% for treatment of non-service-connected disabilities. It is therefore very important to review any bill received from the VA for accuracy in billing. Do not let the VA bill for treatment or medications given for a service-connected disability.
Eye glasses, contact lenses hearing aids:
38 C.F.R.§17.149 Sensori-neural aids authorizes a service-connected veteran who is rated at least 10% to receive contact lenses, eye glasses, hearing aids from the VA.-4- This benefit could be very important to a veteran who is suffering a hearing loss or who is in need of glasses. All a veteran need do is to apply at the nearest VA Medical Center. Veterans must be on status with the VA to receive this benefit. Usually eye glasses, contacts and hearing aids will not be provided as a result of age. However those veterans who are rated at 10% for a service-connected disability are eligible regardless.
38 C.F.R. 17.150 Prosthetic and similar appliances. states that service-connected veterans shall be provided prosthetic appliances including wheelchairs, invalid lifts, special clothing, orthopedic shoes, hearing aids, necessary for treatment of any condition when receiving hospital, domiciliary, or nursing home care in a facility under the direct jurisdiction of the VA. Though non service connected veterans who are on status with the VA are given the same prosthetic aids under certain circumstances. Service-connected veterans are given them for their service-connected conditions free of charge. Apply for this benefit at any VA Medical Center.
Annual Clothing Allowance
An annual clothing allowance found at 38 C.F.R. 3.810 is provided to eligible veterans in the form of a lump sum payment. To be eligible the veteran must be entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability for which he/she wears or uses a prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, including a wheelchair. The VA must determine that use of the appliance tends to wear out or tear clothing. Apply at any VA Medical Center or VA Regional Office.
Aids and Services for the Blind
38 38 C.F.R. 17. 154 Dog-guides and equipment for blind this section states in part: “Blind ex-members of the Armed Forces entitled to disability compensation for a service-connected disability may be furnished a trained dog-guide.” Veterans are eligible to receive special benefits for the blind if they are service-connected for blindness or are entitled to VA compensation for any service-connected disability and are determined by the VA to be blind. Veterans with best-corrected vision no better than 20/200 or less or field defect of 20 degrees or less are considered to be blind. Blind veterans may be eligible for Annual Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) review (this is a total health and benefits review); adjustment to blindness training; home improvements and structural alterations to homes. This includes admission to a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center or Clinic where they may receive counseling and training.
Simply, this means that a blind veteran who receives compensation for any disability may be eligible to receive a Guide-Dog and other aids to over come blindness. Low vision aids include approved electronic and mechanical aids for the blind; their repair and replacement; guide dogs, including the expense of training the veteran to use the dog, and the cost of the dog's medical attention. Also included are talking books, tapes and braille literature (from the Library of Congress). Apply at any VA Medical Center.
NOTE: Blind veterans need not be receiving compensation or pension from the VA to be eligible for admission to a VA Blind Rehabilitation Center or Clinic.
Automobiles or Other Conveyances
38 C.F.R. 3.808 Automobiles or other conveyances authorizes veterans who suffer the service-connected loss, or loss of use, of one or both hands or feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a prescribed degree. A one-time payment for the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance and adaptive equipment. Eligible veterans may also receive payment for adaptive equipment, its repair, replacement, or re-installation, required because of disability for the safe operation of the vehicle purchased with VA assistance, or for a previously or subsequently owned vehicle. Veterans who are entitled to compensation for ankylosis of one or both knees or one or both hips are authorized adaptive equipment only. Apply at any VA Regional Office or VA Medical Center.
Specially Adapted Homes
The VA has a web site that explains Specially Adapted Housing-5- in detail. 38 C.F.R. 3.809 Specially adapted housing and 38 C.F.R. § 3.809a Special home adaptation grants under 38 U.S.C. 2101(b) under these provisions certain disabled veterans may be provided a grant (s) from the VA for the purchase or adaptation of a home specially adapted to their needs. Application for both of these grants may be made to any VA Regional Office. The details on each grant and the eligibility requirements are as follows:
Part one of the Specially Adapted Housing Grant means that the VA may approve a grant of not more than 50% of the cost of building, buying or remodeling a specially adapted home, or paying indebtedness on such a home already acquired, up to a maximum grant of $48,000. To be eligible for this grant the veteran must be entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability, incurred after April 20, 1988, due to:
The VA may approve a grant not to exceed the actual cost, up to a maximum of $9,250, of acquiring adaptations to a disabled veteran's residence as are determined to be reasonably necessary for his/her needs. To be eligible the veteran must be entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability, incurred after April 20, 1988, due to:
State Benefits Specially Adapted Housing
The State of Illinois also has a specially adapted housing grant for those veterans who qualify for the federal veterans specially adapted housing grant.
330 ILCS 65/ Disabled Veterans Housing Act Illinois Under this act eligible veterans may be granted a single lump sum payment not to exceed $15,000 to provide assistance in acquiring a suitable dwelling unit with special fixtures and/or movable facilities made necessary by the veteran's permanent and total disability. To be eligible the veteran must be certified eligible by the VA for the Federal Specially Adapted Homes grant and the veteran must have been a resident of the State of Illinois at the time he/she entered the service. Apply at any IDVA office.
Veterans eligible for the Federal grant of $9,250 for Specially Adapted Homes may be provided a State of Illinois grant of up to $3,000 to help pay the cost of remodeling made necessary by the veteran's permanent and total disability. This does not, however, mean the veteran will receive the full $3,000. For example, if the cost of remodeling is fully paid by the VA grant of $9,250, the IDVA grant will pay nothing. But if the cost of remodeling is over $9,250, the IDVA grant will pay remodeling costs not to exceed $3,000 over the $9,250 paid by the VA grant.
To be eligible for this grant the veteran must be certified eligible by the VA for the Federal Specially Adapted Homes grant of $6,500. The veteran must also have been a resident of the State of Illinois at the time he/she entered the service. Apply at any IDVA office.
35 ILCS 200/15-165 provides for an annual property tax exemption of $58,000 of the assessed value of property owned and used by a disabled veteran as a home that is classified as Special Adapted Housing in the Federal Law. The exemption remains in effect as long as the veteran, his wife, or unremarried widow maintains ownership of and resides on the property. To be eligible a Federal Specially Adapted Home grant must have been made to the veteran and the funds used for the purchase or construction of the home. Apply at any IDVA office or fill out Illinois Form RLG-52. This exemption must be applied for annually.
Under the provisions 38 C.F.R. 809 (a) veterans who receive special home adaption grants under 38 U.S.C. 2101(b) who have available loan guarantee entitlement may also obtain a guaranteed loan or direct loan from the VA to supplement the grant to acquire a specially adapted home. Apply at any VA Regional Office.
Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance
38 C.F.R. Part 8 a -Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance provides a $90,000 Mortgage Life Insurance for veterans who are given a specially adapted housing grant. Protection is automatic unless eligible veterans decline in writing or fail to respond to a final request for information on which their premium can be based. Premiums are automatically deducted from VA benefit payments, or paid direct if the veteran does not draw compensation, and will continue until the mortgage (up to the maximum amount of insurance) has been liquidated, the home is sold, until the coverage terminates when the veteran reaches age 70, or dies. If a mortgage is disposed of through liquidation or sale of the property, any unused portion of the life insurance coverage may be used on the mortgage of a second or subsequent home. Apply at any VA Regional Office.
Independent Living Program (ILP)
The Independent Living Program (ILP) is an individually tailored program that is geared to helping severely disabled veterans live independently. The VA will use a number of resources to help disabled veterans reach the goal of living independently this may include assistive technology, independent skills training, and referral to community support groups. All this in addition to resources available through the VA Medical System.
Generally the VA Vocational Rehabilitation staff makes the determination that it is not feasible for a disabled veteran to pursue gainful employment. They then focus on developing a program specifically for the veteran. This will include a detailed assessment of the veteran’s needs. This assessment will include consulting with a variety of service providers, family members, and other professionals in the veteran’s community. From this assessment a Independent Living Plan will emerge. Veterans who are or who believe they are unable to pursue gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disabilities should complete a VA Form 28-1900, or apply at any VA Regional Office or VA Medical Center.
Vocational Rehabilitation is governed by 38 C.F.R. PART 21-VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION AND EDUCATION provides veterans who have a service-connected disability, with a wide range of services designed to help the individual with vocational or academic training :
A veteran is eligible if at least one of the following conditions are met:
Rehabilitation Program Period
Rehabilitation Program Costs
Disabled veterans will be given vocational counseling prior to having an educational objective approved. for eligibility. A veteran may receive employment assistance, and self-employment assistance after completion of the educational objective.
If a veteran is rated totally disabled, the veteran may qualify for training and other services offered by the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program. The veteran should also check eligibility to use other state benefits such as those offered through the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services. Disabled veterans may be able to use both state and federal programs at the same time. Apply at any VA Regional Office using a VA Form 1900.
Educational Advance Payment
On occasion veterans may require advance payment of educational benefits in order to pay tuition, housing etc. such payment may be authorized if the following conditions are met:
If a veterans wishes an advance payment all that need be done is to tell the certifying official at the institution to check the advance pay box on the VA certification form. The veteran will receive the first months pay in advance plus a partial month if the semester has already started. As an example if a semester starts on January 15 advance pay will be given for the period January 15 through the month of February. The veteran would receive the next check for education on April 1st. Remember the VA pays one month behind (i.e., February is paid on March 1st). (reference 38 C.F.R. 21.7151 Advance Payment Certifications)
EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR SERVICE-CONNECTED VETERANS:
As with the other benefits available for service-connected veterans employment assistance also carries special considerations for those service-connected veterans seeking employment or who are forced to change employment as a result of an increase in their service-connected disability. The service disabled veteran may use Vocational Rehabilitation to learn a new skill and after completion of the program use the VA’s Employment Service-6- on line. The service offers a variety of resources for service disabled veterans.
Disabled Veterans in Business
The above site links to the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise-7-. This site offers a number of resources for veterans seeking to gain government contracts or just gain more knowledge about running a business. In addition to the Federal Government there are many benefits for disabled veterans through the State of Illinois
Veteran’s Preference in Hiring
In addition to the services the VA offers the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training monitors veteran’s preference in hiring laws. Generally veterans are entitled to preferences in hiring in both federal and state government civil service positions, and in some cases private sector jobs. Veterans preference in the Federal Government is governed by 38 U.S.C. Chapter 42, Employment and Training of Veterans. Generally any private employer who has a contract with the US Government over $25,000 must have in place a program by which disabled veterans, Vietnam Era veterans or any other veteran who served on active duty during a war, campaign, or expedition will be considered for not only employment but advancement in employment.
Commissary / Exchange Privileges at Armed Forces Bases.
This entitles 100% service-connected veterans, their dependents and survivors, and certain to shop and make purchases at military post commissaries and exchanges. This benefit may save those entitled in the purchase of groceries, liquor, sundries, non-prescription drugs, clothing, appliances, etc. Those who shop at Post Exchanges and Commissaries may save thousands of dollars a year. Typically prices are lower and there is no sales tax. Some Commissaries may assess a “user fee.” however. (NOTE: Entitlement to this benefit overseas is governed by international law and available only to the extent agreed to by the foreign governments concerned).
All that is needed is a Commissary letter from the VA Regional Office. Take the letter to your nearest military base and present it to the ID card section. If getting an ID for a spouse or dependent child a marriage certificate and birth certificate is needed.
Service Disabled veterans are entitled to a variety of special benefits because of their sacrifice for this nation. These benefits are governed by both the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs but also the U. S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training. Additionally the State of Illinois has also passed into law benefits for Service Disabled veterans. These laws are governed by the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and range from tuition payment for state supported colleges and universities to free camping permits at state parks.
However to obtain all that is available disabled veterans and their families must become educated consumers. Help is but a telephone call away. Trained Veteran Service Officers from both the VA and the IDVA are available to answer questions. Additionally are Veteran Service Organizations located in VA hospitals and at the VA Regional Office also available to assist. There are countless books and pamphlets available. Lastly, but perhaps most important, are the sites especially for disabled veterans and their dependents on the internet. Use all the resources available to find out and apply for all the benefits and services to which you are entitled.
2 38 C.F.R. §3.5 Dependency and indemnity compensation which states in pertinent part: This rate shall be increased by the amount set forth in 38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(2) in the case of the death of a veteran who at the time of death was in receipt of or was entitled to receive (or but for the receipt of retired pay or retirement pay was entitled to receive) compensation for a service-connected disability that was evaluated as totally disabling for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately preceding death. In determining the eight year period, only periods during which the veteran was married to the surviving spouse shall be considered. The resulting rate is subject to increase as provided in paragraphs(e) (3) and (4) of this section.
4 §17.149 Sensori-neural aids. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, VA will furnish needed sensori-neural aids (i.e., eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids) only to veterans otherwise receiving VA care or services and only as provided in this section. (b) VA will furnish needed sensori-neural aids (i.e., eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids) to the following veterans: (1) Those with a compensable service-connected disability;…”