Even though I am a veteran myself, I never realized that the United States has the most extensive veterans’ assistance program of any country in the world. The program can be traced back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims passed a law, which stated that the colony would support disabled soldiers.
Earlier this year I began volunteering with the ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network and discovered are many more benefits available to veterans than there were just a few years ago. For example, Vietnam veterans may have disabilities and illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, Type II diabetes, leukemia and respiratory cancers from exposure to Agent Orange and may be eligible for benefits. A veteran who served at Camp Lejeune between 1973 and 1985 may also be eligible for benefits from being exposed to contaminated water. The same holds true for anyone involved with nuclear weapons testing. Veterans who served in the Persian Gulf War, who may have been exposed to uranium, may also be entitled to benefits.
Another benefit available to veterans, but not widely known, is the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension (A&A) benefit. This benefit may pay for the expense of a caregiver in the home or be used for assisted living or a nursing home.
Other benefits that veterans may not realize that they are entitled to receive include:
- Vocational training programs
- Transfer of GI Bill benefits to spouses and dependents
- Free tax preparation
- Life Insurance
- Mortgage help
Since I began assisting veterans with their claims I have learned the process of applying for benefits through the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs can be a long, confusing, and frustrating process. Most veterans don’t know how many or which benefits are available to them and denial errors on the part of the VA are common. However, many denials have a good chance to be reversed on appeal if the proper documentation is submitted properly.
A prime example of a claim that was denied in error is the case of a Navy veteran who saw battle on a destroyer off the coast of Lebanon in 1983. Twenty-five years later he filed a disability claim with the VA for post traumatic stress disorder and depression. His claim was denied two years after he filed because the Veterans’ Administration could not find proof that he was actually in combat. A VA employee did a Google search and found that the destroyer was indeed involved in combat, but the VA still denied his claim. This case provides the perfect example of a claim that was denied not because it wasn’t valid but because it wasn’t filed properly.
Just last week the Military Times reported that the Defense Department has agreed to reconsider the less-than-honorable discharges for Vietnam veterans who were denied benefits because at the time, PTSD was not considered a diagnosable condition. Many experts believe that PTSD may have contributed to misconduct by veterans causing the less-than-honorable discharge and the denial of benefits.
Once you determine whether or not you are eligible for VA benefits, no easy feat in itself, the next step is to file a claim. Although having an attorney assist you in filing a claim won’t make the process any faster, it may help you obtain all of the benefits to which you are entitled and increase your awareness of the ever changing laws regarding veterans’ benefits.
If you have applied for VA benefits and have received a denial letter and would like to file an appeal, need help in applying for benefits or need a discharge upgrade, Siddel Law can assist you with the process to receive the veterans’ benefits to which you are entitled.
Disclaimer: This article discusses general legal issues, but it does not constitute legal advice. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Siddel Law expressly disclaims all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this article.