Veterans’ Benefits: Are You Missing Out?
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.
According to Richard Kazel, ambulatory care manager with the Syracuse VA Medical Center, some veterans don’t know about some of the benefits available to them, such as the numerous types of health care benefits offered by the center.
“People look at us as a hospital, and in reality, we’re a health care delivery system,” Kazel said. “We provide a full range of acute surgery and rehabilitation. But we also have a veteran’s crisis hotline. With our veteran health care, behavioral health is one need that can be spread over a greater period of time.”
The VA offers out-patient care, prescriptions, vision care, referrals to internal and external specialists, long-term hospice care, respite program for caregivers and home care, among other health related benefits.
Peacetime veterans and those with non-service related injuries can receive care from the VA Medical Center, but income requirements affect their level of eligibility.
Many veterans also may not realize that VA health care, while not insurance, satisfies the Affordable Care Act insurance mandate. Enrolling in health insurance does not affect VA benefits.
The VA also offers some burial benefits to surviving family members.
Kazel urges veterans to look into their benefits long before they are urgently needed because the enrollment process takes time.
The Veterans Service Agency partners with the VA and other local agencies, to offer Veterans Assisted In-Home Care “if a veteran wants to stay in his or her home, but needs home care,” said Corliss Dennis, director of the Onondaga County Veterans Service Agency.
The Veterans Service Agency addresses veteran homelessness with programs to provide supplies and to make referrals community resources.
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 upmost 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 or www.ongov.net/veterans.