Ballparks will set aside days and discounted tickets, restaurants and amusement parks may offer discounted rates and some car dealers may go out of their way to lighten the financial burden of purchasing a new or used vehicle, but benefits for the nation’s veterans far exceed the minor perks companies often advertise.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans of the United States Uniformed Services may be eligible for a broad range of programs provided by the VA. Among those programs are four principal benefits: disability compensation, veteran’s pension programs, free or low-cost medical care through VA hospitals and medical facilities, and education programs.
According to the most recent data available through the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of veterans with a service-connected disability is 5.3 million. Almost 30 percent of the disabled population of the United States is of veteran status, making disability benefits a necessity for many of the nation’s veterans.
Veterans with a service-related disability and an “other than dishonorable” discharge can qualify for a monthly tax-free benefit ranging from $133 to over $3,400 depending on need. Compensation may increase based on factors such as a veteran’s severe disabilities or loss of limbs, familial dependents such as a spouse, children and dependent parents, serious disabilities among those familial dependents, or the disability has led the veteran to be determined unemployable.
To apply for disability compensation, veterans should apply online through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website at benefits.va.gov.
Generally, in order to receive VA benefits and services, the Veteran’s character of discharge or service must be under other than dishonorable conditions (e.g., honorable, under honorable conditions, general). However, individuals receiving undesirable, bad conduct, and other types of dishonorable discharges may qualify for VA benefits depending on a determination made by VA.
During the economic crisis at the end of the previous decade and the beginning of this one, pensions for millions of Americans were lost, among them were pensions for veterans as well. Though pensions are not the most stable benefit for the country’s veterans, they still mark a significant need, particularly for the millions of veterans approaching the age of retirement.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50 percent of the country’s veterans are now 65 and older, while only 8.9 percent were younger than 35 - placing an added burden on the VA’s pension programs.
Not all veterans are entitled to pensions. Wartime veterans with a limited income that are no longer able to work, may qualify for a Veterans Disability Pension or the Veterans Pension reserved for veterans who are 65 or older.
According to the VA, many veterans of wartime service are not aware that they may qualify for a VA pension if they are over the age of 65 and on a limited income, even without a disability.
There are many contributing factors that determine a veteran’s eligibility for a variety of pension programs. For further information and to see qualifying factors visit benefits.va.gov.
The most often discussed benefit - particularly on political platforms - is that of medical care for veterans. Though armed forces members have several medical benefits on hand while on active duty, access to those health benefits can become more challenging for veterans.
With nearly 7 percent of the country’s veterans living below the poverty line in the last 12 months - according to the U.S. Census Bureau - health benefits can be a must. The VA is required by law to provide eligible veterans hospital care and outpatient services defined as needed. “Needed” by the VA’s definition is care or service that will “promote, preserve, and restore health.” Some health programs available to veterans include blindness, rehabilitation, post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, agent orange exposure, Gulf War Syndrome and related illnesses, radiation exposure, and HIV/AIDS treatment.
In an effort to assist veterans with benefits that are available to them, the VA has set up explore.va.gov, a website through which veterans and their families can navigate available benefits and see which best suit their needs.