Overview of Veterans’ Benefits
- Non-Service Connected Pension
- Medical Care
- Geriatric Services
- Prescription Benefits
Overview of Veterans’ Benefits
A person who has served in the United States Armed Forces may be entitled to receive compensation from the Veterans Administration for service-connected disabilities that occurred or were aggravated during a period of military service. A veteran may also be entitled to receive a non-service connected pension. In addition, a veteran may be entitled to receive health care services from the Veterans Health Administration that is a branch of the Veterans Administration. This Department is separate from the Veterans Benefits Administration. It is important to remember that a person is not automatically entitled to medical care because he or she is a veteran. The Veterans Health Administrations medical care is primarily related to medical care for health problems that occurred as a result of military service. Also, a veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged in order to receive benefits.
Veteran’s compensation is based on an impairment of earning capability that is related to a service-connected disability. It is important to remember that the disability does not have to be related to combat. VA compensation and pension benefits cost of living allowance (COLA) is paid based on the Social Security Administration (SSA) COLA. Compensation COLA by statue may not be more than the SSA COLA and pension COLA is equal to the SSA COLA. This year SSA did not increase COLA. VA will be providing letters to beneficiaries informing them that there will be no COLA for 2010. The 2010 Veterans Administration compensation rate for a veteran who is not married with a 10 percent disability rating is $123 per month. The 2010 Veterans Administration compensation rate for a veteran who is not married with a 100 percent disability rating is $2,673 per month. A veteran may be eligible for an increased or a special monthly compensation that may be greater than these amounts if the veteran is in need of aid and attendance of another to care for him or her. The Veterans Administration may reevaluate a service-connected condition. If the extent of the disability has increased or decreased, the percentage disability may be changed.
Non-Service Connected Pension
A non-service connected pension is available each month to a permanent and totally disabled veteran and his or her spouse or dependent when the veteran is 65 years or older and experiencing financial need. The three types of special monthly pensions are to offset the cost of necessary health care. They are called Low Income Pension, Housebound, benefits and Aid and Attendance, benefits. A veteran must have served in the armed forces for at least 90 days and one of those days must have been during a wartime period. In general, wartime is: World War I, World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946, Korean War (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955), Vietnam War (August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975), and the Gulf War (August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law by Presidential Proclamation). However, anyone who enlists after September 7, 1980 generally has to serve at least 24 months or the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty in order to receive any benefits based on that period of service.
The veteran’s income and his or her spouse’s income is offset against the amount of this pension. The yearly income of the veteran requesting a low income pension cannot exceed $11,830 a year and the income of a veteran with one dependent cannot exceed $15,493 per year in the year 2010.
Aid and attendance benefits are available to a veteran or a widower of a veteran who is blind, living in a nursing home or unable to attend to himself or herself or who has a physical or mental incapacity that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect himself or herself from daily hazards. The annual income of a veteran who needs aid and attendance and who has no dependents cannot exceed $19,736. The annual income of a veteran who needs aid and attendance and who has dependents cannot exceed $23,396 in the year 2010. The annual income of a widower with no dependents seeking aid and attendance cannot exceed $11,985 per year.
The Veterans Administration does provide health care services to veterans. These include hospital care at a Veterans Administration medical center and nursing home care at a Veterans Administration nursing center. However, a veteran is required to make a co-payment that is based on the inpatient Medicare deductible rate, that is adjusted annually. These co-payment rates are explained in Chapter 2 of this book. In order to receive these health care benefits, the veteran must be enrolled in the Veterans Administrations health care system. Nursing home care is not provided to all enrolled veterans. Nursing home care is only provided to veterans needing nursing home care for a service-related condition; veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or more and veterans who have a service-connected disability of 60 percent and are unemployable. There are also state-run veteran nursing homes. The VA provides funds to states to help them build the homes and pays a portion of the costs for veterans eligible for VA health care. The states, however, set eligibility criteria for admission. A service- connected disability is a disability that the Veterans Administration has officially ruled was incurred or aggravated while on active duty in the military and in the line of duty. When the Veterans Administration rules that the illness or condition is directly related to active military service, a disability rating is assigned.
An enrolled veteran may also be entitled to receive certain geriatric services. He or she may receive either an inpatient or outpatient evaluation of a veteran’s ability to care for him or herself: therapeutic day care programs that provide medical and rehabilitation services; respite care; nursing, physical therapy, and other services provided in the veterans home and hospice and palliative care.
rescription co-payments are charged only for outpatient treatment. The co-pay is $8 in 2008 for each 30-day or less supply of medication. A veteran will normally have an annual co-pay limit of $960 during the calendar year. However, there is no co-pay charged for a veteran who is 50 percent disabled or more with a service-connected disability; a veteran who has been determined unemployable due to his service-connected conditions; a veteran who needs medication to treat a specific service-connected disability; a former Prisoner of War and a veteran whose income is below the maximum annual rate for a Veterans Administration pension. If a veteran decides to participate in the Medicare plan, his or her Veteran Administration prescription drug coverage will not be affected by the Medicare Prescription Drug Act. This is because the Veteran Administrations prescription drug coverage is considered creditable coverage. If a veteran disenrolls or loses his or her Veterans Administration Drug coverage, the veteran will have 62 days to sign up for a Medicare plan without being subject to a penalty.