veterans benefitsThose who served our Country and sacrificed their time, health, and lives, are rewarded (to some small extent) by being eligible for certain Veteran’s Benefits. Most Veteran’s Benefits are administered by the United States Department of VeteransAffairs (the “VA”), although some states have their own separate benefit programs.

Under the VA, there are three major benefit programs. The first is Disability Compensation. These are benefits provided to a Veteran who has a service related disability due to injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty (or that were made worse by active duty). The Veteran had to have served on active duty (which is defined in the law) and been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. The amount of the benefit is based on the type and severity of the disability.

The second major type of VA benefit is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and Death Compensation. These are monthly pension payments made to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who suffered a service-connected death. The death did not have to occur on active duty if it was service-connected and the Veteran had been receiving Disability Compensation prior to death (with certain specific rules depending on the amount of the disability).

The third type of VA benefit is called Pension benefits. These are monthly pension payments to a War-Time Veteran or surviving spouse, who is permanently and totally disabled or age 65 and over. For this type of benefit, the Veteran had to have served at least 90 days on Active Duty, at least one day of which was during a Period of War, and the Veteran (or surviving spouse) must have limited income. The disability does not have to be service related and the Veteran can get this type of pension in addition to Compensation benefits.

Periods of War are generally WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and the Gulf War, but there are many technicalities so it is important to look at the specific rules. You can find them on the VA website at www.vba.va.gov There are many other specific and particular rules, so each person’s circumstances are unique and you may need to work hard to see if you are eligible for benefits.

One major rule that you must understand is that no one is allowed to charge people for assistance with the application for benefits. This has been a long-standing rule since the Civil War (although it has been modified over time). It was felt that unscrupulous individuals would scam Veteran’s out of their benefits by charging unreasonable fees. Lawyers may assist (for a fee) in the appeal of a denial of benefits. But, for the application process, most Veterans use the free services of groups like the VFW, the American Legion and others.

If you or your spouse served in the Military, and you now need some help or are suffering from a disability, you should look into your eligibility for VA benefits. These benefits can be very helpful in the right circumstances, and if you earned those benefits, then you should get them. You can consult with your Lawyer for planning issues and options that surround your eligibility for Veteran’s Benefits. See an Elder Law Attorney who knows about VA benefits.