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Top Benefits Veterans Might Not Be Aware of in 2023

Q. Veterans Day is tomorrow. Our military Veterans have served our country, fought for freedom, and they deserve our utmost respect. My father is a Vietnam Veteran, and he and my mother (and me) are unaware of what benefits might be available to them. Can you help steer us in the right direction?

A. Thank you to your father for serving our country and to your mother for supporting him. Veterans Day, which falls on November 11 each year, is a day set aside to remember and recognize Veterans who have served in the US military or who are currently serving to protect our freedoms. There are several benefits, some of which were just introduced or enacted this year, and others that were already available, that many Veterans and their families don’t know a lot about. The following are some of them that will hopefully be helpful for your parents:

The Wounded Warrior Access Act Passed the Senate This Week

Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) have reached unanimous support in the Senate for their joint legislation aimed at simplifying Veterans’ access to their benefit claim records. The passage of the Wounded Warrior Access Act will streamline the process for veterans to obtain their essential claim files. The legislation will soon reach the President’s desk for final approval.

Through the Wounded Warrior Access Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will establish and maintain a secure online platform or website. This digital tool will enable Veterans or their designated representatives to request and receive their claim files electronically, eliminating the need for physical visits to VA locations or paper-based requests, saving them lots of time and stress.

More Burial and Funeral Costs Are Being Covered by VA

The VA expanded benefits to help pay for Veterans’ end-of-life expenses as of September 2023. The expanded benefits include reimbursements for transporting remains to state and tribal Veterans’ cemeteries, in addition to previously eligible national cemeteries; allowances for VA plots or interments for tribal organizations; and higher payments for non-service-connected burial benefits. The expanded benefits come after the department earlier this year made a push to encourage more Veterans to use the burial benefits.

PACT Act, Expanding Veterans’ Medical and Disability Benefits, Is Being Heavily Utilized in its First Year

The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act extended VA benefits to millions of veterans who were exposed to radiation and hazardous chemicals as part of their military service since the 1960s. The PACT Act addresses illnesses that may stem from exposures to toxins during military service, particularly Agent Orange, burn pits, and contaminated water on Marine Corps bases. This year alone, the VA paid out $150 billion in compensation and benefits to 1.5 million Veterans and survivors, a 39 percent increase, and processed nearly 2 million disability claims, up nearly 16 percent.

VA Is Modernizing the Disability Claims Process

When a Veteran files a claim for VA benefits, there are several administrative actions needed before a decision can be made, such as gathering medical records and military service records. VA is automating many of these administrative tasks, allowing claims processors to focus on more complex and analytical duties. These improvements will result in reduced processing times and faster decisions on claims to veterans and their families.

VA Provides Care to Eligible Veterans’ Family Members

More than 700,000 beneficiaries (spouses and children) are eligible to receive specific types of care and services through four family member-focused VA programs: CHAMPVA; Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP); Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV); and Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program (SBHCBP). The four health care benefit programs for Veterans’ family members and dependents are based on certain conditions and eligibility requirements. There are many Veterans and eligible beneficiaries who are not taking advantage of these services that are covered by VA. Learn more about them here.

VA Health Connect Expands Veterans’ Access to Transportation

VA offers a no-cost transportation option for Veterans and caregivers to access their health care. The program aims to eliminate transportation as a barrier to Veteran health care. From April to June 2023, the program completed more than 5,700 rides. As the program expands, more Veterans across the country will have increased access to reliable transportation and fewer barriers to obtain care. Eligible Veterans needing access to and from medical care should click here to learn more about the initiative at their facility.

Expanded Breast Cancer Screening Options Are Available through the SERVICE Act

The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environment (SERVICE) Act (P.L. 117-133 ) expands breast cancer screening eligibility for Veterans and ensures research continues to advance our knowledge of toxic exposures and breast cancer. For more information, Veterans can visit the Women’s Health Care Needs | Veterans Affairs (va.gov), or call the Women Veterans Call Center at 855-829-6636.

Veterans Can Now File Supplemental Claims Online

The VA has launched a new online tool to help Veterans file supplemental claims. Filing online reduces the wait time associated with traditional mailed claims since applications are received immediately. In addition, records sent through a secure network safeguards Veterans’ personal information. Submitting supplemental claims online will help VA more quickly deliver benefits and services while protecting the security of Veterans’ confidential information. To learn more and/or file a supplemental claim online, visit the File a Supplemental Claim webpage on VA.gov and complete the form.  

VA Programs Are Available to Support Veterans Who Are Struggling with Loneliness

VA has recognized the issue of loneliness and offers an array of programs to support veterans who may be struggling with it. Programs include pet therapy, music therapy, and group therapy. In some areas, Veterans with caregivers can request weekly visitation by a trained volunteer. This has the added benefit of providing regular respite for the caregiver.

One program, called Compassionate Contact Corps, highlights the power of genuine human connection in combating loneliness and improving mental health outcomes. Compassionate Contact Corps is a non-clinical program. A trained volunteer is matched with a Veteran who has been identified by their clinician as potentially benefiting from additional social connection.

The volunteer phones the veteran weekly, usually for 15–60 minutes of meaningful conversation. Learn more about the Compassionate Contact Corps here.

The Cleland-Dole Act is Being Enacted

The Joseph Maxwell Cleland and Robert Joseph Dole Memorial Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act, also known as the Cleland-Dole Act, was signed into law to address Veteran homelessness, telehealth, and long-term care. It also addresses prostate cancer research, rural health, substance use disorder, mental health, access to care, non-VA care, Vet Centers, educational assistance, beneficiary travel, beneficiary debt collection, and the G.I. Bill.

The Cleland-Dole Act aligns with local, state, and national efforts to increase care access, expand and remove mental health care barriers, increase support to case managers, and expand homelessness programs. It will be implemented over the next five years. To learn how the Cleland-Dole Act may apply to you, contact your VA primary care provider.

Veterans Aid and Attendance Is Highly Underutilized

Veterans Aid and Attendance has been around for many years, but many Veterans don’t know about it. Currently, thousands of Veterans and their spouses take advantage of the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit each year, but VA officials say that many more are eligible.

To be eligible, a Veteran must be at least 65 years old, have served on active duty for at least 90 days with at least one day during a period of wartime, and must have not been dishonorably discharged. Applicants must also need help with at least one activity of daily living: eating, walking, dressing, bathing, using the toilet, or adjusting prosthetic devices. Qualified Veterans and spouses of qualified Veterans who require in-home care, live in assisted living facilities or group homes or nursing homes, or who are blind, may also be eligible.

If you are a Veteran or spouse of a Veteran and you need assistance, be sure to make an appointment at the Farr Law Firm for a consultation. We can work with you to evaluate if you qualify for Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and help you file the paperwork. To learn more about Veterans Aid and Attendance, click here.

The Farr Law Firm Works with Veterans Enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Project

At the Farr Law Firm, we are very honored to be able to provide estate planning and Elder Law legal services to veterans enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Project Independence Program, which helps eligible veterans who have a spinal cord injury, a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, or a neurodegenerative disorder such as MS or ALS. The Wounded Warrior Project also offers a multitude of other services that Veterans (even nondisabled Veterans) may benefit from. Contact the Wounded Warrior Project Resource Center at 888-997-2586, and one of their coordinators will be available to assist you and begin to assess the programs within WWP that might be helpful for you. 

Let Us Help You Get All the Benefits to Which You’re Entitled

Applying for veterans’ benefits can be an arduous process. Here at the Farr Law Firm, we help Veterans and their spouses evaluate whether they qualify or may in the future qualify for Veterans benefits, so be sure to contact us to set up an appointment. We wish you and your family a very meaningful Veterans Day!

Northern Virginia Veterans Planning: 703-691-1888  
Fredericksburg, VA Veterans Planning: 540-479-1435  
Rockville, MD Veterans Planning: 301-519-8041  
Washington, DC Veterans Planning: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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