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Benefits All Disabled Veterans Qualify For

Video Transcription:

Christian McTarnaghan: Hi everybody! Welcome to another edition of CCK live. Today, we are going to be talking about VA benefits that all disabled veterans qualify for. I think a lot of people will know that when you are service connected, and you get a rating, you are going to get a certain amount of money per month. But we want to cover some of the topics that maybe people do not know as much about and other benefits that are there on the table that you should take advantage of if you need them and if you want them. So, before we jump into the substance of this, my name is Christian McTarnaghan. Today, I am joined by Alyse Phillips and Lindy Nash. One of the things that we are going to keep talking about in this segment is more detail that we have on our blogs and on our website. Because there are a lot of rules to these. We are going to go over most of them. But the most detail that you are going to find are on those other postings that are available to you. Just one quick caveat, we have a whole other CCK live on what other benefits are available for veterans who are rated at a hundred percent. Today, we are going to focus on benefits that are available to veterans when they are just service connected even at a non-compensable rating. So, let us jump right in. Lindy, will you talk a little bit about VA healthcare?

Lindy Nash: Sure. First, just to give you a little bit of background information, the Veterans Health Administration, otherwise known as the VHA, is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States. So, it is massive. It provides care at over one thousand two hundred healthcare facilities and helps over nine million veterans. So, it is expansive and there are many different facilities across the country. One of the great things about these healthcare centers is that they employ people who are called Patient Advocates. Sometimes, I tell my clients that if you have any questions about your healthcare or whether one of the things we are going to talk about today which are hearing aids or vision disability benefits or dental care, if you have questions about that, the Patient Advocates are great person to go to at the medical center.

Lindy: They are highly trained professionals who can help with any concerns you have regarding healthcare and can answer any questions for you regarding those specific things. So, that is one thing to point out. But the big question here that you are probably asking is, “Am I eligible for VA healthcare? What allows me to take part in this healthcare system?” So, one of the key factors is your discharge. If you did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and you have some sort of disability rating, whether it is zero percent or fifty, it does not matter. If you have some sort of rating, you can likely qualify for VA healthcare. Even if you are not rated for anything, you should still get in touch with them because you still might be qualified depending on some other factors. But that one big initial thing should be looking at your discharge. And if you did not receive a dishonorable discharge, you should be eligible. But there are some other kind of smaller requirements to investigate as well. So, if you enlisted after September seventh nineteen eighty, or you entered active duty after October sixteenth nineteen eighty-one, there is a continuous service requirement.

Lindy: So, you must have served twenty-four continuous months or the full period for which you were called to active duty. So, there is that one kind of time period requirement. However, just to make things extra complicated, you do not always need to hit that continuous monthly requirement if you were discharged for disability that was caused or made worse by your service, you were discharged for a hardship or early out, or you served prior to September seventh nineteen eighty. So, if you have any of those situations, you do not need to hit that continuous twenty-four-month requirement. So, yeah. That is a little bit of general background. Should I get into the priority groups, Christian?

Christian: Yeah, I think that makes sense. Maybe just a quick overview. Because if I were a veteran, and I was assigned a priority group, I probably would not know what that meant. So, maybe to give people some context or at least where to start about understanding that, you may continue.

Lindy: Definitely. So, it is important when we are talking about VA healthcare to explain the priority groups. So, VA assigns each veteran a priority group when they apply for healthcare. It would be a number system. It is one out of eight. So, you would be assigned either number one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight, and that would be your priority group. This system helps to make sure that veterans who are in immediate need and have a serious disability going on or really need that immediate care to be seen quickly and efficiently. So, the priority group that you are assigned may affect how soon your signed up for benefits and how much, if anything, you will have to pay toward the cost of care.

Christian: You said one through eight, right?

Lindy: Yes.

Christian: So, although one is the lowest number, that is the highest priority group. Correct?

Lindy: Yes. If you are given a priority group one assignment, that would mean you are in the most immediate need for care, and you should be treated first before someone who is in priority group six or seven.

Christian: Okay, great. Well, thank you very much, Lindy. Anything to add before we move on to Alyse and vision benefits?

Lindy: I was just going to mention that again. You should check out our blog which is cck-law.com because we have some awesome graphics that lay out what each priority group means and how you fall into each group. They are just helpful. I am a visual person and it helped me understand the priority groups just by looking at these great graphics that we must explain what the groups mean. So, I would suggest going there and checking it out.

Christian: Alright. So, we just went over healthcare. Alyse, a lot of veterans who qualify for VA healthcare also can get a portion or all their vision care through the VA, right?

Alyse Phillips: Correct. So, as you just said, basically everything that Lindy had just covered, if you qualify for those things, then you are most likely going to be able to qualify for some type of vision benefits. Whether it is complete coverage or just partial, that is going to depend on your circumstances. But what vision benefits really means and what that covers is going to be your routine eye exams. So, when you go to the eye doctor, and they test your vision, but also preventative testing such as a glaucoma test. Whether eyeglasses are covered is a slightly different exam. So, eyeglasses are covered for veterans that have compensable ratings. But veterans that do not have compensable ratings can still get coverage for eyeglasses if they fit into certain categories. There are a lot of categories, and we have them all listed on our blog. So, I am not going to go through them all just because there are a lot, but I will give you guys some examples. For example, if you are a former prisoner of war, if you are awarded a purple heart, if you are receiving benefits under 38 US code 1151, or if you have received increased pension based on being permanently housebound or in need of regular aid and attendance, those are all examples of ways somebody might be qualified to have their eyeglasses covered if they do not have a compensable rating. Like I said, if you have a compensable rating or ten percent or above, you are going to get those glasses covered.

Christian: So, if you have a zero, but you are awarded a purple heart, I am not exactly sure how that would work. I am assuming it is certainly possible. It is unlikely, but then your eyeglasses are going to be covered. But if you have a ten, your eyeglasses are covered, right? Great. Unfortunately, another disability that we see frequently in our practice are auditory disabilities or hearing disabilities. A lot of these hearing disabilities happen for a variety of reasons, but most that I have seen in my practice is going to be due to exposure to noise. So, certain veterans qualify for hearing aids that are paid by VA. And again, you are going to have to bear with us. We are listing and making a lot lists here, but we just want you to be aware of the information so you can know basically whether or not you qualify and then dig into it a little bit more in contact VA about it. Again, veterans with any compensable service-connected disability which is a ten or more would not be a zero or non-compensable. A lot of the qualifications are mostly the same as vision benefits. So, I am not going to get into all the specifics. There are a lot of ways that you can potentially qualify for hearing aids. I am not going to bore you with an exhaustive list, so we highly recommend that you check out VA’s website for more information.

Christian: But, there is always a little bit of a “but” in VA, if the hearing aids are recommended by the Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic, the hearing aids themselves, the repairs, and future batteries will be at no cost to you as long as you maintain your eligibility. So, that is an important thing to recognize. You can request new batteries via the mail, over the phone, or via your eBenefits page. So, in order to get hearing aids through VA, you are going to have to register at the health administration enrollment section of VA Medical Center. You can do that in person. You can do it by filling out form 10-10ez. There is always a form. We are still in VA. Or by mailing that form directly to the medical centers of your choice. And so, those are a couple of ways that you can be entitled to get hearing aids to help with your hearing loss from VA. Alright. So, we have done healthcare, we have done vision, and we have done hearing aids. There is sort of like a big subsection in terms of health benefits that are left. Lindy, do you want to talk to us a little bit about dental care?

Lindy: Yeah, definitely. So, this is a question we get all the time from our clients seeking dental care with the VA and whether they qualify. Unfortunately, qualifying for dental care can be difficult. The requirements are strict and sometimes tough to achieve. I will not go through all of them. But for example, you may need to have a service-connected dental disability or condition or be a former prisoner of war to qualify for any needed dental care. There are some other requirements as well, but those are just to give you an example of how difficult it is to get dental care. We wanted to bring to your attention that there is an alternative insurance option available to veterans with any disability rating. You do not need to be rated at a hundred percent. You can have a zero percent rating and still qualify for this alternative insurance option. You just need to be enrolled in VA healthcare, or your dependents need to be in time of VA. The alternative option to be in dental care is called the VA Dental Insurance Program. So, V-A-D-I-P. Basically, the VADIP is a program that offers discounted private dental insurance for veterans and their family members who meet certain requirements. It is much more accessible. Again, you do not need to have a service-connected dental condition. You do not need to be a former prisoner of war. You do not need to have a hundred percent rating. There are no requirements like that. It is much more accessible, and it is a standard VA dental benefits plan which is just easier to achieve.

Christian: I sort of think about that like a private company is allowing you to buy dental insurance to be sewn through their policy, right? You pay a little bit, and it helps you get excuse me discounted treatments and maybe some money towards any of those more serious teeth problems.

Lindy: Yeah. Exactly. So, the VADIP plan covers many common dental procedures such as diagnostic services, preventive care, root canals, dental surgery, and any emergency dental care which is fantastic. So, do not give up hope just yet with dental care if you do not hit those certain requirements. You should check out this other insurance provider.

Christian: Alright, great. Another benefit that is afforded to veterans can be life insurance. So, we are sort of moving away from the standard thinking about health care that is taking care of your body. Alyse, do you want to talk about life insurance a little bit?

Alyse: Yeah. So, there is a certain life insurance plan that is called the Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance or SDVI, which is basically a low-cost life insurance that is eligible to veterans. In order to qualify, you need to have been released from active duty on or after April twenty-fifth nineteen fifty-one and have not been discharged dishonorably. So, any discharge other than dishonorable will qualify you. You need to have at least one service-connected disability. It does not need to be compensable. So, what that means is it can be a zero percent combined rating, and you can still qualify for this plan. When you do pick up this life insurance plan, you need to be in good health except for any service-connected conditions. So, you might not be in good health because of service-connected conditions, but so long as there is not something that is not service connected, that would qualify you as not in good health. That seems like it might be a little bit of a big term. But so long as you do not have something maybe like cancer that is not service connected, you can qualify for this life insurance plan. If the cancer is service connected, again, you can also still qualify. You also need to apply within two years of the date which you are granted your new service-connected disability. So, that is important to keep in mind. If you do want to pick up this plan, and you get a new service-connected disability, you would have a deadline attached to that.

Christian: Great. Thanks, Alyse. I think VA is known for this but there are burial benefits that are available to veterans specifically for veterans who did not receive a dishonorable discharge. If that is the case, you can qualify for a gravesite at one of VA’s national cemeteries with available space, opening, and closing of the grave. This is all specific but just to give you a sense of what costs of the funeral and the burial will VA pay for, it is also outlined on VA’s burial benefits website clearly. Burial liner, headstone marker, ongoing care of the grave, these are all things that VA would pay for. It is also possible to be reimbursed for some of the funeral expenses for burial costs with the veterans with a disability rating if certain other requirements are met. Again, we are trying to avoid lists on lists here. So, going to the VA’s website would be the best way to find out what those exact requirements are. The amount eligible for reimbursement depends on the veteran’s situation and the unfortunate cause of death. Some burial expenses are reimbursed for a veteran whose death was not caused by service, higher amount if the veteran was hospitalized at the time of death, and highest amount if the veteran’s death was unfortunately due to service-connected conditions. And again, we just point you to VA’s website for the specific dollar amounts and other eligibility requirements. We just want you to be aware that those are out there and something that you can take advantage of if you want. As we typically do on CCK live, before we are wrapping up, are there any closing thoughts that you, Alyse or Lindy, would like to add before we wrap up here today?

Alyse: I think that this is an important topic because a lot of times in veteran’s law, we are so focused on that compensable rating and getting a higher rating. This is a reminder that even if you do not have a compensable rating, you still are entitled to benefits through the VA. They are not necessarily super easy to understand, so we obviously encourage you to investigate your specific situation. But it is not only about getting that compensable rating. Sometimes there are other things that can attach to being service connected.

Lindy: I would just say that as you may have picked up, a lot of these different areas and benefits do require you to have not received a dishonorable discharge. So, if you did receive a dishonorable discharge, there are ways to fight that. If you look at VA’s website, they have our resources for you there. So, if you think that the discharge was incorrect or there is something in error there, I would encourage you to try to get that fixed so that you are able to get one of these benefits for you. And then the one other thing is that, I mentioned it in the beginning, utilize the Patient Advocate at the VA Medical Centers. They can be helpful. If you have questions about your hearing aids or dental care or vision or whether you even are eligible, they are a great resource for you. So, I would suggest that you reach out to them for more information.

Christian: Yeah. I will just close by saying in addition to these benefits from VA, there are also a lot of state benefits that are available to veterans. Lots of states have veteran benefit specific websites within their state website. So, check those out and see if there is anything else available to you. So, thank you very much, Alyse and Lindy. Thank you for joining us. That is all for us today.