About US Veterans and VA Benefits
The United States military is America’s largest overall employer. With an operating budget of $597 billion, the Defense Department supports 1,282,000 active service personnel and 811,000 reservists. The U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard form the third-biggest force in the world. They’re also the most powerful and sophisticated defense organization in existence.
The U.S. armed forces have over 23 million living veterans. A few World War II vets are still here as well as those seeing Korean War action. Most of these aging patriots are being replaced by veterans of other armed conflicts like Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now the battle with ISIS insurgents in the Middle East. These dedicated veterans form less than 8% of the American population, and they’ve earned their entitlements and special benefits. That’s especially true for veterans who developed malignant mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during active duty.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is mandated to look after all United States military veterans’ disability compensation and eligible special healthcare benefits. These are above the standard entitlements due to retired service personnel like regular pensions. Regular pensions are administered by the Defense Department similar to how active-service or reservist pay is distributed.
Some veterans get confused between what entitlements are and what eligible benefits entail. Entitlements are guaranteed supplements earned by service length and grade level. These are paid to every qualified veteran regardless if they’re healthy or disabled. VA benefits are designed to help vets who became disabled through active-service circumstances and now require additional financial compensation and extended healthcare support to comfortably live.
Veterans Affairs Disability Pension Benefits
Monthly regular military service pensions are paid to honorably discharged veterans who completed a minimum specified service length. These veterans earn monthly compensation amounts based on how long they spent in the service and what their annual income amounted to. As of January 1, 2018, the U.S. Defense Department harmonized the legacy pension fund with the Thrift Savings Account. It’s now called the Blended Retirement System and serves all qualified veterans whether disabled or not.
Mesothelioma Justice Network Brief
Veterans Affairs pensions are entirely different from regular service pensions. They can apply to veterans who left their military branch early and fell short of qualifying for standard retirement pensions. VA pensions are special benefits designed to compensate and assist all veterans who were injured or later fell ill due to some active-duty related circumstances. Developing mesothelioma decades after having military duty related asbestos exposure is an excellent example of why VA disability pensions are in place.
Pension benefit compensation amounts are calculated based on the veteran’s individual needs. They’re also determined on what income level a veteran has. Higher income vets are less likely to receive disability pensions than low-income veterans unless they show their circumstances require financial support.
Pension limitations consider two main financial factors:
- Countable Income: This refers to a veteran’s current financial situation. Applicants must disclose all income sources such as other pension monies, earnings from employment, and any interest or dividends from savings or investments.
- Net Worth: Disability pension applicants also have to disclose their entire net worth including stocks, bonds, and mutual fund annuities. Real estate holdings are also assessed, however, personal residences are excluded from a net worth calculation.
This Department of Veterans Affairs income assessment is dictated by an act of Congress that sets an amount where veterans are eligible to receive funding from the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs. It can be a complicated and debatable approach. Congress set a balance between countable income and net worth to ensure veterans who could realistically support themselves wouldn’t abuse the program that so many marginal vets desperately need.
Eligibility for VA Pension Benefits
VA pensions are considered supplemental income. They are tax-free financial benefits that disabled vets may be eligible for above other regular income sources. But, there are restrictions on qualifying for VA pension benefits.
These are the basic guidelines veterans must meet to be eligible for disability pensions:
- Honorably Discharged: Military veterans must be honorably discharged from their military branch to qualify for pension benefits. Length of service is not the main factor. It’s the performance level that matters. Veterans who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible to apply for any VA compensation or healthcare benefits under any circumstances. That includes disability pensions.
- Service Documents: Veterans must have documented support that they were employed by a military department. This can be discharged papers, service certificates or government-issued identification. It’s helpful to have records showing service occupations and posting locations that coincide with how the disability developed.
- Medical Proof: Applicants for supplementary pension benefits must prove they have a medically-diagnosed disability. Normally, this support comes from a primary physician providing VA with a report outlining their patient’s medical history and diagnostic assessment. It should include a summary of how the disability developed, how it currently affects the claimant and what the long-term prognosis is.
- Age Requirement: Veterans who apply for the VA pension benefit program must be 65 or older. There are exceptional cases for younger veterans who are totally and permanently disabled, are in nursing care homes, blind, or already receive insufficient Social Security or Supplementary income.
- Wartime Service: This is a fine-print condition in the Veterans Affairs eligibility guidelines. This clause is complex and states that veterans applying for certain disability pension benefits must have served at least 90 days of active service with a minimum of one inclusive day being during a designated wartime period. This regulation also makes a date reference to before and after September 7, 1980. Veterans who considering applying for disability pension benefits should get independent advice about how this wartime service clause applies to them.
- Disability Degree: VA administration considers a veteran applicant’s degree of disability in assessing pension benefit eligibility. This includes a veteran’s mobility restrictions such as being housebound or bedridden. Vets who require personal home care may be eligible for Aid & Attendance compensation on top of supplementary pension payments.
Applying for Veterans Affairs Disability Pension Benefits
Every United States military veteran is entitled to supplementary pension benefits provided they meet all the VA eligibility guidelines. Additional pension benefits are awarded in a compassionate spirit so as all U.S. veterans are cared for if they were disabled as the result of a military injury or illness.
Here are the ways to apply for VA disability pension benefits:
- Apply using the Veterans Affairs eBenefits form on the official VA website
- Apply in person at a Veterans Affairs field office
- Apply with assistance from a VA accredited representative
- Retain a private attorney for guidance in all legal claims
Retaining a Private Attorney
All United States military veterans deserve proper representation when making health-related compensation and benefit claims. This is vital for veterans who developed mesothelioma due to active-service asbestos exposure. Retaining a law firm that specializes in mesothelioma claim litigation ensures the best possible settlements in the least amount of time.