Paul Whaley: Veterans and spouses may be eligible for benefits
A local lady was recently awarded more than $188,000 by the Veterans Administration for compensation for the death of her husband due to his military service.
Her husband was a Vietnam veteran who passed away several years ago due to heart disease. She had filed a claim for benefits at the time, but was denied, due to ischemic heart disease not being an Agent Orange presumptive illness at the time.
It was added in 2010, and a court case ordered that all claims for heart disease, since 1987, for Vietnam veterans be re-abjudgicated. We recently refiled her claim, and was granted an award, and the same court decision mandated that her claim be paid from the original date of her claim several years ago.
The importance of this is that there are probably more surviving spouses out there that are entitled to VA benefits, as well as live veterans.
Any veteran who served on the ground, or served on the inland waterways, or who made brief visits ashore in Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, regardless of length of service is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in support of military operations.
Other veterans with possible exposure are those who served along the DMZ in Korea (between April 1, 1968 and Aug. 31, 1971), and on certain bases or in certain units in Thailand (between Feb. 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975).
The presumptive illnesses of Agent Orange are: AL amyloidosis, choloracne or other acneform disease similar to choloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, soft-tissue sarcoma(other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma) Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea), non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus (type 2), all chronic B cell leukemias (including, but not limited to hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia), Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic heart disease.
An eligible veteran who suffers from any of these illnesses would be eligible for VA compensation. An eligible surviving spouse, whose veteran husband passed away as a result of one of these illnesses, or one of these illnesses contributed to his passing may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), whether the veteran had filed a claim for benefits or not. remarriage could affect eligibility.
Additionally, any veteran of any era diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may be eligible for disability compensation, and any surviving spouse who’s veteran husband passed away as a result of ALS may be eligible for DIC.
In general, any illness or injury incurred or aggravated by military service, either direct, presumptive, or secondary to another service connected condition, may be compensable for the veteran. Any veteran who passes away and a service connected illness or injury contributes to his death, his surviving spouse may be eligible for DIC.
Another benefit available to veteran’s who served during a period of war is a Non Service Connected Pension. This benefit is based on need, and need is established by considering the veteran’s household income, reduced by out of pocket medical expenses.
If this amount (income for VA purposes) is below the VA pension limit, the VA will award an amount to bring the income up to the limit. The amount is increased by a special monthly compensation for those who are housebound, or in need of aid and assistance by another person to maintain their daily life, or protect them from the hazards of daily life.
To qualify the veteran must have served during a recognized period of war, and be totally disabled. Age 65 is considered total disabled for VA purposes.
The current pension rates are: For a veteran with no dependents - Standard $12,652.00, Housebound $15,462, and Aid and Attendance $21,107: for a veteran with a dependent spouse - Standard $16,569, Housebound $19,380, and Aid and Attendance $25,022. There are additional amounts for additional dependents. The surviving spouse of a qualifying veteran is eligible for a survivors pension of lesser amounts.
I hope this is helpful to veterans and surviving spouses of veterans.
If anyone thinks they may be entitled to a VA benefit, come by or call the Sevier County Veterans Service Office at 1124 Blanton Drive, suite 101, next to the VA Clinic. Phone 865-453-8073.
We will be happy to assist in any way we can.
Paul Whaley is Sevier County Veterans Service Officer.