An Introduction to Veterans’ Benefits

Are you a veteran seeking veterans’ benefits? While an attorney may not assist you in seeking veterans’ benefits until you have been denied benefits, once you have been denied benefits, you should contact an attorney immediately. Every attorney at Behrend and Ernsberger, P.C., is certified as an advocate to represent veterans before the Veteran’s Board.

According to the Pittsburgh Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs, “Western Pennsylvania has one of the highest percentages of veterans in population in the United States. Additionally, the average age of veterans located within the Veterans Affairs Regional Office jurisdiction, is somewhat higher than the national average.”

Qualifying veterans are entitled to a comprehensive benefits system that is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Healthcare and long-term care are included in this program. Eligibility for programs varies based on a veteran’s classification. Classifications include, veterans retired after at least 20 years of military service, service-related disabled veterans, non-service related disabled veterans, or retired veterans who served less than 20 years. Other factors influencing the amount of benefits available include war-time service and degree of disability.

Benefits may be in the form of a pension or disability compensation. Pensions are need-based and require the veteran to fall below a certain threshold of both earnings and net worth. The level of disability required to be eligible for a pension is “permanently and totally disabled.” Further, at least 90 days of active service in a time of war is required, and pensions are not available to those who were dishonorably discharged or those disabled due to willful misconduct. A veteran who qualifies must submit an Eligibility Verification Report (EVR) every year. The EVR must be filled out correctly and is used to determine whether the veteran’s income or net worth has increase beyond the eligibility threshold. The level of benefits is subject to several possible set-offs.

Compensation benefits are available to veterans who have a disability the resulted from military service. Compensation benefits are also available to those veterans over the age of 65 who served at least one day of active duty during a period of war and are beneath a certain income and net worth threshold. Compensation benefits may be increased if certain conditions, such as having dependent children or suffering from the loss of a limb, are met.

Because an attorney cannot assist you until you have been denied benefits, it is important to know that you can file for both compensation and pension benefits. If you are denied from either, you should then seek the assistance of a certified attorney. Non-cash benefits available under either the pension or compensation programs may include medical benefits, such as primary health care, surgery, home health care, respite/hospice/palliative care, urgent and emergency care, or prescription drugs. Nursing home care may be available at VA facilities or at state-run facilities. Lengthy waiting lists are a problem at both VA and state-run veterans’ nursing homes. Several VA facilities also provide geriatric care and Alzheimer’s and dementia programs. An attorney may not assist a veteran in taking advantage of these benefits until the veteran has been denied the benefit.

The net worth examination of a veteran applicant includes a look back into what the veteran has done in the last few years (the number of years included depends on the program). The look back examines transfers in which the veteran has transferred property for less than fair market value. In addition to the look back, there are expenditure restrictions for jointly-owned income, so the spouses of veterans need to be aware of the implications of veterans’ benefits.

If you are a veteran who has been denied benefits, the entire legal team at Behrend and Ernsberger, P.C. is certified to help you- call us today at
(412) 391-2515.