Attention subscribers — Welcome to our new and improved website!
For the month of January, AltusTimes.com will be freely available to all readers. No login is required at this time.
Wartime pension benefits-non-dervice-connected pension:
Many times a veteran will talk a service officer and say that my neighbor said I could receive a pension from the VA; following is an effort to try an explain a non-service connected pension:
The VA provides a non-service-connected pension (https://benefits.va.gov/pension) for wartime veterans with low incomes and who are over 64 years old, or to wartime veterans who are totally and permanently disabled for reasons not related to their military service. The pension is intended to provide a guaranteed minimum income for veterans who qualify. For example: If the veteran has a countable income of $6,000 per year with no deductible medical expenses and no dependents, in 2017 the VA would have provided $13,166 minus $6,000, or $7,166 paid in 12 equal monthly payments.
Countable Income is a complex matter. For pension purposes, countable income is most sources of income received by the veteran or his/her dependents. This includes earnings, disability and retirement income, interest, dividends, rental income, net income from any business or farm, and normally any income from a dependent child. An example of an uncountable income is public assistance (such as SSI). Additionally, unreimbursable medical expenses and educational expenses can be deducted from countable income. There are other specific incomes that are deductible, so if the “Countable Income” as you calculate it is even in the ballpark of the income rates, you should apply for the pension and report all income sources. The VA is required to deduct all income allowed by law.
Pension Eligibility Criteria for Wartime Veterans Pension
VA Blue Water claims: officials oppose plans to extend benefits:
Veterans Affairs officials strongly opposed legislative plans to extend disability payouts to roughly 90,000 veterans who claim exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, saying the move could set a problematic precedent for future benefits awards. “The science is not there, and what we do depends upon science,” said Paul Lawrence, under secretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But advocates for so-called “blue water Navy” veterans argued that VA officials are willfully ignoring an abundance of evidence showing veterans’ exposure to toxic chemicals, and demanding evidence that could only have been collected more than four decades ago. “These people were exposed, how much they were exposed doesn’t make a difference,” said Rick Weidman, executive director at the Vietnam Veterans of America. “And you can’t put that all together 40 years later.”
VA Appeals update - RAMP option behind schedule:
By now, most veterans have heard of the RAMP process and are asking service officers if they should take advantage of it and reply to the VA. Well,
Among the many challenges facing new Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is the long-standing backlog in disability claims appeals, which currently totals more than 400,000 cases. As acting secretary at the VA in May, Wilkie said, “VA is committed to transforming the appeals process” through the Rapid Appeals Modernization Plan (RAMP). However, Congress was told last week that the technology improvements needed to make the new system work are behind schedule. RAMP is a pilot program under the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act signed by President Donald Trump last summer, which has a deadline for being in place of February 2019.
However, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said, “The VA has been fairly famous for not delivering on time.” At a committee hearing last week, VA officials testified that the original plan was to have about 75 percent of the information technology (IT) updates in place by August; instead, only about 35 percent of the improvements will be ready. Despite the IT delay, Paul Lawrence, the VA’s new undersecretary for benefits, said the agency is on track to meet the February deadline for reforming the extremely complex appeals process. He said the IT systems should be ready to go, but should there be more delays, the Veterans Benefits Administration is prepared to implement the new process manually
VA appeals - rural vet video hearing access: 4
Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (RSD) are fighting to make it faster and easier for rural veterans to appeal their claims for disability benefits within the VA. Tester and Rounds are calling on the VA and Board of Veterans’ Appeals to make sure that rural veterans are able to appeal their disability rating using video hearings in local VA facilities when they can’t travel hundreds of miles to be at their hearing in person or at a video hearing at a VA Regional Office. Under the Senators’ bipartisan Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, which guarantees veterans have a speedy and thorough appeal of their disability rating, veterans can take advantage of video hearings at certain VA facilities. For veterans in rural states this often means still traveling great distances to a Regional Office when there are other VA facilities that are closer but do not currently offer video hearings. “Not all veterans have the ability to travel and appear at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in person when they believe that a detrimental mistake has been made on their claim,” the Senators wrote. “Unfortunately, in many rural states, like Montana and South Dakota, veterans are still forced to drive a considerable distance to a qualified location for video hearings. Traveling a great distance for a video hearing or a greater distance for an in person hearing are not acceptable options when it comes to veterans’ right to a fair and speedy appeal. The VA has a duty to dedicate considerable effort to finding solutions to this issue that will better serve the needs of rural veterans.” In a letter to Board of Veterans’ Appeals Chairwoman Cheryl Mason, the Senators urged her to work with the VA to identify facilities in addition to VA Regional Offices that are suitable to hold video hearings, such as Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, Vet Centers, or field offices.
Senate bill, S.3089 | Vet Compensation COLA Act of 2018:
Senator Johnny Isakson (GA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced S. 3089-the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2018. This bill would authorize a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for veterans in receipt of compensation and pension, and for survivors of veterans who died from serviceincurred disabilities and are in receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The bill would provide an increase by the same percentage as Social Security, effective Dec. 1, 2018. Receipt of annual COLA increments aids injured and ill veterans, their families, and their survivors to help maintain the value of their VA benefits against inflation. Without COLAs, these individuals, who sacrificed their own health and their family life for the good of our nation, may not be able to maintain a quality of life in their elder years.
Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs:
Last week I talked about the special audit of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs requested by State Attorney General. Following are some comments made by the special audit team:”
• A culture of fear and intimation exists at ODVA.. Employees across the state actively fear for their jobs and report experiencing dictatorial and aggressive leadership from the front office.
• Staff are frustrated by perceived central office favoritism and bias.
I thought the following comment in the audit was interesting, “From the time of our first meeting azt the centers, it was clear that we were observed entering and leaving the facilities, and we were later informed that administrators were contacted by central management as soon as we left with with inquiries as to what we had discussed”.
It was clear from the special sudit that the members of Oklahoma Veterans Commission are not fully aware of their responsibilities.as the audit states that, “GAO standard emplasize the key role of the governing body, in this case the commission, plays in the agency’s overall enviroment and tone at the top. It is also essential that the commission gather appropriate information to properly maintain oversight of the agency and deal with any issues that may arise”.
My question now is, what are the veteran service organizations going to do about their selected members that are on the commission?