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Eligibility requirements for veteran’s benefits

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By Donald Mustard

This column concerns the question of eligibility for VA benefits. First, it is necessary to define the meaning of “veteran” as it relates to VA benefits. A veteran is a person who served in the active military service of the United States. Additionally, service in any of 26 other specified organizations during World War I and II has been certified as active military service by the Department of Defense.
    Eligibility for most VA benefits is based on the veteran being discharged from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions and having served for a minimum required period. Usually an honorable or general discharge under honorable conditions is acceptable. Benefits are not authorized for those who received a dishonorable discharge.
    Under the Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program, the VA may pay benefits to the surviving spouse, children, or parents, without undergoing an income test, but only when it is determined the veteran’s death was service connected. Educational and health care benefits for spouse and children are also available under this program.
    Under the Improved Pension Program, depending on income, benefits may be available for war time veterans who are permanently and totally disabled from disabilities not related to service. Benefits may also be available for their surviving spouse and children. Under this program additional benefits are available if the veteran, or the widow of a deceased veteran meets the VA requirements for either housebound or aid and attendance.
    Those veterans filing a claim with VA for the first time should submit a copy of their discharge, or DD-214 documenting service dates, type of discharge, and branch of service. If you are unable to locate your discharge and need help in obtaining a replacement copy, contact your local Veteran’s Service Office for assistance. Claims filed by the surviving spouse, children, or parents must be accompanied by documentation of the veteran’s service, a marriage certificate, divorce decrees if the veteran was previously married, death certificate, birth certificate for dependent children, and the veteran’s birth certificate when parents are attempting to establish their eligibility for benefits based on the service of a child.
    VA has recently taken action to improve the delivery of health care to the veteran. The rules have been changed and now most veterans who have a good discharge can obtain primary and preventive health care from VA facilities whether or not they have a service connected disability. One of the more popular features of this new program is the availability of prescription medication from VA medical facilities such as the VA clinic on Lakeside Drive in Lynchburg, (434-316- 5000). All veterans are encouraged to consider this benefit and if you wish to participate contact your service officer for further information. The program established in 1998 continues to be modified and if you were previously denied enrollment you may want to check on the current admission requirements.
    For more information on veterans benefits contact the Service Officer for DAV Chapter 8, VFW Post 8184 and American Legion Post 16 at 434-401-7335.  The service office, located in the American Legion Post home at 1301 Greenview Drive, Lynchburg is open Tuesday for walk-ins from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.  and on Thursday by appointment.