Tagged: veterans benefits

Veterans Day: 24/7, 365

Posted by Kelli McKinney
Tanks and cavalry prepare to move member of the Bonus Army away from the White House in 1932.

Tanks and cavalry prepare to move member of the Bonus Army away from the White House in 1932.

In 1932, thousands of veterans dubbed themselves the Bonus Army and protested in Washington D.C., asking the federal government to pay bonuses they felt they’d earned. As protestors picketed the White House, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered tanks to forcibly remove the veterans from the premises. Two veterans were killed by D.C. police. FDR’s response to the protestors’ requests in 1933: “No person because he wore a uniform must thereafter be placed in a special class of beneficiaries over and above other citizens.” What FDR failed to realize then, and what many others fail to realize even these 80 years later, is that veterans were not asking for special treatment. They don’t ask to be worshipped. They just want an equal opportunity, like everyone else, to earn their way after their service has ended. They want to work toward the dream they’ve defended. Ten years after shamefully turning tanks on U.S. veterans, President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1943, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill made it possible for those men and women who put their lives on hold in service of their country to get an education, start a business, or purchase a home. The impact of this bill is still being felt even today, and it is widely considered one of the most successful pieces of legislation in U.S. history. Holidays like Veterans Day make it easy for us to pay a sincere tribute to our Armed Forces each year. But we need to consider that the freedoms we enjoy each day exist because of those who have served and are serving today. Veterans serve, support and protect us 24/7/365, often without acknowledgement, much less thanks. November is a time of year when many of us pause to reflect on our blessings. There are currently more than 23 million Veterans in the United States today. Nearly 20 percent of them served during the Gulf War (1990 – present) and more than a third of them served during the Vietnam War (1964-75). Their service is something for which we should all be thankful, each and every day.

Free Handbooks About Military Benefits

Posted by Debi Teter
2014_sm_military_handbook_frontDo you know that there is a website that offers free handbooks explaining all of your military benefits? That’s right…you don’t need to spend your time searching through dozens of websites, because that work has already been done for you. MilitaryHandbooks.com, a site within the Military Authority network, offers handbooks to you for free. Military Handbooks was launched with one simple goal – to give the Military community the very best information available about pay, benefits, retirement planning, education benefits, career decisions, much more! And to provide it to you in a series of straightforward, easy-to-understand handbooks – for FREE! The handbooks include:
  • After the Military
  • a Base Installation Guide
  • Benefits for Veterans and Dependents
  • Getting Uncle Sam to Pay for your College Degree
  • Guard and Reserve
  • Military Children’s Scholarship
  • US Military
  • US Military Retired
  • Veterans Healthcare Benefits
Spend some time on the Military Handbooks site to get the most up-to-date benefits information.    

Yellow Ribbon Education Program

Posted by Debi Teter
Yellow-Ribbon-Program-for-servicemembersThe Yellow Ribbon Program is a voluntary fund-matching partnership between degree-granting universities and colleges and the VA in which they fund out-of-pocket tuition and fees that might not be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit. The Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefit will pay up to 100 percent of public in-state tuition, but it only covers up to $17,500 for private colleges and universities. Actual tuition and fee expenses can exceed these amounts. The Yellow Ribbon program is designed to help students avoid up to 100 percent of their out-of-pocket tuition and fees at these institutions. Students who attend a GI Bill Approved and Yellow Ribbon participating college or university qualify if they are eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and are not on active duty. Schools must agree to meet certain criteria when they participate in the Yellow Ribbon program. They pay Yellow Ribbon benefits on a first-come, first-served basis and have a maximum number of individuals they can pay each year. Also note that schools must certify student enrollment and Yellow Ribbon program information to the VA. Yellow Ribbon benefits are not available for training or education pursued on or before 8/1/09. To find a participating Yellow Ribbon school, visit the  official GI Bill website from the VA.   Image credit: Lipscomb #yellowribbonprogram #militaryeducation #veteransbenefits

A Service Member’s Prep Work for College

Posted by Debi Teter
Back to schoolHas it been a few years since you’ve tackled an algebra or geometry problem? How about chemistry? When was the last time you wrote an essay? For veterans and transitioning service members who are considering college, the thought of facing any of these subjects might be enough to dissuade them from pursuing their education. That’s why the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education have a number of college preparation resources in place. Because for most vets and service members, it’s not a matter of being incapable of handling these academic adventures – it’s just a matter of getting a little practice. Here is an overview of five programs designed to help vets and service members get their skills assessed, practice and prepare for their college education. The Online Academic Skills Course The Department of Defense’s Online Academic Skills Course gives all service members, regardless of activation status, all and their families are access to study guides, resources, articles, and practice tests to help them practice their academic skills and even prepare for placement exams like the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT. The Kuder® Career and Transition System The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support website features the Kuder Career and Transition System, which is a tool that was designed especially for the US Military. This comprehensive online resource helps veterans and service members learn skills and build a career plan. CareerScope® Featured on the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill website, CareerScope® is a new tool that measures aptitude and interests by evaluating a students’ responses to an online test. At the end of the 60-minute test, the tool provides the student with potential career paths based on their responses. Free Educational and Vocational Counseling Chapter 36 – otherwise known as the VA’s Educational and Vocational Counseling program offers several services for transitioning service members who:
  • Are within six months prior to discharge from active duty.
  • Are within one year following discharge from active duty.
  • Currently receive educational assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 1606, 1607.
  • Are Veterans and qualified dependents who are eligible for and have entitlement to education assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 1606, 1607.
Services include career counseling, educational and vocational counseling, training program development, and academic and adjustment counseling. The goal is to identify and remove barriers to successful employment. Veterans Upward Bound The Department of Education offers the Veterans Upward Bound program to help veterans prepare for a successful college career. It is a free program, designed to help participants refresh their academic skills, including basic skills development, short-term remedial or refresher classes for high school grads and much more.   There’s no reason not to take advantage of the resources that have been created to help veterans and service members prepare for their college education. For student veterans and service members, there are people who want to help and whose purpose is to see you succeed.   #militaryeducation #militarybenefits #fromgreentogray  

Veterans Will Receive 1.5 Percent COLA Increase in 2014

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com 2014 COLA increase for veteransWASHINGTON (Dec. 4, 2013) – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”

For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year, that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment. 

For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available at www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits. 

Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits. The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.

In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors. 

For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

For more information about VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000.

#2014COLA #VAbenefits #veteransbenefits

Fun Friday: Government Shutdown Edition

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com fun friday twitter shutdown commentsIn light of the government shutdown, here are some of the best things we’ve found on twitter regarding this glorious example of democracy in action… 


DENISE ™ @denisealondra

“After the sequester, they will cut back on airport security. We will have to pat ourselves down.” @LateShow #shutdownjokes

 

Adam Armus @AdamArmus

Grand Canyon closed. Visit Congress for alternative gaping hole. #ShutdownSuggestions

 

The Daily Show @TheDailyShow

Museums are closed. Hit up nursing homes to see old stuff instead. #ShutdownSuggestions

 

The Canada Party @theCanadaParty

Move to Canada. Open 24 hrs. #ShutdownSuggestions


Danielle @thatdanielle

Note to self: Do not get infectious disease today. Or apparently tomorrow. And possibly the day after.

 

The Milky Way @milkscone

have you tried turning it off and on again? #ShutdownSuggestions

 

Cory Confesses @CoryConfesses

@TheDailyShow Will my taxes be prorated during the shutdown? #ShutdownSuggestions

 

Making light of these circumstances is just one way of coping. But on a serious note, we don’t think that 800,000 people without jobs is funny, nor do we think that the loss of veterans programs, benefits, or military paychecks isn’t a very serious situation. Our thoughts are with all those directly impacted by the furloughs. Which, truly, is all of us.

We the people must look after each other. Those that are able, please consider donating to your local food pantries, shelters, churches, or other support organizations.

VFW “Disgusted” With Current Elected Leadership

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com veterans of foreign wars shutdown statementThe Veterans of Foreign Wars has released a statement saying it is “disgusted” with the current crop of politicians in Washington. “Yesterday’s news that the government will not transport or make a death assistance payment to grieving military families was the last straw,” the statement read. “It is absolutely appalling and nothing short of a travesty that elected officials continue to receive paychecks and benefits while not providing for those who deserve it most.”

The statement, attributed to the VFW’s National Commander, William A. Thien, went on: “Because of failed leadership, we have 56 closed Department of Veterans Affairs regional offices, 7,000 furloughed employees, and more than 4 million disabled veterans and survivors who were told next month’s disability or survivor benefits check will be delayed. We also have a hypocritical National Park Service that closes our nation’s war memorials to veterans and a federal government that continues to make foreign aid payments while our own national security is threatened because Congress has failed to pass a defense budget or put an end to the sequester. 

This is totally unacceptable and disgraceful that our elected leaders in Washington would allow this to happen,” said Thien. “We need leadership, not more rhetoric, and if the government is unable to take care of veterans, then the government should quit creating us.”


In Fight Against Backlog, VA Shows Signs of Progress

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com department of veterans affairsThe Department of Veterans Affairs is finally starting to show signs of progress in reducing the stubborn backlog of claims pending for 125 days or more. As of last week, the VA was reporting a backlog of 536,400 cases. That is still much higher than it was when Eric Shinseki took the Secretary of Veterans Affairs job in 2009. But at least the number is beginning to decline: The VA reported a backlog of 608,000 claims in March.

The Secretary has established an ambitious goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015. That looks like it’s not going to happen. But the recent progress is encouraging – and is the result of a monumental commitment of both human and technological resources. 

What’s helped? First of all, the Department has been increasingly successful in digitizing the claims process. This is a huge issue, as the old paper-based system was slow cumbersome and prone to routine errors such as transcription problems and lost documents. Merely storing the huge number of records in paper files was becoming an increasingly unmanageable problem for the VA.

Last month, though, the Veterans Administration completed its roll-out its new electronic platform – the Veterans Benefit Management System (VBMS) – in all 56 of its regional offices. Despite some significant hiccups, the rollout was completed six months ahead of schedule.

“This is a big cross-over year for us,” Shinseki said recently to a gathering of VA claims-processing employees in Manchester, New Hampshire. “We have for decades sat astride rivers of paper. Now we are in the process of turning off paper spigots and turning on electronic ones.”

This is an auspicious event for a couple of reasons:

First, the electronic system makes the claims-tracking process itself more efficient. So even if the original file is still on paper, fewer additional man-hours need be spent on the process of entering data into a system to track progress.

Second, the new electronic system means that fewer paper applications are coming in. The process on new claims becomes much more efficient.

Additionally, veterans in the backlog have benefitted from an end to the war in Iraq, which had tragically been contributing a steady stream of new combat and deployment-related claims. Furthermore, the flood of newly-initiated coming from Agent Orange-related incidents has subsided, reducing the new-claims workload. The VA had experienced a surge in claims from Vietnam War veterans once the Obama Administration indicated that they were looking favorably at Agent Orange-related claims. The VA also expanded benefits eligibility for conditions related to service during the Gulf War.

Technically, a claim is categorized as “backlogged” if it is still pending adjudication after 125 days. Appealed claims that receive an initial adjudication are not considered “backlogged.”  In September of 2009, when Shinseki came on the job, the backlog stood at 180,000 claims. Since then, the VA has been processing claims at a higher rate than ever before – but the furious pace was still not enough to keep up with the new claims piling in. 

The Veterans Administration also sought to enlist the support of organizations like Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion to help veterans in the process of documenting and preparing their claims. This led to fewer incomplete applications and quicker processing times, because these claims tended to be more complete and more fully-documented prior to even reaching the VA processing center.

Military Officers Association: White House Budget Proposals ‘Cross the Line’

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military budget cutsThe Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) condemned President Obama’s proposed cuts in military retirement pay and benefits fee hikes, saying the President’s proposals “cross the line.”

The MOAA further announced that intends to use its influence and that of its 380,000-plus members to fight both proposals. The following is verbatim from the MOAA statement of April 11th, 2013:

“MOAA opposes the suggested pay cap for currently serving members of the uniformed services of 1% (versus a 1.8% raise by law) and the Pentagon’s plan to shift$25+ billion in costs to military beneficiaries over 10 years by:

  • Raising annual fees by $1,000 or more for retired families of all ages.
  • Imposing means-testing of military retiree health benefits – which no other federal retirees endure.
  • Dramatically increasing pharmacy copays to approach or surpass the median of civilian plans.

“Military pay along with strong health care and retirement benefits are the foundational elements necessary to not just recruit, but also sustain an all-volunteer force,” MOAA President and CEO, Vice Adm.  Norb Ryan Jr.  said.  “The last time the government cut back on military pay and benefits, the results were disastrous by the late ‘90s.  It simply didn’t work then and it’s taken the past 12 years to rebuild what was lost,” he concluded.

DoD cites the need to impose these benefit cuts in order to curb “exploding” personnel cost since 2000 reiterating that health care and personnel costs now consume “one-third of the defense budget.”

“DoD’s own documents prove military health costs are not ‘exploding’ – the combined personnel and health costs are less than one-third of DoD budget the same as they’ve been for 30 years,” Ryan stated.

The Pentagon proposed similar fee increases last year and in the past; however, Congress dampened those proposals enacting selected current and future increases in 2011 and 2012, but explicitly limited discretionary increases by DoD. 

Congress rejected larger increases on the basis that:

  • Pentagon leaders need to do more to more effectively manage costs instead of penalizing beneficiaries.
  • Achieving savings by driving beneficiaries away from using service-earned benefits is inappropriate.

“Significant cuts to the crucial incentive packages that sustain a top-quality career force will undermine long-term retention and readiness,” Ryan stated.  “These proposals cross the line.  Not only do they affect the equities of military personnel and their families, they also affect the ability to support long-term national security,” he concluded.”

The Military Officers Association of America is the nation’s largest association specifically made up of current and former military officers. It is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

Warrior Songs to Hold Veteran Songwriters Retreat at Wallingford, PA, June 19-23rd

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

warrior songs logoWarriorSongs, a non-profit organization to help veterans recover from combat experiences, military sexual trauma or other military-related mental health challenges, will be holding a workshop from June 19th to the 23rd at Wallingford, Pennsylvania. Structured as a poetry and songwriting retreat, director and songwriter Jason Moon, himself an Iraq war veteran, will guide participants through a weekend of creativity, music, poetry, reflection, healing and bonding. 

The event will take place at Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center founded in 1930. Lodging is available on site. Full scholarships are available from Warriorsongs.

Jason Moon, the founder and director of Warriorsongs, returned from a deployment to Iraq with a combat engineer company in 2004. Struggling with PTSD, Moon abandoned his pre-war passion for songwriting and instead turned increasingly to alcohol and risky behavior, in an attempt to recreate the kind of adrenaline rush he experienced in Iraq.

“Before the war, songwriting was my greatest joy, and suddenly, I couldn’t write about anything,” he says. “Even writing about something happy just reminded me of how sad I was.” Moon took a five year hiatus from songwriting – ending shortly after he was hospitalized for depression and suicidal ideation culminating in an attempt to take his own life by overdosing on prescription drugs and alcohol.

While recuperating, he participated in the filming of On the Bridge, a film by Oliver Morel on the struggle to overcome PTSD. Morel asked Moon to contribute some original songs – and the floodgates opened.

Since beginning his workshops, Jason and Warriorsongs have been featured prominently by the Associated Press and the Huffington Post, and have had favorable mentions in many local papers where Warriorsongs has held workshops and events across the country.

You can purchase a copy of Jason Moon’s CD, Trying to Find My Way Home, here. His ReverbNation page allows you to listen some of his material as well.

The Wallingford retreat is limited to 17-18 participants. Scholarships are available. Contact Warriorsongs for more information at info@warriorsongs.org