"Veteran" vs. Veteran Benefits Eligibility - HELP?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Happy2BaNavyMom, Aug 19, 2018.

  1. Happy2BaNavyMom

    Happy2BaNavyMom Member

    Jan 22, 2017
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    Hi Forum Members,

    Please, Admins. If this is not appropriate, please delate and advise. Here's is my question/facts/situation.

    First of all, my DS is a USNA Class of 2021, mostly due to the influence of my father whom I will be speaking about.

    My Dad was a US Navy/Marie Corps. RESERVE Chaplain. Beginning service in 1961 and "retiring" from the Reserves in 1986. Retiring as a CHC-06 Captain (I only the CHC 06) because it was his license plate).

    Recently my father has been in an out of Hospital/Skilled Nursing Facility and, it would appear, because of his advancing mental incapacity and more prominent medical conditions, he may be requiring skilled nursing for life. He receives a Pension from the Navy which on his bank statement reads, "DFAS-Cleveland Ret Net (date) xxxxxxxxxx name". My Dad will be 80 in November. My mother, 2 years younger, is battling 2 different terminal cancers and is unable to care for him. [Yet, frankly better to take care of her own Activities of Daily Living - ADL's] than my father.

    I know I need to contact VA and check on eligibility - but until I can, I was hoping someone may have a few answers I don't. It would seem he's a "Veteran" by semantic standards, but not by VA benefits requirements. I've read conflicting information in this regard (No, unless he's served over 20 years). If you've dealt with a similar situation and willing to respond (or message), my family would greatly appreciate it. If you've read this far, I thank you.
  2. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    I am sorry to read of the many challenges you have going on.

    From what you describe, I am sure your dad is a veteran. His eligibility for veterans’ benefits can be complicated.

    Here are some resources to consult, more local than trying to call the VA:

    - Your county probably has an office called a Veteran Service Office or something similar. These are state employees who have been trained to help veterans navigate both the Federal (“the VA”) and state veteran benefits systems. I live in MD, so the link below directs me to state resources:

    - That’s right, each state has its own set of veterans benefits, separate from the VA. Google your state name + veterans affairs - the name varies by state. That website will describe what your state does for veterans, separate from the Federal VA.

    - Seek help from a certified veteran service organization (VSO). Non-profits such as Disabled American Veterans (DAV) provide benefits counseling. I am a life member, in part because of the volunteers I dealt with when I retired, who combed through my military medical records and advised me on the VA disability eligibility claims process.
    American Legion, VFW, IAVA, AMVETS, VVA all do similar things.
    I just googled - the Military Chaplains Assn is a VSO. If there is a local chapter, that may be a source of support. Military chaplains look after their own. Your dad does not have to be a member of any of these to get help.

    - VA Community Service centers. The VA often has community service centers offering counseling and benefits advice; these are not clinics or hospitals. You can search for those on the main VA site.

    - If you have a power of attorney, you may be able to create his My VA log-in and access certain things on his behalf.

    - Things to find before starting on this. Your Dad’s DD-214, the all-important form documenting his service. Any copies of his military medical record. Any records of his applying for veterans benefits from the VA or state, and any rulings on percent disability. If you are going to speak for him, after a certain point, you will probably need a power of attorney.

    Very, very broadly, anything documented in his military medical record is the basis on which service-connected and combat-connected disability is created. This may or may not be related to whatever services your dad is eligible for from VA or state for any other conditions. His period of actual active duty, and his period of Reserve status, may also be key points; his DD-214 will document that. If you can’t find his DD-214, the fact he is alive and receiving pay from DFAS makes it easier to get a replacement. A trained counselor can help you understand what he is eligible for and how to go about applying for benefits. If you google “replacing DD-214,” you’ll see official govt websites, veteran service organization websites and for-fee commercial websites. Any of the resources I mentioned above can advise you on the process.

    I think the main question to get answered upfront is whether your dad is eligible for any skilled nursing care based on his veteran status. The resources I mentioned can help answer that question, and if so, then it’s a matter of pulling together the paperwork.
    Be prepared for challenges and bureaucratic murk. It MAY come down to your dad not being eligible because documentation is not available showing service or combat-related causes - or it may not.

    Before calling the VA, try the f2f approach with the resources above.

    Saying “good luck” feels inadequate at this point, given the conditions of both your mom and dad. I feel for you, and hope you quickly find someone who can help you navigate this. There is a lot of support out there; the key is finding it.

    After I retire from the salaried workforce in a few years, I plan to get my certification as a benefits counselor and volunteer with the DAV or a women veterans’ non-profit. So many veterans to help...

    Edit: I’ve added a link below to a veterans’ home in MD, which will be similar to other states. If you read through eligibility, it mentions many of the things I’ve noted above.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
    USMCGrunt likes this.
  3. OldRetSWO

    OldRetSWO USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs 5-Year Member

    Aug 27, 2010
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    Capt MJ gave a great summary but I'll add a bit. Most of what she discussed applies to all veterans and from what you wrote, your
    dad is a veteran. In addition to the basic Veteran's benefits that she mentioned including any state specific benefits that may be available, I
    think that your dad might be eligible for another tier of benefits because it appears that he is actually a military retiree. This gives him
    Tricare and in this case, "Tricare for Life". As a military retiree, he has at least some access to the military medical system and there
    are Tricare advisers or ombudsman at most military bases and hospitals. I don't know about the specifics of care for him but usually it includes many
    civilian providers while the VA is often within the actual VA network.
  4. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    Excellent point by OldRetSWO. Reserve retirees are eligible for retiree dental plan (which transitions in the next year to the Fed civil service plans, google TRICARE Dental retiree plan or TDRP) and TRICARE for retirees, switching to Medicare and TRICARE For Life at 65. Way too much to go into here, but there is plenty of online information.

    TFL is not necessarily a long-term care or full nursing care coverage; it picks up where Medicare leaves off. I’m not 65 yet so that’s my general impression. I have other long-term care coverage for those things that aren’t covered by my TRICARE.

    And - your state and county will have an Elder Services Agency or Department, with all kinds of services and resources. When I took over my mom’s finances and care, I made good use of the things her taxpayer money had paid for. I downloaded the approved medical POA and other forms from the site, had a county social worker come out and do a safety survey on her apartment, and got a discount on one of those “I’ve fallen” devices she could wear while still living on her own.