Veterans Day is a day we reserve to celebrate our veterans and thank them for their service. In order to honor our veterans, many businesses offer free meals and various discounts. Such benefits are offered one day a year. However, there are some very significant benefits that are offered every day to veterans.
There are a number of federal monetary benefits available to Veterans who qualify. From pension to compensation, in our practice we encounter many Veterans who are unaware of these benefits. For example, disability compensation can pay as much as $2,906.83 per month to a single veteran. In order to qualify, the veteran must have a disability that is the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. As a foundation, in order to qualify for this benefit, Veterans must have been separated or discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. One interesting component of this benefit is that it may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though the disabilities may arise after service. The fact that an illness that occurs many years after a Veteran’s time in service can be linked to their time in service, and qualifies him or her for monetary benefits, can be very confusing.
Some conditions are presumed to be related to the Veteran’s time in service and thus enables Veterans to qualify for the compensation benefit. For diseases that are chronic, tropical or prisoner of war related, or associated with exposure to Agent Orange, the Veteran must have served 90 consecutive days of active service or more during a war period or after December 31, 1946. In addition, for chronic and tropical diseases, the disease must have manifested itself within a certain time period; whereas, diseases specific to former prisoners of war and Agent Orange exposure do not have such time limits. For a complete list of the conditions that are presumed to be connected to the Veteran’s time in service check out the website VA.gov.
Some chronic diseases that are presumed to be related to a Veteran’s time in service include, but are not limited to, anemia, arthritis, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, endocarditis, epilepsies, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, palsy, Raynaud’s disease, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, tumors, and ulcers. In order for some chronic conditions to be presumed linked to time in service, they must manifest themselves in varying periods of time from the separation from service. For example, leprosy must have manifested within one year after discharge, tuberculosis within three years, and multiple sclerosis within seven years. All Veterans who develop ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at any time after service may be eligible for compensation.
There are a number of diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange that are presumed to be related to service. Some more well-known diseases include type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, and respiratory cancers. If the Veteran has one of these conditions and served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, they are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and may be eligible for disability compensation.
The Veteran did not have to serve overseas in order to qualify for this benefit. For example, if a Veteran was exposed to radiation, there are a number of diseases that are connected to that exposure. The exposure could have occurred in Paducah, Kentucky, Portsmouth, Ohio, or Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Multiple types of cancer are presumed to be connected to exposure to radiation. Some of these cancers include, but are not limited to, cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, gall bladder, and many more.
If you or a Veteran you know has experienced or has died from one of the conditions listed above, you should contact your local county office of Veterans Affairs for more information. Always keep your discharge papers in a secure location and make sure your family members can find such papers. Keystone Elder Law thanks all Veterans for your service and wishes you and your loved ones a special Veterans Day.
Jessica F. Greene, CELA,* LL.M. in Elder Law, VA Accredited Attorney**
* Certified as an Elder-Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation
** Accreditation #21204