‘Atomic Troops’ Eligible for Benefits

Atomic-Bomb-Exposure-To-Humans-Nevada-1951Since 1990, the Department of Justice has operated a compensation program for eligible veterans who took part as servicemembers in any above-ground atomic testing from 1945 to 1962.

Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) program, o-site participants in the testing can receive one-time payments of $75,000, while miners/ore transporters can get $100,000 apiece. Veterans are eligible for RECA benefits if they were exposed to radiation and subsequently contracted illnesses covered by the program, including lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s Disease) and several varieties of cancer.

If an eligible veteran is deceased, the spouse, parents, children and/or grandchildren may be eligible for benefits.

For more information, visit the DOJ RECA webpage: http://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca.html

Download an Onsite Participant Claim Form: http://www.justice.gov/civil/docs_forms/RECA_Onsite_Particip.pdf

Contact RECA by e-mail at Civil.RECA@usdoj.gov

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Adaptive Housing Grant Eligibility Automatic for Vets & Servicemembers with ALS

WASHINGTON- Veterans and active-duty military personnel with service-connected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, are now presumed medically eligible for grants up to almost $68,000 to adapt their homes, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today.

“VA is committed to eliminating barriers that keep Veterans and Servicemembers from the benefits they have earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This change will make it easier for some of our most severely impaired Veterans to receive speedy assistance adapting their homes to their unique needs. “

The change affects recipients of VA’s specially adapted housing grants, which helps pay for the costs for building, buying or adapting a home, up to a maximum of $67,555.

Under the change, Veterans and Servicemembers with service-connected ALS will be determined medically eligible for the maximum grant. The program provides grants to eligible service-connected disabled Veterans and Servicemembers to construct or modify a home to meet their unique housing needs. Grants are also available to help eligible individuals purchase adapted homes or pay down mortgages on homes that are already adapted. VA estimates this change will save approximately 12 months in the overall process of a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant.

“This change automates and shortens our SAH grant delivery process for Veterans and Servicemembers living with ALS,’ said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “SAH is an important benefit giving beneficiaries the ability to adapt their homes and create a barrier­ free living environment- expanding their independence in their own homes.”

In 2008, VA established a presumption of service connection for ALS for any Veteran who develops the disease at any time after separation from service, making them eligible for monthly VA disability compensation benefits. VA amended its disability rating scale in January 2012, to assign a I 00-percent disability evaluation for any Veteran who has service-connected ALS.

ALS is a rapidly progressive, totally debilitating, and irreversible motor neuron disease that results in muscle weakness leading to a wide range of serious disabilities, including impaired mobility. VA adapted its rules so Veterans with service-connected ALS no longer have to file multiple claims with VA for increased benefits as their condition progresses. Prior to the new SAH regulatory change, many Veterans and Servicemembers who were rated by VA for service­ connected ALS, but who did not yet have symptoms debilitating enough to affect their mobility to the degree required for SAH grant eligibility, were unable to begin the process of modifying their homes to accommodate their often rapidly progressing conditions.

VA’s SAH program provides grants to eligible service-connected disabled Veterans and Servicemembers for the purpose of constructing or modifying a home to meet their unique housing needs. The ultimate goal of the program is to provide a barrier-free living environment that affords a level of independent living that the Veteran or Servicemember may not otherwise enjoy.

For more information, visit: http://benefits.va.gov/homeloans/adaptedhousing.asp

If you need help filing a claim or would like to ask some questions regarding benefits please call the Still Serving Veterans team at (256) 883-7035 or email us at admin@stillservingveterans.org

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Explanation of VA Pension Benefit with Aid & Assistance

There are 2 kinds of claims that Veterans can file for with the VA. 

1.  Claim for Service Connected Disability COMPENSATION   If the Veteran was injured during his/her active duty or s/he developed some type of chronic medical condition that s/he still suffers from today s/he should file this type of claim

2.  Claim for Non-Service Connected PENSION, (NSCP), with Aid and Attendance (A&A).


What is a  Non-Service Connected Pension (NSCP), with Aid and Attendance (A&A)?

The NSCP claim has nothing to do with being injured while on active duty and Aid and Attendance is granted when the Veteran requires the help of another person to help him/her with his/her daily activities such as fixing meals, getting dressed, showering, driving him to appts. etc.

Are there any limits or restrictions?

NSCP with A&A is a “needs” based benefit. That means there are income and asset/net worth limits.

For a married Veteran that needs Aid and Attendance the monthly income limit which includes his/her spouse’s income is $2,085, but if s/he is single it drops to $1,758.  The net worth/asset limit is $80,000 regardless of marital status.

The VA does not count the value of the Veteran’s private residence and the “reasonable” lot that it sits on, but everything that is in his/her checking, savings, CDs, 410K, IRAs, second home or property all totaled–cannot be more than the 80K.  As mentioned before if the Veteran is married his/her spouse’s assets are also counted.

If the Veteran is under the 80K asset limit but over the monthly income limit, the VA allows certain medical expenses to be deducted from his/her income. These are called “permanent recurring” expenses.

What will it cover?

Permanent recurring expenses are expenses that are the same amount every month and can be predicted for 1 year, and that is why prescription copays or doctor’s bills payments cannot be used.

Here are the most commonly claimed permanent recurring expenses:

1. Sitter Fees

    • Sitter hired through a Home Health Care Agency or privately.
    • A family member can be a “Sitter” as long as the Veteran is actually paying them and would be able to show proof of payment if requested.
    • Note: His/her spouse cannot be claimed as a Sitter

2. All Health Insurance Premiums

3. Assisted Living Facility/Nursing Home expenses

After deducting recurring medical expenses where does that leave their monthly income?

For example if the Veteran is living at an Assisted Living Facility paying 3k a monthly and his/her monthly income is $3K that would reduce his/her income to zero.  In this case the Veteran would be eligible for the maximum amount under NSC Pension with A&A, and the VA would grant him/her $2,085 a month.

The VA will always try to bring him/her back up to the $2,085 level.

Another example is if s/he were paying Sitter Fees of 2K a month on a 3K monthly income.

Now his/her income is reduced to 1K so his/her VA Pension would be $1,085.

There is also a “Death Pension with A&A” benefit for widows of wartime Veterans, and that has a different income limit but same asset limit.

What nursing home do you recommend?

If the Veteran requires skilled nursing home care I would definitely recommend an application to the Floyd E. “Tut” Fann Veterans Home here in HSV.

It’s a nice facility, and since it’s a State benefit not a Federal one, (although s/he would get his/her medications through the VA pharmacy at Tut Fann), the eligibility requirements are:

  1. Served during a declared wartime period
  2. Has been a resident of Alabama for at least a year at the time of application
  3. Veteran is in need of skilled nursing care.

For this benefit there’s no income or net worth limitations, and cost to the Veteran is less than $400 a month because the State & Federal VAs subsidize the rest of the cost.

Note: If the Veteran is receiving 70% or more in service connected disability compensation, s/he may not have to pay anything at all.

The only downside of applying for residency at a one of Alabama’s 4 State Veterans Home is there’s a 7-8 month waiting list. Check with individual facility because the wait times do vary by facility and do change frequently.

There’s also enrollment in VA Healthcare but at this time because of the 2 wars if the Veteran doesn’t have a service connected disability or is not receiving VA Pension, he would have to enroll on Financial Threshold–same 80K limit on assets.

Veteran must have his/her Discharge Papers to apply for any VA benefit. Please be aware that if your discharge was noted as under other than honorable conditions, you may or may not be deprived of benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs; a determination by that agency is required in each case.

I hope I answered your questions, and if you have any other or you would like to pursue any of the benefits mentioned above please let me know.

Here’s my contact info:

Laura Skinner, Still Serving Veterans VA Benefits Specialist

Phone: 256-883-7035  |  Email: lauraskinner@stillservingveterans.org

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Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Huntsville Outpatient Center


For more information about the new Huntsville Outpatient Clinic, visit our previous post: Update on Soon to be Constructed Huntsville VA Outpatient Clinic

Update on Soon to be Constructed Huntsville VA Outpatient Clinic

A $14.7 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient medical clinic will soon begin rising about a mile west of downtown Huntsville.

Jeffrey Hester, spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Birmingham, said contractors recently began grading the clinic site on Markaview Road between Clearview Cancer Institute and Butler High School.

Hester said VA officials are planning an April 17 groundbreaking ceremony for the 47,800-square-foot facility, which is expected to open in the summer or fall of 2015. It will replace two smaller community-based outpatient clinics on Governors Drive in Huntsville and Madison Boulevard in Madison.

In addition to primary care, the new clinic will offer mental health care, optometry, audiology and some radiology services. There will also be an on-site pharmacy.

“We’re just excited to have a brand new building up there to provide these services under one roof,” Hester told AL.com Tuesday. “I’m sure we’ll attract new veterans out of that area.”

Patients who need cardiac, orthopedic and other types of specialized care will continue to be referred to Birmingham VA Medical Center, he said.

Hester said the growth in the North Alabama veteran population, especially following the latest round of Base Realignment and Closure, necessitated the new facility. The current clinics in Huntsville and Madison treated more than 13,000 patients last year. VA officials expect that number will grow to 15,000 once the new clinic opens.

The clinic will be built by Birmingham-based Johnson Development on VA-owned property at the intersection of Markaview Road and Russell Hill Drive. Johnson Development will cover all construction costs, said Hester, and the VA will lease the building for a minimum of 20 years.

View the new Huntsville Outpatient Clinic announcement flier

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VA Announces Rollout of Secure Veteran Health Identification Cards

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the phased roll out of newly designed, more secure Veteran Health Identification Cards. The new cards are distinguished by additional security features and will have a different look and feel.

In addition to being more secure, the card has been transformed into a Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC). Similar to a typical health insurance card, the VHIC displays the Veteran’s Member ID, a new unique identifier, as well as a Plan ID, reflecting the Veteran’s enrollment in VA health care.

“VA is committed to providing high quality health care while ensuring the personal security of Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “These new identification cards are an important step forward in protecting our nation’s heroes from identity theft and other personal crimes.”

The VHIC is personalized to display the emblem of the Veteran’s branch of service. It also provides features that make it easier to use, such as the addition of “VA” in Braille to help visually impaired Veterans, and the printing of VA phone numbers and emergency care instructions on the cards.

The card replaces the Veteran Identification Card (VIC), which was introduced in 2004.

As part of a phased rollout, starting this month, the card will only be offered to newly enrolled and other Veterans who have not been issued a VIC. Then, in early April, VA will begin a three month effort to automatically issue the more secure VHIC to current VIC cardholders.

VA recommends Veterans safeguard their VIC as they would a credit card, and cut up or shred the card once it is replaced. While not required to receive VA health care, all enrolled Veterans are encouraged to get a VHIC.

Enrolled Veterans can get more information about the VHIC by visiting their VA medical facility enrollment coordinator or the website http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic, calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility. Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA health care system can apply for enrollment at any time by visiting http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll, Calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility. 

Social Security Announces New Expedited Disability Process for Veterans

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, along with Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) today unveiled a new initiative to expedite disability claims by Veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100% Permanent & Total (P&T). Under the new process, Social Security will treat these Veterans’ applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from Wounded Warriors.

“Our Veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and it is only right that we ensure they have timely access to the disability benefits they may be eligible for and deserve,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “Social Security worked with Veterans Affairs to identify those Veterans with disabilities who have a high probability of also meeting our definition of disability. I am proud of our collaboration and happy to announce this new service for America’s Vets.”

In order to receive the expedited service, Veterans must tell Social Security they have a VA disability compensation rating of 100% P&T and show proof of their disability rating with their VA Notification Letter.

The VA rating only expedites Social Security disability claims processing and does not guarantee an approval for Social Security disability benefits. These Veterans must still meet the strict eligibility requirements for a disability allowance.

Social Security plans to launch the expedited process in mid-March.

For information about this service, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm.

For more about Social Security’s handling of Wounded Warrior’s disability claims, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

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