What Veterans Must Know About Ancillary Benefit-Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS) and Ancillary Benefit-Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA)

Ancillary Benefit-Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS)

Special allowance payable under Section 156 of Public Law 97-377 is called the Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS).  The REPS allowance is a payment to certain surviving spouses and children of individuals that died

  • on active duty prior to August 13, 1981, or
  • as a result of an service-connected disability that was incurred or aggravated prior to August 13, 1981.

This allowance replaces certain Social Security benefits that the provisions of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 either reduced or terminated.

Note: An ancillary benefit is an additional benefit that is related to, or derived from entitlement to certain service-connected benefits.

Ancillary Benefit-Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA)

Note: An ancillary benefit is an additional benefit that is related to, or derived from entitlement to certain service-connected benefits.

Dependents’ educational assistance (DEA) under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 provides payment of a monthly education or training allowance to the spouse and children of a Veteran who

  • has a total service-connected disability that is permanent in nature, or
  • died
    • of a service-connected disability, or
    • while a service-connected disability was evaluated as total and permanent in nature.

Dependent and Spouse Educational Assistance provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans.

An eligible dependene or spouse of a veteran can receive up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you can take a correspondence course. Under certain circumstances, remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved.

Who Is Eligible? 

You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of a veteran. In order to be eligible the veteran must be:

  • A veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. The disability must arise out of active service in the Armed Forces.
  • A veteran who died from any cause while such service-connected disability was in existence.
  • A servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
  • A servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
  • A servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability. This change is effective December 23, 2006.

When Are You Eligible?

Child-Son or Daughter:

A son or daughter of a veteran who wishtes to receive benefits for attending shcool or job training must be between 18 and 26 years old. Under certain circumstances it is possible to start at an earlier age and to continue after age 26. Marriage does not exclude you from this benefit.

If you are in the Armed Forces, you may not receive this benefit while on active duty. You can however obtain the education benefits after discharge from military service as long as your discharge is not under dishonorable conditions. The Veterans Administration can extend your period of eligibility by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. This extension cannot generally go beyond your 31st birthday, there are some exceptions.

38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 provides educational assistance to “eligible persons,” including “children whose education would otherwise be impeded or interrupted by reason of disability or death of a parent from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the Armed Forces.”  38 U.S.C. § 3500.  For purposes of DEA benefits under chapter 35, “eligible person” means a child of a person who, as a result of qualifying service, died of a service-connected disability or has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service-connected disability, or who dies while a disability so evaluated was in existence.  38 U.S.C. § 3501(A)(1)(a).

In general, an eligible child’s period of eligibility for educational assistance under chapter 35 ends on his or her 26th birthday.  38 U.S.C. § 3512(a); 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a), (b), although there are some exceptions.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g).  The general rule is that the commencing date of an original award of educational assistance is the latest of:  (a) the date the educational institution certifies the course; (b) one year before the date of receipt of the claim; or (c) the effective date of the approval of the course, or one year before VA receives approval notice, whichever is later.  38 U.S.C. § 3672; 38 C.F.R. § 21.4131(a).  When determining the effective date of an award under Chapter 35 the Secretary may consider the individual’s application as having been filed on the eligibility date of the individual if that eligibility date is more than one year before the date of the initial rating decision.  38 U.S.C. § 5113(b).

Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. section 5113(b)(2) the criteria for an earlier effective date under this statute requires that the claimant is an eligible person who:

(A) submits to the Secretary an original application for educational assistance under Chapter 35 of this title . . . within one year of the date that the Secretary makes the rating decision;

(B)   claims such educational assistance for pursuit of an approved program of education during a period preceding the one-year period ending on the date on which the application was received by the Secretary; and

(C)   would have been entitled to such educational assistance for such course pursuit if the individual had submitted such application on the individual’s eligibility date.

Spouse:

If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the veteran. If the VA rated the veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of 3 years from discharge a spouse will remain eligible for 20 years from the effective date of the rating. This change is effective October 10, 2008 and no benefits may be paid for any training taken prior to that date. For surviving spouses (spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty) benefits end 20 years from the date of death.

What You Need To Do

Make sure that the program you want to enroll in is approved for VA training.

Obtain and complete the application, VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance. Send it to the VA regional office with jurisdiction over the State where you will train. If you are a son or daughter, under legal age, a parent or guardian must sign the application.

If you have already started training, take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to VA.

DOWNLOAD: Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program booklet (PDF)

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

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What are the Requirements of Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension Benefit, aka “Non-Service Connected Death Pension”

Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension Benefit, aka “Non-Service Connected Death Pension”

The Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension benefit, which may also be referred to as Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.

The following requirements apply for the survivor pension:

  1. Discharge Requirements for the deceased Veteran remain the same, and
  2. Service Requirements for the deceased Veteran remain the same, and
  3. The surviving spouse is the current spouse and is unmarried, and
  4. The surviving unmarried children of the deceased Veteran are either:
    1. under 18 years of age,
    2. became permanently “helpless” before 18 years of age
    3. between the ages of 18 and 23 and is in the process of pursuing a course of study at an approved institution such as college or vocational school.
  5. “Net Worth” Limitations remain the same.
  6. “Countable Income” Deductions remain the same.
  7. The MAPR rate limit for each child is $2,250.
  8. Extra benefit of aid and attendance and housebound status requirements remain the same.
  9. EVR reporting requirements remain the same.

 

The Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) or “Countable Income Limits” are different for Survivors Pension. The Effective Rates as of 12/01/2017 are:

 

Standard Medicare Deduction: Actual amount will be determined by SSA based on individual income.


Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) Category Amount
MAPR Without Dependent Child $8,830
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $ 442
MAPR With One Dependent Child $11,557
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $578
Housebound Without Dependents $10,792
Housebound With One Dependent $13,514
A&A Without Dependents $14,113
A&A Without Dependents (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse) $14,685
A&A With One Dependent $16,837
A&A With One Dependent (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse) $17,347
SBP/MIW Annuity Limitation $8,830
Add for Each Additional Child $2,250
MAPR FOR CHILD ALONE $2,250
Child Earned Income Exclusion effective 1/1/2000 $7,200
(38 CFR §3.272(j)(1)) effective 1/1/2001 $7,450
effective 1/1/2002 $7,700
effective 1/1/2003 $7,800
effective 1/1/2004 $7,950
effective 1/1/2005 $8,200
effective 1/1/2006 $8,450
effective 1/1/2007 $8,750
effective 1/1/2008 $8,950
effective 1/1/2009 $9,350
effective 1/1/2012 $9,750
effective 1/1/2013 $10,000
effective 1/1/2014 $10,150
effective 1/1/2015 $10,300
effective 1/1/2016 $10,350
effective 1/1/2017 $10,400
effective 1/1/2018 $10,650

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Veterans Should Know About Veteran Benefits-Survivors Benefits

A veteran’s compensation benefits end at the death of the veteran. A surviving spouse does not continue to receive the veteran’s benefits. However, the law creates a separate Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (“DIC”) benefit that dependent spouses, minor children, children up to age 23 who are in school, and, in some cases, parents can claim after the death of a veteran. Each DIC claim is its own original claim for VA benefits that is legally independent of the veteran’s award.

The key issue in a DIC claim is usually whether the veteran’s death was service-connected. Generally, if the principal cause or one of the contributory causes of a veteran’s death was a service-connected condition, an eligible survivor is entitled to DIC. DIC can be awarded even if the condition was not service connected at the time of death or even if the veteran never filed a claim with VA, if service-connection can be established by existing evidence. A DIC claim can be filed at any time, even decades after the veteran’s death, but if it is filed within one year of the veteran’s death compensation will start from the date of death rather than the date of the application.

DIC is paid to a surviving spouse of a qualifying veteran who died from a service-connected disability.  38 U.S.C. § 1310; Dyment v. West, 13 Vet. App. 141, 144 (1999), aff’d sub nom. Dyment v. Principi, 287 F.3d 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Hanna v. Brown, 6 Vet. App. 507, 510 (1994)Darby v. Brown, 10 Vet. App. 243, 245 (1997).  A veteran’s death will be considered service connected where a service-connected disability was either the principal or a contributory cause of death.  38 C.F.R. § 3.312(a).  A service-connected disability is the principal cause of death when that disability, “singly or jointly with some other condition, was the immediate or underlying cause of death or was etiologically related thereto.”  38 C.F.R. § 3.312(b).  To be a contributory cause of death, the disability must have “contributed substantially or materially” to death, “combined to cause death,” or “aided or lent assistance to the production of death.”  38 C.F.R. § 3.312(c)(1).  The Board’s determination of whether a veteran’s death was service connected is a finding of fact that the Court reviews under the “clearly erroneous” standard.  38 U.S.C. § 7261(a)(4); Wray v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 488, 492 (1995).

A “surviving spouse” is defined as a person of the opposite sex who was the spouse of a veteran at the time of the veteran’s death, and who lived with the veteran continuously from the date of marriage to the date of the veteran’s death (except where there was a separation which was due to the misconduct of, or procured by, the veteran without the fault of the spouse) and who has not remarried or (in cases not involving remarriage) has not since the death of the veteran, and after September 19, 1962, lived with another person and held himself or herself out openly to the public to be the spouse of such other person.  38 U.S.C. § 101(3); see also 38 C.F.R. § 3.50(b).  However, no compensation shall be paid to a surviving spouse unless the surviving spouse was married to the veteran:

(1)   before expiration of fifteen years after the termination of the period of service in which the injury or disease causing the death of the veteran was incurred or aggravated; or

(2)   for one year or more; or

(3)   for any period of time if a child was born of the marriage, or was born to them before the marriage.

38 U.S.C. §§ 1102, 1304, 1541(f); 38 C.F.R. § 3.54(c).

In determining whether a claimant is the veteran’s “surviving spouse” for purposes of VA benefits, the validity of the marriage depends on “the law of the place where the parties resided at the time of the marriage or the law of the place where the parties resided when the right to benefits accrued.”  38 U.S.C. § 103(c); see also 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(j).  A claimant “has the burden to come forward with preponderating evidence of a valid marriage under the laws of the appropriate jurisdiction.”  Aguilar v. Derwinski, 2 Vet. App. 21, 23 (1991); see also Sandoval v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 7, 9 (1994) (stating that “before applying for benefits, a veteran’s spouse must supply proof of her or his marital status” to achieve claimant status); 38 C.F.R. § 3.205 (providing for a number of ways that a spouse can prove marital status).  The validity of a divorce decree regular on its face will only be questioned by VA if such validity is questioned by a party.  38 C.F.R. § 3.206(a).  The Board’s determination regarding whether a person is a surviving spouse of a deceased veteran is a question of fact that the Court reviews under the “clearly erroneous” standard.  38 U.S.C. § 7261(a)(4); Dedicatoria v. Brown, 8 Vet. App. 441, 443 (1995).

Where a DIC claimant submits evidence that an attempted marriage was invalid because of a legal impediment, such as the nonrecognition of common law marriages, see VA Gen. Coun. Prec. 58-91 (June 17, 1991), the marriage will still be “deemed valid” if:

(1)   the marriage occurred one year or more before the veteran died or if a child was born of the marriage;

(2)   the claimant entered into the marriage without knowledge of the legal impediment;

(3)   the claimant cohabitated with the veteran continuously from the date of marriage to the date of death; and

(4)   no claim has been filed by a legal surviving spouse who has been found to be entitled to death benefits.

38 U.S.C. § 103(a); 38 C.F.R. § 3.52.  “The determination of a claimant’s knowledge of a legal impediment is viewed in terms of ‘what the appellant’s state of mind was at the time that the invalid marriage was contracted.'”  See Lamour v. Peake, 544 F.3d 1317, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quoting Dedicatoria, 8 Vet. App. at 444).  In VA General Counsel Opinion 58-91, the Secretary stated that “the lack of knowledge requirement must have a broader meaning, encompassing lack of knowledge of the law prohibiting marriage, not just ‘knowledge of the factual ground which activated the law.'”  VA Gen. Coun. Prec. 58–91 (June 17, 1991).

The surviving spouse of a deceased veteran is entitled to dependency and indemnity compensation benefits (DIC) when the veteran’s death was not the result of his or her own willful misconduct and the veteran “was in receipt of or entitled to receive . . . compensation at the time of death for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling if . . . the disability was continuously rated totally disabling for a period of 10 or more years immediately preceding death . . . .”  38 U.S.C. § 1318(b)(1); see also 38 C.F.R. § 3.22(a).  A surviving spouse is also entitled to dependency and indemnity compensation benefits where the deceased veteran had a disability that “was continuously rated totally disabling for a period of not less than five years from the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty” or where “the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999, and the disability was continuously rated totally disabling for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding death.”  38 U.S.C. §§ 1318(b)(2)-(3); 38 C.F.R. § 3.22(a) (2).

As described above, a key to a spouse’s eligibility for benefits after the death of a veteran is that the spouse was married to the veteran at the time of death.  If a surviving spouse remarries after the death of a spouse, the issue of eligibility for benefits becomes complicated.  If a remarriage has ended, the spouse is eligible for DIC.  If still remarried, eligibility depends on when the spouse reached age 57, when the remarriage occurred, and whether a claim was pending on a certain date.  This is a complicated area and VetFirst urges surviving spouses who have remarried to contact an experienced service officer or attorney to determine eligibility for their specific situation.

 The child of a deceased veteran is entitled to DIC when the veteran dies as the result of service-connected disabilities.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1313, 1314.  For purposes of determining eligibility for this benefit, a child must be unmarried and must

(1)   be under the age of 18,

(2)   have become permanently incapable of self-support before the age of 18, or

(3)   be between the ages of 18 and 23 and pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution.

38 U.S.C. § 101(4)(A); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.356, 3.57(a)(1).  Further, section 3.356 provides that the question of a child’s permanent incapacity is one of fact for determination by VA, and that it will be decided on the basis of whether the child is “permanently incapable of self-support through his own efforts by reason of physical or mental defect” at the date of attaining the age of 18 years.  38 C.F.R. §§ 3.356(a), (b); Dobson v. Brown, 4 Vet. App. 443, 445 (1993).  The Board’s determination of permanent incapacity for self-support is a finding of fact that the Court reviews under the “clearly erroneous” standard of review.  38 U.S.C. § 7261(a)(4); 38 C.F.R. § 3.356(b); see also Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 49, 53 (1990).

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Veterans Must Know About VA Life Insurance Programs

Over the years the VA has offered a number of different life insurance plans.  Some of these plans are still open for enrollment while others are closed to new enrollees.

For details of the VA Life Insurance Program refer to VetsFirst Knowledge Book VA Life Insurance,.

As a general rule if you have questions regarding VA life insurance you should visit the VA’s insurance website at www.insurance.va.gov or call VA’s Insurance Center toll-free at 1-800-669-8477.  Specialists are usually available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Eastern Time, to discuss premium payments, insurance dividends, address changes, policy loans, naming beneficiaries and reporting the death of the insured.

When contacting the VA regarding an insurance matter if the insurance policy number is not known, use whatever information is available, such as the veteran’s VA file number, date of birth, Social Security number, military serial number or military service branch and dates of service to:

Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office and Insurance Center

Box 42954

Philadelphia, PA 19101

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

Specially Adapted Housing and Special Home Adaptation Grants: Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets

The VA offers 4 different grants for qualifying Veterans and Servicemembers to assist them with the building, remodeling, or purchasing an adapted home.   The four grants are:

  1. Specially adapted housing (SAH) grants, 
  2. Special housing adaptation (SHA) grants,
  3. Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants, and
  4. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants.

1. Specially adapted housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities live independently in a barrier-free environment.  SAH grants can be used to:

  • Construct a specially adapted home on land to be acquired
  • Build a home on land already owned if it is suitable for specially adapted housing
  • Remodel an existing home if it can be made suitable for specially adapted housing
  • Apply the grant against the unpaid principal mortgage balance of an adapted home already acquired without the assistance of a VA grant.

A SAH grant, which allows up to $81,080 (2018), can be used a maximum of three times up to the allowable dollar amount.  Veterans with certain permanent service-connected conditions qualify for an SAH grant if their service-connected conditions:

  • Are permanently and totally disabling,
  • Preclude locomotion without the aid of braces, canes, or a wheelchair due to the loss, or loss of use of
    • both lower extremities,
    • one lower extremity together with residuals of organic disease or injury, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion, or
    • one lower extremity, together with one upper extremity, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion
  • Result in the loss, or loss of use, of both upper extremities at or above the elbow, or
  • Cause blindness in both eyes, having light perception only, combined with the loss or loss of use of one lower extremity.
  • Include certain severe burn injuries

Veterans who served on or after September 11, 2001, and become permanently disabled on or after that date may also be eligible for SAH benefits if they have the loss or loss of use of one or more lower extremities which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair.

To apply for a SAH grant, fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555 Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant.

2. Special housing adaptation (SHA) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities adapt or purchase a home to accommodate their disability.  SHA grants can be used in the following ways:

  • Adapt an existing home the veteran or a family member already owns in which the veteran resides
  • Adapt a home the veteran or family member intends to purchase in which the veteran will live
  • Help a veteran purchase a home already adapted in which the veteran will live

SHA provides for a grant amount up to $116,217 (2018).  A SHA grant may also be used a maximum of up to three times until the maximum grant amount has been utilized.  A SHA grant will be awarded where the veteran has a service-connected disability for one of the following:

  • Blindness in both eyes with 5/200 visual acuity or less
  • Anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands
  • Certain severe burn injuries
  • Certain severe respiratory injuries

To apply for a SHA grant, fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555 Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant.

3. Temporary Residence Adaptation grants

May be available to SAH/SHA eligible veterans and Servicemembers who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member.  This assistance, up to $35,593 (2018) for veterans eligible for a SAH grant or $6,355 (2018) for veterans eligible for the SHA grant, may be used to adapt the family member’s home to meet the veteran’s or Servicemember’s special needs at that time.

4. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants

The VA Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) grant program helps veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system and requires home improvements for the continuation of medical treatment or for basic access to the home and essential bathroom and sanitary facilities for veterans with certain disabilities.  Unlike most other benefits shown on this page, HISA grants are available for both service-connected and nonservice-connected veterans (with different maximum amounts).

  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities the home improvement benefit is $6,800 (2018)
  • Veterans with non-service-connected disabilities the home home improvement benefit is $2,000 (2018)

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

Clothing Allowance: Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets

Clothing allowance is an annual lump-sum payment made when a Veteran’s service-connected disability causes the use of certain prosthetic or orthopedic appliances (including a wheelchair) that tend to wear or tear clothing, or when the Veteran’s service-connected skin condition requires the use of medication that stains the clothing. Eligible Veterans can receive a one-time or yearly allowance for reimbursement.

You may receive a clothing allowance as a Veteran who uses either of the following:

  • Prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, such as a wheelchair or crutches, because of a service-connected disability (Note: soft and flexible devices, such as an elastic stocking, are not included)
  • Medication prescribed by a physician for a service-connected skin condition that causes permanent stains or otherwise damages outer garments

Additional clothing allowances may be provided if more than one prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, or medication described above, is used and/or affects more than one type of clothing garment.

Note: An ancillary benefit is an additional benefit that is related to, or derived from entitlement to certain service-connected benefits.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What is Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets: Automobiles, Conveyances, and Adaptive Equipment

Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets: Automobiles, Conveyances, and Adaptive Equipment

Automobile Allowance

Servicemembers and Veterans may be eligible for a one-time payment of not more than $21,058.69 (10/1/2018) toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if you have certain service-connected disabilities. The grant is paid directly to the seller of the automobile and the Servicemember or Veteran may only receive the automobile grant once in his/her lifetime.

Certain Servicemembers and Veterans may also be eligible for adaptive equipment. Adaptive equipment includes, but is not limited to, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats, and special equipment necessary to assist the eligible person into and out of the vehicle.

VA may provide financial assistance in purchasing adaptive equipment more than once. This benefit is payable to either the seller or the Veteran or Servicemember.

Important: You must have prior VA approval before purchasing an automobile or adaptive equipment.

Eligibility Requirements (Automobile Grant)

  • You must be either a Servicemember who is still on active duty or a Veteran, AND
  • You must have one of the following disabilities that are either rated as service-connected or treated as if service-connected under 38 U.S.C 1151 or, for a Servicemember, the result of disease incurred or injury contracted in or aggravated by active duty:
    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet, OR
    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands, OR
    • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes to a certain degree, OR
    • Severe burn injury, OR
    • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Evidence Requirements (Automobile Grant)

To support a claim for automobile allowance, the evidence must show that you are service-connected or are treated as if service-connected under 38 U.S.C 1151 or, for a Servicemember, the result of disease incurred or injury contracted in or aggravated by active duty, for a disability resulting in:

  • The loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet, OR
  • The loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands,OR
  • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes, resulting in
    1. Central Visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with glasses, OR
    2. Central Visual acuity that is greater than 20/200, if there is a visual field defect in which your peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter of visual fields subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees in the better eye, OR
  • Severe burn injury: Deep partial thickness or full thickness burns resulting in scar formation that cause contractures and limit motion of one or more extremities or the trunk and preclude the effective operation of an automobile, OR
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

To support a claim for adaptive equipment, the evidence must show that you have a disability as shown above, OR you have ankylosis of at least one knee or one hip due to service-connected disability.

How to Apply (Automobile Grant)

  • Complete, VA Form 21-4502, “Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment” and mail to your regional office OR
  • Work with an accredited representative or agent OR
  • Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find your regional office on our Facility Locator page
  • If you are entitled to adaptive equipment only (i.e., service connected for ankylosis of knees or hips) you should complete VA Form 10-1394, “Application for Adaptive Equipment – Motor Vehicle” and submit it to your local VA medical center. You can find your local VA medical center on the health Facility Locator page.

Conveyances

You may purchase a new or used automobile, truck, station wagon, or certain other types of conveyance if approved by VA.

Adaptive Equipment

A veteran or servicemember who qualifies for the vehicle allowance also qualifies for adaptive equipment unless he or she is blind, requires a driver, or doesn’t have a valid State driver’s license or learner’s permit. See the attached list for more information about adaptive equipment. Important: VA will not pay for the purchase of add-on adaptive equipment (equipment furnished by someone other than the automobile manufacturer) that is not approved by VA. Contact the nearest VA health care facility for more information on add-on equipment. The adaptive equipment benefit may be paid more than once, and it may be paid to either the seller or the veteran or servicemember.

Special drivers training for disabled veterans should contact the nearest VA health care facility to request this training.

To Apply use VA form 21-4502, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4502-ARE.pdf.  There is no time limit for filing a claim; however, the claim must be authorized by VA before you purchase the automobile or conveyance.

Special Instructions to Veteran or Servicemember,

1. Complete all items of Section I in duplicate and submit both copies to VA. If you have previously applied for disability compensation, send the form to the VA regional office where your claims folder is located. If you have not applied for disability compensation or have not separated from military service, send the form to the nearest VA regional office.

2. VA will determine your eligibility and, if eligibility exists, VA will complete Section II and return the form to you.

3. Purchase a vehicle. When you receive the vehicle and the adaptive equipment from the seller, complete Section III.

4. Give the original VA Form 21-4502 to the seller.

5. Submit any invoices for adaptive equipment and/or installation not included on the seller’s invoice to the nearest VA health care facility. These invoices, identified with your full name and VA file number, must show the itemized net cost of any adaptive equipment and installation charges, any unpaid balance, and the make, year and model of the vehicle to which the equipment is added.

Special Instructions to Seller:

1. Make sure that Section II of VA Form 21-4502 is completed and signed by VA.

2. Deliver the vehicle, including VA-approved adaptive equipment provided and/or installed by the seller.

3. Obtain the original copy of VA Form 21-4502 from the veteran or servicemember after he or she has completed Section III.

4. Submit the original copy of VA Form 21-4502 and itemized invoice to the VA regional office shown in Section II, Attention: Financial Division, for payment.

The itemized invoice must include the following:

  • The net cost of any approved adaptive equipment and installation charges. If certain items of approved adaptive equipment (automatic transmission, power seats,     etc.) are included in the purchase price, also submit a copy of the window sticker.
  • A list of which adaptive equipment is standard on the vehicle or combined with other items.
  • The unpaid balance due on the vehicle which is to be paid by VA.
  • A certification that the amounts billed do not exceed the usual and customary cost for the purchase and installation of the adaptive equipment.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What is VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Training Benefits

The purposes of the VA Vocational Rehabilitation (“Voc Rehab”) program are to help veterans with service-connected conditions become gainfully employed, maintain that employment, and achieve independence in daily living. The Voc Rehab program is implemented in Chapter 31 of Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, so the benefits are sometimes referred to as “Chapter 31” benefits. The program includes several different services and benefits to help an eligible veteran achieve his or her rehabilitation goal. Services include vocational and personal counseling, education and training, financial aid, job assistance, and, if needed, medical and dental treatment. Program services generally are available for up to 48 months, but can be extended under certain instances.

Basic entitlement for Voc Rehab requires 1) a veteran with an award of monthly VA compensation or 2) a service member awaiting discharge from the service with a condition which will likely be awarded monthly VA compensation. In addition, a Voc Rehab claimant generally

  • Must have served on or after September 16, 1940; and
  • Must have service-connected conditions that are schedular rated at least 20% disabling (10% if VA determines a “serious employment handicap” exists); and
  • Needs Voc Rehab to overcome an employment handicap; and
  • It has been less than 12 years since VA notified the claimant of his or her qualification for Voc Rehab benefits.

The 12 year eligibility period can be extended if certain conditions prevented the claimant from participating in the program or if a serious employment handicap exists.

A veteran who is eligible for an evaluation under Chapter 31 must first apply for Voc Rehab services using VA Form 28-1900 [http://www.va.gov/vaforms/form_detail.asp?FormNo=28-1900]. An eligible applicant will receive an appointment with a Voc Rehab counselor who will determine if an employment handicap exists as a result of the veteran’s service connected condition. If an employment handicap is established, a plan to address the veteran’s unique rehabilitation and employment needs will be developed.

Under the Voc Rehab program, VA will pay training costs, tuition and fees, books, supplies, equipment, and special services needed by the veteran. While in training, VA will also pay a monthly “subsistence allowance” to help with living expenses. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately get back to work, the program will try to improve his or her ability to live as independently as possible.

Chapter 31 of title 38, United States Code, provides for the training and rehabilitation of veterans with service-connected disabilities.  “The purposes of [chapter 31 benefits] are to provide for all services and assistance necessary to enable veterans with service-connected disabilities to achieve maximum independence in daily living and, to the maximum extent feasible, to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable employment.”  38 U.S.C. § 3100.  38 U.S.C. section 3101 refers to a VA “vocational rehabilitation program” and defines that rehabilitation program.  Additionally, 38 U.S.C. section 3104 provides in pertinent part:  “Services and assistance which the Secretary may provide under this chapter, pursuant to regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe, include … [p]lacement services to effect suitable placement in employment, and postplacement services to attempt to insure satisfactory adjustment in employment.”  38 U.S.C. § 3104(a)(5).

Under VA regulation, the term rehabilitation program “includes, when appropriate: (1) A vocational rehabilitation program (see paragraph (i) of this section); … or (3) A program of employment services for employable veterans who are prior participants in Department of Veterans Affairs or state-federal vocational rehabilitation programs.”  38 C.F.R. § 21.35(f). Further, 38 C.F.R. section 21.35(i) restates the definition of “vocational rehabilitation program” in the same terms as already defined in 38 U.S.C. § 3101(9)(A)(ii).  Cottle v. Principi, 14 Vet. App. 329, 332-33 (2001).

The statutory purpose of vocational rehabilitation programs is “to enable veterans with service-connected disabilities … to the maximum extent feasible, to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable employment.” 38 U.S.C. § 3100; see also 38 C.F.R. § 21.1 (same).  Thus, the very fact of a veteran’s participation in a rehabilitation program, the objective of which is to become employable, is evidence that the veteran is presently unemployable.

[A] veteran’s participation in an activity carried out under this section [entitled “Therapeutic and rehabilitative activities”] … may [not] be considered as a basis for the denial or discontinuance of a rating of total disability for purposes of compensation or pension based on the veteran’s inability to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of disability.

38 U.S.C. § 1718(f)(1).  A plain reading of the statute reveals that the Board may not properly consider an appellant’s participation in a vocational rehabilitation program as evidence of employability.  Thus, the interim evaluations from a vocational rehabilitation program are both irrelevant and immaterial to evaluating employability because they do not logically establish employability in the periods in which they are rendered; they only point to the strength of an expectation of future employability.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Military Veterans Should Know About VA Education Benefits

VA offers a number of educational benefits to veterans and, in some cases, to a veteran’s spouse and dependents. Educational benefits programs include the Montgomery GI Bill (“New GI Bill”), Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program, Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP), Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA), Educational Test Program, National Call to Service Program, and Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Each program has different eligibility requirements, eligibility periods, and time limits for completing the educational programs. A person receiving benefits from one VA educational program cannot receive benefits from any other VA educational benefits program.

Each program requires a claim for the benefit desired to begin the process using VA Form 22-1990 [link]. As all of these programs often have very specific requirements, any potential claimant should carefully review each program in detail to identify the benefits for which they may be eligible and the best program for their individual needs. The two most commonly sought programs are briefly described below.

Benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill are generally available for those who went on active duty after June 30, 1985. In some cases, Selected Reserve and National Guard members may also be eligible. In all cases, there are minimum service periods of from 2 to 4 years depending on the specific circumstances of service. Under this program, which is also known as “Chapter 30” benefits, educational benefits are available for up to 36 months. Payments are for a fixed amount depending on whether the educational program is full- or part-time.

Eligible veterans must have received an honorable discharge (not just “other than dishonorable”). Before applying, a claimant must also have (1) obtained a high school diploma or equivalent or (2) completed the equivalent of 12 credit hours in a college degree program. Involuntarily separated veterans may also qualify under certain conditions.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill became effective August 1, 2009, and provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, and individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days of service. A veteran must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which are also known as “Chapter 33” benefits. Approved training under this program includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational and technical training, licensing, and national testing. To receive benefits, the particular training program attended must be approved by VA.

In general, the Post 9-11 GI Bill program pays full tuition directly to the school for all public school in-state students. There are some restrictions and caps for those attending private or foreign schools. The program will also pay a limited monthly housing allowance, books and supplies stipend, and a one-time rural benefit, if applicable. The Chapter 33 program provides up to 36 months of benefits and benefits are generally payable for up to 15 years following release from active duty.

An individual entitled to either Chapter 30 or Chapter 33 benefits may transfer an entitlement to educational assistance to: (1) a spouse; (2) a child; or (3) a combination of spouse and child. The family member must otherwise be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred educational benefits. Applications should be submitted using VA Form 22-5490 [link].

38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 provides educational assistance to “eligible persons,” including “children whose education would otherwise be impeded or interrupted by reason of disability or death of a parent from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the Armed Forces.”  38 U.S.C. § 3500.  For purposes of DEA benefits under chapter 35, “eligible person” means a child of a person who, as a result of qualifying service, died of a service-connected disability or has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service-connected disability, or who dies while a disability so evaluated was in existence.  38 U.S.C. § 3501(A)(1)(a).

In general, an eligible child’s period of eligibility for educational assistance under chapter 35 ends on his or her 26th birthday.  38 U.S.C. § 3512(a); 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a), (b), although there are some exceptions.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g).  The general rule is that the commencing date of an original award of educational assistance is the latest of:  (a) the date the educational institution certifies the course; (b) one year before the date of receipt of the claim; or (c) the effective date of the approval of the course, or one year before VA receives approval notice, whichever is later.  38 U.S.C. § 3672; 38 C.F.R. § 21.4131(a).  When determining the effective date of an award under Chapter 35 the Secretary may consider the individual’s application as having been filed on the eligibility date of the individual if that eligibility date is more than one year before the date of the initial rating decision.  38 U.S.C. § 5113(b).

Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. section 5113(b)(2) the criteria for an earlier effective date under this statute requires that the claimant is an eligible person who:

(A) submits to the Secretary an original application for educational assistance under Chapter 35 of this title . . . within one year of the date that the Secretary makes the rating decision;

(B)   claims such educational assistance for pursuit of an approved program of education during a period preceding the one-year period ending on the date on which the application was received by the Secretary; and

(C)   would have been entitled to such educational assistance for such course pursuit if the individual had submitted such application on the individual’s eligibility date.

Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” will bring significant changes to Veterans education benefits over the coming years. Most changes enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, servicemembers, families, and survivors. View our breakdown of the updated benefits.

Resources

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  • Our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about GI Bill benefits.
  • Take advantage of your local Veterans Service Officer to help you navigate the new information.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Veterans Must Know About VA Burial and Memorial Benefits

VA burial benefits are available for service-connected and non-service-connected deaths. Eligibility for non-service-connected burial expenses generally requires receipt of VA compensation, VA pension, or military retired pay in lieu of compensation at the time of death, a claim pending at the time of death that is later determined to have entitled the deceased veteran to compensation or pension before death, death while hospitalized or receiving care in a VA facility, or the veteran’s estate does not have enough resources to cover costs and the veteran served during wartime or was released from active duty due to a service-connected condition. A veteran who dies while under VA care or in a VA-approved state nursing home is also eligible.

Benefits for a non-service-connected death are $300 for funeral and burial expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death) and up to $762 for plot or internment expenses (if not buried in a National Cemetery). If the veteran was hospitalized by VA at the time of death, VA will pay up to $762 toward the burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2017.  An application for burial expenses must submitted within 2 years of burial.

Burial benefits for service-connected deaths include a burial allowance of up to $2,000 for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. There is no time limit for applying for this allowance. No other amounts will be paid if this allowance is claimed.  If requested by VA, supporting documentation must be provided within a year of the request. There is no time limit for submitting an application for plot or internment expenses.

An important benefit is burial in a grave-site in one of the 131 National Cemeteries with available space. If eligible, this benefit includes opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government-provided headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family. The principal criteria for a veteran’s burial in a National Cemetery are an other than dishonorable discharge and completion of a required period of service or entitlement to retired pay due to 20 years of service with a reserve unit. A spouse, minor child, or unmarried dependent adult child of an eligible veteran is also eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.

Grave-sites in VA National Cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance and VA national cemetery directors have the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery. A determination of eligibility is usually made in response to a request for burial. A VA Regional Office can also assist in determining eligibility.

Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a National Cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried in a National Cemetery, even if they predecease the veteran.

Families should keep in mind that VA does not make funeral arrangements or perform cremations. VA also does not provide military honors at veterans’ funerals. The Department of Defense, through the “Honoring Those Who Served” program, provides military funeral services. Upon a family’s request or at the behest of the funeral home on behalf of a family, the program provides each eligible veteran a military funeral honors ceremony to include the folding and the presentation of the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.

Burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery include:

  • a government-provided headstone or marker,
  • a burial flag, and
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.
  • Some veterans may also be eligible for a burial allowance.

There are no VA benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery. Similarly, only an eligible veteran may receive a government-furnished headstone or marker for placement in a private cemetery. A veteran’s spouse and dependent children are not eligible.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency