The Rigors of Receiving Veterans Benefits
First, if you are a veteran who is reading this, we at Ingerman & Horwitz L.L.P., would like to thank you for your service to our country! Did you know that you are one of over 24 million living veterans? If you plan to take advantage of your rights as a veteran, you will have to eventually interact with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is a huge bureaucracy; in fact, it is the second largest department in the federal government with over 300,000 employees. (The largest is the Department of Defense.)
This year, the VA has a huge budget of more than $120 billion, a jump of more than $11 billion from last year’s level. Much of that increase is tied up medical care for veterans; Veterans Health Administration officials estimates they will treat more than 6.1 million patients this year, including more than 439,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The VA also will pay out potentially millions more in Agent Orange claims next year, after expanding the list of illnesses linked to the Vietnam War chemical defoliant late last fall.
There is also a $410 million increase in mental health services from fiscal 2010 levels (including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury care); a $696 million increase for homeless veterans assistance programs; a $377 million increase for health care system efficiencies; and a $9 million increase for medical and prosthetic research.
In fact, of the 24 million veterans currently alive, nearly three-quarters served during a war or an official period of conflict. About a quarter of the nation’s population is potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.
The responsibility to care for veterans, spouses, survivors and dependents can last a long time. Two children of Civil War veterans still draw VA benefits. About 184 children and widows of Spanish-American War veterans still receive VA compensation or pensions
Compensation and Pension
Disability compensation is a payment to veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active military service. Wartime veterans with low incomes who are permanently and totally disabled may be eligible for financial support through VA’s pension program.
In fiscal year 2008, VA provided $38.9 billion in disability compensation, death compensation and pension to 3.7 million people. About 3.2 million veterans received disability compensation or pension from VA. In addition, about 554,700 spouses, children and parents of deceased veterans received VA benefits. Among them are 170,144 survivors of Vietnam-era veterans and 235,000 survivors of World War II veterans.
Almost 5.5 million people received care in VA health care facilities in 2008. By the end of fiscal year 2008, 78 percent of all disabled and low-income veterans had enrolled with VA for health care; 65 percent of them were treated by VA. In 2008, VA inpatient facilities treated 773,600 patients. VA’s outpatient clinics registered over 60 million visits.
After reading about the millions of veterans that already receives benefits, you might think it is easy to get VA benefits. That’s simply not true! The American Veterans and Servicemembers Manual states: “It’s a hard and bitter lesson that all too often, despite honorable service and real sacrifices; one has to fight the military itself, or the Department of Veterans Affairs … to get earned and needed benefits and services.” The manual also states that various veterans groups have “led the fight to allow veterans to have attorneys represent them and to have access to a court of law to appeal agency decisions.”
Fight for Your Rights
The Ingerman & Horwitz, L.L.P. legal team knows how to fight to get you and your family the benefits they deserve. Some of our lawyers have served in the U.S. military and others on our team belong to Veterans’ affiliated service organizations such as the American Legion and others regularly donate to the Disabled American Veterans.
Having good information is critical to accessing the programs and benefits that are available to active military, guard, reservists, veterans and their family members. At Ingerman & Horwitz L.L.P., we have already assembled much of this vital information to help you navigate through the VA’s massive mountain of paperwork, documentation and rules, rules, rules. We can greatly assist in lessening the time and effort it takes you to file for these services and benefits.
Our Firm can also assist you in confronting the many challenges you will likely encounter along the way when dealing with these mammoth agencies. And, more importantly, if you are denied your benefits, we are experienced at digging in and fighting for a successful outcome so that you will ultimately receive the wealth of benefits and services you so richly deserve.