Veterans: New Year Brings Benefit Updates
With the New Year came changes in veteran benefits along with a push from some veteran advocacy groups for research into help for service-connected illnesses that are currently not covered or deemed by Veterans Affairs as “presumption of service-connected illness.”
Here’s a short list of some of the changes. As always, it’s best to check more closely on your own.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 took effect on Jan. 1. Veterans exposed to the chemical Agent Orange could be eligible for new or increased disability and health care benefits if they served on Navy or Coast Guard vessels near or in coastal waterways of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 or if veterans tested and stored the chemical.
If a veteran filed a claim in 2019 and was denied or is still waiting for answers, he or she is advised to consider filing again. For more details, check out this article.
Another new benefit for veterans is access to commissary, military exchanges – including the post exchange and base exchange better known as PX and BX – and many of the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation services. Prior to Jan. 1, only active-duty personnel and military retirees were able to shop tax free at military exchanges. (Click here for an article from the VA’s VAntage Point.)
As of now, veterans and their caregivers have access to these privileges. But to get on base to shop or use the facilities, they must have either a Veterans Health ID Card or a Real ID to get on a military installation. Check out www.va.gov for details on how to obtain a VHIC.
Finally, some veterans have become eligible for Space Available Travel often referred to as “Space-A” or military hops. Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard and Naval Aviation have flights throughout the U.S. Veterans must have a permanent total service-connected disability rating to be eligible. To find out more and learn how to research military Space-A flights, click here.
Burn pits are used to dispose of garbage on American military bases overseas, and more than 250 burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq released dangerous chemicals. Some exposed veterans with no other known risk factors have reported rare pulmonary issues, insomnia and cancers.
The VA does not currently provide a presumption of service connection for these, but experts believe research will establish such links. Disabled American Veterans is now working to enact legislation to define and establish service connection.
Currently, veterans must file claims requiring them to prove their illness is a direct result of significant exposure to burn pits and provide doctors proof of correlation between illness and exposure. This makes the claim both cumbersome for the veteran and very hard to prove, often resulting in denial.
A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would make it easier for veterans to receive health and monetary benefits. Stay tuned. We’ve not heard the last of this issue.
Women veterans legislation has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The proposed law addresses the barriers that women face as veterans when attempting to access VA health care and benefits.
Highlights include resources for military sexual trauma, harassment, gender-specific PTSD counseling and prosthetic items for women. The bill would also provide extended newborn care coverage. The bill, authored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake, passed the house in November and now moves to the Senate.
Notes from Military History
February is also African American History month, and one aspect of it reminds us of the plentiful examples of valor displayed by service members during America’s involvement in wars and armed conflict.
Often these patriots performed valiantly while enduring bigotry and racism, while serving in uniform and as veterans. A prime example is the now famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
During the war, 150 Tuskegee Airman were killed in combat or accidents while 32 were captured as prisoners of war. However, they flew 1,378 combat missions over Europe, destroying over 100 enemy aircraft in the air and damaging or destroying nearly 300 enemy aircraft on the ground.
Another example is Navy Mess Attendant Doris “Dorie” Miller, stationed aboard the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for heroism for rescuing crew members.
The Navy will name its newest aircraft carrier after Miller, the first U.S. Aircraft Carrier to be named after an African American service member.
Andy Ostroth is a volunteer with Gold Coast Veterans Foundation. A veteran himself, he served for 30 years in the Navy and retired as a command master chief in 2010.
Feb. 11, 10-11:30 a.m.: Veteran’s services orientation. Meeting at Employment Development Department office, 2901 N. Ventura Road, Oxnard. No fee and no appointment required. Veterans can walk in or pre-register online at edd.ca.gov/Jobs_and_Training/Caljobs.htm. Pre-registering helps the EDD assess a veteran’s individual skills and needs. For more information, call 805-288-8400.
Feb. 12, 5 p.m.: Auxiliary “Special Night Out” Dinner. Rick’s Restaurant, 2500 Las Posas Road, Camarillo. RSVP to Nancie Melton at 805-444-7505 or Linda Fercho 805-482-3916.
Feb. 13, 9-11 a.m.: Veterans Collaborative. Networking is 9-9:30 a.m. and meeting is 9:30-11 a.m. America’s Job Center 2901 N. Ventura Road Suite 300, Oxnard. This meeting is for veteran service organizations in Ventura County to share information and more. For more info, call 805-288-8400.
Feb. 14, 5:30 p.m.: Valentine’s Day steak dinner. Camarillo American Legion Post No. 741, 7 Veterans Way, Camarillo. Cost is $12. For more information, call 805-482-3916.
Feb. 15, 4 p.m.: Valentine’s Day Dinner at the Museum of Military History, 1555 Simi Town Center Way #220, Simi Valley. Cost is $50 per couple and includes live music. For more information, call 805-368-7001 or email TheBugler597@yahoo.com.
Source: VC Star article from February 2, 2020