This article includes sections on:
- Introduction for VA Benefits
- The History of Veterans Benefits
- History of VA physical and mental health services
- History of the National Cemetery Administration
- Veterans Affairs Benefits
- Veterans Affairs medical specialty care services
- VA Benefit Options
- Housing Grants
- Housing Grants
- Vet success on Campus
- Life Insurance for Vets
Our country’s veterans are among the most revered of our national treasures. These honorable men and women risked their lives and safety for the sake of America’s security. But despite that however, they are among the least well served and rewarded demographic today. Awarding these valiant men and women with Veteran’s Affairs benefits should therefore become a top priority for our future governments. What we hope to touch upon here is the various types of VA benefits, as well as the way in which they are awarded. We will also discuss all the qualification and eligibility requirements for VA benefits.
While the U.S. has had a system for veterans compensation, it has clearly never been as formalized as it is today. Below is a truncated history of the manner in which the United States has provided benefits for their servicemen:
- The United States has provided veterans with benefits as far back as the early 1600s when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock were at war with the Pequot Indians. It was later made into law by the pilgrims, enabling the soldiers to be taken care of by the colony.
- The Continental Congress of 1776 tried attracting enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing assistance for disabled soldiers.
- In the 1800’s, various states and certain communities provided direct medical and hospital care to disabled vets through domiciliaries and medical centers which were created by the Federal government. In the subsequent months following the Civil War, many states established Veterans’ homes that had domiciliary and emergency medical care and hospital treatment for all diseases and illnesses, regardless of whether these resulted from war injuries or battle-related illnesses.
- After 1865, after the Revolutionary War, disabled soldiers and veterans were given benefits which were expanded to include veterans’ widows and their dependents.
- As the Nation entered into war in 1917, the Congress created a new system of veterans benefits, including programs for disability compensation, insurance for service personnel and veterans, and occupational rehabilitation for the disabled. In the following years, three different agencies administered various benefits: the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions of the Interior Department, and the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
- The first association of Federal Veterans programs took place on August 9, 1921, when Congress combined all World War 1 Veterans programs to develop the Veterans Bureau. public health services, and Public Health Service Veterans’ hospitals were assigned to the Bureau, and an ambitious hospital construction program was undertaken for WWI Vets.
- In 1924, benefits were liberalized to cover non-service related disabilities, and in 1928, admission was extended to women, the national guard, and militia veterans. The second association of Federal veterans programs was created.
- In July 21, 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398 that elevated the Veterans Bureau to a Federal administration to coordinate all government activities affecting war Vets.
- Following World War II, there was a great increase in the veterans population, so Congress enacted more benefits for war veterans in GI Bill, which was signed into law on June 22, 1944. The VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, was the only program started at the time that is still in effect today. Eligible loan guaranty users are now able to negotiate loan terms covering interest rates and other terms that help VA loan participants fare better in the housing market. The loan guaranty program can today be used by any veteran that has served after September 16, 1940, as well as men and women on active duty, reservists and surviving spouses.
- To assist veterans between discharge and reemployment, the 1944 GI Bill also provided an unemployment stipend for 52 weeks. The amount was a lot less than the unemployment for non-vets, and many critics dubbed the benefits the “52-20 Club” since it was predicted that veterans would avoid jobs for the 52 weeks.
- In 1946, Public law 293 started the Department of Medicine and Surgery in the VA. along with numerous other programs. The law allowed the VA to conserve and enlist medical persons. In 1945, there were approximately 125 VA hospitals.
- President Ronald Reagan raised the VA to an Executive Department level March, 1989. President George H. W. Bush praised the new department by saying, “There is only one place for the Veterans of America, the cabinet room, at the table with the President of the United States of America.” the Veterans Administration was thus named the Department of Veterans Affairs, its name to this day. The Department of Medicine and Surgery, which started in 1946, was renamed the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration, although it was changed to the Veterans Health Administration in 1991.
- On March 3, 1865, one month before the Civil War ended, President Abraham Lincoln established a law for an asylum for national soldiers and sailors. It was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1873 and was the first ever government program made for honorably discharged volunteer soldiers.The national homes were often called soldier homes or militia homes, and only soldiers that fought in the Union Army, including U.S. African American troops, were eligible for consideration.
- By 1929, the system of national homes had 11 institutions and grew to accept those who fought in all American Wars.
- In 1918, Congress had two agencies: the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, and Public Health Insurance, with operating hospitals specifically for returning World War I veterans. They subleased hundreds of hospitals and hotels for the arrival of returning injured soldiers. New programs provided therapy for traumatic brain disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, women veterans and more.
- They have since opened outpatient clinics, and other services to adjust to the diverse veteran population. The VA health-care system expanded to include 152 hospitals, 800 community based-outpatient clinics, 126 nursing homes and 35 domiciliaries.
- In July 17, 1862, the Congress enacted legislation that allowed the President to purchase “cemetery grounds” to be used as national cemeteries “for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country”. That year, 14 cemeteries were established.
- By 1870, an estimated 300,000 Union dead from among the Civil War soldiers had been buried in 73 cemeteries around the the southeast near campgrounds and battle sites of the Civil War. The remains of soldiers who had died were buried in the national cemeteries, though almost half of the soldiers who were buried in the national cemeteries were “unknown” soldiers. All honorably discharged veterans became eligible for burial in the cemeteries in 1873. In the 1930s, national cemeteries were established for veterans that resided in large cities.
- In 1973, public law 93-43 enabled the transfer of 82 national cemeteries from the Department of the Army to the Veterans Administration, currently the Department of the Army and maintained by the Department of the Interior. There are currently in all some 22 million living veterans who have earned the honor of burial in the National Cemetery, and more than 20,000 acres have been dedicated to those who have protected and served the Nation.
Veterans of the United States Uniformed Forces may be eligible for a variety of programs and services provided by the department of Veterans Affairs. Whether or not you are eligible depends on if you have been discharged from active military services under circumstances other than dishonorable discharge. Moreover, most medical facilities offer further medical and surgical field services, including audiology, dermatology, neurology and many more.
Though many Veterans get the all-inclusive medical benefits package, these differ to some degree, according to the veterans status. This Veterans Health Benefits include injuries, illnesses, potential health issues prevention, upgrading functional abilities and significantly improving quality of life. They provide the necessary medical services based on your VA care needs and other benefits therein. These services include:
- Routine medical exams (including gender-exclusive exams)
- Health and nutritional education
- Immunizations to fight against infectious diseases
- Advising inherited and genetic illnesses
You can receive health counseling and prevention. These services include immunizations to prevent diseases, screening to spot disease at an early stage, and behavioral counseling to avoid or reduce the risk of illness. They also provide health education and healthy living skills to better manage your health issues. The VA maintains registries for occupational exposures of U.S. Veterans during their military duties. They give free specially-designed examinations by VA environmental Health clinicians.
VA inpatient care services offer a full range of therapeutic services like medical, acute, surgical and dialysis. They also provide services such as intensive care unit, transplant services, spinal cord injury centers, brain surgery and polytraumatic surgeries.
VA’s health care providers ancillary services are designed to advise, diagnose and manage your health-specific conditions from blind and vision rehabilitation, dental, physical therapy to social work (housing, discharge planning and family support)
Through expert care services, you are supplied with professional knowledge to enhance treatment in exclusive courses of care. These expert care providers only deal with therapy in their specific field or discipline.
- Chaplain (spiritual counseling)
- Bariatric surgery
- Geriatric care
- Gynecology care
- Infectious diseases
- Mental health
- Oncology (cancer)
- Orthopedic surgery
- Prosthetic (amputee care)
- Women’s care
- Pain management
A medical emergency can be received from a non-VA health care facility if they have an agreement as under Title 38 United States Code 1728. Considering payment may be limited when the veteran is stabilized, and you are required to be transferred, when you are medically stable, to a VA facility (for that, you should contact to the nearest VA facility as soon as possible).
VA may pay for non-VA emergency care if:
- You have a service-related injury at a non-VA facility
- You have non- service related injuries associated or causing problems with another condition
- If you are a VA participant in a VA chapter 31 Vocational Rehab program, if you need treatment to start your training or need to continue training
- Or if you have been diagnosed as being completely disabled due to a service related injury.
You may also receive care for your non-service related injury at a non-VA facility if you meet the following qualifications such as, service-relation, not service related injuries or not completely or permanently disabled. VA may pay for non-VA therapy if:
- The other VA benefits cannot be paid, a VA facility or federal provider is not conceivably available.
- Based on your average level of health, you believe that you are seriously injures and so the health providers are not acting prudently enough
- You have no contractual or legal aid
- You have no other coverage in a health care plan
There are a plethora of available options that veterans are eligible to use. in this section, we will therefore acquaint you with a few key benefits and ways in which you can utilize them if you qualify for the programs and/or benefits:
Automotive Adaptive Equipment (AAE):
Automobile Adaptive Equipment program permits physically disabled persons to enter, and/or operate motor vehicles. The vets are trained through the VA Driver Rehabilitation Program on how to safely conduct vehicles along the country’s roads and highways. The VA uses necessary equipment such as:
- Under vehicle lifts (UVL’S)
- Lowered floors/raised roofs
- Platform wheelchair lifts
- Hand controls
- Left foot gas pedals
- Power door openers
- Digital driving systems
- Reduced effort and zero effort steering and braking
The VA program also contributes reimbursement for standard equipment including, power windows, power steering, power brakes, power seats and other disabled specific equipment.
Service-related non-driver Vets will not be eligible for repayment of operational equipment. Veteran’s with a permanent visual and auditory impairment, service-related loss of hands, arms or legs, will not be eligible. It is also required that you submit the necessary information (i.e. valid driver’s license, VAF application for AAE, window sticker etc..)
Housing grants for disabled Veterans are there to provide for service members and disabled vets to buy or construct an adaptive house or to make or modify an existing house. There are two grant programs: Specially Adapted Housing grants, and Special Housing Adaptation grant:
Special Adapted Housing grants are there to assist Veterans with permanent service-related disabilities to live on their own, and they can be used in these specified ways:
- Build a home that is adapted for the veteran
- Remodel an already built home that may be sufficient enough for disabled veterans
- Use this grant to counter the unpaid mortgage balance for an adapted home
Special Housing Adaptation grants offer veterans with service-related disabilities to buy or modify working conditions with said disabilities:
- Modify already built homes for veterans or family members with which the vets lives
- Modify a home the veteran or family members of the vet in which the vet expects to buy
- Assist a vet in buying an already modified home
To determine whether or not a veteran is eligible for a housing grant, you must qualify under the following permanent disabilities:
- The loss of both legs or the loss of use of both legs and/or arms
- Blindness in both eyes but only has light perception with a loss of limb
- Severe burns that fall under specific categories
- A maximum of up to three grants
You can apply for the grant in a number of options through online an application form, downloading the form and then mailing it to the nearest Regional Loan Center, visiting a regional office, or calling a toll number.
Veteran Employment Resources
Veteran Employment resources offer a number of programs that assist Veterans in transitioning to civilian career. Here you will be supplied with the education on what to expect in the job market and how to properly mention your military service, and also help with finding jobs through certain Veteran Employment Centers. They can also help if you have any service related injuries.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has created ways in which veterans, service members, and other qualified dependents, achieve success through organized delivery of on-campus benefits, and through advising and counseling services which can lead to the completion of their education and helping them prepare for careers.
These VSOC schools offers Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors as well as Outreach Coordinators to give peer-to-peer counseling and referral services. Veterans Affairs also coordinates with education institutions and schools to assist Veterans in changing over from military to college life through counseling and referrals to medical centers and disability accommodations. The program began in 2009 at the University of Florida and since has expanded to 94 Vet Success on-Campus sites.
Veterans, service members and their families are provided with the life insurance benefits that give you and your family protection coverage.
- Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) allows Veterans to change your Service members Group Life Insurance to a civilian program of lifetime renewed term coverage after service discontinuation.
- They also offer coverage to spouses and children of service members or veterans. Spousal coverage however doesn’t exceed service members coverage, and children are covered at no charge.
- Disabled service Veterans are given coverage for either a new service-related injury in the past two years, or full covered free of charge if they are completely disabled (as well as a chance to buy extra life insurance).
Our veterans are an invaluable part of our society, having put their lives on the line to protect our liberties and way of life. In an attempt to rectify the numerous complications they face, improvements are constantly being made to the department of veteran affairs, with continually larger Federal budgets. Still, there are major concerns that all this is not enough, and that conditions at the VA are not as they ought to be.
As a nation, we need to do all that we can to improve the status of those who have sacrificed for our well-being. At the very least, we need to provide our vets and their families with the resources they so desperately need to rehab into society and function as gratifyingly as they can.