VA office invites veterans to ask about their benefits

The Warren County Veterans Affairs office handles a lot of questions about who is eligible for what benefits.

“Am I entitled to any VA benefits?” and “Are my parents entitled to any VA benefits?” are the key ones, Warren County VA Director Ed Burris said.

The easy answer is to find out at the VA office at the courthouse.

“Those questions come up a lot and we don’t mind because it is the only way most people find out what if any benefits they are entitled to,” Burris said.

There are ways to narrow it down.

“If the veteran was injured in the service or was diagnosed with some specific diseases, regardless of when they served, they may be entitled to compensation,” Burris said.

There are lists of illnesses that are associated with service in certain conflicts and locations.

“Veterans diagnosed with ALS who served over 90 days and have an honorable discharge may be entitled to compensation,” Burris said.

The longest list of presumptive illnesses is related to service in the Vietnam era.

“Veterans who served in country Vietnam, as well as veterans who were assigned to specific units along the DMZ in Korea from April 1, 1968 through Aug. 31, 1971 may be entitled to compensation if they have been diagnosed with one of the following diseases:

¯ AL Amyloidosis — a rare disease caused when an abnormal protein — amyloid — enters tissues or organs;

¯ chronic B-cell Leukemias — a type of cancer which affects white blood cells;

¯ diabetes mellitus type 2 — a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin;

¯ Hodgkin’s disease — a malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia;

¯ ischemic heart disease — a disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart that leads to chest pain;

¯ multiple myeloma — a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow;

¯ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue (the only disease on the list that applies to those who served in blue water near Vietnam)

¯ Parkinson’s disease — a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement;

¯ prostate cancer — cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men;

¯ respiratory cancers — cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus;

¯ soft tissue sarcomas — a group of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues — not osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, nor mesothelioma.”

“Persian Gulf War veterans and those who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between January 1957 and December 1987 for 30 days or more have an easier time getting into the VA health care system,” burris said. “They should check to see if they meet the eligibility criteria.”

Illnesses that are presumptive related to service in the Persian Gulf War are: fibromyalgia; chronic fatigue syndrome; and undiagnosed illness.

Presumptives for service at Camp Lejeune include:

¯ adult leukemia;

¯ aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes;

¯ bladder cancer;

¯ kidney cancer;

¯ liver cancer;

¯ multiple myeloma;

¯ non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma;

¯ Parkinson’s disease.

Those who have returned recently from Iraq or Afghanistan “may be eligible for five free years of medical care through the VA for any condition that may be considered to have been from service there,” Burris said.

Not all benefits are based on illness or disability.

“If a war era veteran’s income is low and they are permanently not able to work or over the age of 65, they may be entitled to a non-service connected pension,” Burris said. “If a war time era veteran is currently in a nursing home that is being paid by Medicaid, they may be entitled to $90 a month aid and attendance.” The same applies for the surviving spouse of a war era veteran.

“If the same veteran and/or surviving spouse is in a personal care home at the direction of their doctor, and needing assistance with two or more assisted daily livings, they may be entitled to an aid and attendance pension, which in some cases is over $2,000 monthly,” Burris said.

If the veteran or surviving spouse has to pay out of pocket for home health care, they may be eligible for a pension.

Pensions are based on need, income, assets, and medical expenses, and Burris encourages family members of veterans who may be eligible to pass along this information.

Burris and Delores Stec at the Warren County Veterans Affairs office can be reached by calling 728-3478 or 728-3477. Those who reach voice mail are asked to leave messages.

Office closed

The Warren County Veterans Affairs office will be closed on Monday, Feb. 19. The office will reopen on Tuesday.