More vets eligible for compensation
March 6, 2012
More veterans are eligible for VA compensation.
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I recently read that many veterans are now eligible for VA
compensation as a result of legislative changes that have eased some of
the previous restrictions. In most of these cases, veterans will receive
back pay for missed retirement payments as well as medical charges that
they accrued since their discharge.
Each veteran with a disability rating above 50 percent will qualify
to purchase life insurance coverage through the Survivor Benefit Plan;
lifetime commissary and military post exchange privileges; eligibility
for Combat-Related Special Compensation; tax free retirement payments;
and lifetime medical care for themselves, their spouse and their
children up to age 18. Is any or all of this true?
Via the Internet
Dear James R.:
Spouses or children of a veteran who has been adjudicated by the VA
as having a permanent and total service-connected disability or
disabilities are eligible for health care through CHAMP-VA, the VA's
health care program for certain dependents and survivors of veterans.
It's not completely free, but would be a valuable benefit to someone
If a spouse or surviving spouse is eligible for Department of
Defense-sponsored health care, i.e. TRICARE, then they are NOT eligible
for CHAMP-VA. See CHAMP-VA info here. I highly recommend that any
veteran who may be entitled to benefits for his or her family should
file a claim with the VA.
Dear Sgt. Shaft:
I have read your column, and you have put out good info. I hope that
these people will follow your advice.
Thank you for your service.
Dear Milan L.:
From your pen to God's ears.
• The Sarge strongly agrees with the national commander of the
Veterans of Foreign Wars in urging the entire military and veterans'
community to "Join the Fight" to stop the Defense Department from
penny-pinching service members to the point of dismantling the
"There is no military personnel issue more sacrosanct than pay and
benefits," said Richard L. DeNoyer, who leads the 2 million-member VFW
of the U.S. and its auxiliaries. "Any proposal that negatively impacts
any quality of life program must be defeated, and that's why the VFW is
asking everyone to join the fight and send a united voice to
The DOD budget unveiled Feb. 13 recommends 1.7 percent military pay
raises for 2013 and 2014, followed by a scant 0.5 percent increase in
2015, and 1 percent in 2016. Also announced were plans to almost
quadruple TRICARE Prime enrollment fees for some
working-age military retirees, impose TRICARE for Life enrollment fees
on those older than 65, and introduce enrollment fees and increased
deductibles on TRICARE Standard and Extra users. Included in DOD's health care
revenue plan are increased pharmaceutical co-payments for retirees as
well as military dependents.
DOD also recommends reducing the size of the active force by more
than 100,000 troops over the next five years -- mostly soldiers and
Marines -- through attrition, a reduction in force, mandatory
retirements and high year of tenure separations, among others. In
addition, DOD gave the White House the go-ahead to create a commission
to examine overhauling the current military retirement system in a
manner that would benefit the government more through savings than
reward someone who first has to volunteer 20 or more years of their
youth just to qualify.
Ideas already floated include older programs such as High-3 Pay and
the reduced retirement plan (Redux), as well as new ones that would
delay the receipt of retirement pay till age 60 (similar to current
National Guard and Reserve programs), or be contributory, 401(k)-type
programs (similar to corporate America). Newly authorized are 15-year
retirements, which accrue at the normal rate of 2.5 percent of base pay
annually, minus a 1-percent penalty for every year below 20.
"Those currently serving in uniform or already retired are
grandfathered under the existing system," said Mr. DeNoyer, a retired
Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass. "Our concern is
for tomorrow's recruits, the young 18-year-old enlistees and new
22-year-old officers who will be fighting tomorrow's wars with the same
force challenges as today -- high operations tempos, too little dwell
time, and not enough troops to meet worldwide threats and
The VFW national commander said 10 years of war has produced a
battle-hardened force that's extremely proud of their accomplishments
but 100 percent aware of the general public's non-involvement.
"They and their families worry about getting paid on time," he said.
"They worry about what will happen if the car breaks down or if a loved
one should get hurt at home or during training exercises or real-world
deployments. Most of all, especially with this defense budget
submission, they worry about whether the folks who give all the orders
really care about the troops who do all the fighting and
Mr. DeNoyer wants America's 22 million veterans, 2 million service
members and all their families to "Join the Fight" to make their voices
heard loud and clear to the lawmakers who have the power to override
these negative quality of life proposals.
"A secure America needs a strong military," he said, "and whether one
serves honorably for four years or 40, messing with military pay and
benefits is a clear signal to the troops and their families that the
budget is more important than people. That is going to seriously hurt
recruiting and retention, and potentially end the all-volunteer force,
because nobody wants to work for an ungrateful employer in a vocation as
inherently dangerous as ours."
Click on "Join the Fight" and help the VFW tell your elected
officials that it takes people to win our nation's wars. Breaking faith
with those who sacrifice the most will signal the end of America's
all-volunteer force, which in this extremely volatile and unpredictable
world is one expense our nation cannot afford.
Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900,
Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or