law offices of merwyn j. miller
191 calle Magdalena, suite 270 • encinitas, San Diego County, ca  92024 • 760-436-8832

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Hidden Benefits for Disabled Vets!

Questions Needing Answering
Increasing the VA Disability Rating
Retroactive Benefits
Dept. of Defense CRSC
Dept of Defense Requirements
VA Aid & Attendance
Medi-Cal & Financial Solutions

Dear Mr. Miller:

Introduction: I’m writing this on Memorial Day when we honor all of the Vets. My Dad was a Vet of the Vietnam War. He was disabled having been injured in battle. He received about $400 per month from the VA for the service connected disability. Later in life, his needs were increasing and he needed more money. He’s gone now, but for the benefit of all of those Vets still with us and in similar circumstances, was there anything we could do?

Caring Daughter

Dear Caring:

Questions Needing Answering: Thank you to your Dad for his service. There are potentially several options to look at. First, you don’t say what his disabilities were. Further, you don’t state what his rating was (the percent of disability). From the amount of the benefit, I am going to speculate that it was 30%. You also don’t state whether he was retired or not. All of these are important questions to arrive at the correct answer. (Back to top)

Increasing the VA Disability Rating: For any veteran with a rating, the first avenue to investigate is whether he should be rated higher. Have his symptoms gotten worse? Does he have a secondary problem–one that has been caused or aggravated by the first? Does he have a disability that is “presumptively” caused by his service, for example Agent Orange, a chemical used during that war, is presumed by law to have caused many symptoms and illnesses. Is he totally unemployable? Were there any mistakes made in the original rating? All of these factors would potentially allow for a higher rating (and consequently a higher benefit amount). (Back to top)

Retroactive Benefits: But keep in mind that VA claims of the service connected approach can take years to process so they do take patience. On the other hand, once a higher rating is granted, there can be an enormous pay out going back a number of years. So if your Dad’s rating was changed from 30% to 70% (certainly not an unheard of change) the monthly increase would be $852 per month. If the increase was awarded for only four years back it would amount to $40,000. That’s a tidy sum and it could go back further than four years! (Back to top)

Dept. of Defense CRSC: A totally different avenue to look at is the Department of Defense Combat Related Special Compensation Benefit. This is unknown to a lot of people who are eligible for it. It is payable to those military members who retired (or were retired for disability). It is designed to replace a portion of the retired pay that was offset due to receipt of the VA disability compensation. In other words, when a vet is entitled to service connected disability compensation he often must elect whether to keep his military retired pay or take the VA benefit, i.e. the VA benefit offsets (or is “deducted”) from the military retirement pay. Since the VA benefit is tax free and the retirement pay is not, the veteran will virtually always take the VA benefit.

The DoD benefit is designed to replace, in part, what was given up and is also tax free. This could have doubled what your Dad was receiving. (Back to top)

Dept of Defense Requirements: There are some basic requirements for this DoD benefit. You must have a VA disability rating, the disability must be combat related, although there are various subcategories of this with different definitions, you must be a military retiree or medical retiree. And you must apply for this benefit, it is not automatic. Further, and this is important, the claim must be filed before the Vet dies. If it is, and the Vet dies while it is being considered, the claim can be continued by his estate. (Back to top)

VA Aid & Attendance: A final avenue to consider is the VA non service connected disability aid and attendance pension. Eligibility for this benefit depends on net worth, monthly income and expenses and a few other items. For a vet with no dependents it can pay up to $1789 as of the writing of this article (5/31/15). One cannot receive both the service connected and non service connected benefit, essentially one receives whichever is larger. They are both tax free. This benefit could have increased your Dad’s VA payment by almost $1400 if he was eligible for it. (Back to top)

Medi-Cal & Financial Solutions: And, of course, if none of these benefits are available then there may be Medi-Cal (Medicaid) as a possibility or there may be purely financial solutions that can be investigated. (Back to top)

Conclusion: Bottom line, never assume nothing can be done as there is almost always something that can be done! But to do anything you need competent assistance. (Back to top)

May 31, 2015