VA Announces New Expedited Burial Benefits Process

Burial Benefits   Compensation

On July 7, 2014 VA changed its monetary burial benefits regulations to simplify the program and pay eligible survivors more quickly and efficiently. The new regulations allow VA to pay, without a written application, most eligible surviving spouses basic monetary burial benefits at the maximum amount authorized in law through automated systems rather than reimbursing them for actual costs incurred.

Under past regulations, VA paid for burial and funeral expenses only on a reimbursement basis, which required survivors to submit receipts for relatively small one-time payments that VA generally paid at the maximum amount permitted by law.

The new burial regulations now permit VA to pay, at a flat rate, burial and plot or interment allowances thereby enabling VA to automate payment of burial benefits to most eligible surviving spouses and more efficiently process other burial benefit claims.

The burial allowance for a non-service-connected death is $300, and $2,000 for a death connected to military service.

Benefit

Service-related Death

VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001, or up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 11, 2001. If the Veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

Non-service-related Death

VA will pay up to $700 toward burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2011 (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $700 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery). For deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011, VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. For deaths on or after April 1, 1988 but before October 1, 2011, VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for Veterans hospitalized by VA at the time of death).

An annual increase in burial and plot allowances for deaths occurring after October 1, 2011 began in fiscal year 2013 and is based on the Consumer Price Index for the preceding 12-month period.

Eligibility Requirements

  • You have paid for or will be paying for a Veteran’s burial or funeral, AND
  • You have not been nor will be reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased Veteran’s employer, AND
  • The Veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, AND
    • The Veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
    • The Veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death, OR
    • The Veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay, OR
    • The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
    • The Veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
    • The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR
    • The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

NOTE: VA does not pay burial benefits if the deceased:

  • Died during active military service, OR
  • Was a member of Congress who died while holding office, OR
  • Was a Federal prisoner

Evidence Requirements:

Memorial HeadstoneHow to Apply

  • Complete/submit VA Form 21-530Application for Burial Allowance. You can find an office to submit the form on the VA Facility Locator page, OR
  • Apply online using eBenefitsOR
  • Work with an accredited representative or agentOR
  • Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find your regional office on the VA Facility Locator page.

For more information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, visit the How to Apply page.

Additional Information

Other information regarding VA burial benefits such as flags, headstones and markers is provided by the National Cemetery Administration.

Burn Pit Registry Now Open

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

All Desert Shield/Storm veterans, and Post-9/11 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and deployments into Djibouti are encouraged to logon to the VA’s new burn pit registry to report exposures to airborne hazards such as smoke from burn pits, oil-well fires, and other pollutants or exposures encountered during deployment, as well as other health concerns.

A registry is required to properly document whether such exposures harmed or caused other illnesses or diseases. VA officials acknowledge that troops may suffer from illnesses related to environmental exposures, and has established a surveillance program for service members exposed to the known carcinogen hexavalent chromium from a water treatment facility near Basra in 2003, but VA also said there is not yet enough scientific evidence to prove that exposure to burn pits causes long-term health problems.

Logon to the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry at https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/index.html#page/home

Open Air Trash Burning in Iraq

Congress Sends A Flag Day Fix for A Broken VA Health Care System

Flag-Day 2014Just in time for Flag Day, Congress overwhelming passed two veterans’ bills this week in an effort to fix the crisis in care and timely access to treatment at VA health care facilities.

On Tuesday, the House passed  H.R. 4810, the “Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014,” by a vote of 426-0.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed S. 2450, the “Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014,” by a vote of 93-3.

Both bills now move to a conference committee to iron out their differences. Both bills would allow VA to enter into contracts with non-VA facilities to provide hospital care and medical services for veterans who have waited too long for an appointment or live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. They also require an independent assessment of VHA which is responsible for running VA medical facilities.

Where the bills differ is in how best to address holding VA employees accountable and giving VA authority to expedite the hiring of new medical care staff.

Vietnam Veterans of America Speaks Out On the Resignation of Erik K. Shinseki

downloadThe Vietnam Veterans of America have weighed-in on the recent resignation of Erik K. Shinseki as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and expressed how they think Obama should handle the disgusting truth about the scandal surrounding our VA system.

Here is their official press release to the public:

VVA Press Release

May 30, 2014 (Washington, D.C.)—“Eric K. Shinseki has tendered his resignation as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, will serve as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” said VVA National President John Rowan. “However, this change in leadership does not fix the terrible situation at VA medical centers. The need for dramatic action is still pressing and apparent.”

Said Rowan, “VVA urges the President to mobilize Reserve and National Guard units, as well as FEMA medical services, to supplement the uniformed units, to serve, for the next 30 to 90 days, as screening/triage units for all veterans currently on waiting lists at all VA Medical facilities. All veterans found to have urgent medical conditions are to be seen by a qualified VA clinician within three days of their screening. If the VA facility is unable to see the veteran within three days, the VA staff must arrange–and pay for–immediate care outside of the VA. Veterans not found in need of urgent care, who cannot be seen by the VA within 21 days, shall be assisted by VA staff to access an outside clinician under the VA fee-for-services program.”

For a more complete list of vitally needed actions that can – and must – be taken by the President and Acting Secretary Gibson, see www.vva.org/VA_Phoenix.html  

In a noon briefing, the President announced Shinseki’s resignation. The President noted that Shinseki has acknowledged that the misconduct at the Phoenix VA is not limited to a few facilities but is rampant across the system, and he has accepted full responsibility for the conduct of those facilities. Further, reported the President, Shinseki acknowledged his continuation in office would serve as a distraction, interfering with his top priority of delivering care to our veterans who have served our nation.

Earlier today, while addressing the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Shinseki announced actions he had taken after reviewing the Interim IG Report regarding the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

He reported that he had fired those responsible at the Phoenix VA and at other VA facilities; that no VHA senior executive will receive performance bonuses in 2014; that wait times will be deleted as measures of success; and that outreach to the veterans on the “secret” waiting lists is underway. 

Further, Shinseki called on Congress to fill the vacant positions at the VA. Said Rowan, “While we approve of these measures, there is much more that needs to be done.”

In his tenure as seventh Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Shinseki’s achievements on behalf of veterans include enrolling an additional 2 million veterans in the VA system; expanding benefits of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange; improving access and care for Mental Health by ordering the hiring of 1,600 mental health staff; improving care for Women veterans; reducing homelessness; and helping millions access education benefits. “We thank him for his efforts, and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Rowan.

Vietnam Veterans of America (www.vva.org) is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” 

 

How to Win a U.S. Flag Actually Made in the U.S.A.

UPDATE May 31, 2014: Due to multiple submission errors awaiting response/correction, the winner and all Memorial photos will be announced and shared on Flag Day (June 14, 2014).


 

American Flag from Gettysburg Flag WorksAs Memorial Day approaches, we all think about two things: America’s Veterans killed in action and the American Flag.

On Memorial Day 2014, I would like to help honor all veterans (those who survived as well as those killed in action) and give everyone a chance to win a free “Made in the U.S.A.” 5′ x 8′ outdoor American flag.

All you need to do is submit a photo of you or a family member alongside your favorite veteran (living or deceased) and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.

Here’s the How & Why:

Many of us hold a special veteran very close in our hearts, and those of us who do, also appreciate the importance of flying America’s flag.  Almost every active duty service member and veteran in this country would obviously prefer flying an American Flag that was actually made in the U.S.A.

One U.S.-based flag maker has decided to team up with vfwlady.com to encourage your help for a very special Memorial Day blog post.  My goal is to make my Memorial Day 2014 blog post the biggest Veterans & Family “memorial” photo album ever published.

Thanks to the folks at Gettysburg Flag Works, I get to encourage widespread photo submissions by offering a highly sought after patriotic item to one lucky winner. That’s because Gettysburg Flag Works has donated one of their very own 5′ x 8′ Outdoor American Flags as a grand prize, shipped to the winner directly from their New York home.

What could be better than honoring a veteran & maybe winning a FREE FLAG??

Here are the Photo Submission Rules:

  1. The photo submitted must be of yourself or a family member alongside (yours or their) favorite special veteran.  Please try to find photos with that veteran in uniform if possible..(but not required :)
  2. You must agree to the publication of this photo (to include your first name, veteran’s name & branch of service) in a Memorial Day post on vfwlady.com
  3. You must submit your photo entry by May 19, 2014

If you’re okay with these terms, then follow this link to submit your entry.

I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOUR PHOTOS, America!  And BIG THANKS to Gettysburg Flag Works for their generous assistance.  Need a new American Flag? Consider buying a Flag that’s “Made in America” from the patriotic folks at Gettysburg Flag Works!

Gettysburg Flag Works

 

 

VA Free Programs Supporting Military Sexual Trauma Victims

VA’s National Theme in April 2014 is:

“You are not alone: VA supports survivors of military sexual trauma.”

You Are Not AloneVA health provider screenings found that about one in four women and one in 100 men seen in VA facilities report having experienced MST– sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred during military service. MST can affect Veterans’ physical and mental health for many years.

To assist recovery, treatment for MST-related physical and mental health conditions is available at every VHA facility, free to Veterans, regardless of service-connection status.

In other words, any U.S. Veteran may receive this free MST-related care, even if they are not eligible for other VA care. Every Veterans Health Administration facility has an MST Coordinator who serves as a point person for Veterans and staff.

Veteran caregivers have the power to encourage Veterans to seek help simply by responding sensitively, remaining knowledgeable about VA’s MST-related services, and ensuring confidentiality.

To learn more about MST and VA MST Treatment Services, visit the: 

Military Sexual Trauma  Mental Health

VA to Cover Remaining 2014 Semester for VRAP Students

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program  VRAPThe VA announced this week that they have taken steps to extend payments for participants in the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). 

Currently enrolled participants will now receive payments to cover them from April 1, 2014 through the conclusion of their current enrollment semester/term or through June 30, 2014, whichever is earlier.

VRAP was passed as a part of the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 and was specifically designed to cover veterans who were not eligible to receive GI Bill educational benefits.  Originally, coverage was set to end on 3/31/14.  The program has helped 76,000 veterans to date.

For more detailed information on the VRAP program extended assistance, please visit: whitehouse.gov 

Covering Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Participants through June The White House