Veteran’s Benefits . . . and Rightfully So!

by Galen Jones

The incalculable value of the contributions of our Veterans to our country is rarely, fully comprehended. Likewise, the full value of the non-service connected Improved Pension Benefit available for our Veterans and their widows, is rarely comprehended either. This benefit is so misunderstood that senior facilities and family members of seniors often pay $500 to $1,500 just to gain information about, and finally obtain it. Yet this Improved Pension Benefit has been available for Veterans since November 1, 1951.

To meet the military qualifications, a Veteran has to have served 90 days active duty, (one of which was during wartime), have a discharge of any kind other than dishonorable, and be either age 65 or disabled. In addition, the Veteran or his widow must also meet other means testing criteria for their income and assets. When properly understood, neither of these is as exclusionary as they first appear.

So why all the confusion and misunderstanding? First is the very name of the benefit itself, an Improved Pension Benefit. Everyone in America thinks you only get a pension benefit from your employer after a significant number of years of service, usually 20 or 30. Even the military has a 20 or 30 year retirement pension benefit. No one believes there are any benefits due after only 90 days of employment. But there is a benefit for our Veterans and their widows. And rightfully so.

Second, one of the military qualifications mentioned earlier is being disabled or at least age 65. Again, as Americans, we might expect there to be a benefit for someone if they were disabled as a result of their employment. But not if it is non employment related. And definitely not just because they turned 65! Indeed some might even object that just because they reached age 65 they are grouped together with those who are disabled. And not even disabled as a result of their military service. But again, examine the name of the benefit, non-service connected. There is a benefit for our 65 year old Veterans and their widows. And rightfully so.

Finally there are income limitations considered for those considering their eligibility for this benefit. And as Americans we all know what income is. But actually, very few of us know how the Department of Veterans Affairs considers income for this benefit. Income minus UME = IVAP! Indeed they call it IVAP or Income for Veterans Affairs Purposes, which is income minus un-reimbursed medical expenses (UME). Many do not expect to receive a benefit based in part upon their un-reimbursed medical expenses. But there is for our Veterans and their widows. And rightfully so.

The services and sacrifices of our Veterans and their widows have played, and continue to play, a huge and significant role in the history of our country. The Improved Pension Benefit needs to play, or better said, pay, a significant role in the lives of our Veterans and their widows. We need to remember the words of President Abraham Lincoln, who when speaking about the purposes of the VA said, “. . . to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphan…” And rightfully so!