Veterans, their families and widows may all be entitled to financial compensation, annuities, bonuses or assistance based on the veteran’s service and current marital and financial status. Frequent changes in both Federal and Massachusetts laws make outlining specific benefits difficult, so you owe it to yourself to contact your veterans’ services office and make an appointment to determine your eligibility for the various benefits. You should also be aware that none of the following benefits to you are taken from any other veteran, i.e. there is no finite pot of money or services that veterans compete for – if you earned it or are eligible for it, you are hurting no one except yourself (and family) for not applying for it.
Compensation relates to an injury or ailment that began in service or can be linked to time in service. This can range from hearing loss and ringing in the ears to more serious injuries or illnesses. Some illnesses are presumptive of being a POW, or serving in Vietnam or other theaters. It is important to make a claim for any and all issues that arise in service, because the knee injury in service could be arthritis when you get older, or the strained back injury could lead to more serious back problems later in life. Compensation is a monthly non-taxable payment based on the injury rating by the VA from 10 to 100%. The process can be lengthy and complicated, but your VSO can help you put together a packet that may allow a VA decision in much less time. Call or email with your specifics so we can advise you on what documentation you will need to file a claim. Should the veteran die of a service connected illness (or the veteran was 100% service connected disabled for 10 years), the widow would be eligible to file for:
Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) which is a tax free monthly sum paid to the surviving spouse of 100% service-connected veterans. Even if the veteran never filed a compensation claim with the VA, the surviving spouse may file if the death is related to the veteran’s service. For example, a Vietnam Veteran never files for disability, but dies of complications from diabetes. With the appropriate documentation a surviving spouse can make a claim that the death was caused by military service. A current widow may be eligible to claim DIC based on a previous husband’s service connected death provided the two were married at the time of death.
Chapter 115 Veterans’ Benefits is a Massachusetts program designed to assist veterans and their family members in need of assistance. Benefits may include monthly cash payments and/or payment/reimbursement for medical expenses. Whether laid off, in transition, or living on a fixed income the program is designed to provide short term or long term aid as necessary to provide relief. The Massachusetts town you live in pays this benefit, and the VSO is obligated to take and process an application. Guidelines for eligibility fall within the following general parameters (calculations change annually and depend upon individual circumstances, so these numbers are only approximate):
Veteran/spouse/widow under 65 and able to work – income under $1945 per month and cash assets (savings, 401K, IRA, stocks, etc.) under $3200 per person should contact their town VSO to determine eligibility. The individual will be required to work with a local DET Career Center and seek employment.
Veteran/spouse/widow temporarily disabled – A Physician’s letter stating the medical diagnosis, prognosis and specifically stating the individual is unable to work and estimated duration the individual will be out of work will be required as part of the documentation.
Veteran/spouse/widow permanently disabled (SSDI) or over 65 and on a fixed income – family income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (presently $1945/mo for single individual, and $2621/mo per couple). Above that level can be approved with a “spend down”.
VA Pensions are available to low income war time veterans and their widows. If you are eligible for Chapter 115 benefits, the VSO will assist you in filing for this VA program which will offset some of the town provided benefits, but not reduce your total monthly income.
Annuities of $1000 twice per year are available to 100% service connected disabled veterans, widows of veterans whose death was connected to his service, and Gold Star Parents.
Property Tax Abatements are available to veterans and widows of veterans with service connected disabilities and own a home. These abatements range from $400 per year to a full tax abatement depending on the disability or cause of death. Abatements also exist for Gold Star Parents and recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, or Distinguished Service Cross. Widow(er)s continue to receive the abatements the veteran received, provided they do not remarry.
License Plates – An additional financial benefit available to some veterans is issuance of free license plates for severely disabled veterans, Ex-POWs, Purple Heart, Pearl Harbor Survivor, Legion of Valor, Silver Star, Bronze Star, or Distinguished Flying Cross recipients. Widows may retain the plates, but are subject to an annual fee. Gold Star Families may also be eligible for free plates. (Veterans Plates may be purchased from the DMV for an additional charge, and the fees for those plates support the Soldier’s Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke.) Contact your VSO for information and requirements.
Bonuses – Each veteran who entered military service from Massachusetts and served during a war period is eligible for a bonus from the Commonwealth. Even if you failed to file for the bonus in the past, it is never too late. Veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can receive additional bonus money for each deployment. Contact us and we will assist you through the process.