Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Veterans fought for you; let’s fight for them

For the first time in a number of years, I recently traveled outside of the United States. As much as I enjoyed my brief trip, I was nonetheless thrilled to return and once again walk on American soil. Being gone for just a few days really opened my eyes as to how truly fortunate we all are to live in this country.

As a nation, we certainly have our share of problems and issues. But at the end of the day, in my humble opinion, it’s still the best place to live in the world. And much of what we tend to take for granted was paid for with the lives of members of our great military.

Lately, there have been numerous reports that the Veterans Administration is not delivering the care that our nation’s veterans need and deserve. It appears to me that the problems have very little to do with a lack of funding. Instead, I believe it’s the layers and layers of bureaucracy that military personnel and their families have to wrestle with before they can even get an appointment, let alone receive the appropriate care.

Pondering this situation got me to thinking about the military from a financial perspective; specifically benefits. Established in 1930, the purpose of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is to provide patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents.

A noble objective, but the Department of Veterans Affairs is, after all, a bureaucracy. The good news is that they have a toll free number: 800-827-1000. I mention this because I sense that many families don’t realize that their aging loved ones may be eligible for supplemental benefits.

For example, a low-income widow of a WWII veteran whose late husband served at least 90 days of active duty could be eligible for a pension as high as $625 per month. To qualify, he or she had to have served at least one of those days during a period of war.

In other words, if you have a veteran friend or loved one who needs care, I urge you to buckle up and begin going through the Veterans Administration forms. Even if you believe there is only a remote possibility they are eligible for benefits. You have nothing to lose and, potentially, much to gain.

The other financial aspect of war I’d like to mention is the cost. Wars are far more expensive than you might think. For example, most history books show the cost of the war in Viet Nam as $140 billion. However, many believe when factoring in benefits to Veterans and their survivors, the true cost exceeds $350 billion.

I recently came across an article that said there is still one survivor from the Civil War receiving benefits. From the Spanish American War of 1898, there are 16 people receiving benefits, and more than 4,000 from World War I.

I say good for them and thanks to everyone that served in all of our country’s wars. I’d also like to remind family members to make certain veterans receive all the care and benefits they deserve. As much as I disdain bureaucracy, fighting bureaucratic red tape is a small price to pay to help veterans and their families receive everything to which they are entitled.

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