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VA Benefits and Services. Briefing for Tribal Veteran Representatives. VA on the Internet. Or call us. 1-800-827-1000 7:00 a.m. EST to 10:00 p.m. EST.

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Briefing for

Tribal Veteran Representatives


VA on the Internet

Or call us

1-800-827-10007:00 a.m. EST to 10:00 p.m. EST


  • One-stop shop for benefits-related online tools and information.
    • Apply for benefits
    • See your benefits status and payments online
    • Download your DD 214
  • Veterans Benefits Administration
    • All VA benefits - Compensation, Education, Home Loan Guaranty, etc.
    • Administered by VA Regional Offices
  • Veterans Health Administration
    • All VA health care services
    • Administered by VA Medical Centers, Ambulatory Care & Community Based Outpatient Clinics, etc.
  • National Cemetery Administration
    • National and State Veterans Cemeteries
    • Headstones & Markers
    • Presidential Memorial Certificates


  • VA – Purpose & Organization
  • Compensation & Pension
  • Education
  • Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment
  • Home Loan Guaranty
  • Burial & Survivor Benefits
  • Other Benefits & Services
  • Conclusion & Contacts

“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow

and his orphan…”

- Abraham Lincoln -








A service-connected disability is a disease or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty. The disability does not have to be combat or wartime related.



  • Disability Examples
  • Torn knee ligament
  • Amputation
  • Heart disease
  • Post traumatic stress (including the result of sexual trauma)
  • Skin condition such as psoriasis


  • Disabilities are rated from 0% to 100%.
    • Combined overall rating
  • Compensation payment is tax free.
    • Compensation payments range from 10% to 100%.
    • Additional allowance for dependents with 30% or higher rating.

***By Regulation, the Department of Treasury now requires that federal beneficiaries receive their recurring/monthly benefits electronically.***


Compensation - Sample Rates

S – Spouse C = Child(ren) Rates effective Dec 1, 2011



  • Additional Special Monthly Compensation added for loss of limb, organ, etc.
  • Concurrent retired pay, previously prohibited, now being phased in
  • Concurrent VSI, SSB, Severance Pay, and Separation Pay still prohibited

Compensation - Related Benefits

  • VA health care for all rated service-connected conditions
  • Vocational rehabilitation & employment services
  • $10,000 life insurance
  • Federal employment preference
  • VA loan funding fee waived
  • Possible State and local benefits for veterans

Compensation Hot TopicsIndividual Unemployability vs. Permanent and Total 100% disabilityPost Traumatic Stress DisorderAgent Orange exposure and related illnesses


Individual UnemployabilityVeteran must meet the scheduler requirements as follows:- One service connected (SC)disability at 60% or- Combined degree of disability at 70% with at least one SC disability rated at 40%and-Be unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities.


Can a veteran work if rated Unemployable (IU)?YesMarginal employment shall not be considered substantially gainful employment. Marginal employment generally shall be deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S Department of Commerce, Bureauof the Census, as the poverty threshold for one person.


100% Permanent and Total(P&T)When a veteran is rated P&T, it has been determined that a single or combination of service connected disabilities total 100% anda determination has also been made that no future exams would be necessary, due to the unlikelihood that there would be a future improvement in said disabilities


Can a veteran rated 100% P&T work?Yes.He/she has been rated at 100% disability level with the unlikelihood of improvement. We have not rated the veteran unable to secure and follow substantially gainful employment. If the veteran is able and wishes to work, he or she is free to do so without worry or concern of losing his or her disability.


Ancillary Benefits for Veterans Rated P&T

  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, (Chapter 35, USC)
  • Commissary and Exchange Privileges
  • ChampVA
  • Student Loan Forgiveness
  • State and Local Benefits
ptsd new relaxed criteria
PTSD; New Relaxed Criteria
  • Relaxation of Evidentiary Standards for Establishing In-Service Stressors
  • “Fear of Hostile Military or Terrorist Activity”
  • No longer requires a confirmed specific stressor unless evidence to support the veteran’s “Fear” statement is not available.

New PTSD RequirementsVA will now rely on a Veteran’s lay testimony alone to establish occurrence of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, provided1. A VA psychiatrist or psychologist, or contract equivalent, confirms that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD2. The claimed stressor is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the Veteran’s service3. The Veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor

service connecting ptsd when the fear criteria doesn t apply
Service connecting PTSD When the Fear Criteria Doesn’t Apply

We still need:

  • credible evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred and can be verified (combat or non-combat related)
  • medical evidence diagnosing the condition
  • a link, established by medical evidence, between current symptoms and an in-service stressor.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991, PL 102-4, established a presumption of service connection for veterans with service in Vietnam during the Vietnam era who subsequently develop, to a degree of 10 percent or more; one of the following:

    • Hodgkin\'s disease
    • multiple myeloma
    • non-Hodgkin\'s lymphoma (NHL)
    • acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
    • porphyria cutanea tarda
    • prostate cancer
    • respiratory cancers, such as cancers of the
      • lung
      • bronchus
      • larynx, or
      • trachea
    • soft-tissue sarcoma
    • chloracne or other acneiform disease consistent with chloracne
    • type 2 diabetes mellitus, and
    • chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
new presumptive conditions due to herbicide exposure in vietnam
New Presumptive Conditions due to Herbicide Exposure in Vietnam

The three new presumptive conditions are:

  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Chronic B-cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia
  • Parkinson’s disease

Remember!We do not service connect exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. We do service connect illnesses associated with the exposure

  • Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older.

Who Is Eligible?

  • Veterans with discharges that are other than dishonorable.


  • served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of war,


  • countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law, AND
  • permanently and totally disabled, OR
  • age 65 or older.

Family Income Limits (effective December 1, 2011)

If you are a...

Your yearly income must be less than...

Veteran with no dependents


Veteran with a spouse or a child


Veterans with additional children: add $2,093 to the limit for each child)

Housebound veteran with no dependents


Housebound veteran with one dependent


Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has no dependents


Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has one dependent


Note: Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income.)


How Much Does VA Pay?

VA pays you the difference between your countable family income and the yearly income limit that describes your situation.

This difference is generally paid in 12 equal monthly payments

rounded down to the nearest dollar.


$10,000 MAPR – $6000 countable income

= $4000.00 IVAP/12 mos. = $333.00/mo.

Note: Certain expenses (i.e., medical expenses, education expenses, or expenses related to the last illness or burial of a dependent) paid by you are taken into consideration when arriving at your countable family income.

native american income exclusions for pension
Native American Income Exclusions for Pension
  • Income paid to an individual Native American from trust or restricted lands
  • Distributions made to an individual Native American out of tribal trust fund revenues held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)

= up to $2000.00/yr exclusion


Compensation & PensionTime Limit

  • No time limit to apply for Compensation or Pension
  • For Compensation, benefits will be paid retroactive to the date of separation/retirement if VA receives the application within one year of the separation/retirement. Otherwise, benefits are effective no earlier than the date VA received the application
how to apply cont
How to Apply (cont.)
  • Contact VA for the application form by calling 1-800-827-1000
  • Visit any VA Regional Office
  • Or apply on the Internet at

All Compensation claims are worked at the veteran’s VA Regional Office__________________________All Pension claims are now worked at the VA Pension Maintenance Center in St. Paul, Minnesota


The Life of a ClaimIn Processing Center (IPC)Pre DeterminationRating BoardPost DeterminationAppeals(reopen or notice of disagreement?)


Vet Center

Readjustment Counseling Services


“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

Abraham Lincoln

Vet Centers serve Veterans and their families by providing a continuum of quality care that adds value for Veterans, families, and communities…..

We welcome home war Veterans with honor by providing readjustment counseling in a caring manner.

Vet Centers understand and appreciate Veterans’ war experiences while assisting them and their family members toward a successful post-war adjustment in or near their community.


What is the Vet Center

    • A safe and protected place to talk
    • Confidentiality – no stigma
    • Flexible hours
    • Easily accessible community- based setting
    • Network knowledgeable about the resources available
    • Vet Center staff are >65% combat Veterans
    • Veterans serving Veterans
    • All family members are welcome
    • No cost….ever
  • What we Offer
    • Individual Counseling
    • Group Counseling
    • Military Sexual Trauma Counseling
    • Marital/Family Counseling
    • Bereavement Counseling
    • Drug and Alcohol Referral
    • Liaison with VA and Community Resources
    • Benefits Assistance Referral
    • Community Education and Career Referral



  • Veterans, National Guard, and Reservists who served in a combat or hostile zone and received a campaign or expeditionary ribbon
  • Must be reflected on DD-214
  • Military Sexual Trauma

Vet Center Outreach

Current conflict Veterans serve as outreach specialists in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.


Mobile Vet Centers

Fifty (50) mobile Vet Centers, distributed nationally, are utilized to provide access to returning Veterans via outreach to demobilization sites, active military bases, National Guard, and Reserve locations. The vehicles also support Vet Center services to rural areas geographically distant from VA services.

Vet Center Combat Call Center

Veterans or family members can call a national call-in service, at any time, to talk to another combat Veteran or spouse regarding any readjustment issues related to military service. The person on the other end of the call will be a Veteran or spouse who understands and values the military experience of serving in a combat zone, is trained as a Vet Center counselor, and has knowledge of VA and other resources that may assist the Veteran, spouse, or family in obtaining needed services.


Post-9/11 GI Bill

  • Eligibility: At least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. An Honorable discharge is required to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.


  • Up to 36 months of benefits; payable for approved training on or after August 1, 2009.
  • Determined by the length of active duty service (40% up to 100% per length of active duty service).
  • Expires 15 years after last qualifying period of active duty service.
  • Usable for any program at an institution of higher learning (IHL) approved for MGIB-AD.

Tuition and Fees

  • Active Duty and Veterans: Full tuition and fees (based on length of active duty service) for public, in-state students
    • Private and foreign schools cap at $17,500 academic year
    • Exception: Active Duty are not eligible to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program
  • Paid directly to the school on student’s behalf

Monthly Housing Allowance

  • Must attend more than half-time
  • Prorated by rate of pursuit rounded to nearest tenth
  • Equivalent to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents based on school’s zip code
  • Distance learners (e.g., online students) can receive ½ the national average monthly housing beginning October 1, 2011
  • Active duty Servicemembers are not eligible

Books and Supplies Stipend

  • Pays up to $1,000 per year
  • If taking classes at an IHL: Amount paid determined by number of credit hours, with full stipend paid for 24 credit hours per academic year
  • If taking a non-college degree, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training program: Pays $83/month up to $1,000 per year

Yellow Ribbon Program

  • Institutions voluntarily enter into an agreement with VA to share tuition and fee costs that exceed the tuition and fee cap of $17,500 at non-public schools and for out-of-state charges
  • VA matches each additional dollar that an institution contributes, up to total cost of tuition and fees.

Training at private institutions

Out of state tuition


Yellow Ribbon Program

  • Payable to school when student’s tuition and fees exceed the cap:

Based on school participation

Based on student qualification

Spouse of Veteran (transfer of entitlement)

Dependent children (transfer of entitlement)

Veterans only at 100% level


Transfer of Entitlement

      • Serves as a retention program for Department of Defense (DoD)
      • Must be member of Uniformed Services
  • and
      • Agree to serve at least from one to four additional years per rules established by DoD/Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

  • Children of Servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001.
  • Eligible for up to 36 months under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Montgomery GI Bill—Active Duty (MGIB—AD)

      • Eligibility: Honorable discharge, a high school diploma or general educational development (GED), and served active duty after June 30, 1985. Plus, $1,200 military pay reduction
  • Benefit:
      • Up to 36 months of benefits
      • Monetary benefit ranging from $368.25 - $1,473 per month, based on training time, paid to Veteran
      • Expires 10 years after release from active duty
      • Includes apprenticeship, on-the-job training, vocational training, and flight training

Other Benefit Programs

  • Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve – Chapter 1606
  • Reserve Educational Assistance Program – Chapter 1607
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance – Chapter 35
  • Post-Vietnam Era Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program – Chapter 32
  • National Call to Service

For Assistance…

Visit the official VA education benefits Internet site

Click the “Ask a Question and Find Answers” link to view our Frequently Asked Questions, or ask a question


Call VA at:1-888-GI BILL-1



Program Objective

VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program’s primary function is to help active duty service members and veterans who have service-connected disabilities become suitably employed, maintain employment, or achieve independence in daily living.


Rehabilitation Plan

  • The following service delivery options may be provided under a Rehabilitation Plan:
    • Reemployment
    • Rapid access to employment
    • Employment through long term services
    • Independent living services
    • Self-employment

Eligibility to Apply

  • Service Members are eligible to apply with a 20% memorandum rating
  • Veterans are eligible to apply with a final VA disability rating of at least 10%
  • Have received, or eventually will receive, an Honorable or other than dishonorable discharge
  • Documentation of service-connected disability or disabilities rated at 20% or more, and have an employment handicap resulting primarily from such disability.
  • Veterans rated as 10% disabled with a serious employment handicap (SEH) may be entitled to VR&E services.


  • A counseling appointment will be set for Service Members and Veterans found eligible to accomplish the following:
    • Evaluate the applicant’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities based upon testing and interviews
    • Meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to explore the applicant’s vocational goals and objectives

Eligibility Period

  • The law provides for a 12-year basic period of eligibility during which services may be used. The 12-year period begins on the latter of these dates:
    • Date of separation from active military duty
    • Or
    • Date VA first informed the Veteran of a service-connected disability rating

  • VR&E’s comprehensive employment web site for all Veterans.
  • Veterans can post resumes, job search and apply for jobs.
  • Employers can post jobs and search resumes.

Home Loan Guaranty


VA Home Loan Guaranty

  • Lenders make the loan and VA guarantees it
  • VA guaranty usually means no down payment required of Service member or Veteran
  • Service member or Veteran must qualify for loan with sufficient income and satisfactory credit
  • Limitations on closing costs
  • The right to prepay without penalty
  • Negotiated interest rates
  • Individuals having problems making payments may call 1-877-827-3702 for assistance

VA Home Loan Guaranty

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Refinance existing loan
  • Use only for property located in the US, its territories or possessions
  • Must occupy the property as your home

Steps to a VA Home Loan Guarantee

Find property to buy.

Apply to a mortgage lender for a loan.

Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility.

Obtain a VA appraisal.

Close the loan and move in.


How to Apply

Service Members or Veterans can obtain COE through eBenefits


Ask your lender to apply online through the VA Portal –,


Complete and mail VA Form 26-1880 to:

Atlanta Regional Loan Center Attn: COE, P.O. Box 100034

Atlanta, GA 30031

Eligibility can be restored if VA loan is paid in full and property is no longer owned by Service Member/Veteran.

more information
More Information?

Visit Loan Guaranty

on the Internet at:





Burial Benefits

  • National Cemeteries
  • State Veterans Cemeteries
  • Headstone or Marker
  • Burial Flag
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates
  • Burial Cost Reimbursement
burial benefits continued national cemetery burial
Burial Benefits(continued)National Cemetery Burial

120+ Cemeteries Nationwide

  • Gravesite
  • Opening and Closing
  • Headstone/Marker
  • Burial Flag
  • Funeral Honors
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates
  • Burial Cost Reimbursement
  • Perpetual Care
  • All at No Cost to the Family

Burial Benefits - (continued)

  • Arlington National Cemetery & State Veterans Cemeteries
  • Arlington National Cemetery
    • Administered by Department of the Army
    • Eligibility more restrictive than VA
    • Unrestricted for cremations
    • Full casket for retirees
  • 60+ State Veterans Cemeteries
    • Similar to National Cemeteries
    • May require residency

Burial Benefits - (continued)

  • Eligibility
  • Veteran, spouse, and dependent children
  • Veteran defined:
    • Other than dishonorable discharge
    • Active duty service, not including Reserve active duty for training
    • Retirement eligible Reserve and National Guard members

Burial Benefits - (continued)

  • Headstone or Marker
  • In National/State Veterans Cemeteries for all eligible persons
  • Provided for private cemetery burials anywhere in the world for veterans only

Burial Benefits

  • Other
  • Burial Flag – to drape coffin or urn, and given to next of kin
  • Funeral Honors – Flag folding and playing of Taps
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates – available to family and other loved ones

Burial Benefits

  • Other- (continued)
  • Burial Cost Reimbursement
    • Service-Connected Death: up to $2,000
    • Non Service-Connected Death (limited entitlement): Up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses, and $300 plot allowance when burial is in a cemetery not under U.S. government jurisdiction

Burial Benefits - (continued)

  • To Do List
  • To ease the burden on family members, the veteran should:
    • Provide appropriate loved ones with a copy of his/her discharge document (DD Form 214, Report of Separation from Active Military Service), and
    • Inform them of his/her burial wishes – final resting place, etc.
Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
  • Monthly tax-free benefit paid to the surviving spouse of a serviceperson who died while on active duty, or veteran who died due to service-related condition
  • Currently, $1,195monthly
  • Increased by $296 for each dependent child

DIC – (continued)

  • Remarriage
  • Surviving spouse who remarries before attaining age 57 loses DIC entitlement
  • Entitlement restored if the remarriage ends in death, divorce, or annulment
  • However, a surviving spouse’s remarriage after 12/16/03 and on or after attaining age 57 does not affect entitlement

Death Pension

  • If not entitled to DIC
  • Income-based benefit
  • For surviving spouse
  • For dependent children in certain situations
  • Veteran must have had at least one day of war-time service

Education & Training


Spouse, surviving spouse, and children of a veteran may be entitled toSurvivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance (Chapter 35, U.S. Code)


Education & Training

  • (continued)
  • Veteran must:
  • have died while on active duty, or
  • be totally & permanently disabled because of a service-related condition(s), or
  • have died of any cause while such service-related disability existed, or

Education & Training

  • (continued)
  • Eligibility Period
  • 10 years for spouse or surviving spouse
  • 20 years for surviving spouse if veteran died while on active military duty
  • Between ages 18 and 26 for children
  • Entitlement - Up to 45 months of full-time (or equivalent) benefits

Home Loan Guaranty


  • Unremarried surviving spouse of a service member who died on active duty
  • Unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran whose death was service-related
  • Spouse of a service person missing in action or prisoner of war

Surviving spouse may be entitled to non-VA benefits and services

  • Preference in Federal employment (the mother of a deceased service member is also entitled)
  • State and local benefits and services
  • Military commissary and exchange privileges


Benefits and



VA Fiduciary Program

  • VA will appoint a fiduciary (third party payee) for any VA beneficiary who is a minor, or adult who is found to be unable to manage his/her own financial affairs (incompetent)
  • Incompetency is determined by the Court, or by VA disability rating
  • VA supervises the fiduciary to ensure that the beneficiary is protected
state veterans affairs offices
Can help complete claim forms, answer questions, act as a claims representative, assist with employment needs…

Possible State benefits include: property and other tax exemptions, education programs, license tags…

Each State Is Different

State Veterans Affairs Offices

Veterans Service Organizationsalso assist veterans in various ways including claims representationExamples:DAV, AmVets, VFW, PVA, VVA,The American Legion, American Red Cross, and many others


To Reach a State Veterans Affairs Office, or Veterans Services Organization

  • Visit, and click on “Partners”
  • Check local telephone directory under “Veterans Organizations”
  • Call VA at (800) 827-1000

VA on the Internet


VA Home Page

Returning Servicemembers

VA on Facebook

VA on Twitter


Phone VA

For benefits information

and assistance

call toll-free

1 (800) 827-1000

TDD #711


Role Play After reading the scenarios, let’s brain storm about what types of things you could look for/ask the veteran. Are there more benefits that the veteran/claimant could be entitled to?


Scenario #1I am an honorably discharged Vietnam Veteran. I served from 09-01-64 to 08-30-68 in the US. Army. I would like to file a claim service connection for Type II Diabetes Mellitus due to Agent Orange Exposure. I would also like to file a claim for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of the things I saw and did while in Vietnam. I am also interested in any other benefits I might qualify for. Can you help me?


Things to ask/look forDiabetes claim:Service in Republic of Vietnam (RVN)? DD214? Was the veteran on ground in Vietnam? Does the veteran have a diagnosis of Type II DM? Recent treatment/records? With who?PTSD claim:Diagnosis? Stressor Statement with specifics? Treatment? When? Where? Any combat medals such as Combat Infantry Badge or Combat Action Ribbon or Badge?Other benefits?Pension? war time veteran? Income? How would this be different if this were a Navy vet that served shipboard off the coast of Vietnam?


Scenario #2My mother recently passed away. She was a nurse in Vietnam. Does she qualify for burial benefits? Where can she be buried? Will the VA pay for her burial?


Things to ask/look forHonorable Discharge? Was she in receipt of compensation or pension? Did she pass away from a service connected condition? Did she pass away in a VA facility or enroute for a scheduled VA appt? Have her funeral and burial expenses already been paid for? By whom? Other Benefits? Was she married at the time of her passing? DIC for widower? Death Pension for widower? Home Loan Guaranty for widower? DEA? What if she wanted to be buried in Arlington Natl Cemetery? What if she lived in MT but wanted to be buried in a Natl Cemetery in AZ? What if she was cremated?


Scenario #3\I am a service connected Korean War Veteran. I would like to apply for Individual Unemployability because I can no longer work. I have been looking for jobs but have been unable to find anything full time that I can do. I have accepted a small part time position as an auto parts delivery person, but I only work 3 days a week at the most. Do I qualify?


Scenario #4My spouse passed away last year from complications related to Diabetes. He/she was in the Army and was receiving service connected benefits before he/she died. Do I qualify for any benefits as his/her spouse?


Things to ask/look forHow old are you? Have you remarried? What was the veteran service connected for? Is this a service connected death? If the vet was not service connected for Type II Diabetes Mellitus but served on ground in Vietnam, can it be a service connected death? If VA cannot grant service connected death, does she qualify for Death Pension? Ask; Did the vet serve during a period of war? Income/medical expenses/last illness expenses? Other benefits: Burial benefits? Presidential Memorial Certificate? If VA grants a service connected death and awards DIC:ChampVA, DEA, Commissary privileges, Home Loan Guaranty, Federal Employment preference.


Contact InformationJessica CameronMinority Outreach CoordinatorDepartment of Veterans AffairsVeterans Benefits AdministrationPO Box 188Ft. Harrison, MT [email protected] Eligibility or other Hospital/Healthcare questions, please contact: Ft. Harrison VA Medical Center 406-442-6410and ask for the Patient Business Office

On behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I would like to thank you for allowing me to speak with you today.