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June 21, 2018

Public Sector Retirement News

Federal Employee Retirement and Benefits News

Tag: VA


Counting Homeless Veterans a Problem in Iowa

The state of Iowa is facing a unique problem in the recent times. It cannot count the number of veterans who are homeless. The people responsible for counting the number of homeless veterans are facing a lot of challenges. Sometimes, a veteran doesn’t want to be found and sometimes homeless people don’t give a straight answer to whether they are a veteran or not. Knowing the exact number of homeless veterans is vital so that the programs and solutions developed to help them could help in changing their lives.

homeless veteransWhy is Counting Homeless Veterans a Problem in Iowa?

No one has any idea on how many veterans are present in Iowa as just four out of ninety-nine counties are being surveyed to decipher the total statewide count. It has been a tradition to count the veterans in the state on the last Wednesday of January and on this day, the homeless veterans often hide or leave the state. Social workers claim that whenever the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tries to count them, they become elusive as many of them don’t want to be found.

Fewer Counters

Another major problem is that most of the people responsible for counting the number of homeless veterans are not able to do so for long. They start off with a small group and often are left with one or two people.

The Need

There is a strong need to find the exact number of veterans who are homeless because it helps in ensuring that the money funded to help them by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other such organizations can reach them. Anti-poverty organizations like HACAP can also help them when they know how many are actually homeless.

The Last Estimate

The last estimate of homeless veterans in Iowa was calculated in the January of 2016. It stood at 170 on January 27, 2016. This estimate was presented to HUD in the month of June and was based on studying only 4 counties, Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Woodbury. Interviews revealed that only these four counties were studied as these places are most preferred by homeless veterans for getting shelter and other kinds of support. These places also have a better number of volunteers who are actually willing to go out and conduct the street count.

Another Problem

Even in areas where the number of homeless veterans is high and volunteers are eager to count the numbers, they face a challenge. There are so many homeless people who remain in abandoned areas and buildings that when they are asked about whether they are veterans, they don’t give a straight answer.

OPM Urged to Create a Separate Office for Veterans

A US Senator has stated that veterans, especially the ones who have been disabled, must be given better job opportunities. She insisted that OPM takes some steps in ensuring that the veterans are given suitable job opportunities via a dedicated office that understands their special qualifications and skills.

The Request Made to OPM

Senator Heidi Heitkamp was the one to ask OPM to help veterans get job opportunities that are ideal for them. She expressed her opinion while participating in a discussion that was hosted by a Governmental Affairs Committee and Homeland Security. She believes that the agency must create a special office that is dedicated to the veterans only.

Ideal Jobs for Disabled Veterans

The Senator also highlighted the need for better navigation to help the disabled veterans. She said this while participating in a discussion about She stated that the disabled veterans need someone who can help them out. Their applications and skills set must be analyzed by someone from OPM so that the veterans can get the jobs they are best suited for rather than the ones in which their qualifications are assumed.

She also stressed that the disabled veterans should be given a job in which they can be enriched as opposed to given a job just for the sake of it.

Other Initiatives

It must be noted that efforts are being made to help veterans. A few months back, the Veteran Affairs Department launched a website dedicated to aid the veterans. The website is named as and it aims to help its users attain a single sign-on access that allows them to avail thousands of online veteran services.

The website allows the veterans to get career and employment opportunities, education benefits and disability benefits too. The website is still a work in progress and aims to be fully functional later this year.

Senator’s Support on Other Issues

Apart from offering advice to OPM regarding the veterans, Senator Heidi Heitkamp has also been vocal on ensuring equal pay for equal work. She was recently quoted saying that in North Dakota, women earn just 71 cents when compared to a dollar earned by men. She called for pay equality so that women also get a dollar against a dollar earned by men.

Disabled vets and spouses to get VA Special pension benefit

The Aid and Attendance pension benefit given by the VA is meant to offset the financial problems and burdens faced by the veterans who have a disability or their spouses who have outlived them.

veterans affairs federal employees


The benefit is hardly known to the majority. The Department of Veteran Affairs has been offering it for quite some time now and it is aimed at helping out the disabled veterans who are unable to work or the spouses who require attention and care.
The Aid and Attendance benefit has been designated as a pension benefit with the hope that many veterans or their spouses can claim eligibility to these funds along with the post-service pensions that they normally manage to earn. Here, it’s worth noting that not every disabled veteran can claim this fund; if the disability requires the care and attention of a nurse or a caregiver or if you are housebound, only then the fund can be claimed.
After claiming, the benefit will add a monthly amount to the monthly pension and the disabled vet or the spouse can claim their VA pension+ benefit the next time they go to collect.
The eligibility for the fund can be found out by contacting the in-state pension management center. If you are unable to do so yourself, you can ask your caregiver or your spouse to do so. The organization will then take into account your disability and the whole situation generally and figure out whether you are eligible for the extra compensation or not. Most of the time the VA will want a physician to be involved in the process so that only the deserving get the additional funds. This is a great way to help out the veterans that served the nation for a long time and are unable to serve themselves.

VA employees to get relocation funds

va employees relocation

The department of Veterans Affairs is one that is never completely out of the news. The officials of the organization might just have to part with thousands of dollars by giving them to two of the demoted executive officers who were allegedly linked to have received many thousands of dollars in shady relocation funds.

VA employees to get relocation funds:

During last week, some of the officials from the organization have given statements about this news. They said that two executive directors have been made to resign pertaining to one of the latest scandal that the department has to endure. These two directors are Diana Rubens who was the director of the Philly Regional office of the Veterans Benefits Administration and Kimberly Graves who was the director in Minnesota.

However the relocation funds that these two are going to get are handsome if not anything else. The total amount that Rubens is set to receive is around 275 thousand. She has been moved from DC to Philly. This will compensate her for the losses she had to endure while selling her house quickly as well. The amount for Graves was around 130 thousand. Investigators have found that both of the directors were trying to illegally find ways to get good pays while working lesser hours. Critics and lawmakers are requesting formal incarceration of both the alleged culprits.

Situations like these require the utmost sincerity and dedication of lawmakers and judges to assess appropriately. If adequate care is not taken while making sure that the culprits not only receive their just punishment but also serve as a source of enlightenment of the rest of the employees, then matters like these can get out of hand. Here’s hoping that things work out properly for all of the parties involved with the least amount of damage.

VA Employees finally Receiving Pay from 2010

veterans affairs va

The Amarillo VA Healthcare system has waited almost 6 years since a 2010 law was passed in order to provide back pay, pay rate changes and other pay incentives to be applied, due to software issues. This only happened after the Federal government advised them on how to make changes to the system to allow for the changes.

The Original Act

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, signed into law by POTUS Obama heavily favored and supported veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan service. Its main focus was on the caregivers of these veterans, mental health services, women veterans, vets in rural areas, veterans that are homeless and for veteran research and education. It also implemented pay raises for a number of VA employees, but the VA was not advised on how to implement these with a switch over of computer software that was also taking place in the VA at the time.

The Local Amarillo VA

Spokesperson Barbara Moore for the Amarillo VA stated “we just got the guidance on how to fix that locally” and they further received instructions on how to make the manual calculations to offer the retroactive portion of the raises.

Employees of the VA and in Amarillo specifically have had a number of complaints that relate back to this 2010 legislation. Not only did they not receive pay raises from the legislation, but raises with promotions, incentive bonuses and differentials for night and weekend work was not being paid for existing employees. New employees were seeing these raises creating even more tension in the workplace.

A Software Issue

Essentially the issue at the heart of the matter was one of technical implementation of the new VA Time and Attendance System that is slowly being implemented across the VA system of healthcare nationwide. Unfortunately this software did not account for changes in policies from legislation. The software was not broken says Moore, but simply that “these formulas and calculations [were not] built in when we got it.”

The federal Office of Personnel Management released an update to the software and there were complaints immediately that some nurses in the system that were new-hires were getting paid more than their more senior counterparts. The OPM acknowledges that as soon as that was the case they started working to resolve the issue.

Recent Changes Equal Large Issue

The American Federation of Government Employees filed a grievance on 14 December 2015 that was recently settled. It was this action that prompted complaints, because there were a number of nurses that were supposed to get a promotional bump in pay and never received it as a result of this software issue.

Now that the issue is known, changes to the software have been instituted as well as manual directions on how to over-ride the system. Back pay retroactive to any agreements or legislation will be paid as administration catch up on these issues. Since the system is complex and multifaceted, Moore says, these issues could crop up in other VA locales across the country. If you are being affected by this issue, contact your supervisor immediately about your fair share.


Otto Macias suffering in Cuba pertaining to US Embargo

otto maciasA native to Cuba, Otto Macias is a former combat infantryman who fought in the Vietnam war of the 1960s for the Americans, before he made his move to the US, the homeland he chose to inhabit. In 1981 though, without giving any notice, the Department of VA cut off all of his benefits.

Otto Macias left languishing:

Otto Macias was initially a citizen of the United States but he went back to Cuba and according to the VA, this meant a violation of the embargo that the US currently has with Cuba.

A New Mexico lawyer Jason Williams, this past week appealed to a federal appeals court to make the restoration of Otto’s benefits and to compensate him properly for the services he made for the prosperity of the nation.

Jason said that by this unannounced termination of benefits, the VA has violated Otto’s most fundamental rights. He further urged that the VA is liable to provide the person proper news before going ahead and depriving him of the money that he is dependent upon. Jason visited Macias in 2015 by traveling to Havana and discussed the situation in detail there. According to him, Macias was born in 1940 in Camaguey and moved to the US in 1961 when he enlisted in the army.

News like these are always very hard to digest because expecting a 75 year old man to survive all by himself without any due compensation is really cruel and if the VA wanted to indeed deprive him of the money that they owe him, they should have at-least made sure that he knew before they did so. Here’s hoping that something becomes of the appeal made by Jason and that Otto gets to receive his due share of benefits from the VA once again as he rightfully deserves.

More Violations at VA Medical Facilities

veterans affairs va

The VA medical facilities have always been subject to increased criticism from everyone for the increased policy violations that persist in the premises. When Anthony McCann received an envelope from the VA, he was expecting to read about his own medical records. Instead what he laid eyes on was a 250 page booklet that unravelled all sorts of personal information about another veteran to him. He said “I could have done anything with the information” in an interview after the incident pertaining to it.

More violations at VA medical facilities:

This wasn’t the first time he received the wrong letter. He had received these mistakenly put letters in the past too and at that time he did inform the department but threw away the documents. This time, because he was unable to transfer the documents to the actual person, he took them with him to a town hall meeting that was organized by the Tennessee Valley Health care system in the attempt to let the veterans speak.

In this meeting was when McCann got the chance to tell the world about the 256 pages he received. He said that there was confidential information explicitly mentioned in the documents and he refused to return the documents to an official because he doubted the capabilities of the VA to safeguard the information. He continued by saying that the department is no longer worthy of his trust and they don’t do what they say they would do.

This is all down to the incompetency of the employees working at the VA medical centers. Apart from this, they perform thousands of privacy violations over the years, researches reveal. This needs to be looked into and the guilty parties need to either be properly vetted or removed from their positions. All in all, this matter isn’t one to let slip.


A Lunch for Veterans intended to Arouse Awareness

veteransA veteran-for-veteran run counseling place offered all of its clients a warm thank you by giving away all of its clients a free lunch. This lunch was intended to make the veterans aware and bring all of them together in the urge of creating a sense of friendship that’s already found in abundance amongst all of the veterans of the country.

Veterans given free lunch:

The counseling center is a funded place that is run by the department of VA of the country. Here, a lot of services including counseling are offered free of cost to the veterans in need. Other services include the help that they might require while dealing with stress they might have taken back home from the fields, help to adjust to civilian life all over again etc. Some veterans also get help in the attainment of their benefits via some of the proactive staff members of the center.


There is a vehicle that’s operated by staffers of the center and it provides mobile counseling services to all the servers of the nation that might not be able to make it to the center.

The lunch was really appreciated by all the army, marine and air-force servers of the nations. A Vietnam War veteran, Ed Toenyes urged that the center did a remarkable job. Ed has been receiving help with his post-traumatic stress disorder from the center since 1980. He said that events like these help him to talk to people who have underwent what he had to endure in the service of his nation.

Lunches like these allow the veterans suffering from war stress among other issues to meet with each other and talk about stuff with other people who have had firsthand war experience. The counseling center should be lauded for its services in this regard.


VA employee Scott Benson pays White house a visit

scott benson va


VA employee Scott Benson pays White house a visit

A representative of the Veterans service, Scott Benson who is with the Muskogee Veterans Regional Office of Benefits has recently visited the White House in order to attend the Veteran’s Day reception. This also included the chance for him to meet the president and Joe Bidden, the vice president of the country.

Scott Benson visits the White House:

Scott is one of the give veteran employees who have been tasked with the representation of the VBA. Scott was joined at the dinner table by some of the highly reputable military personnel and other US government officials. Also present at the table were two “Medal of honor” recipients who intended to pay their remarks to the veterans and the services that they offer to the country.

A resident of Tahlequah and a veteran of the Navy, Scott Benson gave his services to the country during the years from 1988 to 1994. He was an aviation ordanceman which also encompasses (but is not restricted to) the Gulf war and the Gulf of Sidra event.

The White House also requested some of the selected VA employees to come and make the VA representation at the meeting. They were also asked to highlight the achievements made by the organization in making the lives of the families of veterans a lot better. During 2015, the organization managed to complete over 1.4 million claims that is the highest figure in VA’s history.

Following the formal entourage meeting at the White House reception, Scott joined a lot of other employees of the VA including some military dignitaries and went to the Arlington National Cemetery where the president underwent the wreath-laying ceremony. A wreath was placed at the resting place of an unknown soldier like it is always done. Events and traditions like these further ignite the zeal with which the army of the nation fights to protect.


Veterans unhappy Because of Camp Lejeune Benefits

camp lejeune benefitsThere were about 150 veterans of the Marine Corps who attended a conference at a room at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay along with their families. The town hall meeting was intended to hear what the federal scientist and the officials of the VA had to say. They were expected to say something on the work that was done to study contamination at the North Carolina base that was going unnoticed.

Veterans frustrated over not getting Camp Lejeune Benefits:

There was some serious remarks heard by the officials by the veterans pertaining to the hardships that they had to face in getting their hands on benefits that were intended to help the ones that were contaminated by the water.

These Camp Lejeune Benefits were initially expected to be available instantly to all of the veterans and their families who were suffering from this contamination. Reports indicate that around a million veterans were infected by this horrible incident. Scientists believe that the nation has not underwent a darker water contamination episode till date. The water was polluted because some of the industrial solvents and other harmful materials like gasoline made its way into it.

Paul Maslow, who is a Camp Lejeune veteran urged with feelings that the VA was not helping the veterans in time of dire need but were in fact hurting them more. He rightly added that the larger the delay ends up being, the higher the number of dead veterans pertaining to the contamination is going to get. There were other veterans who added to Paul’s concerns and there was a sense of hatred found in the words of the veterans against the VA.

The VA most definitely needs to up the ante and talk this matter through and provide the affected people with the Camp Lejeune benefits so that prosperity and good health can be restored.

VA Employees Receive Millions in Bonuses despite Scandals


Federal employees at the Veterans Affairs Office a total of more than $140 million in bonuses for good performance during 2015, despite a number of widely-publicized scandals that have brought the spotlight on the office and resulted in several resignations.

During a speech at the Veteran’s Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama urged the VA to do more for veterans.

Obama told listeners that, “The unacceptable problems that we’ve seen, like long wait times and some veterans not getting the timely care they need, is a challenge for all of us, if we are to match our words with our deeds. I am still not satisfied.”

Despite vocal opposition to the current operations of the office by both the president and VA Secretary Bob McDonald, millions awarded to 156,000 federal employees with millions of taxpayer dollars. Bonuses included some $4,000 to $8,000 bonuses for federal employees who oversaw the construction of a hospital in Denver.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald defended the awarded of nearly $200 million this year despite a myriad of scandals. He told reporters that the bonuses are unremarkable and even argued that the bonuses were deserved.

He went on to say that just because there are problems in the department, the “rank and file” should not lose their bonuses. “Occasionally we make errors; those deserve more scrutiny. But severely curtailing or ending awards, only in the VA, would be a mistake, negatively impacting veterans and our ability to attract top talent,” he said.

Despite his passion for rewarding “deserving” employees, a report by USA Today shows that the distribution of the awards may need more attention. Several employees and offices involved in scandals were awarded bonuses for their work last year.

Bonuses were not restricted to offices that have performed well, as some federal employees in the Philadelphia Office received bonuses ranging from $300 to $900 each. One watchdog group identified the Philadelphia office as the worst VA office in the entire country. Additionally, McDonald approved bonuses for mangers at the Tomah, Wisconsin office that is jokingly referred to as “Candyland” because they are well known to over prescribe opiate drugs to veterans. Managers here received bonuses of $1,000+.

Public records also show that one employee received a $900 bonus despite earlier allegations (and admission) of driving a government after drinking alcohol. A co-worker fell from the truck and died. The employee, Jed Fillingim, resigned but then returned to work.

Several officials from the VA office were subpoenaed last month on accusations that they manipulated the VA system to secure new positions with less responsibility but the same pay. One of those officials, regional director Kimberly Graves, received almost $9,000 last year.

Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised to suspend bonuses in 2014 after a fake wait list scandal appeared in the media. However, the suspension of bonuses affected few officials. Since then, Congress passed a bill to ban executive bonuses for five years. However, the changes to the bill allow the VA to award a maximum of $360 million in bonuses per year.

Florida Representative Jeff Miller chairs the House Committee responsible for VA oversight, told reporters that he felt this year’s bonuses are representative of “a disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence.”

Government Leaders Want Bill to Discipline VA Employees

va employee

Possible New Bill to Discipline VA Employees

Following a series of scandals within the Veterans Affairs offices, government officials are seeking legislation that would permit Bob McDonald, Veterans Affairs Secretary, to fire or discipline employees faster and more efficiently. If the bill passes, this could create an opening for other federal employees to face termination with less red tape.

Republican Representative from Florida and Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller, sponsored the legislation and said he hoped lawmakers could compromise on a bill that would still protect employee’s rights to appeal a firing but also reduce how long the appeals process could drag out.

Overcomplicated Firing Policies

Miller told reporters that the firing policies at the VA office seem over complicated. “Where I come from, when you’re fired, you’re fired. You walk out the door that day … What you hear from the VA is, “We’ve given notice.” To me, that’s not firing somebody.”

Representative Miller’s comments come only days after a Congressional hearing in which several leading Veterans Benefits Administration officials were to testify regarding allegations that they had misused funds to the sum of over $400,000 to better their job titles as well as forcing other employees to take different jobs.

During the hearing, a top official with the VAB told leaders that rules designed to protect federal employees from unlawful termination actually made it more difficult to fire those involved in the scandal.

“We still have to try to root out some of the culture that is in the VA that is more about taking care of the bureaucrat than taking care of the veteran. Until that is done, I don’t think the VA will be operating on all eight cylinders,” Miller told reporters.

Lack of Accountability


He went on to say the biggest problem with the VA is that there is a lack of accountability. Despite several resignations, early-retirements and several firings of employees, Miller believes the VA needs to address the source of the problem.

While the House passed the bill in early July, efforts to get the bill passed the Senate floor have failed so far. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a democrat from Connecticut said that the bill did not pass not because they disagreed with the cause but because they want to work to ensure that this type of change would not negatively affect whistle blowers.

Miller said that he intends to work closely with Blumenthal to ensure that would seek compromises that would offer maximum satisfaction of both the House and the Senate.

Despite positive reception to the bill, some leaders feels that some changes may be necessary. Representative Tim Walz, a democrat from Minnesota said that he was interested in ensuring more accountability within the VA, but he worried that the legislation could cause issues down the line. He argued that administration can get rid of bad employees they just don’t do it.

“People need to be fired, but I would make the case that [leaders] could have done [their] job better and not given bonuses to an under performing employee and move them somewhere else,” Walz said.

If the bill passes, it could serve as a lead in for cases against other federal employee terminations.


Poll Shows What VA Military Benefits and Services Mean to Veterans

What do VA Military Benefits and Services Mean to Veterans?

VA Hospital providing military healthcare benefits and services for veterans
Photo – Digital Magic Photography/flickr

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is highlighting the findings of a new poll showing how valuable VA military benefits and services are to veterans as evidence that Congress needs to fix the agency and not dismantle it.

The survey of 800 veterans shows what they think of the VA hospitals in their area:

– Have qualified doctors and nurses (65%);

– Deliver good quality care (58%); and

– Care about veterans and their healthcare (65%).


Veterans Don’t Want VA Military Benefits and Services Privatized


Eight in 10 veterans believe they should not have to rely on vouchers that may not cover all of their health care needs in the private sector. Rather than privatizing their health care, veterans said the VA system should be strengthened by hiring more doctors and nurses.

The poll showed overwhelming opposition to privatizing Veterans Affairs hospital programs and services. Overall, 64% of veterans oppose privatization, while 54% strongly oppose it.

“Veterans have spoken loud and clear: they believe Congress should fix the VA health care system, not dismantle it,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “Lawmakers should think twice before supporting legislation that would outsource the VA to for-profit hospitals and undermine our nation’s promise to care for all of those who have served our country.”

So exactly what changes do they want to see in the VA they want to preserve? A full 48% say it takes too long to get treated at their local VA hospital, while just 37% say the VA has honest and transparent leadership.

So basically, make the VA leadership walk the plank and then hire a lot of doctors and nurses and support staff. There are currently about 41,500 vacant health care positions that need to be filled across the Veterans Administration, so the second part should not be a problem if Congress agrees to provide the funding for hiring a whole new bunch of federal employees and maybe build a few more VA hospitals.

What Will Be The Court’s Decision For Veteran Owned Small Businesses?

What Will Be The Court’s Decision For Veteran Owned Small Businesses


A Veteran’s Preference Law was passed by Congress in 2006 that offered Veterans who owned small businesses receiving federal contracts should be given preference.  These firms classified as either Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Small Disadvantaged Veteran Owned Small Business under the law would be given preference by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) when competing for federal contracts with the VA.

A  Federal Circuit court ruling invalidated the Preference Law.  However, the invalidation is being challenged via a petition filed by Kingdomware Technologies, Inc.  The technology firm is seeking to have the ruling reversed that was handed down by the Federal Circuit Court.  The government will have an opportunity to respond to the petition set for May 1, 2015.  A Court conference is also scheduled for June 4, 2015.

Kingdomware Technologies argue that the ruling to invalidate the Veteran Preference law would be tantamount to severely decreasing opportunities to Veteran owned small business firms in the competitive bidding process.   Kingdomware has been supported via the filing of amicus briefs by a number of individuals and organization including the American Legion.

If the Supreme Court comes down on the side of Kingdomware Technologies; thus, reversing the 2-1 ruling previously made by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Small Disadvantaged Veteran Owned Small Businesses will no longer be subject to what they see as limitations on opportunities offered through competitive bidding at the VA.

Dianna Tafazoli

P.S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know



Is There an Income Limit for the VA Improved Pension?

Is There an Income Limit for the VA Improved Pension?


Many veterans and/or their family have called their local VA office inquiring about the Improved Pension (also known as the Aid and Attendance or Non-Service Related Compensation program). This program is for wartime veterans and their widows/widowers.  Many times the person who answers the phone asks how much income is coming in each month. They (many times) are told they make too much money.

In all reality, how much you bring in is irrelevant.

Where the confusion comes up is twofold:

Firstly, the VA has many different programs and each program works differently. It is difficult for an overworked VA employee or VSO to understand (let alone remember) each and every rule.

Secondly, the Improved Pension has what the VA calls the “Maximum Annual Pension Rate” (MAPR). Many people believe this means this is the maximum amount you can make a year. Actually this number is the most the VA would pay under a certain circumstance. To confuse things further, if you bring in more than that amount, the VA will pay nothing. Simple, right? Actually there is more to the formula.

With this program, there are three levels of benefit; base, house bound as well as aid & attendance. Doctor forms must be completed to show what the medical imitations are (if there is a spouse, both the spouses need to complete the doctor forms). Depending on the claimant’s (the veteran or widow) health, would determine where you fall on the chart (and what the MAPR is).

From there, the VA will look at all the income coming into the household and subtract from that the cost for all the ongoing medical expenses (primarily they look at the cost for a caregiver or a community providing care as well as medical insurance costs).  What is left over is the Income for VA Purposes (IVAP).

This is the number you would use for the benefit!

For example, let’s say you have a WWII vet who is bringing in $2,800 a month from pension and Social Security. Let’s further assume he needs assistance of another person so he would be awarded the Aid & Attendance add-on to the Improved Pension. That amount (as of this posting) is $1,780.00 per month. If the veteran does not need (or better yet, have) a caregiver or community helping to take care of him, the only expense we probably can use is the cost for his medical insurance. Let’s assume it is $300.00 a month. If you subtract that $300 from his income of $2,800, he nets out to $2,500.00.  This is still above the MAPR, so he receives nothing.

Should he give up? No! Read on…

If this same veteran has a caregiver come into his home or moves to a community who is taking care of him and ALL of his income is going for his care, then his IVAP (income for VA purposes) falls to zero. In this situation, he would now get the maximum benefit of $1,780.00 per month (2014 limit).

Now please understand I have OVERLY simplified this case and the formulas for informational purposes. PLEASE get help from a qualified (and ideally VA accredited) professional who understands all the intricacies of the program. There are many hurdles and pitfalls you must overcome to achieve an approval (and keep the benefit).

Bottom line, remember this is a program that was EARNED by the veteran. It is waiting for him/her and/or their widow/widower. Do not let anyone tell you that there is an income limit, you make too much money or (my favorite) you don’t qualify because of your income.


Does the VA Help to Pay for Nursing Care?

Does the VA Help to Pay for Nursing Care?

Veterans AdministrationAs the population keeps aging, more and more people are needing care within their home as well as moving to a community for their care needs. Fortunately the level (and quality) of care has greatly improved from the time of our grandparents.  Unfortunately the cost to receive that care has skyrocketed.

For those who served our country, there may be money available through the Veterans Administration.  Three great programs I recommend every Veteran research are:

Veteran Directed Home and Community Based Services program (sometimes referred to as the Waiver program). This program is actually a medical benefit. It is for veterans who need assistance with daily living activities. It is a flexible amount used to pay for home caregiving. A great place to find out more about this program is through your VA Social Worker. Contact your local VA Medical Center to find one near you.

TriCare for Life is a program for service members who retired from the military. If there is need for long term care (usually skilled care) TriCare for Life may cover some, all or none of this cost. Speak directly with your VA Social Worker and/or call the TriCare for Life customer service number at 866-733-0404 for more details.

The VA Improved Pension (sometimes referred to as the Aid and Attendance Benefit or Non-Service Related Compensation). This program is specifically for veterans who served during wartime (they do not need to be retired military, nor did they need to see action or be overseas). There are three levels of benefit: base, housebound as well as aid & attendance. There are many moving parts to this program and can get confusing quickly. The VA will look at your income, your on-going medical expenses as well as your assets. Unlike Medicaid, you are allowed to do planning around the asset and income formulas to help qualify and maximize the benefits. (DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY OR HAVE TOO MANY ASSETS.) Make sure you deal with a qualified (and VA accredited) professional for guidance through this maze.

These are great programs that can help our veterans. Be careful who you deal with regarding assistance in obtaining these programs, there are many traps built within the system. (There may also be benefits and programs through the state and/or County in which you live. The Department of Aging in your area may be a good resource.)



Can Anyone Who Was in the Military Get TriCare for Life?

Can Anyone Who Was in the Military Get TriCare for Life?


It seems as though rumors start and they spread like wildfire. (Seems even faster since the internet has arrived.)  One of the latest rumors/questions I am asked is about a phenomenal program called TriCare for Life.

One of the best programs the VA offers is TriCare for Life. This program acts similar to a Medicare Supplement policy. It is for someone who is eligible for Medicare (those 65 or older or disabled) and you had to have served in the military.

Here is where the rumors/confusion comes in. You would need to have one of these situations to be eligible for TriCare for Life:

  • Retired (from the military) Service member. (This includes National Guard and Reserve Members drawing retirement pay.)
  • Family member (dependent) of a retired service member
  • Medal of Honor recipient (or eligible family member)
  • Survivor of a deceased sponsor
  • Qualifying former spouse


Some other interesting facts:

  • There are varying rules to determine if you must (or must not) sign up for and pay for Medicare Part B (which can save you at least $100 a month).
  • Your prescriptions may be covered.
  • Your Nursing Home stay may be paid PAST the 100 day most Medicare Supplements cover

Either way, TriCare for Life is a great program. If you believe you are eligible, I would recommend contacting the TriCare for Life customer service number at 866-773-0404. May also talk with your Social Worker at your local VA Medical Center. They may be a good resource as well.