Veterans Benefits

VA and Veterans Benefits

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (formerly the VA Veterans Administration) provides an array of veterans benefits. Benefits include education, home loans, compensation, pension, survivor’s benefits, burial, vocational rehabilitation, employment, and life insurance.

As with many government programs, funding hasn’t always been enough to maintain the programs as they should be, and services are sometimes hard to obtain. Still, veterans may qualify for VA services with no copayment required for military-related conditions. Veterans dealing with problems arising from military service, should go to a VA Regional Office and apply for a service-connected disability.

VA Healthcare benefits are available to most who served active in the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, or Coast Guard.  National Guard and Reserve members may be eligible if they were called to active duty on a Federal Executive Order other than training.  There are no requirements for serving in war zones, service-connected disabilities, or injuries while in service for healthcare benefits.

Veterans Disability benefits are paid to those who have injuries or diseases that happened or were made worse while on active duty.  The amount is based on the severity of disability and number of dependents.  Like all government programs, it can be quite complex.  More information is available at VONAPP website .

Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation

Workers Comensation covers most workers who are injured on the job. Almost all states require it and the regulations are different in each state.  Most include:

  • Medical benefits to pay for necessary medical care to treat work-related injury or illness.
  • Income benefits to replace some of the wages you lose because of a work-related injury or illness.
  • Death benefits to replace a portion of lost family income for eligible family members of workers killed on the job.

There are a lot of complaints about Workers Comensation and it keeps a lot of lawyers employed. For the worker, it provides basic protection but healthcare is sometimes limited by managed care requirements and politically imposed caps on other benefits. For the employer, it’s a major expense, but it’s a known amount and coverage is almost always available. At the same time, they are protected from the risk and expense of big lawsuits as it takes away most employees rights to sue their employer for injuries.

If you are injured on the job or because of your job, them Workers Comp should cover the medical bills.  Disabilities and continuing medical bills may require negotiation and you should have a lawyer (the other side will!).  Compensation rates and rules vary widely from state to state.

Claims are filed through the employers insurance company.  Document and keep copies of everything as there are a lot of different bureaucracies and entities involved.  Especially important are medical reports and records.  Make sure that everything is on the record.

Workers compensation is generally “no fault” which means that in most cases, benefits are paid no matter whom caused the injury.  There are some exceptions though which vary from state to state.

Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Benefits are based on your Social Security earnings and some of your family members or dependents might also receive payments. SSDI is paid from the Social Security Fund.

Applications are available online and from the Social Security office. Approvals can take a long time, and they are known for turning down qualified applicants for paperwork errors and omissions. Under most conditions though, benefits are paid retroactive to the application date, so if you are turned down, it’s worth your while to appeal, rather than start over with a new application and lose the retroactive benefits.

Attorneys that handle Social Security Disability cases usually work on contingency and get paid only if you win your case. Their fee can be hefty.  Do some research when selecting an attorney.  There are several websites and referral services that can give you several contacts to interview.  It can be a long process, so find one that you are comfortable working with.  There are also non-lawyer representatives that understand the system and can handle your appeal, some working for aid groups that offer low or no cost assistance.  Use your judgement here.  If they charge near as much as the attorney, you’re better off having the attorney.

The amount of your benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings, and is included in the Social Security Statement that is mailed to you each year. Eligibility is based only on your ability to work and is not affected by your spouse’s income, savings, or assets.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate program and covers people with low-incomes,  never worked, or haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSD.  SSI is based on need and is funded from the general fund.

The Social Security Administration administers both Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.  The same standards apply for disability.

Types of Disability Insurance

Types of Disability Insurance

There are 5 major types of Disability Insurance:

  1. Social Security is the base. Most Americans have access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These are safety net programs that catch those who were uninsured or underinsured. Their small benefit levels are near or slightly above the poverty level. You don’t want to have to rely on these benefits as your sole income, but they’re better than nothing!
  2. Workers’ Compensation offers payments to employees who are unable to work because of a job-related injury. Coverage is determined by each State. In many cases, it’s coupled with coverage for injury or death on the job, economic loss from injury, and compensation for pain and suffering.
  3. Group Disability Insurance provided by your employer. These cover employees unable to work because of any injury or illness, even if it is not job-related. Benefit levels are usually basic, but upgraded coverage is often available for an additional premium.
  4. Individual Disability Insurance is available for those who need to purchase their own policies on the open market.
  5. Veterans Benefits are provided by the government and might also cover limited health insurance, disability income insurance, life insurance, and mortgage coverage.

Within these types of disability insurance there are 2 length of insurance breakdowns:

  1. Short Term Disability (STD) is, as the name implies for the short term.  It generally provides coverage from 2 months to a year.  STD is designed to pay a portion of your salary after you run out of sick leave.
  2. Long Term Disability (LTD) replaces a portion of your pay after you have run out of STD.  It’s for the serious career ending events that prevent you from going back to work.

In many cases, STD and LTD are coordinated so that LTD takes over after STD runs out.  STD insurance may have time limits.  If possible, find LTD insurance that will cover you to age 65.

Long Term Care Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance

Long term care insurance helps provide for the cost of long-term care beyond a predetermined period. This might be home care, assisted living, adult daycare, respite care, hospice care, nursing home or an Alzheimer’s facilities.

Recipients are generally not sick in the traditional sense, but may be old and frail, and unable to perform basic living activities on their own such as getting in and out of a bed or chair, dressing, bathing, eating, toileting, and walking. Or they may be disabled from illness or accident.

The risk of needing this care rises exponentially with age and in many cases, it’s not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Long-term care insurance can also help provide for the care of an individual who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Coverage costs can be expensive, so long term care insurance is best purchased well before it’s needed to spread out the costs.

It’s not just for the elderly. Statistics show that 70% of people over 65 will need some type of long term care during their lifetime, and 40% of those receiving care are under 65.

Rates are based on several factors:

  • Age of the insured
  • Daily or monthly benefit maximums
  • How long benefits are paid
  • Elimination period which is sort of like a deductible. It’s the number of days that you need to be in long term care before insurance starts paying.
  • Health ratings. Healthy people get lower rates.