Connecting aging veterans to their benefits

Community EngAGEment: Aging news and information – Provided by the Milwaukee County Department on Aging

Veteran Sherman Harley

According to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) census estimates, there are approximately 13 million American veterans and their single surviving spouses age 65 and older. Comparing this to a total of 41 million Americans, 65 years and older, veterans and their single surviving spouses represent about one-third of the senior population. According to VA about 42 percent of all veterans are 65 years and older. This percentage will continue to grow as the bulk of the Vietnam veterans – the largest cohort – are still younger than age 65. (

Older adult veterans and their surviving spouses are to receive benefits as a part of their service to their country. Typically they receive cash income from four programs provided through the VA. Two of the programs are paid to veterans and their surviving spouses who are nonservice- connected disabled. These are referred to as Pension and Death Pension. The other two programs are paid to veterans or surviving spouses due to disability or death from service. These are referred to as Disability Compensation and DIC (Dependents Indemnity Compensation).

In 2013, the VA estimates only 13 percent of eligible veterans age 65 and older will have benefits processed. This low percentage is due to a lack of awareness aging veterans have related to their benefits. Often the focus is placed on Pension and Death Pension, however aging veterans could benefit from knowing more about Compensation and DIC.

In an effort to provide aging veterans and their single surviving spouses with more awareness of and register them for eligible benefits, the Milwaukee County’s Veteran Services Office and the Milwaukee County Department on Aging will be offering a oneday event, “Connecting Aging Veterans To Their Benefits.” The benefits event will feature representatives from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Benefits Administration, VA Veterans Health Administration, various VA claims agencies, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Military Funeral Honors, American Legion Claims Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars Claims Office, Military Funeral Honors, Union Grove Veterans’ Home and Cemetery, Wisconsin Funeral Director’s Association and the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic. Other community service organizations available at the June 24 event include: Hunger Task Force, Social Development Commission, Interfaith Older Adult Programs, Legal Action, AARP, Arthritis Foundation, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Association and the Wisconsin Parkinson’s Association and the Milwaukee County on Aging – Aging Resource Center.

“Connecting Aging Veterans To Their Benefits” will be promoted by AARP and 50Plus news magazine. The free event will be held on Monday, June 24th from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the Milwaukee County War Memorial, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive. Free parking will be provided in the O’Donnell Parking Structure located just west of the Milwaukee County War Memorial, or in the lot north of the Milwaukee County War Memorial. Anyone interested in attending Connecting Aging Veterans To Their Benefits should pre-register by calling (414) 289- 6640 or email your name and number of persons attending to

The event will kick off with a welcome from the Milwaukee County Executive’s office and a presentation on eligible benefits for veterans provided by the VA. If you cannot make the 9:00 a.m. ceremony the information will be provided again at 11:00 a.m. The opportunity to learn about benefits, services and how to register for benefits and services will be available from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

The Benefits in Detail

Pension and Death Pension are generally called “aid and attendance.” They provide cash payments to veterans who served during a period of war or to their single surviving spouses. Pension payments can help cover the cost of home care, assisted living and nursing home services. Pension is also available to veterans or surviving spouses with very low income who do not have long-term care costs. Cash income payments from Pension range from about $700 – $2,000 a month depending on the type of claim and the medical rating involved. Most people are not aware of this benefit. There are about 16 different monetary levels of aid and attendance or housebound allowances available with non-service-connected and service-connected disability programs for veterans or their surviving spouses.

Disability Compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a veteran for a service connected disability that happened as a result of active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training or injury from VA healthcare. Cash income payments for Compensation, range from about $130 to approximately $8,000 per month. Special benefits like grants for new automobiles or modifying existing automobiles, grants for constructing or modifying homes, clothing allowances and so on are payable for severe service connected disabilities. A veteran cannot receive Pension and Compensation at the same time and a surviving spouse cannot receive Death Pension and DIC at the same time. A choice must be made which benefit the beneficiary wants to receive. An aid and attendance or housebound assistance allowance in the form of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is available to the veteran who is 100 percent disabled. A veteran rated for 100 percent disability will receive a check for about $2,816 – $3,505 a month in 2013 and if the veteran has a spouse the amount is $2,974 – $3,662 a month.

Of particular note for Disability Compensation are Agent Orange claims for each and every veteran who was stationed in Vietnam and who developed presumptive health conditions such as certain forms of cancer, type II diabetes, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. Veterans with service-connected hearing loss can also make claims and receive free hearing aids. This hearing disability rating will also get veterans into the health care system. Many veterans do not know about Agent Orange claims or that they might be eligible for serviceconnected disability for hearing loss.

The VA health care system is the largest single provider of health care in the United States. Not all veterans can receive care in the system. Eligibility requires either service-connected disability, receipt of Pension, special service recognition such as prisoner of war or Purple Heart or low income and less than $80,000 in assets. For all beneficiaries, not to include those who are means tested (means tested relates to certain levels of income), all services are free and medications are $8.00 per month per medication regardless of what it is. Means tested veterans must pay a copay for services. There are no other out-of-pocket costs such as health care premiums. Help can also be provided with disability required home renovation grants of $2,000 or $6,800, orthotics, prosthetics and in certain cases hearing aids. VA outpatient clinics are available in most communities.

Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) – also called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation – is payable to eligible survivors of a military service member who died on active duty or whose death after service resulted from a service-connected injury or disease. It is also available due to improper treatment of the deceased veteran from VA healthcare or rehabilitation services. DIC is automatically granted to a surviving spouse for a veteran who was permanently and totally disabled for 10 years or more. DIC pays $1,215 a month in 2013 to a surviving spouse.

Money is available for burial costs for veterans who were service disabled, receiving Pension or died under VA care. If the death was a result of service-connected disability, $2,000 is available. If the death was non-service related, and the veteran was receiving Pension or Compensation or was entitled to either of these, up to $700 is available for plot allowance and burial/ funeral expenses.

All veterans also receive free burial in State and Federal VA cemeteries. Under certain conditions, spouses and other family members can receive free burial in State and Federal VA cemeteries. All veterans are eligible for a grave marker (or equivalent monetary allowance), a flag for the coffin, a graveside honor guard and a letter from the President of the United States. Much of the information provided in this article was gathered from the book “How to Apply for Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits for Seniors and Their Survivors” written by the National Care Planning Council.

If you or your parent/ grandparent are an aging veteran or a single surviving spouse of a veteran and you want to be sure the eligible person is receiving all of the benefits they are entitled to, this is a “do not miss event”. For more information about “Connecting Aging Veterans to their Benefits” you can log on to or call (414) 289-6874. Visit Milwaukee County Department on Aging Staff Visit us at the following events:

• Milwaukee County Golden Idol Voting Parties. May 1 – May 17, 2013 at your local Senior Center. Get out and have some fun. Watch a video performance of the Golden Idol auditions, enjoy refreshments and cast your vote for your favorite act or performance at local area senior center “voting parties”. Contact your local senior center for details on dates and times. Visit to learn more.

• Milwaukee County Golden Idol Talent Contest, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, American Serb Memorial Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee, WI. Tickets are FREE. Please call 414-289- 5733 to secure your free ticket.

• Connecting Aging Veterans To Their Benefits, The Milwaukee County’s Veteran Services Office and the Department on Aging delivering benefits to veterans and single surviving spouses, Monday, June 24, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 pm, Milwaukee County War Memorial, free parking available in the O’Donnell Parking Structure and the lot north of the Milwaukee County War Memorial. Anyone interested in attending Connecting Aging Veterans To Their Benefits should pre-register by calling (414) 289- 6640 or email your name and number of persons attending to

• Seniorfest, 29th Annual Award-Winning Festival for Senior Adults 50 Years of Age & Over, Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm, American Serb Memorial Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee, WI. Experience the annual extravaganza featuring bingo, dancing, and a variety of exhibits, recreational activities, musical entertainment, door prizes and more. See the 2013 debut of the Milwaukee County Golden Idol winner on the main stage at noon. Ticket cost: $4 in advance, $5 at the door. FREE parking at St. Gregory the Great, 60th and Oklahoma Avenue (shuttle provided). Advocacy Alert

If you are an advocate for older adults, then you have plenty of opportunities to stay busy these days. Whether you are paying attention to President Obama’s 2014 Proposed Budget or Governor Walker’s 2013-15 Proposed Budget, there is no shortage of issues.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s 2013- 15 Proposed Budget is working its way through the state legislature. The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is charged with reviewing the Governor’s budget first, has already held some public hearings. Other state legislators are holding their own forums to collect citizen input. After the public hearings are completed the Joint Finance Committee will begin voting on amendments to the Governor’s budget. Ultimately, both the state Assembly and Senate will debate and pass a budget bill that will be sent to the Governor.

Decisions on the state budget will be made in the coming weeks. Now is the time to engage your state legislators about what you want to see in the budget. Go to to find out who represents you and to contact your state representatives.

There is plenty of activity in Washington as well. On April 10th President Obama released his 2014 Proposed Budget. There are proposals in the President’s budget that would impact Social Security, Medicare, and many other programs that help older adults. To share your views with your federal representatives, visit and

To learn more about the Milwaukee County Department on Aging services and programs, please call 414-289-6874 or visit our website at

The mission of Milwaukee County Department on Aging is to affirm the dignity and value of older adults of Milwaukee County by supporting their choices for living in, and giving to, our community.