After years of frustration, veterans are finally seeing their claims for benefits moving faster.
The lag time between submitting a “fully developed” claim and getting a response has dropped from two or three years to a guaranteed 90 days, Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services benefits counselor Melvin Morris recently told area veterans at the Powell House.
The guaranteed response acknowledges the claim and lays out a one-year process to actually get the benefits — which are paid retroactively to the date of the claim acceptance.
“There is lots of confusion about benefits,” he said. “There are questions about who is eligible and why it takes so long (to process a claim).”
His office can help move things along, with no charge to the veteran. “You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain,” Morris said.
Veterans must present their documents showing an honorable discharge document to file a claim, but Veterans’ Services can also help get copies from the National Archives online.
If veterans suffer from a condition related to an injury or accident sustained in wartime service, either on the frontlines or in supporting work, they may be eligible for disability benefits, even decades later. Morris gave the example of veterans of World War II and Korea, as well as Vietnam and the Gulf conflicts, who have filed recent claims for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There is no requirement to file. There is no statute of limitations and there is nothing to lose. Even if a veteran receives no disability compensation, filing the claim will help in filing for special monthly compensation,” he said.
Veterans will receive benefit payments through a direct deposit system. Once approved, the claim can also provide free medical care for both a veteran and spouse as well as free medications and dental care. Disabled veterans with children under 18 may also get four years of free college for the children.
“There is no limit on the number of conditions for which a veteran can file a claim,” Morris said.
The many benefits available can also include help paying for skilled nursing facilities, he said.
To learn more, contact the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services at 1-800-852-8387 or go online to www.azdvs.gov.