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NEW weekly feature – “RI Veterans: Did you know?” – by John Cianci

by John Cianci, Department Service Officer, ITAM

Introducing a new weekly feature – Look for this column every Thursday.

Veterans Benefits …..Did You Know? A spouse of a deceased veteran could be entitled to monthly compensation of that veteran, approximately $1400 a month with medical benefits.

Many Veterans at the Rhode Island Veterans Home have asked me: Why put in a VA claim, the State Veterans Home takes most of it and it doesn’t change what I get … about $150 a month. Why you should change your mind? One, if you die and you don’t have a claim filed, your spouse will NOT be eligible for VA compensation for your service connected disability. Failure to file a claim, because of this feeling, could deny your spouse and or children of thousand of dollars. The ITAM organization assisted a widow of a veteran whose husband died at the State Veterans Home last year. She was unaware of the benefits she was entitled to. She received over $10,000 in retroactive monies, and now receives a monthly pension of almost $1,400 a month. Tell me her late husband doesn’t Rest In Peace knowing his service is helping her maintain a quality of life?

Here’s an example. A veteran at the home has a heart condition and receives VA service connected disability. He passes, and the cause of death is heart failure. By VA rules, the spouse will be eligible for “serving spouse benefits”. Here is a copy and information from the VA webpage on DIC benefits:

About VA DIC for spouses, dependents, and parents. If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died in the line of duty, or the survivor of a Veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, you may be able to get a tax-free monetary benefit called VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC). Find out if you can get VA benefits or compensation. You may be eligible for VA benefits or compensation for surviving spouses if you meet the requirements listed below. You’ll also need to provide evidence with your claim showing that one of the descriptions below is true for the Veteran or service member. Evidence may include documents like military service records, doctor’s reports, and medical test results:

One of these must be true. You: Married the Veteran or service member before January 1, 1957, or Married the Veteran or service member within 15 years of their discharge from the period of military service during which the qualifying illness or injury started or got worse, or Were married to the Veteran or service member for at least 1 year, or Had a child with the Veteran or service member, aren’t currently remarried, and either lived with the Veteran or service member without a break until their death or, if separated, weren’t at fault for the separation. Note: If you remarried on or after December 16, 2003, and you were 57 years of age or older at the time you remarried, you can still continue to receive compensation.

You’ll also need to provide evidence showing that one of these descriptions is true for the Veteran or service member: The service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive-duty training, or The Veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury, or The Veteran didn’t die from a service-connected illness or injury, but was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling for a certain period of time If the Veteran’s eligibility was due to a rating of totally disabling, they must have had this rating: For at least 10 years before their death, or, Since their release from active duty and for at least 5 years immediately before their death, or, For at least 1 year before their death if they were a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999. Note: “Totally disabling” means the Veteran’s injuries made it impossible for them to work.

As a surviving child – As a surviving parent. What kind of benefits can I get? If you qualify, you can get tax-free monetary benefits. The amount you receive depends on the type of survivor you are. DIC benefit rates for surviving spouses and children DIC benefits for surviving parents: How do I apply for compensation? First you’ll need to fill out an application for benefits. The application you fill out will depend on your survivor status. If you’re the surviving spouse or child of a service member who died while on active duty, your military casualty assistance officer will help you to complete an Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child (VA Form 21P-534a). The officer will help you mail the form to the correct VA regional office. Download VA Form 21P-534a (PDF) If you’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran, fill out an Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21P-534EZ). Download VA Form 21P-534EZ (PDF)

FREE assistance is provided by Italian American war veterans Department Service Officer, John A. Cianci, itamri4vets@gmail.com, or 860-931-4711

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RI Veterans…Did you Know? is a new feature of RINewsToday, written by John A. Cianci, Department Service Officer of ITAM – Italian American War Veterans.

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.

To contact John, itamri4vets@gmail or telephone (401) 677-9VET.