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RI Veterans: Did You Know? – 10 June 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Question from Janice in Florida: My Dad died at a VA hospital in Florida (he was a Vietnam Veteran disabled from exposure to Agent Orange), however, he joined the military while living in Rhode Island, and want to be buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery (RIVMC) in Exeter RI: (1) Can he be buried at the RIVMC (2) What am I entitled to as his daughter in assistance in burial?

Answer: Hi Janice, prayers and condolences for your loss.

Step 1 – I would get his discharge papers, should have a DD214(if not, contact a local congressional leader for assistance to obtain one).

Step 2 – Review the DD214, looking for honorable and location where joined, which should be RI. Vet tip, always submit application to RIVMC, rules are constantly changing, let the staff tell you if he is not eligible for burial (ask for it in writing, as I helped one family who originally was denied, but once Italian American war Veterans was contacted, we advised them to re-contact the RIVMC and explain the veteran met the requirements; eligibility detailed on Dd214)

Step 3 – Contact the staff at the RIVMC, (401) 268-3088, and communicate your dad’s wishes; the staff will guide you thru the application.

Step 4 – The VA will pay up to $2000 toward burial expenses if buried in a national cemetery. Where you Dad will be buried at RIVMC in Exeter (a state veterans cemetery, and he died at a VA facility, the VA generally reimburses up to $796. However, the amount could be higher if your dad’s death was related to his service-connected disabilities. Best advice, when applying for reimbursement with VA, attach all expenses, the VA will determine if you are entitled more than the $796

“VA Will Reimburse Over $2000 For Burial, Funeral, and Transportation Expenses for Eligible Veterans

Did you know spouse, child, family member, executor or administrator of the Veteran’s estate, or even friend of deceased veteran could be reimbursed by the Veterans Administration up to $2000 for burial, funeral and transportation for service-related death. 

Did you know spouse, child, family member, or even friend of deceased veteran a minimum of $300 for funeral and burial and $300 for plot-interment allowance, if not hospitalized, and as much $796 if Veteran was hospitalized by VA at time of death.

Did you know if a Veteran is buried in a private cemetery the VA will provide free a may headstone, marker, or medallion? In addition, eligible veterans are entitled to a burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate.

VETTIP: Have the deceased veteran’s DD214 and or discharge papers with you when meeting with the funeral home. If you don’t have, contact a local congressional leader and they will assist expediting obtaining the discharge papers to ensure the Veteran receives his or his final military honors.

Let’s summarize monetary reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses.

  • $300 for burial and funeral expenses, and up to $300 for plot-interment if Veteran has a service-connected disability, which could be ZERO percent for hearing
  • $796 and up to $300 for plot-interment if veteran died at VA hospital or contracted facility; the Rhode Island Veterans Home is a VA contacted facility
  • $2000 or more if veterans’ death was service connected.

From the VA website, clarifying eligibility for reimbursement for funeral, burial, and transportation expenses for a deceased veteran:

The Veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and one of these circumstances must be true. The Veteran died:

  • As a result of a service-connected disability (a disability related to service), or
  • While getting VA care, either at a VA facility or at a facility contracted by VA, or
  • While traveling with proper authorization, and at VA’s expense, either to or from a facility for an examination, or to receive treatment or care, or
  • With an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death, if they would’ve been entitled to benefits before the time of death, or
  • While receiving a VA pension or compensation, or
  • While eligible for a VA pension or compensation at time of death, but instead received full military retirement or disability pay
  • Or the Veteran:
  • Had been getting a VA pension or compensation when they died, or
  • Had chosen to get military retired pay instead of compensation
  • Note: We’ll also provide an allowance for the cost of transporting a Veteran’s remains for burial in a national cemetery.

You can’t get burial allowances for certain individuals

  • We don’t provide burial allowances if the individual died:
  • On active duty, or
  • While serving as a member of Congress, or
  • While serving a federal prison sentence

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 How do I obtain proof of service if the Veteran dies, and I need immediate burial services?

Most funeral home will provide you points of contacts for a local congressional office for assistance.  With a congressional inquiry, proof of service is usually obtained in a few days.

*See VETTIP, why I suggest if your intent is to be buried at RIVMC, pre-register.

Q2 How do I know if the deceased veterans have a service-connected disability?

First, as Italian American War Veteran, Veteran Service Officer I always ask the family member who contacts me for assistance, does the Veteran receive a monthly deposited from the VA (my VA disAbility is deposited on or about the 1st of the month, and is described on bank statement as US VA Department, or Veteran still might receive a monthly check from the VA. If the veteran is deceased, and you need to know this information for burial arrangements, contact your local congressional leader who with your authorization, can find this information out the same or next day.

Q3 How do I know if veteran death is service connected?

Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, many battle cancer and succumb to the deadly illness as a result of being exposed to Agent Orange. As noted above, contact your local congressional leader seeking a breakdown of any approved or pending claims on record with the VA.

VETTIP If service-connected death and listed on the death certificate, the spouse could be eligible for Dependence and Indemnity compensation (estimated $1400 a month) and or if the VA has a claim pending for the deceased veteran, the surviving spouse, child, or parent can continue to pursue the claim, it could be worth thousands of dollars. One widow was reported as receiving almost $500, 000 upon resubmitting her husband’s claim, which her husband fought since the 1960’s and new evidence came out after his death supporting, he was exposed to asbestos on a Navy Ship.

Q3 How to apply for reimbursement for burial, funeral, and or transportation expenses?

  • You can apply online at Vets.gov. OR
  • Apply by mail using an Application for Burial Benefits (VA Form 21P-530)

Mail the application and other documents listed above to your nearest VA regional office

     If you have questions, call 800-827-1000. We’re here Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET. Our TTY number for people with hearing impairments is 711. Or call your VA regional office.

Q4 What documents do I need to send with my application?

You’ll need to send copies of these documents:

  • The Veteran’s military discharge papers (DD214 or other separation documents)
  • The Veteran’s death certificate
  • Any documents or receipts you have for the cost of transporting the Veteran’s remains
  • A statement of account (preferably with the letterhead of the funeral director or cemetery owner) that has this information: 
  • The Veteran’s name, and
  • The type of service or item purchased, and
  • Any credits, and
  • The unpaid balance

Q5 Is there a time limit for filing?

You must file a claim for a non-service-connected burial allowance within 2 years after the Veteran’s burial or cremation. If a Veteran’s discharge was changed after death from dishonorable to another status, you must file for an allowance claim within 2 years after the discharge update.

There’s no time limit to file for a service-connected burial, plot, or interment allowance.

Q6 What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

If you’ve received one of these discharge statuses, you may not be eligible for VA pension benefits. Operation Stand Down, (401) 383-4730, provides free assistance to apply for a discharge upgrade or go to va.gov.

Q7 How do I apply for VA Healthcare?

VA Health Care Enrollment Process

  1. Online – Apply online at VA’s website.
  2. By Telephone – Call toll-free number at 877-222-VETS (8387)
  3. In Person – Complete the “Application for Health Benefits” at your local VA. Find a VA medical center.

All Veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA Health Care System. 
You can apply online at https://www.vets.gov/health-care/apply/ or call an eligibility and enrollment specialist at 401-273-7100 ext. 12496 during normal business hours.

Or you may print the Application for Health Care Benefitsform and mail it to us at:

VA Providence Healthcare System
Eligibility Office – Patient Services (136)
830 Chalkstone Avenue
Providence, RI  02908

You can also bring the form to the Medical Center. The Eligibility Office is located on the ground floor of the main hospital building near the main entrance.

Whether mailing or bringing your application, please include the following items:

  • a copy of both sides of your current insurance card (including Medicare or Medicaid)
  • a copy of your DD214, ‘Armed Forces Report of Transfer or Discharge’
  • (Purple Heart recipients only) a copy of your award letter if ‘Purple Heart’ is not noted on your DD214

VA encourages all Veterans to apply in order to determine their enrollment eligibility.

VETTIP. In my opinion and experience, your best bet in to go to Providence VA Medical Center, 830 Chalkstone Ave, Providence with your DD214 and a form of identification and a VA representative will assist you in registering.

Q8 How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade

Answer a series of questions to get customized step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction. If your application goes through and your discharge is upgraded, you’ll be eligible for the VA benefits you earned during your period of service.

All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if you can show your discharge was connected to any of these categories:

Mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Sexual assault or harassment during military service (at VA, we refer to this as military sexual trauma or MST)

Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

Can I get VA benefits without a discharge upgrade?

Even with a less than honorable discharge, you may be able to access some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge review process. When you apply for VA benefits, we’ll review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.” This review can take up to a year. Please provide us with documents supporting your case, similar to the evidence you’d send with an application to upgrade your discharge.

You may want to consider finding someone to advocate on your behalf, depending on the complexity of your case. A lawyer or Veterans Service Organization (VSO) can collect and submit supporting documents for you. 

Note: You can ask for a VA Character of Discharge review while at the same time applying for a discharge upgrade from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Coast Guard.

If you need mental health services related to PTSD or other mental health problems linked to your service (including conditions related to an experience of military sexual trauma), you may qualify for VA health benefits right away, even without a VA Character of Discharge review or a discharge upgrade.

EVENTS/MEETINGS

Saturday, June 12th9AM Refreshments, 10AM Speaker, “Rhode Island National Guard Retirees’ Association Quarterly Meeting”, Schofield Armory, 705 New London Avenue, Cranston.  Point of contact is Bob Urquhart at boburquhart@cox.net.  Guest speaker to be determined.

 Saturday, June 12th, time currently unknown, “Brian’s Ride 2021”, 15th Anniversary Memorial Ride.  For more information and/or questions, call 401.837.7331, or email brianstgermainfoundation@yahoo.com.  

REUNIONS

Friday, August 6th11AM, “Rhode Island National Guard Summer Reunion”, Quonset Officers’ Club, 200 Lieutenant James Brown Road, North Kingstown.  Point of contact is Bob Antonelli at 401.996.3764, or via email at bob02909@cox.net.  Cut-off date is Tuesday, August 3rd         

 September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: johnwear2@verizon.net . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Onto units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!!!

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, itamrirvets@gmail.com  

_____

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.

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