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RI Veterans: Did You Know? – 13 May 21 – John A. Cianci

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

“Eligible Veteran, survivors, or child of a deceased veteran could be eligible for a VA monthly pension”

Veterans Benefits… Did you know?

The VA provides non-service-connected pension for veterans, survivors, or child of deceased veteran with low incomes and who are over 65 years old, or to wartime veteran, in this case, wartime does not mean you had to serve in a war zone, who are totally permanently disabled for reasons not related to military service, emphasis not related to military service.

This pension is called VA pension. The pension is for those veterans who have limited annual income and assets after all deductions. One of the nice features of the pension, the house the veteran is living is NOT counted as an asset.

The pension payment is based the difference between countable income and a limit that Congress sets: (called the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR). According to the VA website, from December 1, 2020, to November 30, 2021, the net worth limits to be eligible for Veterans Pension benefit is $130,773; net worth is veteran and spouse annual income (minus medical expenses not reimbursed), and value of assets, which DOES NOT include the house the veteran is living in.

Let me walk you through an example:

Veteran served 3 years active duty, and 10 years in Guard and reserve. During his service he never served in a combat zone or was awarded a campaign medial. However, during his 3 years of being stationed stateside, either the Vietnam or Operation Desert Storm war was ongoing-for at least ONE day.

The Veteran is eligible, because:

  • He was honorably discharged, and served 90 days active duty, and 1 day was during an ongoing war; does not matter the never served in a war zone, he or she was serving during a time of war.  
  • served 90 days of active military service and 1 day was during a war time period, If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally the veteran must have at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duties (there are exceptions to this rule), AND
  • the veteran’s countable income is below a yearly set by the law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress), AND
  • the veteran is age 65 or older, OR,
  • the veteran is permanently and totally disable, not due to his/her own willful misconduct.

Veteran and spouse income is $1500 a month social security and $1000 from a private pension and other income (interest, etc…). Total annual income is $30,000 and lives in his family house valued at $200,000.

Veteran’s countable income and assets used to determine maximum allowable pension rate before deductions (if any) is:

$ 30,000 Combined Annual Income

$ 200,000 Asset-Family Home

$ 230,000

If the veteran eligible, yes, you deduct $20,000 of medical insurances and value of the house the veteran is living is exempt.

Veteran’s countable income and assets after deductions is:

$  10,000 Combined Annual Income(minus $20k medical)

$           0 Assets-Family Home Exempt

$ 10,000

How much would the veteran receive in the example above? The veteran would receive estimate $1,400 each month, $16,800 annual.  

The example above was to help you understand a potential benefit that the veteran, survivor spouse, or dependent child should apply for.

VETTIP: Always check the VA website for most current information and ALWAYS APPLY if you think you are eligible, plenty of FREE assistance to help you understand and fill out the required paperwork.  If someone tells you are not eligible, ask for the reference and or copy of the VA information he or she is determining you are not eligible.

The Italian American War Veterans of Rhode Island (ITAM-RI) provides FREE veteran benefit reviews for ALL veterans; membership is not required. If you would like to set up a free “benefit check-up”, contact ITAM-RI; email itamri4vets@gmail.com or (401) 677-9VET. Additionally, assistance can be sought by contacting your local congressional leader who can assist in preparation of application.

DAV and VFW have veteran Service Officer who can assist you.

VA rules are complicated and always changing. From senior and experienced veteran service officer’s guidance to me, always have the veteran apply in writing to the VA for any benefit the veteran believes he or she is entitled. Moreover, if previously denied, review the reason(s) why you were denied, and if the veteran believes the decision was erroneous, contact a Veteran Service Officer in your area, who will assist you free of any charges.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Am I eligible for Veterans Pension benefits?

You may be eligible for the Veterans Pension program if you meet the requirements listed below.

Both of these must be true:

  • You didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, and
  • Your yearly family income and net worth meet certain limits set by Congress. Your net worth includes all personal property you own (except your house, your car, and most home furnishings), minus any debt you owe. Your net worth includes the net worth of your spouse.

And at least one of these must be true about your service. You:

  • Started on active duty before September 8, 1980, and you served at least 90 days on active duty with at least 1 day during wartime, or
  • Started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions) with at least 1 day during wartime, or
  • Were an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and you hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months
  • And at least one of these must be true. You:
  • Are at least 65 years old, or
  • Have a permanent and total disability, or
  • Are a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability, or
  • Are getting Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

Q2: How do I know if I served under an eligible wartime period?

  • Under current law, we recognize the following wartime periods to decide eligibility for VA pension benefits:
  • Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

Q3: 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.

Q4:  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 post-traumatic 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. Find a VSO near 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.

Q5: What is the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) amount?

As of December 1, 2020:

$13,931 if you don’t qualify for VA Housebound or Aid and Attendance.

$17,024 if you qualify for VA Housebound benefits

$23,238 if you qualify for aids and attendance

Q6: What’s the net worth limit to be eligible for Veterans Pension benefits?

From December 1, 2020, to November 30, 2021, the net worth limit to be eligible for Veterans Pension benefits is $130,773.

On October 18, 2018, we changed the way we assess net worth to make the pension entitlement rules clearer. Net worth includes your and your spouse’s assets and annual income. When you apply for Veterans Pension benefits, you’ll need to report all of these assets and income.

Note: If your child’s net worth is more than the net worth limit, we don’t consider them to be a dependent when we determine your pension.

Read our definitions below:

Assets:

Assets include the fair market value of all your real and personal property, minus the amount of any mortgages you may have. “Real property” means any land and buildings you may own. Your personal property assets include any of these items:

  • Investments (like stocks and bonds)
  • Furniture
  • Boats

Assets don’t include:

  • Your primary residence (the home where you live most or all of the time)
  • Your car
  • Basic home items like appliances that you wouldn’t take with you if you moved to a new house

Annual income

Annual income is the money earned in a year from a job or from retirement or annuity payments. It includes any of these:

  • Salary or hourly pay
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Overtime
  • Tips

We’ll subtract certain expenses from your annual income when we assess net worth. We call these applicable deductible expenses. They include:

  • Educational expenses
  • Medical expenses you’re not reimbursed for

Q7: How do I apply for VA pension?

The form should take an estimated 1-2 hours to complete. You can get the Go to VA website. After receiving, spend the time and look it over. After completing, you can mail the application in.  and fill out VA Form 21-P527EZ Application for Veterans Pension.

WHERE TO SEND COMPLETED APPLICATION AND EVIDENCE

When you have completed this application, mail it to the Pension Intake Center listed below. Be sure to attach any
materials that support and explain your claim. Also, make a photocopy of your application and all supporting material you submit to VA before mailing it.

Mail To:

Department of Veterans Affairs Pension Intake center

PO Box 5365 Janesville, WI 53547-5365

IMPORTANT: If you are a veteran who is claiming pension and you are age 65 or older or determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration, you DO NOT have to submit medical evidence with your application unless you are claiming special monthly pension. Special monthly pension is an increased amount paid to individuals who, due to mental or physical disability, require the aid of another person to perform activities of daily living, are a patient in a nursing home, have severe visual problems, or are substantially confined to his or her home.

Events/Meetings

May 15, 2021, Saturday Vietnam Memorial Wall 2021, dedication Bicentennial Park, Fall River, MA, 12:00PM. This wall is a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

May 16, 2021, Sunday, 3rd Annual Veterans’ Home Bike Show sponsored by the East Providence Elks Riders, Elks’ Lodge, 60 Berkley Street, East Providence RI 1:00-3:00pm.

Show off your bike and have a good time. A Committee of Rhode Island Veterans Home residents will be the judges, via virtual. All proceeds benefit the RI Veterans Home residents.

_____

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.