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RI Veterans: Did you know? 25 February 22 – John A. Cianci

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

Did you know widows, widowers, and or dependent children could be eligible for a monthly VA pension if the deceased veteran served at least 90 days active duty and the survivor countable income (VA has deductions for medical expenses, etc.) is less than $18, 867 annually.

Did you know to be eligible your net worth must be less than $138,489, which does not include  your primary residence, car, and basic home items.

Did you know the amount could be up to $19,000 annually?

Widows, Widowers, and Dependents Could Be Eligible for Monthly VA Survivors Pension Worth Hundreds

Survivor’s Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit that is payable to a low-income, unmarried surviving spouse of a deceased veteran with wartime service. The pay rate for this benefit has been set by Congress. This pension benefit comes as a monthly payment.

The maximum survivors pension rate is set annually by Congress, and eligibility is based on income and net worth (including assets such as bank accounts, investments, and real estate other than your primary residence, car, and basic home items).

In 2022, the top rate for surviving spouses will range from just under $9,900 a year to about $19,000, depending on whether they have children and qualify for other VA benefits. The actual payment amount is the difference between your income and your maximum pension rate.

What is the VA definition of war-time service for this benefit?

  • For service on or before September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a wartime period.
  • If the Veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, they must have served a total of 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty with a least one day during a wartime period.

VETTIP – The mentorship I have benefited from the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Veterans in advocating and assisting veterans and families taught me ONE basic rule; always guide veteran and or family member to apply for a benefit, and let the VA deny the benefit.

Why?

Because the rules are so complex and always changing. Moreover, if the rules for eligibility changes and benefit previous denied, the applicant could reapply and be entitled to thousands of dollars of retroactive benefits. From first-hand knowledge, and providing assistance, the Italian American War Veterans of the United States ( ITAM) organization assisted widows and family members, many receiving over $50,000 in retroactive benefits, totally estimated $6 million in retroactive in the last two years.

For example, a veteran never served in Vietnam, however, he was on active duty for two years stationed at Fort Devens MA from 1965-1967 during the Vietnam War. The veteran’s service qualifies his widow for the survivor benefit, as long as she meets the other eligibility.

Another example, veteran joined the Rhode Island National Guard (RING) in 1966. He attended basic training and advance individual training at Fort Sill, OK for almost 3 months. He served ten years in the RING and was discharged in 1976. The veteran’s service qualifies his widow for the survivor benefit, as long as she meets the other eligibility.

Last example, Veteran was a member of the reserve or guard and since May 1983. She was activated in January 1991. She was stationed at Fort Picket, VA from February to May 1991 awaiting medical clearance to deploy with her unit. However, her unit returned from Kuwait before she was medically cleared. She was released from active duty in July 1991. The veteran’s service qualifies because (1) at least one day of service was during a time of war (2) veteran completed required active duty she was qualified, which was less than the 24 months of, however eligibility is because the veteran completed the required amount of time activated for.

What are other qualifications for VA Survivor Benefits?

  • A surviving spouse must have married a service member who died on active duty, active-duty training, or inactive duty training, or
  • Married the deceased Veteran before January 1, 1957, or
  • Married the veteran at least one year before the veteran’s passing, or
  • Had a child with the veteran and lived with the Veteran until their death

You can be eligible for dependents or survivors benefits as a divorced common law spouse. Your common law marriage, and divorce, must have been valid under your state’s law, and you must otherwise qualify for the benefits.

Children may be eligible if they are any of the following:

  • Under the age of 18.
  • Between the ages of 18 and 23 and enrolled in a VA-approved educational/training institution.
  • Permanently incapable of self-support prior to the age of 18.

How do I apply for Survivors Pension?

To complete an application, use VA Form 21P-534EZ “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits”, and mail or fax it to the VA Pension Management Center (PVMC)

To submit a pension application to this office, mail it to:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Pension Intake Center
PO Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365

VETTIP – Attach a copy of the veterans DD214 to the application. If you don’t have the DD214, more likely than not, the town or city tax department would have a copy,  if the veteran had requested tax exemption for his military service.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of the VA, if you think you are eligible for the VA survivor fill out the applications. If you need assistance, reach out to veteran organizations service officers who can assist you completing the application and do not charge any veteran or family member for their assistance.

For more information on VA Survivors Benefits, information below was retrieved on February 23, 2022, from VA.gov:

Learn about VA Survivors Pension benefit rates.

Learn about VA Survivors Pension benefit rates. If you qualify for this benefit as a surviving spouse or dependent child, we’ll base your payment amount on the difference between your countable income and a limit that Congress sets (called the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR).

  • Your countable income is how much you earn, including your salary, investment and retirement payments, and any income you may have from your dependents. Some expenses, like non-reimbursable medical expenses (paid medical expenses not covered by your insurance provider), may reduce your countable income.
  • Your MAPR amount is the maximum amount of pension payable to a Veteran, surviving spouse, or child. Your MAPR is based on how many dependents you have and whether you qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. MAPRs are adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases. You can find your current MAPR amount using the tables below.

Example: You’re a qualified surviving spouse with one dependent child. You also qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. Your yearly income is $10,000.

Your MAPR amount = $18,867
Your yearly income = $10,000
Your VA pension = $8,867 for the year (or $739 paid each month)

What’s the net worth limit to be eligible for Survivors Pension benefits?

From December 1, 2021, to November 30, 2022, the net worth limit to be eligible for Survivors Pension benefits is $138,489.

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

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

Read more about how we define “assets”:

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

Read more about how we define “annual income”

An example of net worth and eligibility

If you had $121,000 in assets and $14,000 in annual income, then your net worth would be $135,000. This is less than the net worth limit of $138,489. So, you would be eligible for Survivors Pension benefits.

What’s the 3-year look-back period for asset transfers?

When we receive a pension claim, we review the terms and conditions of any assets the survivor may have transferred in the 3 years before filing the claim.

If you transfer assets for less than fair market value during the look-back period, and those assets would’ve pushed your net worth above the limit for a VA Survivors Pension, you may be subject to a penalty period of up to 5 years. You won’t be eligible for pension benefits during this time.

Note: This new policy took effect on October 18, 2018. If you filed your claim before this date, the look-back period doesn’t apply. (A look-back period never includes a date before October 18, 2018.)

What’s a penalty period?

A penalty period is a length of time when a survivor isn’t eligible for pension benefits, because they transferred assets for less than fair market value during the look-back period. This may apply if those transferred assets would’ve caused the survivor’s net worth to be over the limit mentioned above. However, not every asset transfer is subject to this penalty.

If we determine you’re subject to a pension penalty, we wouldn’t pay pension benefits during the penalty period.

Find your Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) amount

Date of cost-of-living increase: December 1, 2021
Increase factor: 5.9%
Standard Medicare deduction: Actual amount will be determined by SSA based on individual income.

For qualified surviving spouses with at least 1 dependent:

If you have 1 dependent child and…Your MAPR amount is (in U.S. $):
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits 12,951 
You qualify for Housebound benefits 15,144 
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits 18,867 
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you’re the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW) 19,438 

Notes:

  • The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Minimum Income Annuity (MIW) limitation is $9,896.
  • If you have more than 1 child, add $2,523 to your MAPR amount for each additional child.
  • If you have a child who works, you may exclude their wages up to $12,950.
  • If you have medical expenses, you may deduct only the amount that’s above 5% of your MAPR amount ($647 for a surviving spouse with 1 dependent).

For qualified surviving spouses with no dependents:

If you have no dependents and…Your MAPR amount is (in U.S. $):
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits 9,896 
You qualify for Housebound benefits 12,094 
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits 15,816 
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you’re the surviving spouse of a Veteran who served in the Spanish-American War (SAW) 16,456 

Notes:

  • The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Minimum Income Annuity (MIW) limitation is $9,896.
  • If you have medical expenses, you may deduct only the amount that’s above 5% of your MAPR amount ($494 for a surviving spouse with no dependent child).

For qualified surviving children:

If you’re…Your MAPR amount is (in U.S. $):
A qualified surviving child 2,523 

EVENTS

March 19, 2022, 1pm – 5pm, Rhode Island veterans Home, Bristol RI, St Joseph’s and St Patrick day Celebration for resident veterans at the Rhode Island Veterans Home hosted by the Italian American war Veterans of the US, Inc and Auxiliary, Berard Desjarlais American Legion Post #88 and Auxiliary ,  War Car Cruise, and Veterans of Foreign War Post #237    , Bristol RI.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact ITAM at (401) 677-9828 or email itamri4vets@gmail.com for more information on volunteering; looking for volunteer accordion player for Italian music and other traditional Italian and Irish ideas.

March 24, 2022, 2pm, Rhode island Veterans Home, Bristol, RI, women veterans and active-duty women are invited to the annual tea event which also will recognize Women’s Military History.

All Military Active-Duty Women and Women Veterans are invited to the RI

Veterans Home to honor and celebrate the annual tea. All services, all eras,

all wars, please come and enjoy coffee, tea, and refreshments. Recognize

Women’s History Month by telling your stories or listen to stories of Women

who served in the Military, Women who served their country in many ways,

and legacy of achievements.

RESOURCES

AARP offers a free career center for veterans, http://campaigns-aarp-org-stage.targetclose.com/veteran-job-center. The center offers a free course, Veterans Career Advantage,  job search tool for companies seeking veteran employees, link to access what a good resume looks like, and other tips for veterans seeking employment. 

March 11-13, Friday thru Saturday 11am thru 8pm. VFW is hosting a veteran community outreach program at the Warwick Mall, Community Booth. For more information, call Tiger at 401-677-9374 .

DISCOUNTS

Restaurants

Applebee’s – Military Discount … With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2028

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty . Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain.  Last verified 07/31/2028 (PS I had breakfast there on Saturday).

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID

Retailers

Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021

AT&T Wireless Discount
Active Duty, Reserves, National Guard, Spouses and Veterans get 25% off on mobile phone services. Just present identification or proof veteran status to any AT&T store

Bass Pro Shops –  Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source).

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount

“Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items.

Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner, ID.me.

ID.me is our trusted technology partner in helping to keep your personal information safe.

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through ID.me

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer.

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type.

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 15% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at select locations listed below:

Tioque Ave, Coventry RI

Bald Hill Road, Warwick RI

Park Ave, Cranston RI

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get –

1.    Create an Account. Log in or create a Michaels Rewards account.

2.    Get Verified. Provide your military information to get verified instantly.

3.    Go Shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout.

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21.

T-Mobile
T-Mobile offers up to half off military discount wireless plans. Save $25 per line on up to four lines with the Magenta Military signature plan, and $35 per line on up to four lines with the premium plan, Magenta Plus Military. The military programs are available to active-duty military, veterans, retirees, and reservists.

Verizon Fios
Veterans, active-duty military, retirees, and reservists can receive a discount on either new or existing Verizon Fios services (Internet, TV, Landline). Offer includes $10 off Fios Triple Play, $5 off Fios Double Play, or $5 off standalone internet.

Verizon Wireless
Active-Duty military and all Federal Government employees can get 15% discount on monthly plans $35 and above and 25% off accessories.

Xfinity Residential
If you are currently serving in the military or you are a veteran Xfinity offers a $100 Visa® Prepaid card and $25 Xfinity Coupon that can be used toward your next Xfinity On Demand rental or purchase or as a credit toward your bill

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If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward , itamri4vets@gmail.com:  the business’s name , location, and military and veteran discount offered.

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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, itamri4vets@gmail.com, ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)

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To read all columns in this series go to: https://rinewstoday.com/john-a-cianci/

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.