The application process for U.S. Government Benefits is not meant to be easy. In fact, the process has intentionally been made as difficult as possible on the slight chance applicants might give up their efforts to obtain these benefits. This approach doesn’t just apply to veteran benefits; it is about any assistance offered to American Citizens by their government, earned or not.
By contrast, illegal immigrants into the United States have almost direct access to government benefits. We asked a Florida Law Enforcement Officer, who has been dispatched on multiple occasions to assist with border control in Texas, how many illegals were blocked from coming into Texas at his post. His answer was startling.
“None.” They pass through the border guards and go straight to Border Patrol, where they are fingerprinted, handed debit cards, bus tickets, and a cell phone, then sent by the American taxpayers anywhere they want to go.
In an article by New York Post contributor Betsy McCaughey, dated April 15, 2022, she describes the new government policies regarding illegal immigrants as a “Catch and Concierge Experience.”1
For veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, the experience is much different.
Benefits do exist for veterans, a lot of them. However, the road to accessing them is lined with bureaucracy and obstacles, to the detriment of the service members who need them. While the application process for these benefits is daunting, you, the veteran, hold the first level of responsibility. You have to ask for what you have earned. You will only receive it if you ask, so you must take the first step, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Special departments within Florida county governments have been stood up especially to help veterans navigate the benefits bureaucracy. The Veteran Service Officer, or VSO, at your County Veteran Service Office, has been trained and accredited by the VA to aid veterans, their dependents, and survivors. They can help with applying for benefits and identifying benefit eligibility, and there is no cost for their services. A VSO can help you avoid the application errors that can delay the receipt of your benefits.
Am I Worth It?
Hell, yes, you are.
It is all too common to come across a Veteran who says, “I don’t need anything; others deserve it more,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting beyond the barrier of pride to ask for help is a big but necessary step in ensuring you get the best help and information for your situation.
For example, Vietnam Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to highly toxic herbicides, as specified in the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The symptoms associated with Agent Orange exposure can be anything from bladder cancer to hypertension or diabetes. A complete list of the 17 diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure can be found on the VA public health website.2 Working with a VSO could help you discover if your current health could be an effect of your previous military service rather than ailments commonly associated with aging.
In addition to gaining access to information and resources that could be vital to your health and well-being, it is vitally important to understand that the VA calculates the disability back pay they distribute based on the effective date of the disability, not the date you apply for or are approved for benefits. Per the Veterans Disability Info site, “Retroactive disability pay is a lump sum, tax-free payment to cover the gap in time from effective date to award date.” The VA’s website includes a calculator to help you understand what you may be entitled to.3
Retroactive benefit back pay could result in a payment that would undeniably change the veteran’s life and could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. This well-deserved compensation could turn into freedom from years of health-related expenses or a home for any one of the thousands of homeless veterans in this country.
First, though, you must accept that you deserve it.
In the words of Ryan Pavel, Marine, “I think, though I can’t quite be sure, that had I been shot in the kneecap and collected compensation for loss of the full use of my leg, I would feel less guilty about compensation. The event in service would be completely clear – a bullet entered, served its wicked purpose, and continues to impact my quality of life to this day. Case closed.
But to collect a monthly compensation for a cluster of symptoms feels like a gross abuse of the system.”4
Just Another Number
We understand that going through the process of obtaining VA benefits is daunting. Per a Veterans Benefits Administration report, there are almost 300,000 backlogged benefits claims as of October 28, 2023. 5 Without someone knowledgeable to guide you, your claim could become a backlogged file on an overflowing desk somewhere. Do not go down this road alone. Seek the help provided to you at no cost through your local VSO. Or receive a free veteran claim evaluation from FortheVets.com.
Your service to your country has more than earned you the support and benefits available from the government to help you live your best life in your retirement. You deserve all the assistance you are eligible for. Let your County Veteran Service Office help you navigate the black hole of benefits to the brighter future waiting on the other side.
See our Story on page____________________________
4Excerpt from A Presumption of Guilt: The Uncomfortable Identity of a ‘Disabled’ Veteran Who Feels Like an Imposter, Ryan Pavel, Marine, The War Horse, https://thewarhorse.org/disabled-military-veterans-feel-guilt-of-imposter-syndrome/