Bill Harding, Veterans Hotline
Bill Harding's "Veterans Hotline" column appears in the Craig Daily Press
It appears a "Veteran's Stimulus" one-time payment of $250 may be paid to some qualifying veterans by this summer.
To be eligible for the $250 payment, Department of Veterans Affairs beneficiaries must have received compensation, pension, dependency and indemnity compensation, or spina bifida benefits at any time between November 2008 and January 2009.
Also, beneficiaries must reside within the United States or Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
No application is necessary.
VA will use its existing payment records to determine eligibility for the $250 payment. Beneficiaries will receive their payments the same way they receive their monthly VA benefits, either by direct deposit or mail.
VA will inform beneficiaries and the public when releasing the payments. This payment is not countable in determining eligibility for VA pension or Parents' DIC.
The law allows one $250 payment per individual, which is tax-free.
VA beneficiaries who also receive benefits from the Social Security Administration or Railroad Retirement Board will be paid through those agencies and therefore will not receive the payment from VA.
More details, including VA stimulus project timelines, will be available after May 1.
Veterans can apply for "hardship" VAHC enrollment
For veterans struggling financially because of a job loss or decreased income, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health care or provide care at no cost.
"With the downturn in the economy, VA recognizes that many veterans will feel the effects," the new secretary of Veterans Affairs said. "Therefore, it is important that eligible veterans learn of the many ways VA has to help them afford the health care they have earned."
Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds because of a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback.
Veterans determined eligible because of hardship can avoid co-pays applied to veterans with higher income. Qualifying veterans may be eligible for enrollment and receive health care at no cost.
Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone, who are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.
Any honorably discharged veteran that may be experiencing hardship issues are urged to stop by the nearest VSO office and see if we can re-qualify you for VA health care.
Paid-up SBP premiums stop for eligible retirees
An article in the Defense Finance & Accounting Service Retired Pay newsletter states that the effective date on the Paid-up Survivor Benefit Plan arrived Oct. 1, 2008.
As of that date, all military retirees at least 70 years of age who have paid SBP premiums for at least 360 months - or 30 years - no longer are required to make monthly payments.
About 13,000 retirees qualify for this paid-up status.
Members who have met the criteria after Oct. 1 also will achieve paid-up status once they meet the age and number of premium paid months. No actions are required, and the DFAs will notify members about their status.
There will be a dispute period until June 30 if you think you are eligible. All disputes must be made by completing a Department of Defense Form 2656-11.
You can go online at www.dfas.mil or go to the nearest VSO office.
Veterans signing up for social security benefits
Veterans signing up for their social security benefits should take along their discharge papers, form DD-214.
There are potential increases in the amounts received for honorable military service and overseas assignments over what veterans received from stateside non-military employers.
Local upcoming events
Hometown Heroes picnic will be held at City park, adjacent to the VFW club, May 16. More info will follow.
Memorial Day Services will be held in Craig at the cemetery on Ashley Road at 11 a.m. and then at the Maybell cemetery at 3 p.m. More information will be available in the coming weeks.
Grand Ole West Days parade will be lead by the veterans trailer and flag display. The parade is May 23 at 3 p.m. All veterans are urged to attend and ride the float.
For information about these programs and/or other veterans' benefits, call 970-824-3246, or stop in the Moffat County VSO office at 480 Barclay St. (west of the Bank of Colorado parking lot).
Veterans may also reach the office by fax at 970-824-7108. Our e-mail address is email@example.com. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Other times can be arranged by appointment only. Bring a copy of your separation papers (DD-214) for application for VA programs and for filing at our office.