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I'm OK while should I file for benefits?

From American Ex-POW Service Foundation,

Fall 2004, Vol. 4, Issue 1

Many POWs across the country seem to have the notion they are not worthy of, or entitled to, or don't need the many benefits available to them through the VA.

It's a source of puzzlement and frustration for those NSOs, AXPOW members, and the hardworking men and women at the Department of Veterans Affairs who try so hard to be sure each and every POW is awarded the compensation he has earned. Every POW deserves payment for his time in captivity as well as for the residual effects that have colored his whole life. Just ask the wives and children.

There are many reasons for this attitude.

For one thing, today's VA is not the VA of a decade or two ago. Many veterans sought help soon after they returned from war, only to find the mindset of the employees they ran into seemed to be focused on denying benefits and treatment — not encouraging servicemen and women to file claims and seek help. That's no longer the case. The VA is actively searching out ex-POWs and trying hard to handle compensation cases promptly, putting World War II POW claims at the top of the list.

In the bad old days, just after the war, most VA patients were treated in a hospital setting, often requiring many months of inpatient treatment. All the former POWs wanted to do was try to pick up their lives and forget, in so far as possible, the trauma they had lived through. They had jobs and wives and families, and couldn't spend three months locked up in a hospital.

Well, almost all treatment today is done on an outpatient basis. And the VA has opened satellite clinics in many areas, reducing the need to travel to a VA medical center. So there's little excuse for not utilizing the treatment available.

And that includes dental care, free eyeglasses and optical exams, as well as hearing aids . . . all items not covered by Medicare or by most medical insurance plans.

Then there is the POW who feels he doesn't "need" the money that a compensation claim might provide. Now there may be some POWs who have more money than they can ever figure out how to spend, but I sure don't know any.

There are two compelling reasons to file for compensation and try to get up to 100 percent: D.I.C. and ChampVA.

If a POW is married, there is no excuse for not trying to qualify for these benefits for your wife.

If you predecease your wife, and let's face it, most wives are slightly younger than their husbands and women generally live longer, most of your income will disappear. Social Security gets cut in half; any disability compensation is gone; and probably so is any pension you have. DIC, the veteran's death benefit, will pay your wife almost $1,000 per month. That's a whole lot better than nothing.

So how does a wife qualify for DIC payments? There are two ways: you have to die from a service-connected cause or you have to have had a 100 percent disability rating (from any cause including unemployability) for one year.

Unless you file for compensation, your wife will be out of luck unless you can assure her you will be sure to die from a service-connected ailment and not get hit by a truck. Isn't it easier to try to get your 100 percent rating?

How else can you help your wife? If you are rated at 100 percent, she is automatically eligible for ChampVA. This is a fee-for-service medical insurance that pays anything Medicare does not. And it's FREE! That's right . . . free. Doesn't cost to sign up; doesn't cost to use. And it has a nifty prescription plan built in. If you have no other prescription coverage, medications can be requested by mail for nothing. If you have a plan, you can submit the balance to ChampVA for some reimbursement. You can even be reimbursed for copays to other insurance companies.

You can't lose. It's federally mandated and funded, so they can't change the ground rules and take it away from you like so many company-sponsored health plans.

You've never earned money or benefits harder. You deserve everything the VA has to give. Contact an NSO now to file your claim.