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VA Benefits in Brief


Erie County Veteran Service Officers will help you navigate the Department of Veterans Affairs' bureaucracy, and our services are free. We will help with gathering the information necessary to support a claim, filing the claim, and tracking the claim through the VA system. We can also assist with filing appeals for denied claims. We strongly recommend that you make use of the services provided by County Veterans Service Officers. Our expertise can help you avoid the pitfalls and delays that missing paperwork or improperly filled out claim forms can cause.

Additionally, the Erie County Veterans Service Agency (ECVSA) can review all possible veterans benefits and programs, including state and local benefits. The Director and his staff are representatives and, as such are authorized by the Veterans Administration to present claims for further development, institute appeals from Veterans Administration decisions, and follow through to final disposition with representation in Washington. The Office of Veterans Services offers a personalized service not available from other sources. Please contact our office at 716-858-6363 or Email us at: veterans@erie.gov with any questions you may have about the following summary of VA benefits.

A Summary of VA Benefits

Who Is Eligible

You may be eligible for VA benefits if you are:

  • a veteran
  • a veteran's dependent
  • a surviving spouse, child or parent of a deceased veteran
  • an active duty military service member
  • a member of the Reserve or National Guard

Benefits and Services Available:

Compensation

VA can pay you monthly compensation if you are at least 10% disabled as a result of your military service. Service-connected disabilities rated at 0% will still be treated by the VA medical center.

ECVSA Note: A recent New York State constitutional amendment eliminated the requirement that veterans who were disabled in the actual performance of duty in any war be receiving disability payments from the United State Veterans Administration in order to qualify for additional points on a civil service examination for appointment or promotion. Under the proposed amendment, the disability must only be certified to exist by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. This means that veterans with a 0% disability rating by the VA qualify for additional points on the civil service examination for appointments or promotion.

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Pension

You can receive a monthly pension if you are a wartime veteran with limited income, and you are permanently and totally disabled or at least 65 years old.

ECVSA Note: Erie County veterans or their surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of nature may qualify for a VA special pension benefit called Aid and Attendance. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies. Additionally, nursing home or assisted living facility residents who receive $50 a month for their personal use from Medicaid may also receive an additional $90 per month from the VA. A veteran may also qualify for a different special pension benefit called Housebound.

A veteran may also be eligible for Housebound pension benefits when the veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises, OR, the veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.

The following are the periods of war used as reference to establish eligibility for pension benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • World War II. December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.
  • Korean conflict. June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955, inclusive.
  • Vietnam era. The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in all other cases.
  • Persian Gulf War, Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Beginning August 2, 1990, through date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law (current).
  • Future dates. The period beginning on the date of any future declaration of war by the Congress and ending on a date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or concurrent resolution of the Congress.

ECVSA Note: In addition to meeting the criteria for serving active duty during a "period of war", a veteran or their surviving spouse must also meet the health criteria and "countable income" guidelines set forth by the VA in order to qualify for pension benefits.

Time Limits: There is no time limit to apply for Compensation and Pension benefits.

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Health Care

VA provides a number of health care services.

  • Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
  • Domiciliary, nursing home, and community-based residential care
  • Sexual trauma counseling
  • Specialized health care for women veterans
  • Health and rehabilitation programs for
  • Homeless Veterans
  • Readjustment counseling
  • Alcohol and drug dependency treatment
  • Medical evaluation for disorders associated with military service in the Gulf War, or exposure to Agent Orange, radiation, and other environmental hazards

Combat Veterans - VA provides free health care for veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998, for any illness possibly related to their service in that theater.

Time Limits: You have five years from the date of your discharge from active duty on or after January 28, 2003. You have until January 27, 2011, if you were discharged from active duty before January 28, 2003, and were not enrolled as of January 28, 2008.

ECVSA Note: To enroll into the VA Western New York Health Care System you will need complete VA Form 10-10EZ and mail it to: Buffalo VA Medical Center, 3495 Bailey Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14215. For specific questions about your individual enrollment, please call 716-834-9200.

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Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

VA provides assistance to veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment. For veterans with serious service-connected disabilities, VA also offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible. There are five service delivery options available:

  • Reemployment
  • Rapid Access to Employment
  • Self-Employment
  • Employment through Long Term Services, and Independent Living

Assistance to veterans may be provided in the form of job search, vocational evaluation, career exploration, vocational training, educational training and supportive rehabilitation services.

Time Limits: Generally, veterans have 12 years from the date VA informs them that they have at least a 10% rating for a service-connected disability.

ECVSA Note: Additional employment resources and opportunities for the Erie County veterans community are available on our employment page located at http://www.erie.gov/veterans/employment.asp

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Education & Training

VA pays benefits to eligible veterans, reservists, and active duty service members while they are in an approved education or training program. Based on the type of military service, benefit programs are:

  • Active Duty Service: Persons who first entered active duty after June 30, 1985, are generally eligible under the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30). Those who entered active duty for the first time after December 31, 1976, and before July 1, 1985, are generally eligible under the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).
  • Reserve/Guard Service: Benefits are available to Reserve and National Guard members under [a] the Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 1606) who signed a six-year commitment with a reserve unit after June 30, 1985, and remain actively drilling and in good standing with their unit, and [b] the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 1607) who were activated under Federal authority for a contingency operation and served 90 continuous days or more after September 11, 2001.

Time Limits: Generally, veterans have 10 years from the date they were last released from active duty to use their education and training benefits, and Reserve and National Guard members have 14 years from the date they became eligible for the program unless they leave the Selected Reserves before completing their obligation.

ECVSA Note: Honorably Discharged Erie County Veterans who served in combat or have an Expeditionary Medal may qualify for the New York State Veterans Tuition Award. Please call our office to find out more about this great benefit. Also ask us about the Erie County Veterans Service Agency's educational partnership opportunities with local colleges and universities, which include Trocaire College and Medaille College.

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Home Loans

VA offers a number of home loan services to eligible veterans, some military personnel, and certain surviving spouses.

  • Guaranteed Loans: VA can guarantee part of a loan from a private lender to help you buy a home, a manufactured home, a lot for a manufactured home, or certain types of condominiums. VA also guarantees loans for building, repairing, and improving homes.
  • Refinancing Loans: If you have a VA mortgage, VA can help you refinance your loan at a lower interest rate. You may also refinance a non-VA loan.
  • Special Grants: Certain disabled veterans and military personnel can receive grants to adapt or acquire housing suitable for their needs.

ECVSA Note: SONYMA, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Veterans' Affairs, is pleased to offer the Homes for Veterans Program that will enable more U.S. military veterans to buy their first home or move to a different home. A recent change in Federal law enables SONYMA to waive the first-time homebuyer requirement for any veteran (and their spouse or co-borrower) who: Served in active military, naval, or air service and has been discharged or released from their military duties under conditions other than dishonorable. Closing Cost Assistance is available for the Homes for Veterans Program. To apply for a SONYMA loan you must contact one of the Participating Lenders offering the Homes for Veterans Program located statewide.  For additional details, please click on the following links: Features and requirements of the Homes for Veterans Program and Current interest rates for the Homes for Veterans Program.

Time Limits: There is no time limit for a VA home loan.

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Life Insurance

Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is low-cost term life insurance for service members and reservists. Coverage of up to $400,000 begins when you enter the service. Generally, it expires 120 days after you leave the service.

Traumatic SGLI is automatically included in SGLI and provides for payment up to $100,000 for service members who lose limbs or incur other serious injuries.

Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) is renewable term life insurance for veterans who want to convert their SGLI up to an amount not to exceed the coverage you had when you separated from service. You must apply within one year and 120 days from separation.

Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance, also called "RH" Insurance, is for service-connected veterans. Coverage is $10,000. You may be eligible for a $20,000 supplemental policy if you are totally disabled. You must apply for RH within two years of being rated service connected by VA.

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Dependents & Survivors

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is payable to certain survivors of:

  • Service members who died on active duty
  • Veterans who died from service-related disabilities
  • Certain veterans who were being paid 100% VA disability compensation at time of death.

Death Pension is payable to some surviving spouses and children of deceased wartime veterans. The benefit is based on financial need.

Parents' DIC is payable to some surviving parents. The benefit is based on financial need.

VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) shares the cost of medical services for eligible dependents and survivors of certain veterans.

Dependents & Survivors Education & Training: Some family members of disabled or deceased veterans are eligible for education and training benefits.

Home Loans: Certain surviving spouses may be eligible for this benefit.

ECVSA Note: The unremarried surviving spouse of a deceased Erie County Veteran may be eligible to receive a veteran's alternative property tax exemption. Provided that the title to the property is in the name of the veteran's unremarried, surviving spouse, who continues to use the home as the primary residence. In the event both husband and wife are deceased, the exemption can be continued for the veteran's dependent mother, father, child or children under 21 who have legally received the property and who use it as their primary residence.

Time Limits: For education and training benefits, spouses and surviving spouses have 10 years from the date VA first finds them eligible, and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died while on active duty have 20 years. Children are eligible from age 18 to 26. These time limits can sometimes be extended. There are no time limits to apply for the other benefits described above.

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Burial

VA offers certain benefits and services to honor our Nation's deceased veterans.

  • Headstones and Markers: VA can furnish a monument to mark the grave of an eligible veteran.
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC): VA can provide a PMC for eligible recipients.
  • Burial Flag: VA can provide an American flag to drape an eligible veteran's casket.
  • Reimbursement of Burial Expenses: Generally, VA can pay a burial allowance of $2,000 for veterans who die of service-related causes. For certain other veterans, VA can pay $300 for burial and funeral expenses and $300 for a burial plot.
  • Burial in a VA National Cemetery: Most veterans and some dependents can be buried in a VA national cemetery.

Time Limits: There is no time limit to claim reimbursement of burial expenses for a service-related death. In other cases, claims must be filed within two years of the veteran's burial.

ECVSA Note: In addition to the normal benefits provided by law to survivors of deceased veterans, this is the only agency charged with and responsible for processing, at county expense, of the burial of indigent veterans and next-of-kin of veterans.

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Representatives 716-858-6363
VA Inspector General Hotline 800-488-8244
Health Care 877-222-8387
Education & Training 888-442-4551
VA Life Insurance 800-669-8477
Office of SGLI 800-419-1473
CHAMPVA 800-733-8387
Helpline (Agent Orange & Gulf War) 800-749-8387
Direct Deposit 877-838-2778
Headstones (status of claims only) 800-697-6947
Telecommunication Device for Deaf (TDD) 800-829-4833

A specialized service of your ERIE COUNTY GOVERNMENT:

A fully trained office staff, experienced in every detail of claims processing, assures the claimant of efficient, confidential, and sympathetic service with the least possible consumption of time and a minimum of "red tape".

Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Call us at (716) 858-6363 or Email us at: Veterans@erie.gov