In light of the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19, many Americans across the country have seen their lives suffer. Veterans and military families are no exception and have experienced both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
The Veterans Administration (VA) has adjusted its operations and existing programs during the COVID-19 outbreak, but veterans’ benefits and services should not be affected. Veterans will continue to receive their benefits and survivors will continue to be provided.
However, more help is available for veterans in need of financial assistance as a result of the pandemic.
VA Compensation and Pension Benefits
Tens of thousands of veterans can access VA benefits. But during the pandemic, VA has changed how it administers and processes these benefits. For their safety and security, especially for those with underlying health conditions, all 56 regional VA offices are closed to the public for in-person services.
Compensation and disability evaluations usually done in person are currently evaluated electronically, via “tele-C&P” exams, virtual-tele-compensation and pension. Regional offices continue to operate, but now communications with health care providers, which determine how much money veterans can get, are being made via computer.
There is a significant backlog of these benefit cases and the pandemic added to it, delaying access to health care and other benefits. Veterans can wait more than 125 days for a decision. “These benefits are worth tens of millions of dollars to veterans amid the pandemic,” informs Gregory Cade, an attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a community toxic exposure law firm in Alabama.
During the pandemic, VA makes it possible for veterans to submit late claims and appeals, alongside requests for extensions on submissions.
Exceptionally, the appeals for veterans diagnosed with COVID-19 will be expedited.
VA Caregiver Support
Veterans in need of home-based care and their families are eligible to receive money to cover various necessary services by participating in the Veteran Directed Care program.
The CARES Act has made special provisions to help veterans in need of home-based care navigate the uncertain path ahead. During the pandemic, no in-home visits will be required and they can enroll or renew their participation in the program through telehealth or telephone.
Veterans and their caregivers who can’t get to the post office or a printer due to COVID-19 will not be penalized for sending in late paperwork. Also, their caregiver can still be paid for services, even if they are out of their home state and can’t travel due to COVID-19 restrictions and health concerns.
Other Military-Focused Efforts
A good starting point for veterans who suffer from COVID-19’s economic impact would be their branch’s relief organization, such as the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) or Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
Also, veterans and their families can get help for expenses not covered by current military support systems from several organizations:
- The Red Cross works in conjunction with military relief societies to provide help.
- Operation Homefront has a financial assistance program.
- The Gary Sinise Foundation has a dedicated emergency Covid-19 campaign that provides financial assistance to veterans and service members.
- PenFed Foundation has launched a COVID-19 relief fund. The program has closed after receiving over 6,000 applications in four days. But it may open again.
Additional Financial Help
Veterans who suffer from serious health conditions, such as cancer, and their immediate family members find themselves in a complicated situation during this period. This is not only because they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 but also because they need to continue their treatment but may lack the financial resources.
Therefore, they need to know that there are other options available to them. For instance, they can access legal help. When veterans are diagnosed with any disease stemming from asbestos exposure that took place in the military, they can recover money from one or more asbestos trusts, whether they already receive benefits from the VA or not.
Also, veteran firefighters who’ve been exposed to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) and suffer from kidney, testicular, pancreatic or liver cancer can seek compensation from chemical manufacturers.
There are many services available to help during this time. Veterans have served, and organizations and lawyers are available and will do all they can to serve them now, during this unprecedented and challenging period.
Environmental Litigation Group P.C. is a national community toxic exposure law firm dedicated to helping victims of occupational exposure to toxic agents, including asbestos and the PFAS in AFFF.