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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Announces Rollout and Application Process for New Veterans ID Card
Specially Adapted Housing for Wounded Warriors and Disabled Veterans
Are you a Veteran with a severe service-connected disability that affects your mobility? Do you know someone who is? The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the Specially Adapted Housing program, designed to help severely disabled Veterans and Servicemembers purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. Two grant programs exist: the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant.
We want to ensure anyone who might qualify knows about this program.
The SHA grant is designed to help disabled Veterans and Servicemembers by providing a barrier-free living environment, such as a wheelchair accessible home, that affords Veterans a level of independent living they may not otherwise enjoy. Veterans and Servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities (including loss/loss of use of both lower extremities) may be entitled to a grant for the purpose of constructing or modifying a home to meet their adaptive needs, up to the current maximum of $70,465.
The SHA grant can be used to increase the mobility of eligible Veteran and Servicemembers throughout their residences. Veterans and Servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities (including severe visual impairment or loss/loss of use of both hands) may be entitled to this type of grant, up to the current maximum of $14,093.
For those who do not yet own a home, a temporary grant may be available to SAH/SHA eligible Veterans and Servicemembers who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member. The maximum amount available to adapt a family member’s home for the SAH grant is $30,934 and for the SHA grant is $5,523.
VA has staff located nationwide to assist individuals in applying for and receiving these grants. You can find more detailed information about qualifying disabilities here: http://benefits.va.gov/homeloans/adaptedhousing.asp, and you can find contact information for an SAH Agent in your area here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/contact_agents.asp.
Each Veteran’s housing/living needs are as unique as their physical disabilities. The Specially Adapted Housing program provides hands-on, personalized, customized service to severely disabled Veterans seeking home adaptations.
Other quick reference information can be found on our SAH graphic at: http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/infographics/special_adaptive_housing.html#sthash.fO5MRl0b.dpbs. Please feel free to use this in your newsletters, community spaces or publications.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates to Choice Act - In-State Tuition for GI Bill
There has been an update on Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (“Choice Act”) as it pertains to the in-state tuition provision – Section 702.
The in-state tuition provision requires VA to disapprove programs of education under the Post-9/11 and Montgomery GI Bill programs at public institutions of higher learning if the schools charge qualifying Veterans, spouses, and dependents tuition and fees in excess of the rate for resident students for terms that begin after July 1, 2015. As such, any schools that do not meet the requirements will be disapproved for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill benefits.
Students Eligible for In-State Tuition under Section 702 are:
- A Veteran who lives in the state in which the institution of higher learning is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within three years of discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
- A spouse or child using transferred benefits who lives in the state in which the institution of higher learning is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within 3 years of the transferor’s discharge from a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
- A spouse or child using benefits under the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship who lives in the state in which the institution of higher learning is located (regardless of his/her formal state of residence) and enrolls in the school within three years of the Servicemember’s death in the line of duty following a period of active duty service of 90 days or more.
- The following is a link providing additional information: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/school_resources.asp
The law affecting in-state tuition charges is effective for terms starting after July 1, 2015. Our initial review of all states and territories indicate that none are fully compliant with the law – some are more compliant than others. We are making every effort to ensure all states understand the requirements to comply. We have reached out to all state Governors, our State Approving Agencies and a wide variety of others to ensure they know the ramifications of not complying with the Choice Act.
Public institutions must offer in-state tuition and fees to all eligible individuals identified above by July 1, 2015, to be eligible to receive payments for training on or after that date. It is anticipated that VA will not issue payments for any students eligible for VA benefit payments until the school complies. Much can/could happen between now and July 1, 2015 but we like to provide what we know for the moment.
Legal aid to military veterans
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina advocacy group is joining a Columbia-based law firm and the Dorn VA Medical Center to offer legal aid to military veterans.
Medical Center spokesman Kevin McIver announced Thursday that the Appleseed Legal Justice Center is working with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Law Firm on the pro-bono legal clinic for low-income veterans called Lawyers 4 Vets.
The clinic starts May 15 at the VA Medical Center in Columbia. Veterans may make appointments on the third Thursday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon.
Attorneys will assist veterans with obtaining identification papers, child support and visitation issues, obtaining pardons or clearing legal records, simple wills and powers of attorney, among other matters.
Veterans may call 1.877.289.6000; volunteer attorneys should call the Appleseed Center at 803.779.1113.
Beware of VA pension scams
As a veteran, beware of pension advance products that offer to pay military retirees a lump-sum payout in return for their monthly retirement payments. The products may amount to payment of only pennies on the dollar and the advances are reported to carry interest rates from 27 percent to 106 percent, which can threaten a safe retirement.
There are many pension advance companies on the Internet, often with patriotic-sounding names and logos. If you’re offered a pension advance, stay away from arrangements that allow a creditor to access the account where you get your benefits. Instead, get trusted financial expert advice if you need emergency funds.
Additionally, some individuals and companies use VA’s Aid & Attendance pension benefits as a hook to sell service. The Aid & Attendance benefit is for eligible disabled veterans who require the aid and attendance of another person, or who are housebound. Individuals or companies looking to sell their services may offer to help veterans obtain Aid & Attendance benefits, but they often require customers to sign up for financial services first, then they move assets into irrevocable trusts for qualification.
When being solicited, watch out for:
- A lawyer or veteran adviser who offers to get the Aid & Attendance benefit for a fee. Federal law prohibits VA accredited advisers from charging to assist with VA claims. However, at times a “consultation fee” is charged up front.
- A claim from a paid adviser stating that he or she can get the benefit for you more quickly than anyone else. All VA claims must go through the standard evaluation process, which no one can bypass to get t done faster.
- An offer to help financially secured veterans qualify for Aid & Attendance by taking control of their finances and moving assets into inaccessible trusts. This may disqualify a veteran from other benefits.
- Retirement homes using the lure of Aid & Attendance to get veterans to move in on the implied promise that they will get the benefit. If the claim is denied, the veteran may not be able to afford to remain in the facility.
(Source: The American Legion Dispatch, April 2014)
If you have any questions about VA pension benefits, including Aid & Attendance, please contact your local county veterans affairs office. Their contact information can be found on our website under the ‘Contact’ tab.