While many federal programs will be shrinking under the directives of the Trump Administration, some benefit types are being expanded or added to the Department of Veteran Affairs’ system. The bundle of legislation that Congress passed in December of 2020 is known as the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act of 2020.
The VA’s annual budget has swelled up over the past twenty years, and it now stands at five times the amount it was at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Almost no lawmakers oppose this additional funding since the money has started new programs and types of treatment that expand VA benefits and coverage. New initiatives for 2021 include a focus on mental health and better hiring and management practices for the VA itself.
There are also many changes being made to existing benefits schemes that may after a large portion of veterans. The best time to confirm your coverage and look at new programs is right now. Do not be caught unprepared or unaware of new ways to save money or receive additional federal compensation.
If you need assistance navigating the ever-changing landscape of government programs for veterans, or a claim or application you made may have been unfairly or incorrectly rejected, seek help. Many attorneys specialize in VA claims and cases, and because they know veterans have a hard enough time, many offer a free case review for new potential clients.
Part of the new legislation lays out the foundation for a brand new income channel for the VA by offering life insurance. Starting in 2023, this new VA benefits system will start to offer life insurance to every single disabled veteran under 81 without exception. This rule makes the new insurance scheme better for many veterans than the currently established Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
While the VGLI offers comparable planes to this new system, it requires veterans to enroll within sixteen months of their discharge date. This time limit can make enrollment challenging for some veterans since the transition to civilian life often includes a long and challenging search for civilian employment. The added expense of life insurance, especially for cash-strapped veterans hoping for a safer life, just does not always make sense.
A new initiative for the VA is to begin paying to transport deceased veterans’ remains to state and tribal veterans cemeteries. Currently, the VA will only pay to transport bodies to national veterans cemeteries, which can be inconvenient for a lot of families during a difficult time.
The Department of Veteran Affairs will also start offering an option of an urn instead of the complimentary headstone. The VA is also working to provide more free engraving services for veterans’ headstones.
Medal of Honor Pension Expansion
The Medal of Honor is one of the most well-known awards for military service. Under the new legislation, the monthly pension will be granted to the surviving spouse of Medal of Honor awardees when the military service member dies.
The Medal of Honor pension is $1388.98 per month for 2020, although it is supposed to be adjusted for inflation each year. It is important to note that surviving spouse beneficiaries of the Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) are not eligible for this new provision to the Medal of the Honor pension program.
Upcoming 2020 Budget Cuts
While some VA benefits programs are being expanded, other parts of the federal budget were cut by the past Presidential administration that will directly impact millions of veterans. If you are unsure about your coverage in the future, seek the help of professional advice.
Veterans that are not approved for VA healthcare coverage often end up using Medicaid, Medicare, or alternative veteran program TRICARE. These programs serve millions of veterans, and if you or your family’s health insurance plan is through one of these channels, make sure your plan will continue to be available.