By Bud Harton
I have previously retired as a police officer and as a solder, but the third time I retired it was from the VA where I was a Veterans Rating Specialist. A rating specialist is the person who actually makes decisions on veterans claims and issues and award or denial decisions. I was an adjudicator, I made these kind of decisions . . .
President Obama had nothing to do with this. I retired from the VA in 2007 and this had been on-going since before 1999 when I hired on there after being medically retired from the Army.
As is often the case, this all comes down to money. The vet was living on a non-serviced connected disability pension. That is, Congress years ago created a veteran’s pension for those veterans of war time service (service on active duty during a war time period and defined by any period when the National Defense service Medal is awarded). This pension is granted by “need,” that is, by a veteran’s low income. It is an income granted based on the family’s low income.
The vet wanted more monthly income every month. He is not receiving service connected disability compensation but instead is receiving non-service connected disability pension.
Non-service connected (NSC) disability pension is granted to war time service (they don’t have to have been in combat, just served during a period when the National Defense Medal was authorized) veterans who have low incomes. This benefit was enacted by Congress because many veterans later in life do not have enough income to live. It is based entirely on honorable service during a war time period, inability to work and low family income.
NSC veterans pension is based on income. That is, whatever income you are receiving (such as Social Security) is deducted from the monthly NSC pension check. With no income coming in, a vet with a spouse would receive about $17,000 per year. If he was receiving income (all family income is included) it would be deducted, for example, if a vet has $12,000 yearly income, the VA NSC pension would be reduced to only $5,000.00 per year.
The only way you can change this is by asking for an increase because the Vet has a need for “aid and attendance”. Aid and Attendance means that because of physical or mental disabilities, the Vet needs the help of another person to handle everyday problems such as getting dressed, feeding him/herself, ambulating and even taking care of financial affairs. Getting a grant of aid and attendance for NSC veterans pension brings up the yearly amount to about $25,000 per year.
That was what the vet wanted, more money and that is what the article glosses over.
Please understand this; the veteran asked the VA to award an increase based on his need for aid and attendance of another person to handle his financial affairs and asked to have his wife appointed as his fiduciary. If he was being advised by one of the service organizations like the American Legion, the DAV, VFW, etc., then they didn’t tell him that as a result of his request, he was going to become a prohibited person according to Federal law.
Once he made his request, the VA had no option but to schedule him for a Compensation and Pension medical examination at a VA medical facility. During that exam, the veteran must have told the VA examiner (a VA med doctor or psychologist) that he no longer wanted to control his finances and wanted his wife to handle his financial affairs. This had to have happened for the VA medical examiner to report to the VA Regional Office (where vet claims are decided) and for a VA rating specialist make the decision to grant the veteran’s request, award him a greater monthly payment and note that the veteran was deemed incompetent based on his own (the veteran’s) statement to competent medical authority.
Once that award was entered into the computer to generate a decision and an increase in payment now being paid to his named fiduciary, the computer program reported those facts to the FBI’s NICS system The VA routinely interfaces for financial information with borth the SSA and the IRS and also, in this case, the NICS.
There are only three basic causes that will enable a grant for aid and attendance; Permanent admission to a skilled nursing facility; paralysis, major amputation or being adjudicated as incompetent to handle his/her own affairs.
The only option open for the vet to apply for more money was “aid and attendance” and the only qualification he would have to get aid and attendance was to have himself adjudicated as incompetent to handle his own affairs.
As far as having his wife’s name placed on the check (yes I aware that it will actually be an electronic deposit) stop[and think a moment. For the wife to legally accept and disburse the money that her husband earned, the only way that can legally happen is to have his benefits paid directly to her.
This is another lesson in “follow the money”. It appears that the VA did a nasty, but only because of bad reporting. They conveniently left out the real facts of the case.
Now, as far as the weapons go, that is not on the VA. The Department of Justice decided years ago that anyone adjudicated as incompetent loses their right to own, possess or purchase firearms. They demanded and received access to VA records and anyone having a fiduciary assigned to monitor the veterans finances, has their information turned over to FBI and entered into the National database.
So moving down the road into this specific situation, what was the VA doing?
They were trying, in their bureaucratic way, to protect the vet. That’s because – and I know this will be hard to believe – there are really bad people who will actually steal a vet’s money given the chance. The VA goes to great lengths to prevent this and one of the many methods is to have a Field Examiner assigned to a geographical area who’s sole duty is to visit veterans and their fiduciaries and to ask to verify that the veteran’s pension money is actually being used to support the veteran and only to his/her benefit.
I had huge problems with the VA and after eight years of working for them, I knew push was going to come to shove, and I paid sixteen years of my military time (more than $10,000.00) into the Federal Employees Retirement System so that when push did come to shove I could walk away. That happened in March, 2007.