Since the draw-down of forces in Iraq, and with the expected return of thousands of soldiers from Afghanistan in the coming years, it is becoming very clear that the new generation of Veterans don't know a lot about Veterans Benefits.
In fact, the single most common question I get by email is "What is Veteran Affairs". In future blog posts, I am going to focus on some of the basics of Veterans Benefits for OIF/OEF Veterans that may not be familiar with the benefits that they are entitled to.
What is Veteran Affairs?
The US Department of Veterans Affairs provides patient care and federal benefits to veterans, and in some cases their dependents and survivors.
Also known as the VA, it is one of the largest Federal government Agencies. It is organized in 3 parts: the VHA, the VBA, and the National Cemetery Administration.
1. VHA (Veterans Health Administration)
The largest of the 3 Administrations within the VA, the VHA administers Veteran Health Care Programs.
The VHA consists of 1,400 Outpatient Treatment Centers and Hospitals, staffs overt 255,000 employees, and is connected to over 107 Academic Health Systems. The VA claims that over 65% of physicians in the US have trained in VA facilities.
Veterans seeking health care must apply, at which time they are assigned to one of the Eight Priority Groups:
Visit this link to learn which Veterans are included in each of the 8 Priority Groups
2. VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration).
The VBA administers Title 38 VA Benefits claims including claims for service-connected disability compensation, veteran and survivor pensions, education benefits, housing benefits and assistance, home loans, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and many other veterans assistance services.
The VBA is organized into 56 Regional Offices (or VAROs as they are sometimes called). There are VAROs in every state, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The VARO receives the claim, develops the evidence to support the claim, and issues an initial decision on the claim. Click here to find your VA Regional Office
The BVA is also a part of the VBA. The BVA is the Board of Veterans Appeals. After the VARO regional office decides a claim, a Veteran has a chance to appeal any part of the VA's decision he or she disagrees with to the BVA. There are only 64 Veterans Law Judges, 12 of whom are "supervisory" , and they handle approximately 38,000 Veterans Benefits Appeals each year.
3. National Cemetery Administration.
In the 1970s, the Department of the Army transferred the National Cemetery Administration to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This portion of the VA administers funeral benefits for Veterans - including military burials, markers, funerals and honors, certificates and flags, and burial reimbursement for some veterans.
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