Benefits exist for Montezuma County veterans

Editor’s note:

I would like to introduce you to Rick Torres, Montezuma County Veterans Service officer. Rick moved his family from Florida after being hired in April. He and Bud Carriere have had more time to concentrate on veterans needs as well as hospital, home and assisted-living visits in the county. If you have met Rick, you know that he is dedicated to serving veterans in the county. He also participates with the veterans organizations when he has time. – Robert Valencia

Many Vietnam veterans still have a bitter taste in their mouths about their service, and many young men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have not filed for benefits. Do yourselves a favor and visit the Montezuma County service officer. You owe it to yourselves and your family.

Many Colorado veterans are unaware of benefits that they earned through their faithful service. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Colorado has more than 395,000 veterans, and each year the VA pays out almost $1.1 million in compensation and pension benefits to Colorado’s veterans who filed successful claims. Montezuma County’s veteran population is estimated at slightly less than 2,400, yet many do not receive VA benefits. We at Montezuma County Veteran Services have made it our priority to get the word out to local veterans and their families about the federal and state benefits they deserve.

One of the benefits our wartime veterans and their surviving spouses may receive is the pension benefit. This benefit pays a nontaxable monthly amount based on several factors such as annual household income, net worth and recurring medical expenses. A maximum amount of $2,054 per month is payable to veterans in need of aid and attendance with their activities of daily living and who have at least one dependant. A veteran without a spouse or child may be entitled to $1,038 per month. Surviving spouses of wartime veterans may be entitled to a death pension based on their annual income, net worth and recurring medical expenses as well. The pension benefit is especially helpful in offsetting the cost of living in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

Another benefit is known as disability compensation. This benefit pays specific monthly amounts to veterans for injuries or illnesses they incurred in the military. Many of our Vietnam veterans are unaware they may be entitled to a monthly benefit if they’ve been diagnosed for certain illnesses related to exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange. Prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, Hodgkin’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, respiratory cancers and some skin cancers are a few of these recognized illnesses. Monthly nontaxable payments range from $129 per month to $2,816 per month for a single veteran.

The VA health-care system serves veterans worldwide whether or not they have insurance. VA health care is not an insurance plan, but it meets the guidelines under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which could save a veteran thousands of dollars each year by not having to purchase health insurance. Veterans may apply for access to VA Healthcare; however, there is a means test based on annual household income and net worth.

For more information about accessing your VA and Colorado state veterans benefits, call our office at 564-2779 and ask to speak with Montezuma County Veteran Service Officers Rick Torres or Bud Carriere. We are in the Annex at 107 N. Chestnut St., Suite 3 in Cortez.

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