KOSCIUSKO — More than half of America’s veterans report having little or no understanding of the benefits available to them despite efforts made in recent years by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to increase awareness.
Kosciusko County Veteran Affairs Officer Rich Maron wants to educate area veterans about benefits they may qualify for.
It’s not just career military veterans who can qualify for benefits, Maron points out. In general, veterans who served before 1980 only need to meet the minimum requirement of 90 days of active duty and a discharge other than dishonorable to qualify for benefits.
Any veteran who served after1980 must have served 24 continuous months of active duty or have served the full period for which they were called to active duty.
Vietnam veterans and/or their survivors may be missing out on substantial payments they are entitled to receive as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Until the 1990s, the government only recognized one illness, a skin condition known as chloracne, as being related to Agent Orange. Over the years, however, the list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange has expanded and now includes other ailments.
Diseases currently included in the VA’s Agent Orange list are Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, porphyria cutanea tarda, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s Disease, peripheral neuropathy, chloracne, AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, early-onset peripheral neuropathy and soft tissue sarcomas.
“There may be VA hospital benefits available to you,” said Maron. “If your income is extremely low you may be available for a pension. If you are elderly and in need of nursing home care, assisted living or home healthcare you may qualify for a substantial amount of money to help toward your care.”
“There are tons of people out there who have no clue,” Maron stated. “There are tons of people out there who don’t have insurance — and they’re veterans — and I could have them come in, help them.”
“The lady who just walked out of here,” Maron said, indicating a female who had just left his office, “Her husband is in the system, but she didn’t realize she qualifies for benefits as well. They’re not doing well. She lost her job and doesn’t have any benefits.”
Maron explained that he asked the female how long she had served and she replied that it had only been 18 months. Maron told her that if she served before 1981 she may still qualify.
“We looked it up. She was in from 78’ to 80’ — she’s good to go,” said Maron, “So she’s been sitting here fretting and nervous – one thing led to the next and — boom — I’m gonna help her get into the healthcare system. She was in tears because she had no idea.”
Maron can provide information related to the VA healthcare system, pharmacy assistance, service-connected disability compensation, pensions for wartime veterans and widows of wartime veterans, vocational rehabilitation, burial benefits, educational benefits, financial aid for wartime veterans and widows in need of nursing home/assisted living/home healthcare, veteran job placement assistance, suicide prevention and homelessness.
“I am asking that, if you have never been in my office before, let me speak with you about the many possible VA benefits that could be a tremendous blessing to you and your family,” said Maron. “I look forward to meeting you and I thank you for your service to our great country.”
To schedule an appointment with Maron, call (574) 551-4343. The office is located at the County Justice Building, 121 N. Lake St., Warsaw. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.