My sense of humor was perfect for the military and I would always rely on humor to combat sadness. However while attending last year’s conference on veterans treatment courts, I was overcome with emotion and cried during the story of a Vietnam veteran who killed his wife in a failed suicide attempt. While there were some […]
Last week I discussed the phenomenon of thousands of our brothers and sisters choosing to live out side of the US. I say thousands, but the number is probably in the tens of thousands because obtaining an accurate count is impossible. It is impossible because many, even most, of us maintain a US mailing address where we show up as residents of these communities. We pay taxes, vote, have our autos registered, and keep our driving licenses in these states where we have a mail box and a bank account. We do this because the US government refuses to “direct deposit” our pension checks to a foreign country and to have a US bank account, we are required to have a US address. So we have a stateside presence while living our daily lives in a foreign country. This is all possible due in most part to the availability of the Internet. The Internet all but completely does away with the need to even visit the US for years at a time.
Virtually all of the benefits available to stateside veterans are available to veterans living abroad. The problem most of us face is that these services are not always available where we live. I have copied the short versions of the most common benefits directly from the VA web site: www.vba.va.gov
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Monthly monetary benefit payable to surviving spouses, certain children, and low-income parents of service members or veterans who died from: a disease or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training, or an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on inactive duty training; or a disability compensable by VA.
Pension Veterans with low incomes may be eligible for this monetary support if they have 90 days or more of active military service, one day of which was during a period of war. The veteran must be permanently and totally disabled for reasons traceable to neither military service nor to willful misconduct
Death Pension Surviving spouses and unmarried children of deceased veteran with wartime service may be eligible for a non service-connected pension based on need.
Education Monetary assistance is available to veterans, surviving spouses and dependent children through the Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty), Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserve), Veterans’ Education Assistance, and Dependents Education Assistance programs.
Vocational Rehabilitation & Counseling An eligible service-connected disabled veteran may receive employment assistance, self -employment assistance, training in a rehabilitation facility, and college and other training needed to overcome an employment handicap caused by his/her service-connected disability. While in training and for 2 months after completing training, eligible veterans may receive subsistence allowances in addition to their disability compensation or retirement pay. Outside of the United States, the veteran must be training in a degree-granting college or university.
Burial Benefits Eligible veterans may be entitled to a burial allowance, a burial flag, a headstone or grave marker, a Presidential Memorial Certificate, and burial in a National cemetery.
Insurance Two regular and two disabled insurance programs are currently open for new policyholders.
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is open to active-duty members of the uniformed services.
Veterans’ Group Life Insurance is available to individuals released from active duty after August 1, 1974, and to reservists.
Service Disabled Insurance is available for veterans with service-connected disabilities.
Education Programs Abroad VA’s Education Service may approve certain education programs for veterans living abroad.
The other US agency that is valuable to the veteran living abroad is the Department of State. These are the people who man the Consulates and Embassies around the world. In a crunch they can make contact with our families and coordinate emergency medical evacuations, if, God forbid, something catastrophic happens. There is a slight catch, however. Veterans, or anyone living abroad for that matter, are asked to register with the nearest consulate. It’s very easy to do and can be done in a few minutes over the Internet. The form asks for simple biographical information and your address where you live. If you have a phone you can list it. Most importantly, you are able to make special notes on the form. I listed my wifes medical situation on our form (Oh, by the way, couples can register on one form). The return email I received from the State Department indicated that the information was noted in the file started on us. And that’s the catch, we now have an opened State Department file. My friends tell I’m being naive to believe that they didn’t have one opened the minute I applied for a Mexican resident visa last year in Philadelphia and then flashed my passport at the border.
There may other benefits I am not aware of. And, the benefits I have listed in this article are subject to change without notice. This is the US government, after all.