Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Veterans

Congresswoman Lowey is proud to provide assistance to veterans and their families in the 17th District. There are many benefits available to veterans, and a comprehensive list from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be found here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/. New York State also offers a number of benefits to veterans. A list of those benefits can be found by clicking here: https://www.veterans.ny.gov/.

This page provides general information and answers to frequently asked questions about some of the more popular veterans benefits. If you have further questions or need additional assistance, please contact Congresswoman Lowey's office in Westchester County at 914-428-1707 or in Rockland County at 845-639-3485.  


Contacting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

You can find several toll-free numbers for the VA, depending on which office you need to reach, by clicking here.


Military Records and Medals

How do I obtain a copy of my military records?

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the official repository for records of military personnel who have been discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Paper copies of military service and pension records can be ordered by mail from the facility that holds the records. Most records can be found though the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and information about the process can be found here.

If you are having problems obtaining your records even after following one of these steps, you may contact Rep. Lowey's office for assistance. Please submit your request in writing, along with your full name, address, home and daytime phone numbers, date of birth, and Social Security number along with the privacy form found here

If the request is on behalf of a relative who is deceased, the office will need permission in writing from the next-of-kin in order to find information on his or her behalf. If the veteran or next-of-kin is not able to give written permission, a copy of the power of attorney is needed.

How do I replace military records? 

If discharge or separation papers are lost, duplicate copies may be obtained by contacting the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132-51000. You should specify if a duplicate separation or discharge document is needed. The veteran's full name should be printed or typed so that it can be read clearly, and the request must also contain the signature of the next-of-kin if the veteran is deceased. Remember to include branch of service, service number or Social Security number, and exact or approximate dates and years of service. 

If you are having problems obtaining your records even after following these steps, you may contact Rep. Lowey's office to seek assistance. Please submit your request in writing, along with your full name, address, home and daytime phone numbers, date of birth, and Social Security number, along with the privacy form that can be downloaded here.

If the request is on behalf of a relative who is deceased, the office will need permission in writing from the next-of-kin in order to find information on his or her behalf. If the veteran or next-of-kin is not able to give written permission, a copy of the power of attorney is needed. 

I qualify for a Bronze Star Medal. Can the Congresswoman help me in obtaining my medal?

If you are an honorably discharged World War II veteran who earned a Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) or Combat Medic Badge (CMB) during the war, you are authorized a Bronze Star for meritorious service. You must apply to have your records amended and be awarded the medal, orders, and certificate.

To apply for the Bronze Star as a conversion award based on your CIB or CMB, you must have your discharge papers indicating the award of the CIB or CMB, or a copy of the General Orders announcing the award. Please send your request in writing to the Congresswoman's office and include your name, rank, and serial number. Please also enclose a signed privacy release that can be found here and documentary evidence of the Combat Infantryman Badge or Combat Medic Badge. You may submit the DD Form 214 (Discharge Form) or General Order as proof. 

If you have additional questions, please call Congresswoman Lowey's office in Westchester County at 914-428-1707 or in Rockland County at 845-639-3485.  


The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA)

The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), reviews decisions about benefit claims made by local VA offices and issues decisions on appeals. 

Appeals to request review of a VA determination for a claim for benefits can be filed by anyone who has received a determination from a local VA office. For more information on the process, click here.

When can an appeal be filed? 

You may file an appeal up to one year from the date the local VA office mails you its initial determination on your claim. After one year, the local VA determination is considered final and cannot be appealed, unless it involves a clear and unmistakable error by the VA.

What can I appeal?

You may appeal any determination issued by a local VA office on a claim for benefits. For example, you may appeal complete or partial denial of your claim, or the level of benefit granted.

Some determinations by VA medical facilities, such as eligibility for medical treatment, may also be appealed.

Decisions concerning the need for medical care or the type of medical treatment needed cannot be appealed.  

How do I file an appeal? 

To file an appeal, you should follow the instructions accompanying your documented decision. Begin by writing a letter, known as the Notice of Disagreement (NOD), to the local VA office that issued the decision, stating that you disagree with the VA office's claim determination and that you want to appeal it.

How long does the appeal process take?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to estimate how long the process will take.


The Veterans Health Administration (VHA)

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, provides a variety of medical, surgical, and rehabilitative care to veterans and others. In October 1996, Congress passed a law called the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (PL 104-262). This legislation led to the creation of a medical benefits package, which is available to all enrolled veterans. Like the majority of standard health care plans, the medical benefits package emphasizes preventive and primary care, offering a full range of outpatient and inpatient services. For more information, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website at https://www.va.gov/health/default.asp

How do I receive benefits under the Medical Benefits Package?

To receive health care coverage under the medical benefits package, most veterans must be enrolled. Once enrolled, you are eligible to receive services at VA facilities anywhere in the country. You may use these services even if you have Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, or private health insurance coverage. When traveling, you may obtain care at any VA health care facility without re-enrolling.

How do I apply for enrollment?

To apply, you must complete VA form 10-10EZ. The 10-10EZ may be obtained by visiting, calling, or writing any VA health care facility or veterans' benefits office. You can also call toll-free 1-877-222-8387, or access the online form by clicking here. Additional information on enrollment, including enrollment forms and applications, can be found at https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/. You can apply for enrollment at any time.

Which veterans do not have to enroll to receive health benefits? 

You are not required to enroll if one of the following conditions applies:

  • You have a service-connected disability of 50% or more;
  • You want care for a disability that the military determined was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, but which the VA has not yet rated, during the 12-month period following discharge; or
  • You only want care for a service-connected disability.

While enrollment is not required for individuals in these categories, the VA urges you to enroll to help better allocate resources to meet high demand for VA services.

Are there any special benefits for recently discharged combat veterans? 

Yes, recently discharged veterans who served in combat locations can receive health care for conditions potentially related to their service for two years after their release from service. Veterans should contact the Enrollment Coordinator at the nearest VA health care facility for more information. 

Is it true that VA is no longer accepting new higher income veterans for enrollment? 

Yes, a veteran who applies for enrollment on or after January 17, 2003, and is assigned to Priority Group 8, will not be accepted for enrollment. Under the VA's decision, Priority Group 8 veterans already enrolled in VA's health care system can continue to receive care.

Which veterans make up the Priority Group 8? 

Veterans in Priority Group 8 have no compensable service-connected disability or other status making them eligible for a higher priority group assignment. They also have incomes that exceed $24,644 in 2003 for a single veteran and $29,576 for a veteran with one dependent, as well as incomes that exceed the geographically based low-income threshold set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for public housing benefits. More information on VA Priority Groups can be found by clicking here.

What can I do if I cannot afford VA co-payments? 

You have two options:

  • The first option is to request a waiver for paying your current debt. If you request a waiver, you must submit sufficient proof that you cannot afford to make payment to VA. This process could take several months; please contact the Revenue Coordinator at the VA health care facility where you receive care.
  • The second option is to request a hardship determination to avoid future debts. You will need to submit specific financial information about your current year income. A decision will be made based on information you provide.

Compensation & Pension Service

The Compensation & Pension Service is a division of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers a variety of benefits and services for veterans, their dependents and survivors, including, but not limited to service-connected compensation (disability compensation), non-service connected pension (disability pension), and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).  Information about these services can be found on the web at https://www.vba.va.gov/.

What Is VA Disability Compensation?

Disability Compensation is a benefit paid to a veteran because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service. It is also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care. The benefits are tax-free.

Who Is Eligible for Disability Compensation? 

You may be eligible for Disability Compensation if you have a service-related disability and you were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. 

What is a VA Disability Pension? 

A disability pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans with limited income who are no longer able to work.

Who Is Eligible for Disability Pensions? 

You may be eligible if the following apply:

  • You were discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions; and
  • You served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of war. However, a federal rule (38 CFR 3.12a) requires that anyone who enlists after 9/7/80 generally has to serve at least 24 months or the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty in order to receive any benefits based on that period of service. With the advent of the Gulf War on 8/2/90 service members now serve during a period of war time. They generally must serve 24 months to be eligible for pension or any other benefit. Again, note the exclusions in 38 CFR 3.12(d); and
  • You have disabilities that keep you from working a regular, full-time job; and
  • Your family income is below a yearly limit set by law.

How Can I Apply for Disability Compensation & Disability Pension? 

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-526, Veteran's Application for Compensation or Pension, which can be found by clicking here. If available, attach copies of dependency records (marriage & children's birth certificates) and current medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports). You can also apply on line through the VA website at https://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp.

What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)? 

DIC is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of one of the following:

  • A military service member who died while on active duty;
  • A veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease; or
  • A veteran whose death resulted from a non-service-related injury or disease, and who was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as "totally disabling" for at least 10 years immediately before death or since the veteran's release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death or for at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

Who are eligible survivors for DIC? 

The surviving spouse if he or she if one of the following:

  • Validly married to the veteran before January 1, 1957;
  • Validly married to a service member who died on active duty;
  • Validly married to the veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the disease or injury that caused the veteran's death began or was aggravated;
  • Validly married to the veteran for at least one year; or
  • Had a child with the veteran and cohabited with the veteran continuously until the veteran's death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, and is not currently remarried.

The surviving child(ren) if he or she is one of the following:

  • Unmarried and under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school; or
  • Certain helpless adult children.

What is Parents' DIC? 

Parents' DIC is an income-based monthly benefit for the parent(s) of a military service member or veteran who died from one of the following:

  • A disease or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training;
  • An injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty while on inactive duty for training; or
  • A service-connected disability.

Who are eligible parents? 

The term "parent" includes biological, adoptive, and foster parents. A foster parent is a person who stood in the relationship of a parent to the veteran for at least one year before the veteran's last entry into active duty.
 

How can I apply for DIC benefits?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-534 (Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child), and submitting it to the VA regional office that serves your area.


Burial and Memorial Benefits

Many veterans are eligible for a number of benefits and honors upon their deaths. The Department of Defense provides military funeral honors including the presentation of the United States flag for eligible veterans. Veterans may also qualify for assistance with the cost of burial or for gravesites within the nation’s cemeteries.  Below is some information about these benefits.  If you would like to make advance arrangements or arrangements upon the death of a loved one, visit https://www.cem.va.gov/ or call 1-800-827-1000.

What burial and memorial benefits exist? 

For burials in a national cemetery, benefits available include a gravesite in any of the VA’s 125 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or markera burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.

Burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery include a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.

Are the benefits just for the veteran? 

No, if the burial is in a VA cemetery. Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. There are no benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.

How do I apply?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Benefits.  You should attach proof of the veteran's military service (DD 214), a death certificate, and copies of funeral and burial bills you have paid.

Can I be reimbursed for burial and funeral costs? 

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

  • you paid for a veteran's burial or funeral;
  • you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran's employer; AND
  • the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

  • the veteran died because of a service-related disability;
  • the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death;
  • the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay; OR
  • the veteran died in a VA hospital, in a nursing home under VA contract, or while in an approved state nursing home.

For more information, please call 1-800-827-1000.

Who is eligible for Military Honors at a funeral?

  • Military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve.
  • Former military members who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Former military members discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Please note, the honors are provided by the Department of Defense, not the VA. For more information, please visit https://www.military.com/benefits/burial-and-memorial/military-funeral-honors.html.

How can I locate the gravesite of a veteran? 

If the veteran is buried in a national cemetery, the gravesite can be found at https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/.


Education Benefits

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. For more information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you may visit https://www.gibill.va.gov/.

The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is available for those who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. MGIB encompasses both the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (Chapter 30) and The Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606). Under Chapter 30, Active Duty members enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months; and are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation. Under Chapter 1606, a reservist must be actively drilling and have a 6-year obligation in the Selected Reserve to be eligible. For more information on the Montgomery GI Bill, you may visit https://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/montgomery_gibill/index.html.


Mental Health Support

The VA has noticed an increase in the amount of mental health issues associated with veterans, and has several resources available to veterans and those who care about them. A list of available resources can be accessed by visiting https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/index.asp.


The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program

The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program is authorized by Congress under Title 38, USC, Chapter 31 and Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, and is commonly referred to as the Chapter 31 program. This program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, this program offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.

The available services are:

  • Comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, and interests for employment
  • Vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services
  • Employment services such as job-training, job-seeking skills, resume development, and other work readiness assistance
  • Assistance finding and keeping a job, including the use of special employer incentives and job accommodations
  • On the Job Training (OJT), apprenticeships, and non-paid work experiences
  • Post-secondary training at a college, vocational, technical or business school
  • Supportive rehabilitation services including case management, counseling, and medical referrals
  • Independent living services for veterans unable to work due to the severity of their disabilities