For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military Sunday, June 2, 2002

See also: In The Military

Veterans Affairs helps expedite
benefits for surviving relatives

Question: I have a relative on duty in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. If something should happen to him, what benefits does the Department of Veterans Affairs provide?

Answer: The VA maintains a close liaison with the casualty offices of the various military services in order to expedite benefit distribution to surviving family members. Certain burial benefits or payments for survivors are provided whether the in-service death is due to combat, accident or disease. Financial benefits from VA primarily are a monthly payment of $935 to a surviving spouse and an additional $234 for each dependent child -- and proceeds from any applicable life insurance, which most military members carry at the highest level, $250,000. Burial benefits include a grave site in any VA national cemetery with available space, the opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care of the grave at no cost to the family, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag and a presidential memorial certificate.

Q: Does the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize a veteran's desire to have a living will or other documents that summarize wishes for health care?

A: The VA affirms the patient's right to make decisions regarding his/her medical care, including the decision to discontinue treatment, to the extent permitted by law. Each patient has a right to complete a form known as an "advance directive," a written statement that the patient completes in advance of serious illness about which medical decisions he/she wants made in the event the veteran can no longer make his or her wishes known.

The two most common forms of advance directives are a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. The document, if the veteran chooses to create one, will be maintained as part of your medical record and will be reviewed periodically with the veteran or surrogate decision maker. The provision of care is not conditioned on the existence of an advance directive. A policy on informed decision-making is developed by the medical and administrative staff and is consistent with all legal requirements. For more information on advance directives, call the Honolulu VA's medical appointment and enrollment number 433-0600.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at

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