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For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

Sunday, January 26, 2003


See also: In The Military


Spouses must be eligible
for national burial


Question: I am a member of the Army National Guard and will be eligible for retirement in two years. However, my question deals with my wife. Her first husband was an active duty officer who is buried at Presidio in San Francisco. Can she be buried next to her former spouse?

Answer: Until you have completed 20 years as a member of the Army National Guard or you have an honorable discharge showing active duty military service for other than "active duty for training" neither you nor your wife are currently eligible for burial or inurnment in a national cemetery.

However, if you should die before your wife, she can revert to her first husband's eligibility and be buried with him.

Once you reach 20 years service in the National Guard and have received your 20-year letter, both you and your wife will be eligible to be buried in a national cemetery.

However, concerning whether your wife could be buried with her first husband, all surviving children, if any, from the first marriage would have to agree to this request.

Q: What will be the impact of the new Department of Veterans Affairs regulation that will deny benefits to individuals with annual incomes of more than $33,650 and whose illness is not connected to their military service? How many potential VA clients cannot file for benefits?

A: By law, the VA secretary must decide annually whether to maintain enrollment for all veterans. Since 1996, VA enrollment has increased from 2.9 million to 6.8 million. Veterans, who do not have any service-connected disability and are in the higher income bracket, have accounted for the majority of the rapid enrollment growth, hindering the ability of VA to care for the service-disabled, the poor, and those with special needs.

To ensure the VA has the capacity to care for veterans with military-related disabilities, lower-income veterans or those needing specialized care like veterans who are blind or have spinal cord injuries, additional enrollments for veterans with the lowest statutory priority have been suspended.

The suspension affects only veterans in Priority Group 8 who have not enrolled in VA's health care system by Jan. 17. Veterans already enrolled will be grandfathered and allowed to continue in VA's health care system. Veterans in Priority 8 have no compensable service-connected disability or other status making them eligible for a higher priority category and have annual incomes above both national and geographic means tests.

Veterans in Group 8 have incomes that exceed $24,644 in 2003 for a single veteran and $29,576 for a veteran with one dependent, or and that also exceed a geographically based income threshold set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This change is expected to affect about 164,000 veterans this year. For more information, call the Honolulu VA at 433-0600. VA information is also available online at www.va.gov/hawaii.




If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov/hawaii
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 gkakesako@starbulletin.com.



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