Gulf War ills are eligible for benefits until 2011
Does the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to take care of veterans with an undiagnosed Gulf War illness?
Answer: Gulf War veterans who have disabilities from undiagnosed illnesses will continue to qualify for veterans' benefits and health care until Dec. 31, 2011. Researchers have not been able to isolate a single illness or disease as a cause, but the VA has assumed that those who served in the combat theater who have chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses could receive disability benefits and be afforded other veterans' rights. The research is not limited to the deployments of the early 1990s, but also includes veterans of current conflicts. For more information on how to file a claim for undiagnosed illness, contact the VA Honolulu Regional Office at 1-800-827-1000.
Q: I understand the VA Means Test and Geographic-Based Means Test thresholds went up this month. Can you explain how that works and by how much did they go up?
A: Each year, the U.S. Code requires the VA increase the means test threshold amounts by the same percentage that the maximum rates of pension benefits were increased during the preceding calendar year. In November, the VA announced that veterans benefits will receive an increase of 3.3 percent.
The Geographic-Based Means Test uses the Department of Housing and Urban Development's "low-income" geographic-based income limits as the thresholds for the VA's GMT. A veteran's income from the previous year is compared with the appropriate GMT threshold for the previous fiscal year to determine if the veteran should be placed in Priority Category 7, where veterans agree to pay specified copayments with income and/or net worth above the VA Means Test threshold and income below the geographically based threshold for their locality.
Below the means test threshold means those veterans' income and net worth are such that they are unable to pay the expenses of VA care; therefore, they are not subject to copayment charges for hospital and outpatient medical services. Above the means test and GMT threshold means veterans' income and net worth are such that they can pay for health care. For veterans with no dependents, the below means test threshold is now $27,790; for one dependent, $33,350. For more information on Means Test and Geographic-Based Means Test Thresholds, call the VA Medical Center at 433-0600.
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.