Veterans Benefits Information guide to VA benefits

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Veterans Benefits Information

VA Announces Contract for New Butler Facility

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has selected Westar Development Company of Aurora, Ohio, to build a health care center in Butler, Pa.

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New Veterans Retraining Assistance Program to Take Center Stage at Detroit VA for Vets Hiring Fair

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WASHINGTON - In its ongoing efforts to provide unemployed Veterans with the education and training they need to compete for high-demand jobs, VA will seek out Veterans who may be qualified for its new Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) at the Detroit VA for Vets Hiring Fair June 26-28.

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Flag Day: A time to reflect, act

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As we pause today to honor Old Glory, The American Legion’s Legislative Division has issued a legislative alert regarding the flag amendment.

To read the alert, as well as contact your members of Congress regarding the amendment, click here.

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Legion available for CRSC claims

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Many men and women enlist in the military with the intention of making it a career. Some do so and walk away from their service unscathed. But others suffer injuries in combat-type situations that hinder – or eliminate – their ability to work after military retirement. Still, others are so badly injured in those situations that they are medically retired long before the normal retirement age.

That’s where Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) can benefit a military retiree. CRSC eligibility can come from injuries suffered during armed conflict or training that simulates war, while on hazardous duty, or from an instrumentality of war, such as exposure to Agent Orange or while in a combat vehicle. To be eligible for CRSC, applicants must:

• Be entitled to and/or be receiving military retired pay

• Be rated at least 10 percent by VA

• Waive their military retirement pay

• File a CRSC application with their respective branch of service.

A veteran may be eligible for CRSC no matter when the veteran left active military service; it can be paid to a 60-year-old Vietnam veteran who was medically retired in 1973, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran who retired in 1982 after 20 years of service, or to a 29-year-old veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and was medically retired in 2006. However, for those retired due to longevity, the effective date for CRSC payments cannot be earlier than May 31, 2003 – the effective date established for the original CRSC statute. For those medically retired under Chapter 61 of Title 10, U.S. Code, the effective date for CRSC payments cannot be earlier than January 2008, when the bill authorizing CRSC for these veterans became law.

If it sounds like a complicated process, The American Legion can help. Through its network of department service officers (, the Legion has helped eligible veterans file CRSC claims at no cost to the applicant.

"The Legion has been filing CRSC claims for veterans since the program started," said Verna Jones, director of The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division. "We’re glad to see this program is getting some more exposure now and that other veterans service organizations now are stepping up to help veterans take advantage of it."

Shortly after the program’s inception, The American Legion – during its 2007 National Executive Spring Meetings – passed Resolution No. 16, calling for the Legion to become "an Affiliate of the United States Army’s Combat-Related Special Compensation Affiliate program," through educating eligible veterans on the benefits of CRSC.

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Jewett City homeless veterans home opens

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A ground-breaking, Legionnaire-backed homeless veterans housing facility officially opened June 11 in Jewett City, Conn., welcoming its first residents and celebrating the culmination of the $6.26-million project. The American Legion Veterans Housing Inc. (TALVHI) began a decade ago as an idea that Legionnaire Bill Czmyr was floating around his small town. It snowballed into an expansive residence center for homeless veterans that many experts think could serve as a national model.

“10 years turned into a couple days, and now we’ve got our ribbon cutting,” Czmyr said.

The facility contains 18 apartments, located in the top floor of LaFlamme-Kusek Post 15 - Czmyr’s post - and in an adjacent building that was constructed as part of the project. At least five of the residents will be moved in by the month’s end. The facility should be at full capacity by mid-summer.

Renowned for its revolutionary approach to the homelessness problem, TALVHI will offer permanent housing to at-risk veterans who are funneled into the residence by the state Department of Veterans Affairs. Such free housing is usually given on a temporary basis.

Avery Tillinghast, fundraising chief for TALVHI, says he has heard from more than 15 individuals nationwide who were inspired to start similar projects.

“It really is a national model because the Legion gave up its building,” he said.

Renovations and construction took 14 months to complete. Contractors had to install a new building in the brick shell of the 130-year-old post building to accommodate the upstairs apartments. The adjacent addition was constructed from the ground up to contain 10 apartments - two handicap-accessible - and connected to the post building by a breezeway.

The facility features common areas as well. Furnishing for them was donated by Waterford Hotels. The company is in the process of donating exercise equipment for a fitness area.

Residents will also be given support services, such as job counseling, career placement and mental-health resources. Tillinghast says the local bank has agreed to set up cost-free savings and checking accounts for residents who can also receive financial advice from the bank.

“Other communities have had push back from their residents when they’ve tried to do this sort of project in the past, but we’ve received nothing but support from the town,” Tillinghast said.

The brainchild of Czmyr, TALVHI was hatched in 2002 when Czmyr mentioned in a conversation at the local coffee shop that he’d like to convert his post’s vacant upstairs into free housing for veterans.

“We had this building and we had all this space. And it gets so cold outside... we had to do something,” Czmyr said.

Eventually, Czmyr gathered a group of cohorts who met with him every week, helping find contractors, file for nonprofit status and raise funds. News of the project reached government officials who pledged their support.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., approved a $200,000 earmark for TALVHI. The project later garnered $5.3 million in state grants and tax credits - $3.8 million from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and $500,000 each from the Connecticut Economic Development Commission and Connecticut Supportive Housing and Connecticut Light & Power.

Nearly $450,000 came in through private donations, and $175,000 is still being raised for grounds and building development.

“No one ever told me ‘no,’” Czmyr said.

Reflecting back, Tillinghast said he was impressed with the manner in which the project grew from small talk among townspeople to a revolutionary home for homeless veterans. Having worked in philanthropy and fundraising for more than 30 years, Tillinghast called the opening ceremony one of the most impressive he’s ever seen.

“It was a very great day and very special day for us and for the city of Jewett City,” he said.


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Did you know?

Military Funeral Honors ceremonies must be scheduled in advance.

The law requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, which includes the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of “taps,” upon the family’s request. This Department of Defense program calls for the funeral director to request military funeral honors on behalf of the veteran’s family.