By Karen Brainard
About 70 veterans and spouses showed up for a seminar in Ramona Library to learn details of the many benefits available to veterans.
The “Veterans Benefits Awareness Seminar,” held Nov. 29, was conducted by the Joint Outreach Service Office, which specializes in outreach to San Diego County’s veterans and their survivors. Hosted by American Legion Post 332 and Ramona Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3783, the presentation outlined all
benefits available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), such as disability and death compensation; disability and death pension for wartime-era veterans and their widows, including the “Aid & Attendance” benefit; health care; burial and memorial benefits and other special and ancillary benefits.
Retired Chief Petty Officer Scott H. Langhoff, who served as a quartermaster in the U.S. Navy for 26 years, conducted the seminar. Langhoff also served as the veterans service officer for the Department of California VFW in the San Diego area and was accredited with the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Langhoff talked about the disabilities and chronic diseases acquired as a result of being exposed to certain elements during wars, such as mustard gas and herbicides.
He noted that certain diseases and syndromes have found to be related to the Persian Gulf Theater. Qualifying chronic disabilities could include an undiagnosed illness, a medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness, fibromylagia, chronic fatigue, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Langhoff said there is a Dec. 31, 2011, deadline to apply for compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnessesfrom the Persian Gulf War. That deadline has been extended twice, Langhoff said, but there has been no word about another extension.
“This stuff changes frequently,” Langhoff said of benefits and deadlines. “It seems like it changes practically every day. We’re constantly getting weekly updates.”
Langhoff also talked about benefits for those who are housebound and permanently disabled, with the highest level being “Aid and Attendance,” a benefit paid in addition to a monthly pension. Aid and Attendance applies when the veteran requires the aid of another person to perform personal functions necessary for everyday living, such as bathing, feeding and dressing; the veteran is bedridden; the veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; or the veteran is blind or nearly blind.
Whether a veteran can receive the Aid and Attendance benefit or how much he receives depends on various factors, including income.
Langhoff cautioned the veterans about organizations that say they have a VA-accredited attorney and charge a fee to file an application for Aid and Attendance.
“Most of them are bait and switch,” he said. “They have no idea how the VA process works.”
Langhoff added that it is illegal for anyone to charge a veteran to file a claim with the VA.
“I’m trying to chase them out of town,” he said.
The Joint Outreach Service Office provides free assistance in filing claims for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and free fully-accredited legal representation in the appeals process.
For more information, contact Langhoff at 619-365-8263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about benefits is also available at www.va.gov.