What you need to know about veterans benefits (and there are a lot!)

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Let’s say you need some Veterans Affairs benefits, but you can’t get the help you need. What are you doing?

For example, if you had a less than honorable dump and needed a dump upgrade, who would you call?

There is a parcel to find out when it comes to veteran benefits, which are the benefits earned through military service in the US military.

No one knows this better than Marissa O’Connor, Manager of Public Interest and Public Benefits and Certified Veterans Representative at Community Legal Services in Mid-Florida.

O’Connor advocates for veterans and helps people untangle the paperwork involved in pursuing a claim for VA benefits, a release upgrade, or survivor benefits.

She has worked at CLS for about four years after working in private companies. She has been in her current position for approximately three of those years.

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So we asked: What should people understand about veterans benefits? O’Connor provided the following information:


When it comes to veterans services, there is probably more help available than you might think.

Most counties also have veterans programs and service officers. These VSOs, as they are called (veterans services officers) can help with disability benefit claims, or perhaps in some cases, they are able to help with pension matters. And when it comes to medical care, there is a main Veterans Affairs medical center, and often there are clinics in more rural areas or in surrounding areas.

“A lot of (vets) don’t realize – or maybe they do now, but older ones don’t as many,” O’Connor said. “Some people don’t want the benefits, but they’re there for them. “

Even if you are not a veteran, there may be benefits available to you.

Think of the survivors of veterans. It’s not as well known, O’Connor said, but if a veteran dies, depending on the cause of death or if there was a service-related disability, there could be benefits available to a spouse. or a child.

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These things can get complicated.

People who call Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida are often veterans or survivors. Many are trying to figure out how to receive a service-related disability.

There are a few main types of claims, O’Connor said: via the VA, service-related (active-duty) claims, and non-service retirement claims.

“These are often confused,” O’Connor said.

The pension is not linked to active service, but is based on income. Officials look at a person’s income, their age, whether they have Social Security income, whether the person is in a nursing home – factors like that. And for a pension, the veteran must have served at least one day in wartime, O’Connor added.

The company is also seeing a lot of landfill upgrade requests. It goes through the branch of service the veteran was in. If someone is not eligible for certain VA benefits, it may be due to a less than honorable discharge.

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“We get people who had ‘substandard’ terms, which is a general discharge,” O’Connor said. “And that allows them to get all the benefits except the GI Bill. You need an honorable discharge for the GI Bill.

The GI Bill provides educational assistance to military personnel, veterans and their dependents.

A veteran may try to get an upgrade to qualify for a service-related disability, maintain housing, or obtain health care.


VSOs and workers from other veterans organizations do a great job, O’Connor said, but sometimes people may need more help or a grip.

These VA decisions can take a long time, especially given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It can take forever,” O’Connor said. “It’s hard to get in touch with people or get a response, or something will get stuck as ‘pending’.”

And of course, veterans can go to private attorneys to deal with these kinds of issues. But there is no regulation on fees. A lawyer could demand a deposit of $ 10,000. Not everyone can afford it.

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Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida works with grants and other organizations to offset costs. The majority of the group’s clients are homeless, at risk of homelessness or low income.



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