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News You Can Use
VA Accountability Law Update
President Trump signed the VA Accountability Legislation passed by Congress last month. The VA has announced that in accordance with the new law they have disciplined, demoted, or fired over 700 VA employees. It has been reported however, that all of these disciplinary actions have been with lower level personnel and not the individuals responsible for policy and the formation of a culture of failing to give earned service to our veterans. This will need continuous monitoring by all veterans to insure that it actually changes conditions.
VA Clothing Allowance
Do you qualify for a VA Clothing Allowance? The following is extracted from the VA web site:
“Veterans who are rated for a service-connected disability for which he or she uses prosthetic or orthopedic appliances may receive an annual clothing allowance. The allowance is also available to Veterans whose service-connected skin condition requires prescribed skin medication that irreparably damages the Veteran’s outer garments.”
“All Clothing Allowance Applications forms are to be submitted to the Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) at the VA Medical Center closest to you on or before August 1 of each calendar year.”
VA Accountability Law Passed
The US House of Representatives has passed a VA Accountability bill which will make it easier for the VA to fire employees that have failed our veterans. The bill had passed the Senate last week and will now go to the White House for President Trump’s signature. Once it becomes law it will create a permanent Accountability Office at the VA which will be the focal point of future changes in the Agency.
Next week the House will take up legislation regarding expanding veterans’ access to doctors outside the VA. This legislation is the area in which the Trump budget proposed cutting some compensation to veterans to offset costs associated with civilian treatment of service related injuries and illnesses. Information on exact measures to be taken will be reported on this page as the changes develop.
Proposed Budget Cuts in VA Compensation
President Trump’s Veterans Administration budget proposal released on 20 May includes a proposed cutting of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) to some disabled, unemployed veterans. It also would reduce veterans’ cost-of-living adjustments. The proposed savings would then be used as offsets to continue the “Veterans Choice” Program that allows veterans to seek care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs.
These proposed cuts are not to the normal monthly compensation received by disabled veterans. They are to a program many of you might know as “Aid and Assistance” which is supposed to help compensate for expenses incurred with having a third party provide assistance to the veteran. Often times the third party may be a spouse.
The House Appropriations Committee has already started making cuts to the Budget Proposal but, they are not complete in their recommendations. That means as of now we do not know what the 2018 budget will actually look like. Keep watching this page for further information as it developments.
New Military Discount Policy at Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores
Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores have changed their policy on military discounts. Instead of only active duty and retirees, they now include all veterans with the DD 214 showing honorable discharge. In order to use the discount, customers must now obtain a MyLowes card. The card will then be designated for the military discount. If you do not have a MyLowes card you can obtain one from customer service at any Lowe’s store. If you already have a MyLowes card then you will need to access your account online and activate the military association or you can take your MyLowes cards to customer service and they will be happy to annotate your account for your military service. The discount remains at 10%. Over the year of shopping at Lowe’s this can come to a significant amount of money.
To get your discount, you need to have your MyLowes card scanned at the time of purchase. This will do two things, first it will give you your discount, and second it will list your purchase in your MyLowes account. Purchases made with the MyLowes account can be accessed at any time after the purchase.
Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) vs Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) for Disabled Retirees
This few weeks ago I was notified by the USAF that my hearing and heart disabilities both qualified as combat related since the heart issues were associated with Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and the hearing loss was caused by instruments of war (machine guns, cannons, and jet engines.) That meant in my case, that the AF could pay Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) instead of Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) the choice was up to me.
Since both CRSC and CRDP cannot be paid simultaneously I had to evaluate the advantages of each. In my case I am rated 100% which meant that all of my retirement pay was offset from VA compensation and payable as CRDP. That meant I was collecting both VA compensation and AF retirement pay. I paid taxes on the CRDP amount paid by Defense Finance and Accounting Services DFAS.
Now with CRSC my retirement pay would be totally waived and no longer paid. Instead CRSC would be paid in the same amount as my previous retirement pay. Same dollar amount of compensation BUT it was 100% NON taxable. So for me there was a clear advantage to go with CRSC.
The advantages are different depending upon your individual circumstances and need to be weighed on a case by case basis. For those of us retired and also collecting VA disability for Agent Orange related diseases or who lost hearing as result of jet engine and cannon noise it hurts nothing to submit an application for combat related disability to your service branch. If it is approved then you too could elect to get a huge tax advantage in your compensation. If you feel you might qualify then contact me for details on how to apply.