WASHINGTON (May 5, 2006) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a special outreach campaign to inform veterans about VA's disability compensation program.
During the month of May, VA will be conducting outreach efforts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and Connecticut to reach those veterans who may have a disability related to their military service, but are not currently receiving VA benefits for their disabilities.
"Our goal is to ensure that all veterans receive the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation," said the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. "This effort reaffirms our commitment to provide full, fair and equitable compensation for veterans."
Under the VA compensation program, monthly tax-free payments are made to veterans who have medical conditions that are determined to be the result of their military service. VA was recently directed by Congress to undertake this special outreach in response to concerns that the average amount of VA disability compensation received by veterans in the six states is lower than in other states.
VA emphasized that all veterans with the same degree of disability should receive the same amount of VA compensation, regardless of where they live. However, historical differences in the average amount of VA disability compensation received by veterans from one state to another have existed for decades and appear to relate to such factors as the wartime period served, the branch of a veteran's service, the number of officer and enlisted personnel in a state, as well as the number of veterans who apply for benefits and the number of disabilities claimed by veterans in certain areas.
To help get the word out, VA is distributing informational brochures and enlisting the support of veterans service organizations, state and county veterans offices, and congressional offices throughout the state.
Veterans already receiving VA disability compensation benefits, and for whom VA therefore has a current address, will receive a letter from VA advising them of the steps to follow if they want to reopen their disability claim. About 326,000 veterans in the six states are included in the letter-mailing effort.
These letters will be mailed over the next two weeks and will include a special flyer advising veterans how to submit a claim for increased benefits if they believe their service-connected conditions have worsened or they have an additional disability not previously claimed. Information will also be provided on what is required if a veteran believes an error was made in an earlier decision and wants VA to review the claim.
VA has established a special Internet site to provide information for veterans interested in applying for VA disability compensation benefits or for an increased disability rating: http://www.vba.va.gov/SpecialOutreach
Veterans may also visit their local VA Regional Office or call toll-free 1-800-827-1000 for assistance. A representative will provide additional information and help them file a claim.
Assistance is also available from the many veterans' organizations that are formally recognized to represent claimants. More information about representatives in the six states is available at the VA toll-free number or at http://www.va.gov/vso/. Indiana residents may also contact the County Veterans' Service Officer in their area. To see your county, click here.