December 3, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As members of the Greatest Generation, today’s military veterans were drilled about the value of discipline. While discipline is often synonymous with a do-it-yourself attitude, when it comes to receiving their military benefits, those who have served also need to have the discipline to make sure they are receiving all of the benefits entitled to them from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Care advocate David Olney is one of the people fighting on the front lines to make sure veterans are doing just that.

“A majority of seniors have worked very hard in their lifetime, especially veterans,” says Olney. “And their legacy is the hard work they’ve done and are passing on to their heirs. A part of that legacy is taking advantage of the things that they have accomplished during their lifetime and are eligible for, and I think that’s very important.”

Under the VA, there are two types of disability income benefits available for veterans who served on active duty—pension and compensation. The pension program benefits are tied to disabilities that are not service-related, while compensation benefits are tied to disabilities that are service-related.

No matter what kind of benefits veterans or their family members are looking to apply for, Olney says to start early. Benefits-seekers can either go to an accredited agent, such as Olney, or to their local VA county service officer. In the case of Douglas County residents, that would be Bernie Brosnihan.

Both Olney and Brosnihan say their consultations last about 60-90 minutes. From there, Olney will send clients to their local VA office to fill out the necessary paperwork. Brosnihan says that once the initial claim is filed, it usually takes about six months to hear back from the state VA office. With a multitude of different pension income benefits available, and different qualifications for each, it’s important that veterans turn to someone who is VA accredited to maximize their potential pension or compensation benefits.

“Let’s take a veteran whose 70% disabled, Says Olney. “He turns 70, so he could now be considered unemployable, and that automatically makes him 100% disabled. There are many examples like that where we automatically see an increase in benefits. Unless you stop by and visit your veteran’s service officer every year, you aren’t going to see this.”

Additionally, it’s not just veterans who should be checking in. Widows and widowers of veterans can be eligible to receive death pension or dependents indemnity compensation (DIC). Sons and daughters who act as caretakers for their veteran parent can also receive payment through an aid and attendance allowance for disabled veterans.

Both Brosnihan and Olney agree that, no matter what information veterans might have heard or been told about, it is their responsibility to take advantage of them, and not ignore them.

“World War II veterans in particular had this attitude of bucking up,” says Brosnihan. “So many of these people missed out on benefits they could have gotten.”

For questions about their benefits eligibility, veterans can contact the Douglas County Veterans’ Service Office at 402-444-7180.

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