VA creates office for survivors of veterans

VA announced Sept. 28 that it has staffed an office to serve as advocate for survivors of U.S. veterans and servicemembers. Authorized in the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, the new office has the authority to create or modify programs, benefits and services.

“Taking care of survivors is as essential as taking care of our veterans and military personnel,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said. “By taking care of survivors, we are honoring a commitment made to our veterans and military members.”

The office serves as primary adviser to the secretary on all issues affecting survivors and dependents of deceased veterans and servicemembers. It will monitor VA’s delivery of benefits to survivors, make appropriate referrals to VA offices for survivors seeking benefits, and explore innovative ways of reaching eligible survivors who are not receiving VA benefits.

Such benefits include education assistance, home-loan guaranties, health-care insurance, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (a monthly payment to survivors of those who have died on active duty, and of some seriously disabled veterans).

More than 554,000 spouses, dependents and other survivors of veterans are receiving VA benefits. That figure includes nearly 5,000 spouses of World War I veterans, 90 spouses and 94 children of Spanish-American War veterans, and two children of Civil War veterans (one of them, 92-year-old Legionnaire William Upham Jr., was featured in the Feb. 12 issue of The American Legion Online Update Read the story).