If you think you or someone you love may qualify for VA benefits and you don’t know where to start, there is a great resource that can help. I learned about this resource as I was struggling to navigate the VA bureaucracy to assist my 90-year-old mother, who survives my father, a World War II veteran. She qualifies for aid and attendance benefits. When we initially applied in late 2010, I submitted VA paperwork on my own and waited ten months to get a response, which asked for additional documentation in language that was difficult to decipher. I gathered what I thought they needed and sent it in. My husband and I were providing care for my mother 24/7 and I was still working full-time. We waited in frustration for another few months, got one more request for even more information and finally, after more than a year, my mother was approved for benefits so she could afford the assistance she needed. Without that assistance, my family could not have provided in-home care for much longer.
As my mother’s health has continued to deteriorate, she has needed more care. Last fall, I filed a request for additional benefits. This time, I heard back within four months – with a request for additional documentation. I was feeling emotional and overwhelmed and a local elder care manager suggested that I go to the Columbia Veterans Service Officer for assistance.
I just left his office this morning feeling relieved and grateful because he took the piles of paper I have accumulated over the last five years, read the VA’s latest request for documentation and, within an hour, had explained the situation to me in terms that made sense, completed the paperwork for me, and submitted it to the VA. He assured me that we should have the additional benefits direct deposited within the next three months.
The Missouri Veterans Commission, through the Missouri Department of Public Safety, has 41 highly trained and accredited Veterans Service Officers located across the state. I have worked in financial education for more than 23 years. I was vaguely aware that there was a “Missouri Veterans Commission,” but I had no idea what a resource they are and I had never heard of Veterans Service Officers. Their job is to assist veterans or their dependents in filing for VA benefits. They offer counseling on available VA and state Veterans’ benefits and they complete and submit VA claims applications and necessary documentation on veterans’ behalf. There are Veterans Service Officers in every state. I cannot say enough good things about the Veterans Service Officer who helped me.
Don’t go it alone if you need to apply for benefits. In Missouri, you can find a Veterans Service Officer near you at the service officer locator at http://mvc.dps.mo.gov/service/serviceofficer/. I wish I had known this five years ago!