Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 30, 2014

VETERANS’ CORNER: Veterans with ALS eligible for housing assistance grants


— By JIM VINES

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that veterans and active duty military personnel with service-connected amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, are now medically eligible for grants up to almost $68,000.

The change affects recipients of the VA’s specially adapted housing grants, which helps pay for their costs for building, buying or adapting a home, up to a maximum of $67,555.

Under the change, veterans and servicemembers with service-connected ALS will be determined medically eligible for the maximum grant. The program provides grants to eligible service-connected disabled veterans to construct or modify a home to meet their unique housing needs. Grants are also available to help eligible individuals purchase adapted homes or pay down mortgages on homes that are already adapted. The VA estimates this change will save approximately 12 months in the overall process of a Specialty Adapted Housing (SAH) grant.

In 2008, the VA established a presumption of service connection for ALS, for any veteran who develops the disease at any time after separation from service, making them eligible for monthly VA disability compensation benefits. VA amended its disability rating scale in January 2012, to assign a 100 percent disability evaluation for any veteran who has service-connected ALS. ALS is rapidly progressive, totally debilitating, and an irreversible motor neuron disease that results in muscle weakness leading to a wide range of serious disabilities, including impaired mobility.

VA adapted its rules so veterans with service-connected ALS no longer have to file multiple claims with VA for increased benefits as their condition progresses. Prior to the new SAH regulatory change, many veterans and servicemembers who were rated by VA for ALS, but did not yet have symptoms debilitating enough to affect their mobility, to the degree required for SAH grant eligibility, were unable to begin the process of modifying their homes to accommodate their often rapidly progressing conditions. The modifications of the program now makes the transition much easier.

For more information visit, http://benefits.va.gov/homeloans/adaptedhousing.asp.



Toxic war

For those who like to read, from author Peter Sills the Vanderbilt University book entitled, “Toxic War: The Story of Agent Orange,” is now available. Sills, who is an attorney and helped represent Vietnam Veterans in an Agent Orange class-action suit, continues to be active in environmental causes.

The book highlights, with documented evidence, the government’s cover-up by administrations in the 1980s, until 1988, when Sen. John Kerry, in a hearing, railed against the government’s efforts to dodge responsibility for the damages caused by Agent Orange and other herbicides stating, “ To those who say, ‘We don’t have enough evidence,’ I would ask, how high does the body count have to go? How many Vietnam veterans have to die before we have ‘enough evidence’ to start admitting the truth and compensating veterans?”

This cover-up resulted in the significant backlog of veterans claims and we are just now, over the last 10 years, able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This book is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers or direct from the publisher at 800-627-7377. The cost of the book is $39.95.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.