In the United States, much attention is paid to its citizens performing military service. The personnel of the army as a whole is a well-trained and well-paid contingent with broad rights to receive various material and social privileges. After completing a military career, the Ministry of Defense also provides a fairly high standard of living for former military personnel, that is, veterans.
In accordance with US law, the category “veteran” means a soldier who has served in the regular troops or their reserve components in peacetime for at least 180 days (the duration of the recruit course) or who participated in any hostilities, regardless of their scale and duration, who was dismissed from the armed forces with honor, on a general basis or for health reasons (including due to partial or complete disability) and falling under the jurisdiction of laws and by-laws on the rights and benefits of former military personnel. There are no minimum terms of service for those dismissed for disability.
Veterans Health Care & Aging Care: Eligibility & Benefits
Benefits and privileges in the United States are commonly understood to mean certain benefits provided to citizens in connection with the end of military service or the performance of other military duties. They can be combined into several main groups, each of which corresponds to a specific program.
The first group concerns the issues of pension provision for persons dismissed due to age and length of service. The second includes payments of pensions to veterans for disabilities received as a result of active military service. This group of benefits also applies to family members of a veteran in the event of his death. The third group is related to the problems of providing assistance in obtaining civic education by the veterans themselves, as well as by family members of deceased veterans, complete invalids, missing persons or prisoners of war. The fourth group involves the provision of insurance loans for the construction of housing or its repair, as well as guarantees for its receipt, the fifth – life insurance, the sixth – medical support for veterans and their families, the seventh – psychotherapeutic assistance to veterans of wars or armed conflicts. Subsequent groups include assistance in employment, unemployment benefits, and vocational rehabilitation. The latter provides for the payment of grants for burial and the allocation of a site for burial.
All areas of support for retired military personnel are funded from the federal budget within the framework of two ministries: defense and veterans affairs, as well as from state budgets. Moreover, pensions for veterans dismissed by age and length of service are paid only from the budget of the Ministry of Defense, and the provision of disabled people can be carried out both through the Ministry of Defense and from the funds of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. Persons who have used the right to receive a pension from the Ministry of Veterans Affairs are deprived of the right to a pension from the military budget. In the last decade, there has been a steady trend towards an increase in financial support for veterans of the armed forces.
Most of the servicemen are retired by age and length of service. The basis of modern American legislation on this issue is the following official documents:
- National Security Act of 1947;
- 1963 Military Pay Chart;
- Military Retirement Reform Act of 1986.
Benefits related to the second group and paid to veterans with disabilities received during military service are established and implemented under the “Compensation” program. According to this program, a pension is assigned to servicemen dismissed for disability, which led to a loss of capacity for work by at least 30 percent. If the disability is a consequence of or acquired in the course of the performance of official duties, the pension is assigned regardless of the length of service. In all other cases, to obtain it, it is necessary that the length of service be at least eight years. The size of the pension, depending on the degree of disability, ranges from $300 to $2,000 per month. In severe cases – in the presence of injuries or incurable diseases – the monthly amount of benefits can exceed $5,000.
Disabled veterans with more than 30 percent disability are entitled to additional benefits if their families have dependents (parents, wife or husband, children under the age of 18 or 23, if they study in educational institutions provided for by the list of the Ministry of Affairs veterans). Family members of veterans who die due to a disability-related to the performance of duties are also paid benefits. Each month widows receive from $800 to $2000, depending on the title of the deceased veteran, children – from $120 to $300 per person.
Disability pensions earned in the line of duty are paid to veterans under the Disabled Pension Program from the budget of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. Annual benefits must not exceed $8,000 for those without dependents and $12,000 if any. Participants in the so-called “early” wars and conflicts, that is, before the war in Korea (a very small category of veterans) receive about $2,000 in addition to the annual pension. The following categories receive this money within the framework of the “Increased Pensions” program: those having with one dependent (wife or child); those in need of constant help and care (without dependents); those in need of constant help and care (if there is one dependent); those who have limited mobility (no dependents); those with limited mobility (with one dependent); a family of two veterans. The size of the pension in this category ranges from $7,000 to $13,000 annually.
Some veterans on government pensions may lose their pension entitlement if they join foreign government agencies and organizations, as well as private companies, without the approval of the State Department and the Ministry of the Army.
The third group of benefits provides for assistance in obtaining education both by the veterans themselves and by family members of deceased veterans, complete invalids, missing persons or prisoners of war. First of all, this assistance is associated with the payment of cash benefits necessary to pay for full-time or part-time education. The United States has a unified program in this area. It covers about 300 thousand people. A characteristic feature of the last ten years is the fact that the interest in getting an education (both higher and secondary) is constantly decreasing. This is due to the high level of retirement benefits, as well as the age of veterans (40-50 years).
The fourth group of privileges is realized through the program of providing insurance loans for the construction of housing or its repairs, as well as guarantees for its receipt. Loans of this type can be issued to veterans, as well as to the wives of military personnel officially listed as missing or in captivity. In addition, loans may be provided to widows of veterans who have died while on active military service or as a result of a service-related disability. They can only receive them if they have not remarried. The loan reaches $45,000 and has a maturity period of up to 30 years. Over the past years, there has been a steady trend of increasing funds for these purposes.
The fifth group of privileges is provided by the concessional life insurance program. Moreover, all payments are made from the budget of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. The amount can reach $50,000. Reservists of the organized reserve who have received injuries during the period of service or camp fees, as well as representatives of the individual reserve, are also entitled to preferential insurance. Insurance usually takes out 120 days before the end of service. Veterans with a disability due to active military service have the right to obtain a minimum amount of indefinite insurance. People with a 100% disability are generally exempted from paying contributions. All veterans without exception can sign an insurance contract in case of their conscription for military service for a period of more than 30 days. The size of the contribution is set on the basis of each thousand dollars depending on age (from $12 to $75).
The sixth group includes preferential health care. Depending on the subsidies provided, all veterans are divided into three categories: A, B and C. This gradation is based on the sum of the annual income of former military personnel. Income is monitored every year as of January 1st. Depending on this, veterans can move from one category to another:
- Category A includes veterans – former prisoners of war, participants in the Vietnam war who were exposed to herbicides, disabled people who lost their ability to work in the line of duty, as well as all disabled veterans whose disability was obtained as a result of service, regardless of age. This category is provided for free treatment in hospitals and other medical institutions and, if possible, with home health care;
- Category B includes disabled veterans with an annual income of less than $23,000. Help may be provided with hospital treatment or home health care, but only subject to availability of hospital places and funds from the federal budget;
- Category C is a disabled veteran with an income of over $23,000. Medical services in this case are provided with a partial payment.
Medical support for veterans and their families is carried out mainly through the network of hospitals and clinics of the Ministry of Defense and medical institutions of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. Compared to military personnel on active duty, the number of outpatient visits to veterans is only one fifth, and the ratio of visits to family members of military personnel and veterans is four to one. The number of beds occupied by military personnel and members of their families is approximately 3 times more than that provided to veterans and their families. This turns out to be insufficient, and veterans are eligible for preferential treatment under the special health insurance program of the Ministry of Defense related to insurance medicine.
This program covers most types of therapeutic and surgical care, with the exception of chronic diseases, cosmetic and others not caused by an urgent need. The beneficiaries of these services are served by civilian specialists who have entered into appropriate contracts with the Ministry of Defense. At the same time, one of the most important conditions for the inclusion of doctors in the program is their ability to provide a level of service that is not inferior to the quality of treatment in hospitals and polyclinics. The entitlement to health care under this program is secured by annual contributions from its users.
In addition, in the early 90s, there appeared treatment centers for veterans and their family members. They use the technical base of hospitals, thus avoiding additional costs for the equipment of new medical institutions, and the shortage of military doctors is compensated by recruiting civilian specialist contracts.
Besides, there is a program for providing psychotherapeutic assistance to veterans of wars and armed conflicts. It is aimed at overcoming various problems of a socio-psychological nature that hinder the return of veterans to everyday civilian life. Assistance is provided in the form of consultations, both individual and as part of the families of veterans, organized in specialized centers with the participation of psychologists.
U.S. veterans can also get support from Project Sanctuary – a free resource for veterans in Colorado providing activities and family assistance. Their mission is to help active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their spouses and children reconnect and reintegrate into their communities by providing therapeutic, curative, supportive and recreational activities.
There is also a program to assist veterans in finding employment in the civilian sector. The advantage is enjoyed primarily by veterans of the Vietnam War. Persons eligible for these benefits also include persons with disabilities resulting from service. Three groups of veterans enjoy the priority when hiring and pursuing the relevant profession during a certain period of study:
- persons with disability from 30 percent and above received as a result of military service;
- people with disabilities from 10 to 20 percent received as a result of service and provided that it will be difficult for them to master the necessary specialty in a short time. For these two categories of veterans, a specific period for mastering a specialty is established. The maximum duration is 15 months;
- veterans dismissed from service due to age and seniority. The duration of the study is limited to nine months.
Individuals who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal have an advantage in each group.
The next group of privileges is associated with the payment of unemployment benefits. They are received by servicemen who have completed the entire period of service provided for by the first contract (with the exception of cases of early dismissal for valid reasons). The amount of such benefit is calculated based on the basic salary and allowances at the time of dismissal and cannot exceed the amount accrued for 13 weeks.
The tenth group – payments within the framework of the vocational rehabilitation program. Former military personnel who have served in the armed forces since September 16, 1940, are eligible to participate. These are people with disabilities receiving benefits under the “Compensation” program; former military personnel who are transferred to the reserve and are in the hospital for registration of disability; veterans who need vocational rehabilitation to restore their independence in daily activities, social and professional suitability. The rehabilitation course can be taken at any convenient time in the 12-year period from the date of the appointment of the disability benefit. Its duration can reach four years. In special cases, this period can be extended. Typically, these courses are organized at universities, colleges and schools, vocational training courses, specialized rehabilitation facilities, and at home. The course program provides for free training in the specialty, as well as free special classes related to the restoration of motor, speech and other functions that ensure independence. In addition, free services are provided for food, medical care and prosthetics, transportation, household services for the families of veterans, and some others. In addition, a scholarship is paid during the studies. After graduation, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs takes care of employment. A special rehabilitation program has been created for veterans with a 100% disability.
The last group of benefits is the payment of grants for burial and the allocation of a site for burial. These payments apply to the following categories of veterans:
- those who died as a result of a disability received during active military service and receiving benefits under the Compensation program;
- those who died as a result of a disability and received a pension under the “Pensions for the disabled” program;
- participants in the war.
Burials are made in national cemeteries. All veterans who were dismissed from service for reasons other than misconduct may be buried there. Only a limited number of military personnel and veterans are subject to burial at Arlington Cemetery. Family members of veterans, their widows who have not remarried, minor children and unmarried adult children may also be buried here. Burial places are equipped with tombstones at the expense of the state. The payment for a burial ritual is also made by the state.
Thus, the prestige of service in the armed forces lies in the fact that the state shows real concern even for the ex-servicemen. For many years, the system of material and social security for U.S. veterans has been successfully functioning, which means a practical guarantee and implementation of their social status.
However, there are some drawbacks that reduce the effectiveness of the system. The main of them are the following American specialists: since the entire system is mainly connected with the material support of veterans, there is a significant dependence on the financial condition of two departments – the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. To date, the actual implementation of some of the benefits and privileges of veterans is still far from the level required by law. There are shortcomings of a bureaucratic nature. However, in general, the system of social security for ground forces veterans corresponds to its main purpose.