- Editor’s Note: Kane County is the home to 24,787 veterans, the seventh-largest county by veteran population in the state of Illinois. “Ask Jake” is the first of a monthly series of articles written by Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent Jacob A. Zimmerman, designed to help Kane County veterans and their families, in appreciation of their service and sacrifice.
As we begin 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is still in the news, being portrayed as a bureaucracy with a lot of problems. Many folks aren’t aware that there is a Kane County office that has a team of experts that can help cut through red tape and assist you in obtaining your VA benefits.
Here are three frequently asked questions from Kane County veterans about the benefits they’re due, along with answers from the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission.
Q: ‘What VA Benefits Are Available to Me?’
A: There are several benefits available, depending on your eligibility, including but not limited to:
- Compensation for injuries or illnesses that were incurred while you were on active duty
- Health care at two local VA clinics
- Home loan guarantees, and
- Life insurance
Applying for these benefits can be cumbersome as you try to figure out what forms to use, what address to send them to, and what supporting documentation is required. Here in Kane County, you have an advocate on your side to help you navigate the process — the Veterans Assistance Commission, located at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva.
The four veteran service officers at the Veterans Assistance Commission are specially trained and are experts at filing for these benefits. In fiscal year 2015, their claim approval rate was 79 percent — about 9 percentage points higher than the VA’s average in Illinois. As a result of the claims they filed, their clients received more than $2.6 million in new benefits last year alone and as of last month the claims were processed more than 50 days faster than the VA’s average.
Q: ‘Why Should I Apply for Benefits?’
A: There are several reasons, the most important of which is that you earned them.
Another reason is that veterans sometimes need to think ahead. Although you may not need these benefits now, you don’t know when you are going to experience a crisis. All too often, we have veterans who lost their job and don’t have health insurance and need to apply to get enrolled in VA health care. The process can take up to two weeks or even longer if you don’t have your discharge papers.
Some veterans who are terminally ill will seek hospice options and look to have the VA provide that. But before the VA can start hospice, the veterans is required to have an in-person examination with one of the VA’s primary-care doctors — and that can be difficult for veterans who are home bound.
One of the best parts about being enrolled in VA health care is that it is there to use it when you need it — but you can also continue to use any private health insurance that you might have purchased yourself or that you have through your employer. In other words, it is another option for you.
Q: ‘I Watch the News — Doesn’t the VA Have a Lot of Problems These Days?’
A: Although it is true that the VA has been under a lot scrutiny lately, those problems have mostly been in other areas of the country. But those issues shouldn’t stop you from getting the benefits due to you as a veteran.
Throughout its history, the VA has had its ups and downs, but there is little doubt that it has contributed greatly to veterans healthcare and to the quality of life of many Americans.
For example, we have the VA to thank for many medical innovations. VA doctors, scientists and technicians invented the implantable cardiac pacemaker in 1958. Their work also helped to invent the CAT scan in 1960. In 1968, the VA performed the first successful liver transplants. The VA is also responsible for developing the nicotine patch in 1984 and showing the effectiveness of the new shingles vaccine in 2005. So although the VA has had its share of problems, it has also served as an awesome innovator in the health care field.
For more information on VA health care, visit this PDF on the VA.gov website.
- Coming Next Month: Recent Changes in Veterans Benefits
About the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission
The Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission exists to help veterans access the benefits they earned for serving our great nation. Whether you are looking to apply for health care, dental insurance, disability compensation, home loan, GI Bill, or state benefits — the KCVAC office can help! Don’t try to navigate the benefits bureaucracy alone: Veterans Assistance Commission help is free! For more information, visit the Veterans Assistance Commission web page, “Like” the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission Facebook page and sign up for the Veterans Assistance Commission newsletter.