People who served in the military (aka veterans) with a current medical or mental health condition that can be connected to their military service can have that condition “service connected” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Once connected, the VA can provide treatment at no cost and possibly provide a monthly tax-free compensation depending on the severity of that condition.
There are other benefits that can come into play, and many vets are not aware of these perks.
One of the biggest is the California College Fee Waiver, which allows children of vets who have a service connected disability to attend any California public college free of tuition.
Vets who are rated as 10 percent disabled or higher can also get a National Park Pass, which allows lifetime free access to all National Parks.
Married vets, or those with other dependents can get a higher monthly compensation if rated 30 percent or higher.
Preference points for most government jobs can be given to vets with service connection, increasing the likelihood of being selected for employment.
Vets who are rated 10 percent or higher are eligible for free hearing aids and glasses from the Veterans Health Care system.
The VA can pay an annual clothing allowance of $795 to vets whose service connected disability requires the use of a brace.
Veterans who are rated 50 percent and higher can get a reduction in cost for California hunting and fishing licenses, and may be entitled to free access to state parks.
In some cases, a veteran may qualify for up to $20,577 toward purchase of an adapted vehicle if there is service connection for loss or loss of use of a foot or hand, or total blindness.
A portion of property tax can be exempted for veterans who are rated 100 percent disabled, or for surviving spouses of veterans whose death was related to military service.
There are many other benefits for all veterans. The Napa County Veterans Service Office provides a free orientation to veterans benefits on the second Tuesday of each month. There is also a Vet Connect program the second Thursday of each month with many service providers to answer questions about benefits and services. Both programs are held at 650 Imperial Way in Napa. Call 707-253-4558 for details.
Memorial Day, observed this year on May 28, is a day of remembrance of those who died while serving their country.
The sacrifices we remember on Memorial Day underscore dramatically that freedom comes at an awesome and terrible cost. We must honor throughout the year the valiant service of these men and women, and we acknowledge the obligation we have to always respect their dedication, their sacrifice and indeed their heroism.
One way we can do this is to be mindful of the many veterans still living, many of whom were injured or disabled during their military service. Napa County is home to about 11,000 veterans, and thousands of surviving spouses of veterans. I urge you to support those businesses owned or operated by veterans. If you are in a position of hiring, please consider first the veteran who brings to the table such powerful qualities of dedication, honor, commitment and reliability.
Today, near and far, Americans lie forever still and forever honored because they, like 48 million brothers- and sisters-in-arms before them, assumed the heavy burden of supporting freedom, for their countrymen, but even more generously, of others worldwide.
May God bless them, and forever hold them in a place of peace.