May 27, 2016
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Veteran Advocates connect veterans and their families to benefits they earned through their military service.
AUGUSTA — The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Veteran Advocates connect veterans and their families to benefits they earned through their military service.
The DHHS advocates work in close collaboration with the Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services to help veterans and their dependents identify and maximize the benefits they can receive from the VA. Since the joint effort began in September of 2012, this work has resulted in additional monthly benefits of $165,000 for veterans and their dependents.
“Maine appreciates and welcomes the contributions of veterans,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Maine invites the men and women who served our country to consider living, working and retiring here. Changes have been made to our tax code, benefits and Veterans’ Services to ensure the many contributions and sacrifices of veterans are remembered and appreciated here.”
By using a Federal database, our advocates are able to identify veterans and provide quality referrals that will result in new benefits or enhancement of current benefits.
“Veterans and their families dedicate their lives to support our country,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “These are benefits both the veteran and their family are entitled to receive. Our advocates are willing to take the time to identify eligible veterans and make referrals that help veterans access the Veteran Affairs system when they may have been unable to do so otherwise. Our advocates are committed to ensuring that our veteran clients receive their full benefits. With more than 127,000 veterans calling Maine home, we owe it to them to do this work and do it well.”
To date, our team of advocates and their Bureau of Veterans’ Services partners have cleared more than 150 cases through the Veterans Benefit Administration, reflecting nearly $2 million in benefits granted annually to veterans and their families. There are still 31 cases pending approval.
“For some veterans they are homeless, depending on the state to support them or are in need of long-term care,” said Veteran Advocate Julie Bragg. “We had one gentleman who was homeless and skeptical at first, but by working with him we were able to push his claim through resulting in $96,000 in retroactive payments. That amount of money can drastically change a person’s life.”
As many veterans in Maine are aging, our advocates work to identify individuals who are eligible for long-term care through the VA. Under MaineCare, long-term care recipients are responsible for paying towards their cost of care for stays of a full calendar month. When a veteran enters into a VA contracted facility they no longer have to pay that cost-sharing amount.
With the support of key state agencies, we have been fortunate to be able to expand our advocacy work beyond the awarding of federal benefits. Recently, we have partnered with the Maine Department of Labor to help identify jobs for veterans as well as help recruitment efforts in areas where more veterans are located.
“By obtaining the Federal benefits to which they are entitled, veterans are able to regain a sense of pride knowing these benefits were earned by years of service. For many, it allows them to break their dependence on the state for assistance,” said Commissioner Mayhew.