President Barack Obama has set aside more than $1.4 billion in his economic recovery plan to improve services for veterans, and a local advocate is encouraging people to take advantage.
"I'm out there trying to make them aware," said retired Army Maj. Dan Paupp, director of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs' Chattanooga benefits office.
Many veterans have no idea which benefits they qualify for, Maj. Paupp said. The longtime advocate routinely holds information sessions in the Chattanooga area so local veterans and their spouses can learn how to file claims.
IF YOU GO
What: "Aid and Attendance" veteran benefits seminar
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Morning Pointe Assisted Living, 7620 Shallowford Road, Chattanooga
How much: Free and open to the public
For more information: Call Morning Pointe Executive Director Dinah Bailes at 296-0097
He'll be at the Morning Pointe Assisted Living Residence on Shallowford Road in Chattanooga this afternoon to spread the word about an underused benefit called "Aid and Attendance" that can pad regular pension payments to help cover nursing home or other assisted living expenses.
Though this particular program is not new, now is the time to apply for help, Maj. Paupp said. Federal officials are doing "everything that they can to cut down the processing time" on claims, he said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to hire and train 1,500 temporary claims processors, according to a recent news release. The goal is to speed up the delivery of benefits to veterans, addressing one of the most common complaints about the VA.
Money also will go to new technology, audit programs, grants and other projects such as medical facility and cemetery improvements, according to the news release. In addition, those who were receiving benefits between November 2008 and January 2009 will receive one-time payments of $250 "to mitigate the effects of the current economy."
Those $250 payments will be awarded automatically to those who qualify, but many other VA benefits have various rules and regulations for application.
Dinah Bailes, Morning Pointe's executive director, said she encourages anyone and everyone who knows a veteran to attend the informational session at her facility today in order to learn how to jump through the right hoops.
"There are certain rules, and that's why we suggest they come to the seminar and learn about what the criteria are," Ms. Bailes said.
Applying for benefits "can be little intimidating sometimes," she said, "but (Maj. Paupp) will help them walk right through it."