Understanding Assistance Available To Our Vets
Oskaloosa, Iowa – On Veterans Day, many of us take the time to thank a veteran in our lives. Karie Foster is the Administrator of Mahaska County Veterans Affairs and she works to help connect vets with the benefits they are entitled to.
One of the major things that Foster does is help veterans apply for compensation and pension. The process begins when the vet visits with her. During that process, Foster learns such things as when they served and where. What types of medical problems the vet may be suffering from also helps further understand the situation.
An example could be a Vietnam Veteran who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. “There’s a lot of conditions that Agent Orange contributes to,” Foster says.
Mental injuries are the unseen wounds of war, as well as injuries to the brain from concussions suffered while in the service. Getting the help for those vets is also important, Foster says, “even though there might not be any noticeable physical injuries.”
“There’s a lot of different ailments that go along with war or being in the service,” Foster says.
“I try to figure out what the veteran needs. What the disabilities may be and we apply for that through the VA [Veterans Affairs] to try and get some compensation,” Foster says.
Foster says that helping to get a veteran the disability designation also helps them receive VA healthcare, even if the veteran makes more than what their income guidelines may be. This helps a vet who may make a substantial enough salary, but would be denied coverage by the VA because their income was too high to qualify unless they are service connected.
Another benefit for vets is the pension benefit for those 65 and over. “They may be entitled to a pension from the VA,” Foster points out. Foster uses the example that possibly a vet is bringing in $600.00 a month from Social Security, “the VA can add to that,” Foster says if the veteran qualifies. The amount the vet would end up with from the VA would be an additional $421.00 for a total of $1021.00 per month.
“The widows of veterans are entitled to benefits sometimes,” Foster says. “If the veteran died from a service connected condition”, Foster then says applying for a DIC [Dependency Indemnity Compensation] allowing the widow to then collect the $1021.00 a month from the VA, regardless of what social security she or he may be getting.
Aid and Attendance benefits are also available to the veteran. This benefit helps the vet who may need the aid of another person, even in their home. The application to the VA would help provide a monetary amount to help them offset medical expenses.
If you’re looking for a way to volunteer your time helping veterans, Foster says they need volunteers to drive veterans to doctor appointments using the department’s van. “It’s completely staffed by volunteer drivers,” Foster says.”They take the van, they go pick up the veteran. They take them to Des Moines, Iowa City, Knoxville or Ottumwa. They wait for them to get done with their appointment, they bring them back home.”
Another way to give back is to help flag the cemeteries for Memorial Day. Foster says that the rural cemeteries may need the most help. In some cases one couple may be flagging five or six cemeteries. “We just don’t have a lot of the younger generation taking over those activities,” she says.
If you’re interested in helping with either of these activities, you can contact Karie Foster at the following phone number. 641.673.7727 or by email at [email protected] You can also contact Fred Bridges with the Oskaloosa American Legion about opportunities in helping to flag cemeteries.
The office is located in the basement of the Mahaska County Courthouse from 8 am to 12 pm Monday through Friday.