Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Service-Connection: How Do I Prove It? Part 1: How Do I Prove I'm a Veteran?


How Do I Prove It?

Part 1:  How Do I Prove I Am A Veteran?


When a member of the armed services leaves the military and then later develops a disability, what do they have to do to prove the disability was caused by their service?

There are three things that the veteran must prove in order to receive a decision that the disability is service-connected, which could entitle them to “compensation” from the VA.

1st, they have to prove that they are a veteran.  2nd they have to show that they have a disability and 3rd they have to show that the disability is most likely related to something that happened while they were in the service.

A veteran  “means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” 38 C.F.R. Section 3.1d.  

The person can prove that their veteran’s status by producing an official separation document.  For veterans who were discharged from service after 1950, the separation document is the DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (Report of Separation).  For those veterans discharged before 1950, there were various official forms used to show that the veteran was discharged.  Most of those documents have Separation in the title of the document.

If a veteran does not have his or her official Separation Report, he or she can order it through the National Archives.  Here is a link to the website:

The veteran can either mail or fax a request for the records, in which case you should download a form – SF-180 and mail or fax it to the National Archives, or you can apply online at eVetrecs at this website address:

Most of the discharge records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  In 1973, the building housing the records caught on fire.  Consequently, 80% of the records of Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of the records of Air force personnel discharged between September 24,1947 and January 1, 1964 were affected.  While the National Archives has been able to reconstruct many of the records, it may take a bit longer for a veteran discharged between the affected dates to receive an official record of the military discharge.

When requesting records, you should include the following information, if known:

  • The veteran's complete name used while in service
  • Service number
  • Social security number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
  • If you suspect your records may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
  • Place of discharge
  • Last unit of assignment
  • Place of entry into the service, if known.

The DD-214 or Report of Separation will contain the following information:

  • Date and place of entry into active duty
  • Home address at time of entry
  • Date and place of release from active duty
  • Home address after separation
  • Last duty assignment and rank
  • Military job specialty
  • Military education
  • Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
  • Total creditable service
  • Foreign service credited
  • Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)

Since the veteran or surviving spouse will need this document to apply for all veteran’s benefits, it’s a good idea to locate this important document before you need it and store it in a safe place or record it with your county recorder so you’ll be sure to find it when you need it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So Who is a Military Veteran?

So who is a military veteran?

Although it may seem that defining a military veteran should be easy, the term “veteran” may be defined differently depending on the calendar years the person served in the military, whether the person was in the Reserves or National Guard, and it may be defined differently based upon the programs or benefits the person is seeking.

The basic definition of a veteran is “a person who served in the active military, naval or air service, and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. 

The first prong in the definition, then, requires “active service.”  So, what is “active service”?

According to the VA’s manual, active service includes “active duty” defined as full-time duty in the Armed Forces, other than active duty for training.  In addition, active duty includes any period of active duty for training in which the individual became disabled or died from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty; or from an acute myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, or cerebrovascular accident occurring during such training.  (See 38 U.S.C. Section 101(24).

For compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation purposes, the persons whose death was due to “willful misconduct” are excluded from the definition of “veteran”.

What about people who served in the Reserves or National Guard?

Although persons who served in the Reserves do not generally meet the “active duty” requirements for veteran status, a Reservist can meet the criteria if he or she dies or becomes disabled from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during a period of active duty for training or inactive duty training, or dies or becomes disabled of a acute myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, or a cerebrovascular accident that occurred during active duty or inactive duty training.  A Reservist may also attain “veteran” status if he or she performs full-time duty in the Armed forces other than active duty for training purposes.

In addition, a Reservist may be classified as a “veteran” if the Reservist served full-time and for operational or support purposes. 

Members of the National Guard do not attain “veteran” status if they serve on active duty for training purposes, unless the guard member has a service-connected disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty during their active duty for training purposes.  If the Guard unit, or the individual member of a Guard unit is ordered into active duty under the authority of 10 United States Code, the member(s) are serving on Federal Active Duty, and such service does count as active duty.

A second prong of the definition of “veteran” provides a requirement for a minimum number of days or years the person must have served on active duty. 

With some exceptions, in order to be classified as a “veteran” the person must have served for 24 months of continuous active duty, or have served for the full amount of time for which the person was called or ordered to active duty.  For instance, if a person is called up for 12 months, and serves the entire 12 months that period of time could qualify him or her for veteran’s status.    In some cases, a person who is serving as a regular enlisted member of the armed forces may be discharged within one year of the expiration of his enlistment, and may still be considered a veteran for purposes of veteran’s benefits.

Finally, the person must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  A discharge classified by the branch of services as honorable, general, or discharge under honorable condition is binding on the VA.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Benefits Available to Survivor's Of Military Veterans- DIC

Survivor’s Benefit – DIC

Mary’s husband was rated 100% service-connected for a cancer related to Agent Orange exposure.  After receiving Compensation for a number of years, Mary’s husband dies of the cancer.  Mary is 76, and is no longer able to care for herself in her home. She can no longer bathe or dress herself, and she needs someone to manage her medications.

What benefits are available to Mary?  What about other surviving spouses or dependent children of veterans?

There are two monetary benefits available to the surviving spouses or dependent children of veterans.   One is available to the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, when the veteran’s death is not considered to be service-connected.  The other benefit is available when the death of the veteran is related to his service connected injury in some way.  This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC.

DIC is a monthly benefit that is available to a surviving spouse or dependent child of certain deceased veterans.

When is this benefit available? 

First, the death had to have been under the following conditions:

  •  A military member died on active duty
  • Or, a veteran who died as a result of a service-connected injury or disease;
  • Or,   the veteran died as a result of a non-service connected injury or disease, but the veteran was receiving or entitled to receive Compensation for a service-connected disability that was rated totally disabling
  • For at least ten years immediately preceding death,
  • Or, since the veteran was released from active duty and he or she was receiving or entitled to receive Compensation for five years immediately preceding death,
  • Or for one year preceding death, if the veteran was a former prisoner of war.

A surviving spouse is eligible if she or he meets the requirements for marriage, and is not remarried.  Once the spouse remarries, she or he loses eligibility during the subsequent marriage.

Surviving children are eligible for DIC if they are unmarried, under the age of 18, or between 18 and 23 and attending school. 

A helpless child of the veteran is eligible if the child is incapable of self-support, and the child was disabled before the age of 18. 

Currently, the surviving spouse is eligible for a monthly payment of $1215.00 per month.  If the veteran was entitled to a total disability for at least 8 years prior to death, and the spouse was married to him/her the entire 8 years, the surviving spouse is eligible for an addition $258.00.

In this case, Mary may be eligible for an additional $301.00 if she is has trouble performing some of her activities of daily living and is in need of the assistance of another person on a regular basis to help her accomplish those activities of daily living.  Mary should file a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) with the Department of Veterans Affairs on VA Form 21-534 or 21-534 EZ, and include a doctor’s statement and VA Form 21-2680 indicating that Mary is deficient in some of the activities of daily living. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Service-Connection: Presumed for Certain Diseases

Presumed Service-Connection for Certain Diseases

Is there any connection between diseases or disabilities that show up after a veteran has been released from service?

If a veteran is discharged from service, and then develops a chronic, tropical, prisoner-of-war related disease, or a disease associated with exposure to an herbal agent, which manifests itself to a compensable degree (generally 10%) within a specified period after discharge from service, it is possible that he/she may receive a service-connected disability rating and compensation for that disability.   There is a whole laundry list of chronic diseases that, even if there is no evidence the veteran had symptoms while in service, are presumed to have been caused by their service.  If those diseases cause the veteran to be disabled – to lose some ability to earn money- the VA will award a monetary amount based on that disability.

The presumption means that the veteran does not have to provide proof that the disease was incurred in the service, as long as the disease shows up within a certain period of time, which may be different for different diseases.  That period of time is called the presumptive period.  The presumptive periods vary from one year for most of the diseases, to three years for Hansen’s Disease and Tuberculosis, to seven years for Multiple Sclerosis to any time for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Although a presumption means that the veteran does not have to prove causation, the VA can present evidence to rebut that presumption if they can show that there was an intervening cause for the disease.

The list of presumptive diseases is listed at 38 C.F.R. sections 3.309 and 3.317, and includes Diabetes, Leukemia, Epilepsies, Tuberculosis, and Ulcers.  There are over 40 diseases on the list, so veterans who develop chronic diseases after discharge should check to see whether the disease for which they have been diagnosed is on the list of presumptive service connected diseases.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Burial Benefits

Burial Benefits for Veterans

 The death of a veteran is always a difficult time for the family, but there are some benefits available to the veteran’s family that might make his or her death a little less financially difficult.  Veterans who were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions are eligible for burial in a VA cemetery, a burial flag, and may be eligible for a one-time burial allowance, a funeral expense and a plot interment allowance.

Although the veteran cannot reserve a space, a veteran can be buried in one of the 131 national cemeteries located in 39 of the states the U.S.  and in Puerto Rico if there is space in the cemetery.  Georgia has two national cemeteries, one in Canton and one in Marietta.  However, the cemetery in Marietta is closed for burials, and can only take cremations.

The family of the veteran must arrange with a funeral home for the veteran to be embalmed or cremated, at the family’s expense.  The family can arrange with the VA for the burial by calling the VA to let them know of their desire to bury the veteran at the national cemetery by faxing the appropriate discharge paper to the VA at 1-866-900-6417 the calling the VA at 1-800-535-1117 with information regarding where the veteran is to be buried.

The VA takes care of opening and closing the grave, as well as the perpetual care of the gravesite.  In addition, the VA provides a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Certificate at no cost to the family.

The spouse and/or dependent child of a veteran eligible for burial in a national cemetery is also eligible for burial in a national cemetery.

When is a veteran eligible for burial in a national cemetery?

A service-member who died on active duty is eligible for burial in a national cemetery. 

Since 1980 for enlisted service-members and 1981 for officers, the veteran must have served for 24 months or for the required time of service.

In some circumstances, parents whose biological or adoptive child whose death was the result of a hostile casualty or a training-related injury may be eligible for burial in the national cemetery.  Their child must be interred in a national cemetery, in a gravesite that has enough available space for a subsequent interment, and the child must not have any spouse or dependent child who is either buried or may be eligible to be buried in the national cemetery.

In addition to the burial, some veterans’ families are eligible for burial allowances.  These payments are classified as a burial and funeral expense allowance and a plot interment allowance.

The family may be eligible if they paid for the veteran’s funeral and they have not been reimbursed by another governmental agency or another source, such as the veteran’s employer.

As always, the veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

In addition, the veteran must have died because of a service-connected disability, or must have been receiving VA Pension or Compensation, or was eligible to receive Pension or Compensation or died in a VA hospital, a nursing home under VA contract, or while in an approved state nursing home.

If the veteran’s death was service-related, the VA will pay up to $2000 toward burial expenses if the death occurred after Sept. 11, 2001.  If the veteran is buried in a national cemetery, the VA may pay some or all of the cost of transporting the veteran.

If the death was non-service connected, the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance.

Friday, June 28, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER: Jeannie Pickard of Project Walk Atlanta... It's Personal.

It was two weeks before our oldest son Chris' graduation from Lambert High School and the night before exciting time of year for a senior. On Friday evening May 13, 2011 at 10:20pm we received a phone call and learned he had possibly been in an automobile accident. We arrived to the scene of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, and were relieved as we did not see his truck. Within seconds, through the flashing lights, we caught a glimpse of our son lying on a stretcher and found out that he was a passenger in an automobile that had crashed into the nearby brick sign. He had sustained a burst fracture to his c6 vertebrae and would need surgery right away to relieve pressure on his spinal cord.

All of a sudden, our world was turned upside down and, after spending a week in ICU at North Fulton Regional Hospital, we were on our way to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Our son was a quadriplegic and we would find out over the next three months, exactly what that meant. We were bombarded with the reality that there is much more to a spinal cord injury than being paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

While at the Shepherd Center our son learned how to function in a wheelchair, and we were educated on how to live with a spinal cord injury. All the while, we were wondering, "Where do we go next?" as our goal was for him to walk again. After much prayer, hours of research and the discovery of a friend, we believe God led us to Project Walk in Carlsbad, California. We had visited several facilities while researching our options and, without a doubt, we knew Project Walk was where he needed to be.             

For the first time since his accident, we were filled with hope. It felt like the ball was finally in our court, and our son would have the opportunity to work toward gaining optimum recovery and the arduous goal of walking again someday.

Through God's provision and the generous support of family, friends, and even strangers in our community, Chris' dad Paul, and Chris, spent seven weeks at Project Walk in California. Project Walk exceeded ALL of our expectations. We were very encouraged as Paul and Chris met people who had been told in traditional therapy that they would never walk again, but after being at Project Walk, they were proving them wrong.

At Project Walk we found a very different philosophy. We saw with our own eyes the success of the clients at Project Walk and we knew our son needed to continue this therapy, which our insurance would not pay for.

Once again, God moved in a big way, and we signed a deal to bring Project Walk to Atlanta! The motto we have inscribed on our hearts is: "Project Walk Atlanta... it's personal." It's personal because we understand firsthand what families are going through after experiencing the devastation of a spinal cord injury. We strongly believe that EVERY person affected by a spinal cord injury deserves the opportunity to receive this kind of therapy. 

Not only does this intense activity-based therapy give them the best chance for recovery, but it also helps prevent secondary health issues such as pressure sores, blood clots, poor circulation, blood pressure issues, loss in bone density and pneumonia. Sitting in a wheelchair promotes poor health, reducing the quality of life and the hope of gaining independence.

That is why a major portion of our time will be focused on raising awareness for the needs of spinal cord injury patients in order to raise funds to help those whose insurance will not pay for this kind of therapy.
We are humbled and honored to be the Founders of Project Walk Atlanta. We need your help, to step up and scholarship clients who have been put in a position where they cannot help themselves. A spinal cord injury can happen to anyone...a daughter, a son, a spouse...anyone. Please partner with us as we help those who have been affected by this traumatic injury. With your help we can change lives!

Project Walk Atlanta is a 501c-3 non-profit company. We need your help in supporting the many friends with SCI to get the recovery that they deserve. Please donate through our web site or Facebook at Project Walk Atlanta. Thank You.

(Pictured aboveChris, Paul and Jeannie Pickard) 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER JOBI TYSON ON Helping Seniors Stay Physically and Mentally Active: MIND, BODY & SPIRIT

According to a 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health, “A little exercise and some mental stimulation may go a long way toward helping senior citizens stay sharp.” Researchers found the memory and thinking skills of 126 inactive older adults improved after they were assigned daily activities designed to engage their brains and their bodies. 

Therefore, making small changes in physical and mental activity leads to positive changes in memory and thinking skills and great results for the mind, body, and spirit. 

MIND: Seniors can keep their mind sharp with games such as word search, dominoes, Scrabble, learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, interacting with others, engaging with younger generation, and/or learning new technology. Experts suggest the following: 

  • Attend lectures and plays 
  • Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles 
  • Stay curious and involved — explore a lifelong interest 
  • Garden work 
  • Memory exercises
  • Enroll in courses at a local adult education center, community college or other community group 

BODY: Physical activity is one of the most important steps older adults can take to maintain physical and mental health and quality of life. Yet today, more than 60 percent of older adults are inactive, and this number is probably much higher for residents of assisted living communities.  Many are sedentary, physically unfit, and experience disability from chronic medical conditions as they age. Seniors can benefit from these tips: 

Keep it simple (walk, swim, yoga); just move and get some fresh air. Movement helps with flexibility, strength, balance, stability, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. For seniors who have physical limitations one of the best ways to enjoy a variety of activities is with a Nintendo Wii game. Wii is an interactive system that connects to a television. The virtual games allow those with physical limitations to enjoy activities such as bowling, tennis, soccer, golf, skiing, and yoga. Consult physician before beginning physical activity program. 

For those who are physically able, get involved in a seniors group at a local health club or senior center. Go walking during the day with a friend at the park or the mall. Continue playing golf, bowling, tennis, or swimming. Many health clubs offer water aerobics for seniors. 

One of the most enjoyable ways to get seniors moving is by helping them remember their favorite childhood games. 

  • Bring hopscotch inside by using stickers or colored tape to create the hopscotch board on the floor inside the home. Seniors incapable of actually hopping, can simply walk across the board, occasionally pausing and balancing on one foot. 
  • Play a simplified version of jacks by spreading out a collection of actual jacks or other small items across a table and providing a small ball to bounce. Seniors can pick up a certain number of items, or items of a specific color, each time they bounce the ball. The game can become more challenging by using more advanced instructions such as first picking up three items, then being challenged to pick up enough items to make eight. This critical thinking exercise will keep seniors’ brains healthier 
  • Gather children and play a family game of Simon Says, a perfect opportunity to encourage physical exercise 
  • Keep instructions and movements simple so that seniors stay safe and enjoy the activity 

SPIRIT: When the body ages, the ability of seniors to stay sharp and the ability to deal effectively with anxiety and stress reduce as well. While there are many ways to help an elderly loved one do all they can do to maintain health, one of the best ways to improve both the physical and mental health of a senior citizen is meditation. Loneliness isn’t just an emotional issue; it’s a form of stress that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and early death. And it’s particularly acute among the elderly. 

  • Meditation can reduce feelings of loneliness and boost the immune system. 
  • Other calming activities that can boost the spirit are soothing massages, which also helps reduce stress levels; pet therapy; and interaction with children. 

Mind, body and spirit are important factors in keeping seniors physically and mentally active.  Caretakers and family members should take time to work with senior loved ones to focus and reflect on all of the wonderful effects that physical and mental activity can bring. 


About the Writer 

Jobi Tyson is founder of Grand Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization granting wishes to senior citizens 70 years and older and fighting elder hunger and abuse. The goal is to uplift elders in nursing facilities and those living in their own homes by making their wishes come true. For more information about Grand Wish Foundation or to donate toward the Feed the Elderly Initiative, visit 


Monday, April 22, 2013

Protecting Seniors from Being Taken Advantage Of

Unfortunately, there have been an increase in reports of senior citizens being taken advantage of. There are various ways seniors are being taken advantage of, but one strikes particular interest with our firm; the deceptive and unfair methods of some Financial Advisors.

Being an Elder Care and Disability Law Firm, we are constantly in contact and working closely with Financial Advisors. They are a vital resource not only for us, but for our clients. We are confident in the Financial Advisors that we work with, but it is a shame that not many out there are honoring their commitment and efforts to help families.

In the link provided below there are a list of 7 guidelines that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggest to seniors to follow to avoid choosing a bad financial advisor or product

Click Here

It is important to be aware and alert to suspicious activity. Senior abuse is a crime and will not go untolerated. If you suspect any senior abuse being taken place please contact the Department of Health and Services.

For more resources and information on senior abuse you may also check out this website :

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What are Advance Directives?

Are you prepared if a tragedy strikes making you or a loved one go to the hospital?

Fortunately we have the right to make our own decisions when it comes to our healthcare, but what if that ability was taken away? How will you and your loved ones wishes be protected? The solution: Advance Directives.

Advance Directives are legal documents stating your wishes for the doctors and rest of your healthcare team to follow when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. During critical times, these documents can make a world a difference.

In recognition of Advance Directive Day on April 16th, our firm will be hosting a Lunch and Learn.

Lunch will be provided and we are honored to have guest speakers Reverend Ed Hampton and Community Outreach Representative for EverCare Hospice Carol Mullen. We invite anyone to join to learn useful information, resources and receive answers to your questions on the importance of Advance Directives.    

See attached flyer for more details. Lunch provided. RSVP REQUIRED!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Come hear Patti speak Tuesday, March 26th!

Come join us at the Tapestry House of Alpharetta Tuesday, March 26th at 6:30pm.

Patti will be speaking about the difference between being housebound with a  caregiver vs moving into an Assisted Living Facility. 

All are welcome!






Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March is Social Work Month!

Featured Article by Thom Corrigan, MSW, CMC

Each March we are asked to celebrate Social Work month. For some, this means sending a note or an e-mail to a social worker we may know. For others, it may be treating a social work colleague to lunch or bringing them a plant or some flowers to show our appreciation for them.

But this year, I invite you all to celebrate what social workers do, in addition to who they are. Social workers possess many traits and skills. These include being trained to serve as advocates and brokers for our clients. Social workers have developed skills in the areas of empowerment, resourcefulness, problem solving and helping people with transition. They help people to learn new skills while at the same time, helping them to regain confidence, self-esteem, self-determination and resilience. Social workers do this in part by modeling, teaching, empowering, counseling and developing in a person the traits and characteristics that will lead to better outcomes and create a heightened sense of accomplishment and independence.

Each year, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) creates a theme as part of its celebration for social work. This year's theme is "Weaving Threads of Resilience and Advocacy: The Power of Social Work."   Lastly, did you know that Social Work is the only profession that has the word "WORK" in its name? I find that interesting-

Happy Social Work Month to all my professional peers and colleagues and thanks for all that you do to help people with their everyday needs and challenges!

Thom Corrigan, MSW, CMC
Certified Care Manager

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