The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) says that the start of the New Year is a good time for veterans to meet with an accredited veteran service officer to ensure they are receiving or maximizing the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice while in unform.
“Veterans deserve every benefit they earn through their service and should not hesitate to apply or double-check to see if new laws and regulations have changed their eligibility. This is especially true now with the new PACT Act law that expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances,” said Joel Mutschler, director, Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach. “Plenty of help is available to veterans across the commonwealth with numerous accredited veteran service officers standing by to assist at no cost.”
Mutschler said safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step for securing benefits. The easiest way to manage military documents is to make sure they are filed in a safe place immediately upon leaving the military.
Veterans often find that filing their documents for free at their county courthouse of record is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future. Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can count on assistance from the DMVA by calling toll-free 800-547-2838 or e-mailing RA-REQ@pa.gov.
Another key step, says Mutschler, is for veterans to apply for federal health care and state benefits by visiting their local county director of veterans affairs or area veteran service officer to look at what benefits they may be eligible for and to get help applying for those benefits.
Contact information for accredited veteran service officers can be found here Veteran Service Officers. In addition to connecting with a veteran service officer, Mutschler recommends that every one of Pennsylvania’s more than 700,000 veterans – the fourth largest veteran population in the nation – should sign up for the DMVA Veterans Registry, an extremely helpful, free tool that electronically delivers timely information about the many state benefits, programs and services available to veterans.
Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can sign up by computer or mobile device at www.register.dmva.pa.gov. Mutschler said it is important for veterans to understand that they should never pay for help applying for their benefits.
“If a veteran seeking help is asked to pay, they should immediately decline and find one of the more than 200 accredited veteran service officers in Pennsylvania for no-cost assistance,” he said. “Free assistance is available through the DMVA, county offices and several veteran service organizations.”