Wide variety of resources available for veterans
Bryan Hult, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and Bonner County Veterans Services officer, speaks at a past Memorial Day tribute.
(File photo/CAROLINE LOBSINGER)
Staff Writer | November 11, 2021 1:00 AM
There are many services available for veterans, according to Bryan Hult, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who serves as Bonner County’s full-time Veterans Service officer.
“What we provide is unbelievable,” Hult said of the services and benefits offered to veterans. “It’s deserved and I don’t want to say it’s not because they go through a lot of hardship and sacrifice, and they wrote a check to their country, which says up and to up to and including my life. So it’s a huge risk. But that just says how great our country is that we offer all of these benefits.”
From medical and dental care, to home loans to debt assistance to pensions, burial benefits, there is a wide variety of benefits offered to veterans, Hult said. And those, Hult said, are just the starting point, pointing to a trio of inches-thick book filled with rules and regulations. To make things easier, Hult created a 50-plus page document that outlines the definitions available services, what the different arms of the Veterans Administration offer veterans services:
• Veteran Health Administration, which deals with medical, in-home care, prosthetics and prescriptions.
• Veteran Benefit Administration, which deals with disability compensation, pensions, education, insurance, vocational rehabilitation
• Veteran Cemetery Administration, which deals with deals with death and burial honors
Under each of those entities are a host of other services, records and benefits.
The searchable document he created allows him, as he talks to veterans, their spouses or dependents, to quickly search for topics to find the next step the veteran needs to take. As a result, he can guide the veteran on what evidence they will need for each claim or benefit — or for an appeal if the initial claim is denied.
Each of the three arms of the VA has its own section in the document, but Hult can quickly access the books to determine if the veterans particular needs isn’t covered.
That’s because, he noted, the document is a bit of a work in progress — something he created after taking over the job in 2015 and spending a lot of time wading through the legal and bureaucratic jargon contained in the books,
“Our purpose here at Bonner County Veteran Services is to support and guide veterans,” Hult said, adding he encourages all veterans, surviving spouses and dependents to stop by or to call for an appointment. While many of the services are available online, Hult said by stopping by in person, he can talk to veterans, determine their needs and map out a customized assistance program.
With many of the county offices located in the building, Hult said he is able to help veterans fill out forms, and then quickly direct them to the county office where they need to take it — if it isn’t his — such as the Assessor’s Office for a veterans tax abatement benefit.
Compared to other countries, Hult said the benefits the United States offers to its veterans, their spouses and children is unmatched.
Contrary to what some think, Hult said Veterans Services is a county office and has no federal funding from the Veterans Administration. He is an advocate for veterans, and Hult said his goal is to take the bureaucracy out of wading through available benefits, to help veterans so they know — and can take advantage of all the services that are offered.
To assist veterans, Bonner County’s Veterans Services website offers a host of information available to those who have served, their spouses and their dependents. It offers information on everything from who qualifies as a veteran, how they can determine if they have benefits and, if so what they are; and even the definition of applicable terms.
A list of links can be found on the website — from local to state to federal. Sites include everything from ministry programs to available resources to tips on getting hired and everything in-between.
The office is part of a statewide program dedicated to serving Idaho’s veterans and their families. The office provides assistance to veterans in homes as well as outreach programs to ensure veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Office of Veterans Advocacy
The Office of Veterans Advocacy headquarters is located at 444 Fort St., Boise. Five service officers are based in Idaho’s three veterans homes, as well as a service officer based in Posts Falls and a county Veterans Service officer in each county, including Bonner and Boundary counties.
The education coordinator’s office is located at 351 Collins Road in Boise. The main purpose of this office is to approve educational (including information on the GI Bill), vocational, apprenticeships, certificate, licensing, and on the job training programs for funding by the VA.
References for approved programs and facilities using the GI Bill can be found at benefits.va.gov/gibill/education_programs.asp. Additional state scholarship information can be found at veterans.idaho.gov/benefits-aservices/education.
There are three Medicare and Medicaid certified Idaho State Veterans Homes in Idaho and multiple in Washington as well. Honorably discharged veterans and their spouses who require skilled nursing care are eligible for admission to the nursing homes.
Nearby facilities include Lewiston and Spokane. The Lewiston home is located at 821 21st Ave., Lewiston. It can be reached at 208-750-3600; or via email at email@example.com and the Spokane facility is found at 225 E. Fifth Ave., and can be reached via phone at 509-344-5770.
The VA operates a cemetery in each state. The Idaho Veterans Cemetery is located in Boise and Washington state’s is located in Medical Lake. Military funeral honors are coordinated by the cemetery. Options include everything from a full casket, in-ground interment to a columbarium niche, cremation interment to an in-ground cremation interment.
Military funeral honors are coordinated by the cemetery and include an honor guard, sounding of “Taps,” a flag folding and presentation.
The Boise Cemetery is located at 10100 Horseshoe Bend Road in Boise; the number is 208-780-1340. The Medical Lake Cemetery is located at 21702 W. Espanola Road; the number is 509-299-6280.
Federal VA Benefits
To the extent resources and facilities are available, the VA provides hospital care covering the full range of medical services to veterans, including military sexual trauma assistance and post traumatic stress disorder. Eligible veterans may receive medical treatment at any VA Medical Center or VA contracted community-based outpatient clinic.
You can find a list of VA regional offices by calling 1-800-827-1000 or visiting www.va.gov. For more information about MST-related treatment, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp
• Disability and pensions
The VA can pay compensation if veterans are at least 10% disabled as a result of their military service. The VA can pay a pension if an individual is a wartime veteran with limited income and you are no longer able to work. In addition, the VA offers dependency and indemnity compensation paid to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.
To file a claim for a pension, a veteran must have 90 days active duty and at least one day during a wartime era. The veteran must be over 65 and be 100% disabled related to Social Security.
The veteran must meet the income and asset limitations. Income may include wages, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividend payments from annuities and net income from farming or a business. Unreimbursed medical expenses (out of pocket medical expenses) will reduce income. Net worth is the sum of the claimant’s assets. Net worth does not include the claimant’s personal home, personal car, furniture or clothes.
There are a number of education services offered to veterans. They include the Montgomery G.I. Bill, the Veterans Education Assistance Program, vocational rehabilitation, Post 9/11 GI Bill, and Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance.
The Montgomery G.I. Bill provides financial assistance to honorably discharged veterans who first entered active duty after June 30, 1985, and elected to participate within the first 12 months of service. Call toll free 1-888-442-4551.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program is available to assist veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find and keep suitable jobs. For more information, call toll free 1-800-827-1000.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program is available to assist veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find and keep suitable jobs. For information, call 1-800-827-1000.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a federal education benefit program for individuals who served on active duty a minimum of 90 aggregate days after Sept. 10, 2001. For information, call 1-888-442-4551 or go online to gibill.va.gov.
• Through the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance, some family members of disabled or deceased veterans are eligible for education benefits. Spouses generally have 10 years from either the date they become eligible or the date of the veteran’s death. Children generally must be between the ages of 18 and age 26 to receive benefits, though extensions may be granted.
• Home loans
The VA may guarantee part of a veteran’s loan for the purchase of a home, manufactured home, or condominium. In addition, veterans with conventional home loans now have options for refinancing to a VA guaranteed home loan as a result of the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008. For information, call 1-877-827-3702 or visit http://www.homeloans.va.gov/
• Home improvement grants
Veterans may qualify for a Specially Adapted Housing grant if a disabling qualifying condition was incurred through service. The veteran must own the home and the maximum benefit is $100,000 but no more than 50% of the cost to remodel or purchase.
A veteran may qualify for Special Housing Adaptation grant for qualifying condition. The grant allows veterans to buy, build or change their permanent home to adapt them home to meet the needs posed by the condition, such as blindness, loss or loss of use of both hands, severe burns, and respiratory injuries.
A Temporary Residence Adaptation grant allows a veteran temporarily living in a family member’s home to make necessary changes without the need for home ownership.
• Life insurance
A veteran with a new service connected disability, but otherwise in good health, may apply to the VA for up to $10,000 in life insurance coverage at standard rates. For more information, call toll free 1-800-669-8477 or visit www.insurance.va.gov
• Veterans small business ownership
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers programs and services for veterans seeking to establish or expand small businesses. SBA’s express and pilot programs offer streamlined and expedited loan procedures for active duty military members and veterans. For information, call toll free 1-800-827-5722, or go online to sba.gov/content/express-programs.
• Homeless veterans services
VA tries to partner with many different organizations to provide specialized homeless services. The number for the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans is 1-877-424-3838, this number will route veterans to the closest VA medical center to address their needs.
• Automobile allowance
Qualifying veterans are eligible to receive a one-time payment toward the purchase of a vehicle. Evidence must meet guidance and conditions outlined.
• Dependency (parent)
Benefit provides for assistance when a parent has been dependent on a veteran. Proper forms and evidence must be submitted.
• Concurrent Retirement
and Disability Pay
When a retired military veteran is rated at 50% or greater, the VA awards the SC disability in addition to the military retirement. This was prohibited until Jan. 1, 2004. The veteran does not need to apply for this. If veterans were placed on a disability retirement, but would be eligible for military retired pay in the absence of the disability, they may be entitled to receive CRDP.
VA will work direction with DFAS to coordinate payments and offsets.
Each claim has three parts — a current chronic physical or mental condition, something that began in the military and that initiated the chronic condition and a connection from the current condition to military service. Claims can be established by direct connection, a presumptive connection, secondary, aggravation of a condition or injury as a result of VA medical treatment.
Evidence must show support of a veterans claim. Hult said VA service officers can assist veterans in the process of filing claims and forms as well as determining what is needed in each instance.
The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law in August 2018 and put into effect on Feb. 19, 2019. Veterans have several options for appeals, including filing an appeal with supplemental evidence, appealing to a higher level of authority or filing an appeal to the Board of Veteran Appeals. Appeals of an appeal decision also may be made according to VA guidelines and policy.
National Personnel Resource Center
Center assists with requests for discharge paperwork, military medical records, copies of an official personnel file, or even a one-time set of the veteran’s medals.
Request must be signed by the veteran, surviving spouse, or if no surviving spouse, then the next of kin.
Agent Orange exam
The registry health exam alerts veterans to possible long-term health problems that may be related to Agent Organe exposure. Registry data helps VA understand and respond to these health problems more effectively.
The exam includes exposure history, medical history, physical exam, and any tests if needed. It is free to eligible veterans.
Environmental Hazard Exposure
The VA is establishing a database regarding veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater. This includes Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas, who were exposed to toxic chemicals in the air, water, or soil. The database will be used to track veterans and conditions, which potentially could have originated in the Southwest Asia theater.
Information: Stacie Woodie, 509-434-7544
Home health care
Veterans may be eligible for home health care if they are signed up for the VA health care and the VA concludes a specific service is needed to help with ongoing treatment. Some services may be covered by the VA, but there require co-pays. Some services won’t be covered under VA health care benefits, but they may be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or own private insurance
Veterans Crisis Line
The crisis line connects veterans to caring, qualified responders who answer calls, texts, or chats and ask you a few questions. Among the signs of a crisis are feeling of anxiety, loneliness or thoughts of suicide. For signs of crisis, go online to bit.ly/3bQIB8o.
To reach the crisis line, call 1-800-273-8255.
Idaho Veterans Benefits
• Employment assistance
The Idaho Department of Labor provides several services to Veterans and active duty military members. Veterans receive priority in job search assistance, referrals and training. Trained and dedicated representatives are available to help veterans solve employment issues.
For information, go online to the Idaho Department of Labor website at labor.idaho.gov.
• Financial assistance
In cases of extreme emergency, wartime veterans in need of assistance can receive grants of up to $1,000. Veterans must have entered the military from Idaho, or lived within the state for at least five years. The event or emergency must have occurred within 90 days of the request. For assistance with emergency grants contact the Office of Veterans Advocacy at 208-780-1380.
• Tax benefits
The state has rules allowing low-income individuals to reduce their property taxes. These rules are based on the income earned by the individual in a given year. All military retirement income is subject to state income tax prior to age 65. Retirement benefits paid by the United States to a retired member of the U.S. military or an un-remarried widow if the recipient is age 65 or older, or disabled and age 62 or older are deductible. The amount of deduction varies from year to year. Disability income is not taxed by Idaho.
• Hiring preference for veterans
Idaho provides U.S. military veterans who have been on active service, other than active duty for training, and have been discharged honorably, with hiring preference when they apply for public-sector jobs.
For those classified positions that require an examination under the state’s merit system, preference points are added to the final passing score of qualifying veterans and their qualifying spouses or widows/widowers, which may improve their position on a list of qualified candidates.
Veteran’s preference requires public employers to provide additional consideration for eligible veterans, but it does not guarantee the veteran a job. A DD214 may be requested to verify veteran status.
Admission to parks:
Free camping and day use access within Idaho’s State Parks for an Idaho service-connected disabled veteran rated at 100%, permanent and total. Upon proof of eligibility, a lifetime, wallet-sized pass is issued allowing Idaho veterans the opportunity to take advantage of their discount. To apply, go online to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/activities/camping and click on “Discounts & Fees.”
Resident disabled American veterans may be eligible for reduced fees for hunting and fishing licenses and tags.
Hunting and fishing licenses:
Resident disabled American veterans may be eligible for reduced fees for hunting and fishing licenses and tags. The DAV license, $5, allows the disabled veteran to purchase reduced fee DAV tags for deer, elk, bear, or turkey. A letter must be submitted from the Veterans Affairs office verifying a service-connected disability rating of 40 percent or greater.
Nonresident disabled American veterans with a disability rating of 40 percent or more by Veterans Affairs are eligible for nonresident DAV reduced fees for licenses and tags. The nonresident DAV hunting with three-day fishing license allows the nonresident disabled veteran to purchase reduced fee nonresident Disabled American Veteran tags for deer, elk, bear, or turkey.
• Professional licenses
Veterans who hold a professional license issued in Idaho, it will be good for six months following discharge. Idaho also has a number of agreements with professional licensing agencies that allow veterans to convert their military service into a civilian professional license.
For more information please visit the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses website at http://ibol.idaho.gov/IBOL/.
• Veterans specialty license plates
A variety of veterans specialty plates are available through the Idaho Transportation Department, including veterans, Gold Star families, Medal of Honor recipients, Purple Heart recipients and more. License plates can be obtained at itd.idaho.gov/DMV.
• Veterans designation on driver’s license
As of Nov. 11, 2014, honorably discharged veterans have the option of having “Veteran” printed on their driver’s license. Veterans just need to present their DD214, or other proof of honorable service, when they have their license issued or renewed.
A variety of sources exist for veterans to learn about financial and legal services, including:
• USAA customer service: 1-800-531-8722
• Navy Federal Credit Union customer Service: 1-888-842-6328
• Sandpoint Veterans of Foreign Wars post: 1325 Pine St., Sandpoint; or by phone at 208-263-9613
• Sandpoint Community Resource Center: The center brings together volunteers from the community who are available to bring together people of need with people available to help. Call 208-920-1840 or go online to sandpointcommunityresource.com
• Goodwill Supportive Services for Veteran Families: Goodwill is a housing stability program serving veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Call 509-838-2449
• Spokane VA Hospital: address, 4515 N. Assembly St.; phone, 509-434-7000 or 1-800-325-7940; or online, www.spokane.va.gov.
• Helping Hands & Healing Hearts: A joint ministry of churches that helps members of the community in need. Information: 208- 263-6378 or 221 S. Division Ave. (In the back of the Church of God).
Important phone numbers:
• Idaho Division of Veterans Services — 208-780-1300
• VA Community Based Outpatient Clinics — 208-263-0450, Sandpoint; or 208-665-1700, Coeur d’Alene
• IDVS Veterans Resource Directory — www.veterans.idaho.gov
Things to know
Because each veteran’s needs are unique to them, Hult encourages them to call for an appointment so he can go over their options and what services might fit their needs best. It is something he feels honored to do, he said.
“I serve Bonner County veterans, one hero at a time,” Hult said.
To schedule an appointment and talk with Hult, call 208-255-5291; or stop by the Veterans Service office located in the Bonner County Administration Building, 1500 Highway 2, Suite 122, in Sandpoint. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bryan Hult can be reached at 208-255-5291 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.