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Basics of VA Benefits

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by Peter Link, Region V Field Service Representative

VA’s benefits program is by far the most complex benefits program of any federal government agency.

Veterans frequently ask for a "list" of benefits for blinded veterans. Unfortunately, there is no such list. Benefits depend on a multitude of factors that include dates of military service, type of service, length of service, place of service, injuries or diseases incurred during or after military service, and changes in the law from the time of discharge to the present. Family income is also frequently a factor for nonservice connected pension and medical care.
Brochures and pamphlets regarding veterans benefits can be requested from the nearest VA hospital. Information about compensation and pension benefits can be obtained by calling 800-827-1000 from anywhere in the United States.

The definitions of "blind" and "visually impaired" used by VA can be confusing. For example, veterans may hear their physician tell them that they are legally blind. Almost simultaneously the same veterans might receive a letter from VA saying: "…your compensation is based on an eye examination report showing blindness in one eye and impaired vision in the other," or "eye exam shows vision impairment in both eyes—a higher rate cannot be paid unless you become blind in one eye or both."

VA does not, therefore, use the definition of legal blindness in rating vision loss. Being legally blind means 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, but VA rates 20/200 in both eyes as a 70 percent visual impairment. When VA uses the term "blindness" for compensation or rating, vision must be 20/800 (or 5/200) in one or both eyes with best correction. If only one eye is 5/200, VA would rate only one eye as "blind" and the other as "visually impaired."
The scenario becomes even more confusing when veterans speak with a VA doctor or even a VIST Coordinator who still uses the "legally blind" terminology. They may be told that they are legally blind and therefore qualify for blind rehabilitation services and medical care under VA’s catastrophic disability category. My best advice amid the confusion is to discuss benefits with BVA Field Service Representatives, all of whom are familiar with VA benefits for the blind and visually impaired.

Please do not forget that the Blinded Veterans Association defines blindness for membership purposes as 20/200 or less in both eyes with best correction, which is the definition of legal blindness. So, when we say we serve blinded veterans, we are referring to those who are legally blind in both eyes.

Veterans wishing to discuss benefits with an expert should call our toll free number, 800-669-7079. Callers should leave a name and a number if they receive a voice recording and a tone. Messages will be routed to the Field Service Representative serving the telephone area code.

 

 
 

 

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