One of the ladies I sometimes sit with at church had been struggling to take care of her senior husband, who is a veteran. She recently mentioned that she called the Veterans Administration and was amazed at the support services available to her.
I started thinking about this and realized there are likely other veterans in Naperville and the surrounding area who might also be unaware of these services.
Mike Barbour is the veterans and senior advocate with Naperville Township. He explained that his primary duty is to educate the community about the unique needs and the services available for veterans.
He works with veterans and their families to help them apply for federal, state and local benefits. He is a liaison with the Veterans Administration facilities, various veteran service organizations and community agencies. There is no charge for this service.
Barbour noted that, of the 60,000 veterans in DuPage County, 12,000 to 14,000 are here in Naperville. He concentrates on medical care, pensions for veterans or widows, disability compensation, burial allowances and employment help.
A benefit most commonly overlooked by veterans is health care. Military service before 1980, required only a day of service to qualify for lifetime benefits. After 1980, two years of service is required to receive health-care benefits. Reservists and National Guard members do not qualify for these benefits unless they are called for active duty.
Health benefits include medication, outpatient care, hospitalization, caregiver support, hospice care and suicide prevention
There are three different pension benefits available for senior veterans and their dependents. Each has income and asset eligibility requirements.
First, the Basic Pension is designed to function as cash assistance for low-income veterans and their dependents, so applicants might be healthy but must have a very low income.
Next is the Housebound Pension that covers assistance with day-to-day activities. A doctor must certify that the assistance is needed on a regular basis.
And finally, the Aid and Attendance Pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require assistance on a daily basis. This benefit also is frequently overlooked.
There is an application process for each benefit. It is not unusual for a claim to be denied initially, but it should be appealed. Barbour is happy to help with this process.
Some of the projects Barbour is working on include: arranging transportation from Naperville to Hines using VA buses, coordinating with Hines to bring their Mobile Medical Unit to the Health and Wellness Fair, networking with various veterans groups and serving on State Rep. Darlene Senger’s Veterans Advisory Group.
In the three years he has been in this position, he has obtained health-care benefits for several hundred veterans, participated in job fairs that resulted in 2,000 job placements, but most important to him, was assisting in preventing four individuals from taking their lives.
Barbour has two things he wants veterans to remember: “Do you know where your discharge papers are?” and “Your veteran benefits are not an entitlement, it is a benefit earned when you put on the uniform.”
Contact Barbour at Naperville Township at 630-355-2786.
Karen Courney has lived in Naperville since 1970. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.