NJ Department of Military & Veterans AffairsNJ Veteran Journal - Spring 2006 Edition
NJ Veteran Journal


A Letter From The Regional VA Director
By John F. McCourt, Director, VARO, Newark

Hello New Jersey veterans, and greetings from the VA Newark Regional Office. This is the first in a series of articles that will appear in this newsletter outlining the Newark Regional Officeís efforts to have more veterans file claims for compensation benefits.

As Col. (Ret.) Stephen Abel mentioned in the Winter 2005 edition of the Veterans Journal, only eight percent (50,000) of New Jerseyís 600,000 veterans currently receive monthly compensation from the Veterans Benefits Administration. Nationally 10 percent of our 25 million living veterans receive monthly compensation for their service connected disabilities. While two percent may not seem like a large number, that translates into 12,000 veterans.

Our goal is to bring as many of those veterans onto the rolls as possible. To do this we are partnering with NJDMVA to encourage veterans to apply for service connected compensation or non-service connected pension. We will also explore all possible ways and opportunities of reaching those 550,000 veterans who live in our state who are not on the compensation rolls. We are also interested in getting more claims from the 50,000 veterans already receiving monthly compensation. Statistics show that we are not receiving enough claims from these veterans as a group, which includes combat injured veterans.

Recent reviews of these veteransí records shows that the majority of these combat injured veterans have not filed claims for increases since they were initially awarded compensation benefits many years ago. In most cases, 30, 40 and 50 years have gone by since they were awarded benefits. These reviews included combat injured from all wars, including WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. If you are one of these combat injured and your disabilities have worsened over the years, you may be entitled to increased compensation.

The good news is that the VA canít decrease your compensation by law once you have received it at the same level for 20 years. The VA recognizes that certain disabilities grow more severe as time progresses and have a greater affect on veterans as they age. We are encouraging all veterans, but particularly those combat injured, to review their current disability compensation rates and apply for an increase if their conditions have worsened.

We also encourage veterans to involve their accredited Veteran Service Officers (VSO) when they apply to the VA for compensation. Ideally veterans should allow their VSO to file their paperwork for them at the Regional Office. Veterans who actively involve their VSOís in the advocacy of their claims receive higher awards and in less time than veterans who do not. You do not need to personally visit the Regional Office, but may call your representative at the following phone numbers:

American Legion -- 973-297-3377
American Vets -- 215-381-3294
Disabled American Vets -- 973-297-3378
Jewish War Vets -- 973-297-3388
Military Order of the Purple Heart -- 973-297-3389
NJ Dept. of Military & Vet Affairs -- 973-297-3230
Paralyzed Vets of America -- 973-297-3228
Veterans of Foreign Wars -- 973-297-3226
Vietnam Vets of America -- 973-297-3227

If you donít have an accredited VSO or donít remember if you have one, you can call the Regional Office toll free at 1-800-527-1000 for information.

I look forward to providing additional information about compensation benefits to my fellow veterans in the coming weeks and months and partnering with NJDMVA to ensure that all veterans know about how to file for the benefits that they have earned.

New Veteransí Preference Criteria
The Office of Personnel Management recently stated that servicemembers are entitled to veteransí preference if they have the following medals:

* Iraq Campaign Medal
* Afghanistan Medal
* Korea Defense Service Medal

Even though servicemembers who have received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (for service in Operation Enduring Freedom) do not qualify for veteransí preference, they do qualify for veteransí recruitment appointment.

Medal holders are required to have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to duty.