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Widows Of Combat Veterans Forced To Live On $490 A Month
By Raymond Parrish
Widows of combat veterans are forced to live on $490 a month. This makes you wonder how willing to risk life and limb American combat veterans would have been had they known that their widows were going to be treated this way.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has a pension program for low-income veterans who served during a period of war. This NSC (non-service connected) Pension will pay to the veteran the difference between their income from all sources and an amount that Congress determined to be a livable income.
In 1999 this amount, called the Maximum Annual Income Rate (MAIR), was $8,778 ($731.50 per month) for a single veteran, $11,497 (958.08 per month) for a veteran with spouse, and $5,884 ($490.33 per month) for the surviving spouse. When the veteran dies, his household's income is cut in half, dropping from $958 to $490 monthly.
An elderly couple that is able to survive on $958 per month should be rewarded for their frugality. Instead, when the veteran dies, the survivor not only faces a life without her life-long mate, she is condemned to live in poverty for the rest of that life, having to choose between eating, paying rent or receiving health care.
American GIs who are fighting to prevent genocide by the Serb army think that they will be treated as well as their predecessors, the GIs who fought against genocide by the Nazis in World War II. Will they be surprised when they talk to these GIs or their widows and discover the truth behind government promises? Will they be distracted by the smoke and mirrors used to fool Congress? Will they see the empty dog-food cans in the widow's trash and assume that there is a dog in the house, or will they know better?
I've been counseling veterans and GIs since 1976. Veterans of all ages and periods of service have one thing in common: disillusionment with their own government for a variety of reasons, from abandoning POW/MIAs to mistreatment of atomic bomb test and Agent Orange veterans. And, after seeing how the veterans suffering from Gulf War illness have been treated, should anyone be surprised by these pension restrictions? Should anyone wonder why the military is having recruiting troubles? Does anyone care enough about this to write or call their member of Congress? Keep an eye on the headlines to find out.
Ray Parrish is a military counselor and member of the Chicago Chapter of VVAW.
RESOLUTION ON INCREASING WIDOWS' PENSIONS
WHEREAS a veteran who served during a time of war and is determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) to be totally and permanently disabled due to non-service connected disabilities is eligible for a Pension; and
WHEREAS this Pension is based upon financial need with a 1999 "Maximum Annual Income Rate" of $8778 ($731.50/month) if single and $11,497 ($958.08/month) if married; and
WHEREAS upon the veteran's death the widow/widower will be paid benefits with a "Maximum Annual Income Rate" of $5884 ($490.33/month); and
WHEREAS the USDVA Pension program will pay to the claimant the difference between his or her income from all sources and the Maximum Annual Income Rate; and
WHEREAS this means that, at the time of the veteran's death, the survivor's household income is cut almost in half; and
WHEREAS this imposes a severe financial hardship upon the surviving spouse; be it therefore
RESOLVED that the maximum annual income for the surviving spouse on Pension be increased to that which would be payable to a single qualified veteran on Pension.