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News from the Lake County VAC January 9, 2018

Veteran Memorials around

Lake County

American Legion Post 771
Gurnee
If you want your post included in these pictures,
please send a couple of snapshots to Allan Ayers

Don’t forget to donate any unused winter coats you don’t need this year!

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department, is collecting winter coats for veterans again this year. If you have a coat you won’t use this year, you can take it/them to one of the donation sites at Donate Coats.
The donations will be delivered to the Midwest Veterans Closet in North Chicago. The Closet provides all sorts of donated clothing and home accessories to Veterans in need. Your donations (not only of coats, but of other clothing and useful home items) makes an enormous difference to lots of vets!

Donate Cell Phones to Support the Troops

The VAC offices is now an official drop off locations for gently used cell phones to support the program Cell Phones for Soldiers. CPFS provides phone calling cards for active duty troops to keep in touch with their loved ones at home. Since 2004, CPFS has provided over 300 million minutes on over 5million prepaid international calling cards.

If you have an old cell phone that you have replaced or plan to replace, drop off your old one here, at the VAC office.

Visit the new VA Website for new insights

Ever wonder how well your VA facility is really doing? Here are 4 questions that are answered at the new VA website:

  • How Quickly Can My VA Facility See Me?
  • What Veterans Say About Access to Care
  • How Does Care Compare In VA and Other Facilities In My Area?
  • How Is The VA System Doing With Access Nationally?

For the full details go to
VA Access to care

Do you want to volunteer to repair bicycles for vets and families to get work and to school?

We talked about this quiet success story last month! Catholic Charities Veterans Employment Specialist, Mitch Siegel, and the Lake County Bike Project, lead by President Ishmael Guzman, have been quietly collaborating on getting bicycles in the hands of veterans who need transpor-tation to and from work.
I made a bit of a mistake last month though – Mitch and Ishmael are getting enough bikes donated (at least for now) BUT they need HELP in getting these bikes in shape for distribution. If you are a bit mechanical and interested in helping out, contact Mitch at Catholic Charities – msiegel@catholiccharities.net

VietNow has been shut down!

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Rockford charity called VietNow National Headquarters Inc. raised more than $15 million during the past 10 years with appeals to help veterans racked by joblessness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But more than 80 percent of those donations were kept by for-profit telemarketers, records show, and much of the rest was used for administrative costs.
Now that lucrative fundraising machine is being shut down.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday announced a settlement led by Illinois and 23 other states to dissolve VietNow, which also goes under the name VeteransNow. The charity is being forced to stop operations, and its remaining assets will be distributed to two legitimate charities, according to Madigan and court records. For the full article, go to Chicago Tribune

How do you get “Veteran” on your driver’s license?

This is not the most graceful process, but as government processes go, it isn’t too bad!

 

To get your driver’s license printed with “Veteran” proving you are a real veteran, take the following steps:

  1. Take your DD214 (or other valid release document) to the IDVA (Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs) at one of the three addresses shown below in this Newsletter and get it validated. IDVA is currently the only authority that can validate it.
  2. Take your validated DD214 to the nearest Drivers License Office (click on the link).
  3. If your license isn’t up for renewal, you will pay a small fee ($5.00?) for the replacement license.
Piece of Cake! Remember this is good to get discounts from many stores and services.

Do you know someone who can use our help?

If you have a veteran parent or know someone who might be eligible for some kind of benefits for their service, we encourage you to mention the VAC to them. We can assist with many different issues:
  • Aid and Attendance Assistance
  • Survivor spousal benefits
  • Burial arrangements
  • Upgrading disability status
  • Job skill preparation
  • Referrals for services we cannot support.
If you or another veteran you know needs help, give us a call at 847-377-3344.

Do you need any of these things?:

We have been receiving assorted donations. If you’re interested or need the items below, please call the office (847-377-3344) for specifics
  • Wheel Chairs
  • Walkers
  • Electric Scooters – we have more than one!
  • Power Wheel Chair
  • Uplift Chair
  • Cemetery plots

Is your disability percentage current?

A different result of working with the VAC for filling your Homeowner’s assessment exemption is that we are finding many vets who have not had their disability percentages reviewed as they have gotten older. Frequently we can assist in applying for increased disability compensation since disabilities often get worse as we age.
If you haven’t had your disabilities review in over 10 years, call for an appointment to review your status.

If you need a complete set of your military records

If you need a set of your military records for any reason, you can obtain them by faxing or mailing a request to the National Personnel Records Center. While they will accept a letter (if you get all the right information into it) is is best to use the standard form SF-180 to request it. You can download that form at Standard Form 180
Mail the completed form to:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St Louis, MO 63138
OR
Fax the form to 314-801-9195
If you need the records in emergency circumstances, contact our office (847-377-3344) and we can help you expedite the process.

Thanks to the Veterans of:

Help us spread the word!

Many of you who receive this have children (or in my case, grandchildren) and know of friends’ children who are in the military or have gotten out recently.
Please help us to reach out to them by forwarding this newsletter to them too.
See the article to the right of this one to explain how to forward this email.

Don’t forget the VAC has an office at the Lovell Medical Complex

Don’t forget we have an office conveniently located right in Building 133 at Lovell. It is located down the hall behind the Emergency Room entrance in Room 1D-112.
The office is generally open Monday – Friday, from 8:00 – 12:00 – note the revised hours – but it’s important to call for an appointment so you don’t have to wait.(224-610-1279).

Please, Please, Please!

We need your help. If you need to meet with a Veteran Service Officer, or one of the volunteers, it is important that you call to make an appoint-ment first. We are usually booked all day helping other vets, so we rarely have time to do very much if you just walk in unannounced.
Call our office at 847-377-3344. If we’re all on the phone, please leave a message with your name, phone number and the nature of the help you need, and we’ll call you back just as soon as we can.

Where is an IDVA office?

James A. Lovell FHCC. Located in Building 133
Room 1-D- 115-116
Hours:Tuesday and
Thursday 8:00am- 4:00pm
Palatine – located in the Palatine Township offices at:
721 S. Quentin Rd,
Room 102
Palatine IL 60067
(847) 485-2772
Hours Monday -Thursday 8:00 am -4:00 pm
Deerfield (call to confirm this location is still open) – co-located with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission
Deerfield Facility
1755 Lake Cook Rd
Suite 1409
Deerfield, IL 60015-5209
847-948-8500
Hours Monday -Friday 8:00 am -4:00 pm

Quick Links
Here’s our office
January 9, 2018
Dear VAC Visitor:
Happy New Year to you! We hope you had a holiday week that was as fulfilling and family busy as ours was.
Now, it’s back to the real world – travel )for those who are lucky enough to escape the winter), golf (in front of the TV wishing you could escape the winter) and work (for those who still need or want to earn a living).

Two alternatives to reduce the cost
of filing income taxes this year!

United Way is again offering a free on-line tax system that you can use yourself to generate and file your federal taxes (and possibly state taxes) in conjunction with HR Block. My Free Taxes is an online tax preparation service that is free, safe, and easy to use. Sponsored by United Way and H&R Block, MyFreeTaxes has all of the features you’re looking for to file your federal and state returns – with none of the fees.Taxpayers can save an average of $200 in fees by using My Free Taxes. The program also offers free English and Spanish support via telephone (1-855-MY-TX-HELP), email and online chat support from IRS-certified specialists.
Eligibility guidelines have expanded in 2018 to include any individuals and households earning $66,000 or less in calendar year 2017.
For more information, contact Deanna Olmem at (847) 775-1018 or Deanna.Olmem@uwlakeco.org.
AARP provides Tax-Aide volunteers to provide tax reporting assistance including the filing of both federal and state returns. Typically, the assistance is provided to low income families and the elderly. Allan Ayers, a Veteran volunteer at the VAC, is now certified as one of the Tax-Aide counselors. If you have been paying for tax filing services and would like to reduce your cost, you might look into this as an option. There are 11 sites in Lake County. After January 15th, you will be able to fine the most convenient location on the web at nearest tax-aide location. For further information, contact Allan through our office at 847-377-3344.
For active duty personnel, active duty reservists, retired and their families, there is a site at Great Lakes Naval Base that is specifically trained to assist you. You can reach that site by contacting the Legal Services Office at 847-688-3805. This is a self service program with tax and technical support available.
For Reservists and National Guard, the AARP Tax-Aide sites may be able to assist you depending on your situation. Contact your local site for a quick review to see if you qualify.
AARP Tax-Aide will process tax returns within the limit provided by the IRS. If you feel your return might be more complicated, visit an AARP site for a quick Q&A/Review before scheduling an appointment.

What is the Aid & Attendance Pension?

You may qualify for Aid and Attendance
if you get a VA pension and:
  • You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, and dressing, or
  • You have to stay in bed-or spend a large portion of the day in bed-because of illness, or
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability, or
  • Your eyesight is limited (even with glasses or contact lenses you have only 5/200 or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less)
You may qualify for Housebound benefits if you get a VA pension and you spend most of your time in your home because of a permanent disability (a disability that doesn’t go away).
Note: You can’t get Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits at the same time.

Who’s covered:

  • Qualified Veterans
  • Qualified surviving spouses

The surprise is that there is very little pension available. It is calculated based on a Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) which is currently just over $26,000 a year. BUT you first have to deduct all your current income from the MAPR to determine what your annual pension would be. So, if you have social security and other income that exceeds $26,000, you aren’t eligible for any A&A or Housebound pension at all.

To learn more about the specific eligibility requirements, contact our office at 847-377-3344.

What have you done about the
Equifax data breech?

As you know, 5.4 million people in Illinois alone have been affected by the data breech at Equifax – the credit reporting agency. If you can see a credit report on yourself, that very likely includes you!
I don’t know about you, but I’m currently receiving emails (presumably from Equifax) offering free credit reports. But they want me to register with my name, address, date of birth and social security number – everything a thief needs! I keep asking myself “Do I want to provide a concise list of all my identity information to a company that just gave my records away?” So far, my answer is “NO” – I’ll get my credit reports from somewhere else.
Repeating the good advice below: What to do about Equifax Breach .
Here are some things you should do that I think are important:
1. Change your passwords on your online accounts (and don’t make them all the same!)
2. Check your credit ratings and credit reports frequently to identify any changes.
3. Subscribe to a credit watching service such as Lifelock that will report any abnormal usage to you.
4. Keep your receipts and verify your charges against your credit card bills and debit card statement every month.
5. If you still use a check book, reconcile it every month.
6. Don’t rely on your bank statement balance without checking it.

The Forever GI Bill – A new benefit in education assistance

There is a new Education bill in town! The “Forever GI Bill makes some significant changes in the Post 9/11 GI Bill conditions. It is too extensive to fully cover in its entirety here, but here’re the 11 changes.

1. There’s no longer an expiration date.

2. Purple Heart recipients will get more benefits.

3. More people are eligible for Yellow Ribbon.

4. There’s some extra money – and time – for STEM degrees.

5. Vets hurt by school shutdowns will get benefits back.

6. The VA will measure eligibility for benefits differently.

7. Reservists can count more of their service toward eligibility.

8. Housing stipends will decrease slightly.

9. Benefits can get transferred after death.

10. Surviving family members will get more money, but less time.

11. School certifying officials must be trained.

 

Here is also a good link to the details of these 11 major changes – 11 Major Changes in Forever GI Bill .

What is the Armed Forces Legal Aid Network?

Illinois Joining Forces (IJF), a statewide resource referral service, has provided us with this new resource. Legal aid is one of the largest areas of unmet need facing Illinois veterans. We’re helping fix that through the launch of the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), the first-ever statewide hotline and legal support network for veterans, active duty military, reservists, National Guard and their dependents.
Through the IL-AFLAN, veterans and military personnel can obtain free legal help for urgent family, housing and consumer problems, as well as issues such as discharge upgrades and benefit appeals.
The free hotline [855-452-3526 or 855-IL-AFLAN] will offer legal advice and brief services and then connect veterans and military members to legal aid providers near their community. There are nine legal providers covering all major regions of the state that can support you, so even if you are no longer in Lake County, one of these can help you. These providers can be seen at Nine legal providers. They have all received grants to provide assistance as part of the IL-AFLAN.

The new VA website looks like it makes access to MyHealteVet and eBenefits easier.

Vets.gov is a new website that combines access to information with prescription renewal and health records retrieval to make it easier to navigate through the two systems. From what I’ve heard, it is still being refined but it is up and running.
To get set up, go to Vets.gov . Click on Register me – There is a qualifier – you must be registered on MyHealtheVet at the Prime level. I was able to use the email address I have for MyHealtheVet, and my password for that account to begin the registration process.
See our November 2017 newsletter for more details on signing into id.me.
Once registered the Vets.gov home page appears to let you learn more about all benefits, and also allows you to reorder prescriptions. Specifically you can:
  • Renew prescriptions.
  • Send a message to your VA health care provider.
  • Check the status of a disability or pension claim.

I just tried to see what I could get using vets.gov and the connector, id.me. I’ve just switched my medications over to the Lovell FHCC and I could see all of them. But I’ve also recently had blood tests etc, and I tried to download my records – that didn’t seem to work – I finally gave up – more testing for the next newsletter.

Individual Unemployability (IU) payments will not be stopped when a vet reaches Social Security age!

IU allows veterans with VA disability ratings of 60 to 90 percent to receive enhanced compensation because they are unable to work. IU qualifies veterans to receive disability pay as if they were 100-percent disabled. It adds an average of $1600 to their monthly payments, a VA official told senators.
VA Secretary Shulkin said he reconsidered ending IU for older recipients “as I began to listen to veterans and their concerns, and [veteran service organizations] in particular. It became clear that this would be hurting some veterans and would be a takeaway from veterans who can’t afford to have those benefits taken away.”
Originally, Shulkin said he did take “very seriously” concerns being raised over the proposed IU cut. “Nobody wants to be taking away…benefits from veterans and certainly not putting them into poverty,” he said. But he noted that VA benefits had climbed by $12 billion in the past two years, which justified a review of benefits to verify the purpose of each.
This week Shulkin conceded that ending IU for elderly was a poor choice from a menu of cost-saving options.

We want you to LIKE us on Facebook!

We have a challenge! We are trying to reach out to the younger veterans and their families. We know they are much more active in the social media than some of us older “young at heart” folks.
We’re putting out some of our most immediate events on Facebook. Maybe you can do a couple things for us – First visit our Facebook page and friend us at Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission so you get more up to date tidbits about the VAC and some of our activities.
Then spread the word by sharing our page with your Facebook friends. We know they aren’t all in Lake County, but maybe some of your Facebook friends’ friends do live in Lake County so ask them to share the link, and maybe some of their friends are in Lake County.

Are you going to be participating in a ;parade this Memorial Day?

Operation Wild Horse has been founded as a veteran equine therapy program. As part of the development of the program, the team has assembled a mounted color guard. If you are interested in learning more about taking advantage of the color guard, please contact Allan Ayers in our office at 847-377-3344.

Here’s the best way to forward this newsletter to others.

We’ve found that this newsletter doesn’t forward very well when you just click “forward” in your email system. The heading all gets dark blue and you can’t read it very well. But, if you use the “Forward to Friend” button at the bottom of the newsletter, it forwards well.
If you are a post officer who is forwarding this to your post membership, the other good way to do it is to attach the newsletter email to your new email. In Outlook “Attach Item” is a tab on the home menu bar. When you click on it, it will give you the choice to find an Outlook item (email) and attach it.

Have you heard about
shopping at the on-line PX? I’m finally registered!.

All Veterans of the United States Armed Forces who are honorably discharged will be eligible to shop on line at the military Exchanges. It finally worked and I can now shop on line at the Navy Exchange! Here’s the process that worked for me:
1. I registered and was verified through the “Vet Verify” website at Vet Verify. This took some time since the my name hadn’t been loaded into the new system when I first tried to register. I went to VET Verify FAQ’s I didn’t find anything other than the number of records to be digitized and the Army/Air Force records destroyed in the fire in 1973.
2. I scanned my DD214 (an original) – not knowing whether it would be accepted – since they will not accept “copy 1″ with less information on it, but it was accepted.
3. I was confirmed through VetVerify, and can now sign into the Navy Exchange.

Lake County Sheriff has Initiated new
Veteran Ambassador Program

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has now implemented a Veteran Ambassador program to help veterans dealing with homelessness and veterans “in crisis;” They are trained to also provide transport, shelter, and referral options for immediate assistance. Training was provided by VA staff, VAC Director Andrew Tangen, and Mr. Joel Williams from PADS Lake County.

Included in the plan is a ‘Police Referral Card’ which includes emergency contact numbers for the VA along with other resources. A shelter plan was also implemented. Also, sheriff’s personnel who have been trained will have a yellow ribbon and blue shield affixed to their squad to show they have the training and capability to positively impact this issue and help those in need.
VAC Director Andrew Tangen remarked, “As Lake County Sheriff’s personnel are deployed throughout the County 24/7, they are ideal for engaging in conversation, assessment, and transport.”
If you become aware of someone who appears to be homeless (regardless of whether they are a vet or not) contact the Sheriff’s Dispatch Office at 847-549-5200 and they will send someone to investigate.

Watch the VAC calendar for
other upcoming events

If you’re wondering what the VAC and other veterans organizations are doing:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

To be included in the calendar, please be sure to include the information below and send the announcement to Sherry Kruse
Title of Program:
Description of event:
Event date:
Location/address:
Time of event:
Cost:
Contact phone (optional):
Email (optional):

A New Agent Orange Newsletter

For all the Vietnam boots on the ground Vets – I have just received a printed copy of a newsletter that I’ve never seen before. It is also available on line at Agent Orange Newsletter .

This seems to have some interesting news in it. Here’s a taste of this issue:

The only way I see to subscribe for printed copy is to print out a version from the web, and then complete the form on the back of it.

But, I’ve got a deal for you! Here’s the subscription form. You can copy it to a word document and print it out from here. If you want help doing that, call us and we’ll help you with it.

What Families, Physicians and Funeral Directors Should Know

As we all get older, it becomes more and more important that our spouses, adult children and doctors all are aware of our veteran status – even if you are not currently receiving any type of VA disability. If the veteran isn’t currently receiving any VA disability, there are several conditions where there are specific “presumptive diseases” where, if the veteran contracts one of them, they may be eligible for disability coverage in the future. For example, Diabetes, heart disease, Cancer and ASL are frequently considered presumptive.
Whether you are using the VA medical facilities (such as James A. Lovell FHCC in North Chicago) or not, you doctors should be made aware of the veterans current VA disabilities and of potential disabilities that might be diagnosed in the future.
When a veteran passes away, if the cause of death was partially caused by the disability (or by the presumptive diseases), the surviving spouse may become eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) income.
Call the VAC office (847-377-3344) for our brochure on what doctors and funeral homes should know about service-connected disabilities.

If you are wondering about any possible benefits you think you are eligible for, give us a call us at 847-377-3344, we can discuss your needs and point you in the right direction.

Sincerely,Veterans Assistance Commission