ANNVILLE – The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs says that the start of the New Year is a good time for veterans to meet with an accredited professional to ensure they are receiving or maximizing the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice.
“Veterans deserve every benefit they are eligible for, but don’t think they qualify or don’t think about re-visiting their benefits to see if anything has changed that could work in their favor,” said Joel Mutschler, director, Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach. “A benefits review is simple and convenient, often taking place by phone or virtually. There are hundreds of accredited veteran service officers and numerous veteran service organizations across the commonwealth. Together, we are happy to serve veterans by walking them through the review process – at no cost.”
Mutschler said safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step for securing benefits.
The easiest way to manage military documents is to make sure they are filed in a safe place immediately upon leaving the military. Veterans often find that filing their documents for free at their county courthouse of record is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future.
Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can count on assistance from the DMVA by calling toll-free 800-547-2838 or e-mailing: [email protected].
Another key step, says Mutschler, is for veterans to apply for federal health care and state benefits by visiting their local county director of veterans affairs or area accredited veteran service organizations to look at what benefits they may be eligible for and to get help applying for those benefits.
Franklin County Director of Veteran Affairs is Justin Slep. He may be reached at 717-263-4326 or [email protected].
In addition to connecting with a county director or an accredited veteran service organization, Mutschler recommends that every one of Pennsylvania’s nearly 800,000 veterans should sign up for the DMVA Veterans Registry, an extremely helpful, free tool that electronically delivers timely information about the many state benefits, programs and services available to veterans. Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can sign up by computer or mobile device at www.register.dmva.pa.gov.
Mutschler said it is important for veterans to understand that they should never pay for help applying for their benefits.
“If a veteran is asked to pay for assistance applying for their benefits, they should decline immediately,” he said. “There are more than 200 accredited veteran service officers in Pennsylvania working with the DMVA, county offices and several veterans service organizations who will provide the review process at no cost. These veteran advocates are highly trained in the regulations and processes for reviewing benefits and provide the best advice.”