Nolan County Veterans Service Office 235.2214
Veterans Administration 1.800.827.1000
Big Spring/Abilene VA 1.800.472.1365
Every election is important, but many people may not be properly registered to vote. If you have moved, changed your name, changed party affiliation or never registered before, you could be blocked from voting. For more information on registering to vote, visit your County Clerk's office, or get your application online through the State of Texas. # The VA has announced a number of changes to make participation in the Veterans Choice Program easier and more convenient for Veterans who need to use it. The move, which streamlines eligibility requirements, follows feedback from Veterans along with organizations working on their behalf. To date, more than 400,000 medical appointments have been scheduled since the program went into effect in November 2014. Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program can call1.866.606.8198 or go online at va.gov.
If you are a Texas Veteran, the State of Texas has made it easy for you to apply for benefits or assistance online. Through the texas.gov portal website, you can request forms or apply online for a variety of benefits or assistance. You can complete the Property Tax Exemption form, order Military or Veteran license plates, access Hazlewood Act forms and information, apply for a new concealed handgun license online, and a slew of other portal links. Go online to veterans.portal.texas.gov. If you ever miss information on Military Minute, you can always visit our website at kxox.net. Click on the Military Minute link at the top of our homepage and you can read current transcripts. It also has some helpful phone numbers for Veterans.
In an example of just how wrong things can go with government red tape.... In a recent letter sent to Florida Congressman David Jolly, the VA says it erroneously stopped benefits to 115 people between July 7, 2014 and April 1, 2015. The Tampa Bay Florida region has seen at least 6 cases in the past 18 months where the VA wrongly declared a Veteran. In one case, Jolly intervened, and the Veteran who was incorrectly declared dead last fall, will have an opportunity to correct an error before the VA terminates their monthly benefits. Jolly had the Vet's benefits restored and the VA records corrected. He has heard from people across the country with the same problems. If you suspect something in arrears with your VA status, contact somebody immediately. Call your local VA office, ask for help from a Veterans Service Office. Or if you have to, contact your state Senator or State Representative. They are familiar with problem-solving with Veterans.
As a veteran in Texas you may qualify for two different property tax exemptions: 1) Veterans with a service-connected 100% disability rating can qualify for a 100% exemption from property taxes on their homestead property. 2) A partial exemption is available for individuals with a disability rating from 10-100%. This exemption can reduce the assessed value of a home for tax purposes by $5,000 to $12,000. These two programs require two different forms and may not overlap on the same property. However, a veteran with a service-connected 100% disability rating may claim the 100% homestead exemption on their homestead property and then claim a deduction in the tax-assessed value if they own a second property. 100% disabled veterans or their unmarried surviving spouses may qualify for a Homestead exemption of 100% of their property taxes. This is for the primary residence only.
The Department of Veterans Affairs recently unveiled a wide-reaching plan to Congress to merge and expand its unwieldy networks of private doctors. The goal of the New Veterans Choice Program, which would combine seven of the agency's existing private health-care arrangements into a single system, is to eliminate gaps in care. The plan would overhaul the system that allows veterans to use private doctors at government expense if they live too far from a VA hospital or need a specialist. VA officials provided details of their strategy at a recent hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The VFW HQ reporting that with the elimination of the combat exclusion clause, the next question is whether women will now be required to register with the Selective Service System. With few exceptions, all 18 to 25-year-old American male citizens are required to register. Failure to do so is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Selective Service System, which is a small, independent federal agency within the Executive Branch, is on standby and prepared to act as directed. Right now, 16 million 18 to 25-year-old American males are registered; adding women would more than double their workload. For information on obtaining membership with the VFW, go online to vfw.org.
Military care packages are welcomed gifts year-round for those who are far from home. But there are restrictions. These restrictions are primarily in place for safety reasons. Many of the restricted items are dangerous when not properly packaged or transported. Other restrictions are in place for legal reasons (for example, the restrictions on shipping alcohol and tobacco), or political (restrictions on shipping items to other countries which may be legal in the US, but are not legal in other countries). Go through your church or contact a base public relations officer. If all this sounds like too much trouble, you can simply do a search using keywords military care packages. There are many organizations out there who sell ready-made packages and are familiar with all the ends and outs. Care packages are a welcome treat for servicemembers. Even something as little as a pack of gum can sometimes change their whole day for the better.
All administrative costs for the Veterans Administration are already appropriated by Congress, but did you know that VA medical center directors have the authority to accept gifts for the general benefit of the medical center and the Veterans they serve? That means that donations can provide Veteran patients with many essential services and programs that otherwise would not be available to them, such as transportation services, social service assistance, rehab equipment, recreation programs, activities, holiday gifts, and phone cards and many other options. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible and the entire donation will go directly to support in the way you choose. Donations starting at just $5 can be accepted. Go online to pay.gov and click on the donate link. You can donate by credit or debit account or card, or choose ACH electronic bank transfer.
The VFW HQ reports that military pay and retirement benefits changes are the top two concerns of their recent VFW Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey. Now in its sixth edition, they surveyed almost 6,300 military service members, spouses and Veterans. Regarding obstacles to financial readiness, respondents cited uncertainty in military life, spouse employment, and benefits uncertainty and changes as their top three concerns. 75 percent of spouses reported that being a military spouse negatively impacted their ability to pursue a career. On the upside, 87 percent of respondents reported the military did prepare them to be a leader in the civilian workplace and community, and 97 percent felt pride in their accomplishments during their service. Check out more information, including membership requirements online at vfw.org. The Sweetwater VFW is located at 217 Avenger Field, telephone number 235.8105.
If you have some free time on your hands and would like to give back helping others, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a network of volunteers to help with day-to-day VA related activities. The volunteer pool for the Big Country and Permian Basin areas is handled through the Big Spring location. Here, you can apply to volunteer at VA locations in Abilene, Big Spring, San Angelo and Odessa. The process includes some paperwork and includes fingerprinting for security reasons. For example, a lot of volunteers are drivers that deliver Veterans to their appointments. But, of course, there are many other areas where your skills could be helpful. Being a Veteran yourself can be a big plus. Currently, there are a combined total of 66 volunteers for these locations. If you would like to find out more about becoming a VA volunteer, talk to Volunteer Services in Big Spring. That toll-free number is 1.800.472.1365. As soon as the recording starts, press “0” for the operator.