Florida Program Helps Veterans’ Families Get Vital Benefits

A new program formulated by Florida state health and Veterans’ Affairs officials will help veterans’ families get the benefits they deserve.

On March 3, 2016, the Associated Press (AP) announced a new initiative launched in Tallahassee, Fla. Their news release, which was widely distributed through media sources, stated:

“State health and Veterans’ Affairs officials are teaming up in a new program aimed at helping veterans’ families obtain benefits.

The Department of Health said Wednesday that Florida is one of the first states to develop a program giving funeral directors the ability to notify the certifying physician that the decedent may have a service-connected disability.

The veteran’s spouse or other family members may be entitled to VA compensation and other benefits if the service-connected condition was the underlying cause of death or a contributing factor. Survivors need a death certificate indicating the cause of death was service-connected when applying for the benefit.

Florida has one of the largest veteran populations in the U.S. with more than 1.5 million.”

Ensuring that veterans and their families know about and receive all the benefits to which they are entitled has long been a priority in the state. But the task remains a challenge—many veterans and their families are not aware of the full range of benefits available to them. Given the size of the veteran population in Florida, the new program stands to wield a significant positive impact on families state-wide.

Mike Mason, Supervisor Polk County Veteran Services, has worked to get the program off the ground for quite awhile. “This new program didn’t come about overnight,” he says. “It has taken years to get this program implemented, but we are thrilled that its time has come. Before this, deaths that came about from service-connected conditions were very difficult to prove, causing spouses and family members of deceased veterans to miss out on much deserved benefits.”

“We have seen the struggles of spouses and family members who were trying to get death benefits from service-connected conditions that were not properly documented. We knew getting the funeral directors involved would be a giant step to make sure families get the benefits they are entitled to. We are proud that Florida, the most Veteran-friendly state in the country, is leading the way in this effort.”

“Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a really an underutilized but vital VA program that pays widows and widowers of veterans a monthly stipend that ranges from $1215 to $1915,” says Bobby Carbonell, Veterans Florida Executive Director. “Mike Mason really spearheaded this effort to ensure that funeral home directors, county medical examiners and families are aware of this benefit and how to document it properly.”

Important Things to Know About a VA Service-Connected Disability

A downloadable brochure from the Florida Health Department defines a VA service-connected disability as follows:

A VA service-connected disability is an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated, beyond normal progression, during active military service. Service-connected disabilities can apply to both physical and mental health conditions.

The brochure advises disabled veterans and their families to obtain a VA Disability Rating Letter in their nearest VA office and to get a VA service-connected disability listed on a veteran’s death certificate because “if a service-connected disability was a contributing factor in the veteran’s death, the surviving spouse and dependent children may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). A death certificate indicating the cause of death was service-connected is evidence needed by survivors when applying for the DIC benefit.”