August 19, 2011

Earlier this year a constituent came to me and asked if I would help him. Wallingford veteran John Anzidei told me many veterans are struggling and in order to receive benefits they need to have a recognized “status.” What this means is veterans need to have a way to be readily identifiable when they get to the check out counter.

The idea is now a reality with the passage of a law that requires a veteran’s driver’s license or identification card to have a veteran’s symbol placed on it. A marker, much like organ donors have on their driver’s license.

Beginning January 2013, the law allows the state Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to place a special symbol on a veteran’s driver’s license or identity card so their status may be recognized. Identifying citizens in need who are veterans is the most important first step in channeling them to the many programs and services that are available.

For many veterans this symbol will allow them to qualify for discounts at various stores and retail outlets. This symbol will also alert emergency officials during a crisis that the patient is a veteran and may have special insurance coverage or assistance.

The new law also immediately allows a free lifetime pass into any state park, forest or state recreational facility to any resident who is a disabled wartime veteran.

The veteran must submit a request to have their status included on their driver’s license or identity card by providing forms to the state Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA). The state DVA has 30 days to verify the status, so the DMV Commissioner can approve the addition of the veteran’s symbol.

The most common form used to prove a veterans honorable discharge or honorable conditions from active service in the U.S. armed forces is a DD Form 214.

The other piece of good news is there are millions of dollars for veterans and their families sitting unclaimed. According to the federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs Director for Insurance, between January of 2007 and November 2010, more than $6 million has been claimed by taking the time to see if a family member is owed money.

The money is usually in the form of a life-insurance policy payout or dividend checks and premium refunds that were mailed to policy holders. If those payments couldn’t be delivered the federal Department of Veterans Affairs holds the money indefinitely.

There are several ways to find out if your family has unclaimed money:
Check the Veterans Affairs website – (You will need the veteran’s full name, date of birth and date of death if applicable);

Call the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office and Insurance Center at 1-800-669-8477; or

Write to the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office and Insurance Center.

During these tough economic times any money saved or recouped can go a long way for those in need. You might ask which veteran does this affect the most – the ones that need it the most.