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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 11/12/2019 11:02:09

Good Morning.

Yesterday was the annual day set aside to honor our military veterans. As Bob noted, it originally served as Armistice Day, marking the end of the "War to end all Wars". Alas, we know how that turned out.

I hope some of us participated in some events honoring veterans. I also know that not everyone can. Remember when this was always a given holiday? How many now work Veteran's Day so your company can give you the day after thanksgiving? (obviously more important.)


But today's blog isn't about any of that. Anywhere in the USA, you should have some kind of veteran's benefit agency nearby. You'd think that most of the benefits offered and available would be universal, but of course you'd be wrong. Like many things in these United States, there is no unified, national system. A lot is left to the individual states, and the benefits can vary wildly.


WASHINGTON -- Several years ago, Iraq War veteran Kayla Williams and her family moved to Pennsylvania, where she and her husband received $500 each semester toward her two children's school costs, thanks to a statewide benefit.

The only problem? They had relocated from Virginia -- a state that provides free tuition to children of disabled veterans. Williams' husband, also a veteran, has a 100 percent disability rating from the VA.

"I was shocked by that difference," Williams said. "My husband had the same level of disability, but the difference between free tuition and $500 each semester was so stark. I thought, 'I have to know more.' "

Williams and her family moved back to Virginia after just one year in Pennsylvania because of a job opportunity. Williams led the Center for Women Veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs before taking her current position as director of the military, veterans and society program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

In her new role, Williams looked back at her family's move to Pennsylvania and decided to investigate the differences in benefits for veterans, state by state.

She discovered that different states offer a wide variety and number of benefits, from a high of 60 benefits in Illinois to a low of 22 each in Hawaii and Oklahoma. Many of them were enacted by state legislatures after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, creating what the Center for New American Securities describes as a "sea of goodwill."

However, no state does a very good job of promoting the benefits or providing an easy process to apply for them, the think tank found. Williams' findings were released Monday, on Veterans Day, in a new report titled, "From Sea to Shining Sea: State Level Benefits for Veterans."


Well, naturally I looked up the site. There's a handy map showing the percentage of veterans in your state, as well as the number of facilities.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/images/_950xAUTO_crop_center-center/Figure-1-Benefits-by-State-v2.png?mtime=20191106122808


There's a lengthy analysis provided by said think-tank. One of the more relevant sections is here:


At the time of this analysis, states (and the District of Columbia) offered a total of 1,814 distinct benefits to veterans and military families nationwide. There is considerable variation in number of benefits that each offered, ranging from a low of eight in the District of Columbia to a high of 60 in Illinois, with an average of 36 benefits offered. There is substantial variation in size, scope, and eligibility criteria of each benefit, with benefits ranging from Arkansas’ $10.50 discount on a lifetime state fishing license to South Dakota’s $100,000 property tax exemption for totally disabled veterans. No state makes publicly available the combined cost of all benefits the state offers veterans; as discussed below, states might not even track that information internally. Nevertheless, the topline number of benefits offered by each state is a useful indicator of a state’s generosity toward veterans overall, especially since each state tends to have a similar distribution of “small” and more generous ones. Accordingly, this section provides analysis of the number of benefits offered by state and region as a proxy for the value of those benefits.

Veterans averaged 6.6 percent of state populations in 2018, according to Census and VA data. Alaska, Montana, Virginia, and Maine had the most veterans as a percentage of the state population, while veterans represented slightly less than 4 percent of the population in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. The percentage of a state’s population that veterans constitute does not have a significant impact on the number of benefits offered, though there seems to be a slight inverse correlation between the two.

For example, Illinois offers more veteran benefits than any other state (60), but veterans comprise 4.8 percent of its population—the seventh lowest state by veteran population and below the national average of 6.6 percent. Meanwhile, Hawaii and Oklahoma offer fewer veteran benefits than any other state (22), but veterans comprise 7.5 and 7 percent of their populations, respectively, higher than the national average. These do not appear to be outliers. Other states with an above average share of the veteran population do not necessarily boast many benefits, such as West Virginia and South Carolina. Four states (Connecticut, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey) are among top 10 states for veteran benefits but also among the 10 states with the lowest percentages of veterans as a share of population.


The report goes on further to note:


While veteran share of the population is a poor predictor for the number of veteran benefits, regional affiliation is not. Broadly, states in the Midwest and Northeast offer a higher number of veteran benefits than states in the West and South. The Midwest offers an average of 40 benefits per state; the Northeast, 39. The Midwest in particular stands out: Illinois and Missouri offer the highest and second highest number of veteran benefits in the nation, while three other Midwestern states rank among the top 10 for veteran benefits. In Wisconsin, veterans pay no state income tax on retirement income, are eligible for $25,000 entrepreneurial grants, and can take up to 128 credit hours at any school in the University of Wisconsin college system. The benefits afforded to veterans in Wisconsin are characteristic of the benefits afforded to veterans in the Midwest at large. This region also has a relative dearth of active-duty military installations; states may be attempting to make up for the inability of service members and military retirees to access base amenities. The South and West, meanwhile, offer an average of 32 and 33 benefits per state, respectively, although in the West there is a notable difference between coastal states (which on average provide more benefits) and interior states (which on average provide fewer). In addition, as noted above, there is a general correlation between the range of benefits offered and the ease of accessing complete information about them.


Even as the percentage of the population that are veterans continues to drop, due to the nature of modern warfare, that same percentage is going to consume an increasing larger share of healthcare resources and support.

I wrote generally about this myself not too long ago. As a society, we long ago decided that war and killing would garner the bulk of our resources. This has been proven time and time again by our elected officials, budgets, and secretive distribution of wealth.

Without exception, all politicians pay lip-service to our veterans. Very few of them actually follow through with any concrete resources. The question remains - what will it take for our priorities to change?


 

6 comments (Latest Comment: 11/12/2019 16:34:19 by Raine)
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