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Archive for Sunday, November 10, 1991

VETERANS BENEFITS UNDERGO CHANGES AFTER WAR IN GULF

November 10, 1991

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Because the number of killed or wounded U.S. soldiers was relatively low in the Persian Gulf War, the number of veterans' claims has not significantly increased at a local office that administers such claims.

But changes in veterans' benefits have kept a steady stream of questions coming into the office, an official said.

"Since there weren't very many casualties, thank goodness, we're not seeing a lot of claims for life insurance or disability or death gratuity," said Fran Hewitt, assistant in the local office of the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs.

The office, located in the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt., is one of more than 20 state-run offices that help veterans process claims and benefits through the federal Veterans Administration.

ALTHOUGH HEWITT said the office has not received a large number of claims since the end of the war, she said it has received 100 to 150 calls and visits a week about changes in benefits that went into effect this spring.

"We see a lot of reservists who were on active duty. They want to know about the home loan program and the increase in life insurance and the educational benefits," Hewitt said.

AS PART of federal legislation signed by President Bush in April, a variety of benefits for Persian Gulf War veterans were increased, including the following:

Servicemen's group life insurance benefits went from $50,000 to $100,000.

The minimum active duty service requirement was reduced from 180 days to 90 days for a Persian Gulf War veteran to receive outpatient dental services for a service-related dental condition.

The death gratuity payment to relatives of a serviceman killed during the war went from $3,000 to $6,000.

Eligibility for VA pension programs increased.

GI Bill education assistance rates were raised from $300 and $250 a month to $350 and $275 per month beginning October 1991.

Eligibility was expanded for VA-guaranteed home loans to each veteran who served during the war for 90 days or more. The provision had been set at 181 days of service or more.

HEWITT SAID many of the inquiries in the local Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs office are about changes in educational benefits.

"Of course we have a lot of students in this area who were in the Persian Gulf who are interested in the increase," she said.

Hewitt also said the new home loan regulations will allow many reservists to buy homes using loans that are guaranteed by the VA.

"You didn't even have to be over there to take advantage of most of the changes," she said. "A lot of the changes are for anyone who was on active duty during the time of the Persian Gulf War."

The local office serves Anderson, Atchison, Douglas, Franklin, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth and Miami counties.

It is open from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone with questions may call 843-5233.

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