Pension program available to veterans is going unnoticed by many

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BOONVILLE - After Marilyn Cochran had numerous trips to the hospital because of her osteoporosis, she and her two sons decided she should be moved into an assisted living facility. The only problem was they had to figure out how to afford it.

Luckily for her, her husband Sam had been a veteran of the Navy, and even though he passed away in 1997, his service in the military allowed Marilyn the opportunity to get money through a pension program that helps veterans and surviving spouses of veterans.

The Non-Service Connected Disability Pension is meant to help wartime veterans and surviving spouses of veterans meet the minimum level of financial security as defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program is intended to help out with any disabilities that are not service connected.

Gil Heckel, who runs information sessions about the program and is an Americare eldercare advisor, said many veterans have no idea this opportunity is available.

"They just don't know that that these funds are available, and so they're not living the quality of life and getting the medical attention they could get if they did know," Heckel said. "The purpose of this pension is to thank them for serving our country during wartime."

Veterans and surviving spouses of veterans who served 90 days during wartime before 1980 and those with 24 consecutive months of service after 1980, with one day being during wartime, may be eligible. Eligibility has nothing to do with whether a veteran was deployed or stayed in the country.

In order to be eligible, net worth from all sources, not including home, furnishings and auto, must be less than $80,000.

The program can provide up to $1788 a month for veterans, $2120 a month for a married veteran who lives with his or her spouse, and up to $1149 a month for spouses of deceased veterans. It is funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Heckel recommends that Missourians call their local Veterans Service Officer or the Missouri Veterans Commission at 573-882-5135 to set up an interview to see if they are eligible. Veterans Service Officers for Boone County are located in Columbia.