FLORENCE, S.C. – The Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies rolled out several new programs and benefits for veterans in the past year. To take advantage of them, Florence County Veterans Affairs officer Randy Godbold said veterans will need one important document.
“The number one thing any veteran needs is a DD-214 service record document,” Godbold said. “People come to us all the time for help but unless they have that document we can’t help them get benefits they are entitled to. Nothing can happen until veterans get that document.”
He said it usually only takes about a month to get a DD-214 and his office can help make that happen. The document is official verification of service and proof of honorable discharge.
The S.C. Dept. of Transportation has made it easier for veterans to be identified on their driver’s license. Any veteran is eligible to get a new license with a “veteran” designation for $1, with acceptable documentation. If the veteran discharge date was after Jan. 1, 1950, a DD-214 must be provided. For veterans discharged before 1950, a “Certificate of Discharge” or “Enlisted Separation Paper” must be provided, DD-214’s did not exist prior to 1950.
The S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources offers a free three-year hunting and fishing license for disabled veterans residing in the state for at least one year. They must have a letter verifying disability with the VA. That can be obtained at the veteran’s local VA office.
Veterans can now seek medical attention, within certain guidelines, outside the VA health network. The new Veterans Choice Cards program was rolled out in late summer in response to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs record keeping scandal. The program is part of the Veteran Access, Choice Accountability Act. All veterans enrolled in the VA health network will receive a card in the mail.
“This card allows a veteran to use care, other than Veterans Affairs, when a VA doctor can’t schedule you in 30 days or less, or live more than 40 miles from any VA medical care center,” Godbold said.
South Carolina military supporters are trying to get legislation passed to end income tax on military retirement benefits. Florida, North Carolina and Alabama don’t tax military incomes. The state Board of Economic Advisors estimates that eliminating the retirement tax would cost the state $22 million. The Department of Defense estimates there are 58,000 military retirees in South Carolina.
Godbold encourages veterans to call their local Veterans Affairs office to get help with veterans benefits or to find to find out how to help veterans in the community.