What you need know about VA benefits in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey


shadow

HURRICANE HARVEY UPDATE: For more information about the impact on VA facilities and services, click here.

Benefit Payments

Significant disruptions in US Postal Service (USPS) are expected around Houston and Rio Grande, Texas.  A list of affected zip codes and other USPS information can be found on the USPS website here or see below. These disruptions may cause delays in payments for Veterans and beneficiaries in the affected areas who receive their benefits by paper check.

U.S. Postal Service updates on mail and deliveries, including VA payments and prescriptions:

VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has developed mechanisms to help Veterans receive their benefit payments if their normal mail cannot be delivered.

  • VBA personnel at shelters will assist Veterans with accessing their benefits at the following locations: George R. Brown Convention Center and the NRG Conference Center.
  • Veterans who receive a paper check, may receive a phone call about alternative payment methods.
  • Veterans can sign up for direct deposit on eBenefits.
  • Veterans can call 1-800-827-1000 to sign up for direct deposit.
  • The Direct Express Cardless Benefit Access program is offering beneficiaries who use Direct Express and reside in the affected area the option to obtain cash without their card, up to $1,000.
    • The service is being offered free of charge; however, due to system limitations, a fee will be charged and then refunded to the beneficiary. The beneficiary will be asked to go to a MoneyGram store to retrieve the funds.  If the beneficiary is unable to locate a MoneyGram store in operation in his/her area, the funds will be placed back on the Direct Express card.
    • MoneyGram agents will require ID before releasing funds.  They will accept a passport, driver’s license, military identification card, social security card and/or state identification card.  The beneficiary must also have a MoneyGram reference number (provided by the Direct Express Call Center).
    • Contact the Direct Express Call Center toll-free number, 1-888-741-1115, and offer to transfer the caller.  Callers must choose the “Direct Express Cardless Benefit Access” option on the IVR.

General Information

Outreach coordinators at the Dallas and Houston shelters will offer benefits assistance to Veterans who have been sheltered there.

VA has guidance in place for Veteran borrowers who are participating in the VA home loan program and have experienced a natural disaster. Click here to download a PDF with information.

VRE:  Veterans participating in VR&E services programs may be eligible for up to two additional months of the Employment Adjustment Allowance, if they are displaced from their home as a result of a natural or other disaster.  Veterans should contact their assigned VR&E counselor for eligibility questions/criteria at their local regional office.  Nearest facilities can be found here: https://www.vets.gov/facilities/.

EDU:  VA will consider school attendance as continuous and payments will not be affected. Read more on VBA’s Facebook page.

Automobile Adaptive Allowance:  VA may provide or assist in providing eligible Veterans with a second automobile or other conveyance when:

    • The first vehicle purchased with VA financial assistance is destroyed as a result of natural or other disaster;
    • The destruction was not the Veteran’s fault, and
    • The Veteran does not receive compensation for the loss from a property insurer.
    • VA will make the payments to the seller, as the law prohibits VA from making payments for automobile/conveyance grants directly to Veterans.  There isn’t a web page specific to natural disasters and this benefit.  There is, however, general information on automobile allowance here.

VSOs:  The following VSOs are offering supply and financial aid relief to Veterans adversely affected by the disaster and may be contacted directly:

Debt Relief: To provide relief to victims of Hurricane Harvey, the Debt Management Center will programmatically suspend collection of all Veteran benefit debt for individuals with currentnaddresses of record within the FEMA declared disaster areas effective September 5, 2017.  Collections will automatically resume on March 5, 2018.  For questions or concerns, contact 1-800-827-0648, Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.  The website is www.va.gov/debtman.

Veterans Crisis Line:  If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran experiencing mental distress, the Veterans Crisis Line provides 24/7 top-tier mental health support at 1-800-273-8255, press 1.  (1-888-628-9454 Español).  Veterans also have to option to chat online with a crisis counselor via web at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net.

 

Author

Megan Moloney

-- Megan joined VA in May 2013. She is the daughter, granddaughter and spouse of Army and Navy Veterans who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*